Leading with Talent: Playing the Long Game
Leading with Talent: Playing the Long Game is a weekly show on Cloudflare TV that amplifies the stories of incredible talent & people leaders showing up every day building companies impacting millions of people around the world.
This week's guest is Bryan Power, Nextdoor's Head of People, reporting to Sarah Friar, Nextdoor's CEO. Nextdoor is expanding rapidly across the world, and Bryan’s incredible experience leading human resources, talent acquisition, and employee development for global companies will be a tremendous addition to the team.
Bryan has more than 20 years of human resources and talent acquisition experience to Nextdoor – most recently as Chief Human Resources Officer at Yahoo. Throughout his time at Yahoo, Bryan was responsible for leading the global People Team, serving more than 10,000 employees in 30 offices across the Americas, EMEA, and APAC. Accountable for talent acquisition, diversity and inclusion, learning and development, people analytics, and culture, Bryan’s team oversaw all aspects of the employee experience.
Prior to Yahoo, Bryan held a similar role at Square, successfully growing the company from 350 to 1600 employees, ramping employee programs and HR infrastructure ahead of the company’s successful public offering in November 2015. Previous to Square, Bryan spent eight years at Google leading global recruiting teams in various organizations, including software engineering, product management and sales & marketing. He is also a board member of Avenica, a U.S. recruiting firm that focuses on placing recent college graduates into entry-level career-track positions, as well as an advisor to a number of high-growth tech companies in San Francisco.
Hi everyone. Welcome to our very first ever segment of leading with talent and playing the long game.
Today I have a very special guest here. I ran into Bryan at Google and in fact I was under Bryan's org when I was at Google and I watched him from afar.
I learned a lot from Bryan and Bryan Power is the global head of people at Nextdoor.
So welcome Bryan. Let me give it to you to introduce yourself and to tell us about your journey in the valley so far.
Scott thanks for having me. Like you said it's great to reconnect with you.
You know our time together at Google feels like a million years ago now but I also feel like I was just just hanging out with you.
So I really appreciate the invitation and the time this afternoon. Great. Yeah so I'm currently leading the people team at Nextdoor.
Just a bit of background. I first came I'm originally from Boston.
I came to Silicon Valley during the dot-com boom in the late 90s.
Worked for a number of dot-com startups. My favorite was called startups.com.
You can't pick a better dot-com name than that. And then when the bubble crashed in 2000 I led an executive search practice with Fredrickson Partners which is still in Silicon Valley today 30 years later.
And then I joined Google soon after its IPO where I led a number of different recruiting teams in engineering and product and in sales where we worked together.
I worked in both their Mountain View headquarters and in their New York office.
And then in the early 2010s I actually moved back to the Bay Area from New York City to join Square.
I joined Square when it was a startup of a couple hundred people which is actually where I met the CEO of Nextdoor Sarah Fryer.
She was CFO of Square at the time and we had both joined when the company was around 200 people.
So I spent three years at Square around the time of Square's IPO.
I was recruited by Marissa Meyer who I'd worked with really closely at Google to lead the global HR function at Yahoo.
And so I was there also for about two two and a half years or so. And then when Yahoo was acquired by Verizon I left with most of the executive team, took some time off.
I'd never taken any time off in my life. So I took a little break and then when I came back into the workforce I joined Nextdoor and that was about two and a half years ago.
Well what a great journey there Brian. And it feels like you've seen a lot in the Valley so far.
And I want to share that you're also a very passionate baseball fan.
So I'm not even sure which team you support these days.
But tell us a little bit more about how some of the key nuggets that you've picked up along your journey and how some of your life experiences and even sports have sort of influenced you as a people leader.
Yeah so big sports fan. Like many Boston sports fans I've been spoiled by the last 20 years.
And I've really found one thing that really came to the fore for me during the pandemic was the way all the sports leagues shut down and just something that I was used to having running in the background as an escape valve was really taken away.
And there was obviously a lot more serious things that were going on at the time.
But as baseball has come back this year just a few weeks ago you're starting to see fans in the stands.
Like it just feels like the beginning of a new time. And so yeah there's not enough teams for me to be excited about.
I like the Red Sox. I like the Giants.
I have a 15-month-old son. I'm not really sure what team you're going to root for living here in the Bay Area.
But I'm just going to root for all of them. That's great.
Yes. Yeah so a couple things because you and I were talking about this earlier.
Just a few things that I've picked up. You know looking back now I feel really grateful that I started my career in recruiting and like most.
I don't think anyone says you know what I want to do is I want to be a recruiter when I grow up.
But I like many just fell into it. And looking back so much of the early part of my career was focused on that.
And it was a it was a great choice. You know one benefit as you spend time in this is you know people really remember you.
Yeah. You know they remember their recruiter who hired them. And it's probably because you're usually the person they told they're accepting the role.
Which is a major life change no matter anytime you take a new job it's a big deal.
And so you remember the person you had that that relationship. And you're also usually the first person they trusted.
Like you're the first person they really got to know unless they work with people before.
And what that means is over time you just build up this really big network.
And you get to look back at the different people you hired that you brought in the organization and see where their careers go.
And that's something I've been really just sitting with more recently.
You know I look at the people I hired into Google 15 plus years ago and it's like amazing to see the different pathways that have come up.
Absolutely. And I think you know one insight I've taken away from that is because as you know there's all different types of recruiters and recruiting.
Yes absolutely. My you know I think just really staying interested in the people you hire and maintain those relationships I think comes naturally to the best recruiters.
It just feels like the right thing to check in on people you hired or just catch up with someone you used to work with and moved on to another place.
But investing in those relationships really really is the key to success in any as in any leadership role over a longer period of time.
Great. Well talking about networking and relationships you've worked with a number of iconic leaders and just to name a few Sarah Fryer currently at Nextdoor, Marisa Mayer whom you reunited with at Yahoo initially at Google, and then also Jack Dorsey.
So tell us a little bit more about sort of like how their leadership or your you know how you work with them influence your people's strategy and also your recruiting strategy.
Yeah so it's interesting as you say those were my last three managers in my last three jobs and I really don't think I can catalog everything I've learned from them because the list is just so long.
Yeah. And there's some things that are consistent but there's also a lot of contrasts.
You know particularly Sarah my current current boss who I've worked with at two companies now it's just been amazing the way she's invested in me and helped me grow as a leader.
But one thing which is you know top of mind for this conversation around recruiting Sarah was recently just talking about this topic at Nextdoor is when I watch her and I've obviously worked really closely with her and our our head of recruiting at Nextdoor Toni Castellanos that she's built her executive team at Nextdoor.
You know we've hired now all new leadership team at Nextdoor and what's really incredible is the amount of work that she pokes into recruiting.
Wow. I mean people know there's different levels of commitment to recruiting but Sarah is unbelievable in what she brings to the party when it comes to actually being the hiring manager you know even though she's the CEO.
Yeah. Everything from you know the thoughtfulness she puts into making sure she's really got all the right input into what she wants to see in the role to you know really kind of running the assessment you know making sure that there were the right people in meeting asking the right questions like just really focused on making sure every step of the way is being well managed.
And then what's really interesting is as she finds candidates that she's very interested in you know getting serious about she just puts in so much time you know she texts them she sent them articles to discuss she asked how they're doing and it just really builds this trust in the people trying to bring in so that when it gets to decision time you know offer time she's not just going from great interview here's and so I just can't underestimate the impact of a leader that does that and then we can go to the company and say like this is one of the busiest people here like this is what you need to do this is what good really looks like.
So and you know Brian one of the things is it's so similar to what we do here the way you've just described this I feel like I'm pinching myself and you know seeing leaders across the board founders co-founders but you know even Matthew, Michelle, my entire executive team being so involved even on the front end of recruiting it sounds like something that many more leaders are doing which is very critical.
Yeah I actually don't think I've worked with great leaders who don't treat it that way you know and this is across some very different companies you know Nextdoor, Yahoo, Square, Google like what cultures are really do contrast but what's consistent is the best leaders just are relentless with how they apply to this.
Yeah some of the others so Marissa one thing I learned from her that's really top of mind for me right now was around as a manager how to think about the mental health of the people who work for you and she had a very simple tactic that she took which was you should always know like what's the one thing that someone who works for you is like just really important them to not sacrifice or miss you know it could be like I just want to be able to work out three days a week in the morning or I really don't want to miss dinner with my kids right or I just don't want to be bothered on Saturday mornings right it's a very simple thing to understand each person that works for you so you can protect it because if the person and we all know there's times that are busy and I think people are tend to be reasonable yeah the manager kind of doesn't even know what that is it's really kind of make them feel more isolated and trying to deal with some of these challenges so I'm just really grateful for that insight that I learned from what a fantastic approach there yeah it's really it's really easy to do yeah yeah it's a very easy question to ask right we we also forget very quickly because we're so busy in the people world and in recruiting we forget to even sometimes focus on ourselves and on our teams so um you know just getting that sort of reminder is good for me and I'll try to lean in even more as as we end this conversation today I'll take that along with me and I hope all of our viewers take that along with them as well so how about Jack Dorsey uh how did that how was your uh journey there what did you learn from him I mean so many things he's an incredible visionary he's built a number two iconic companies now which he started at the beginning um but again one thing that's that's come up recently for me is Jack Jack was the first leader that really brought this concept of editing into the workplace and and he particularly from a product or design perspective he is like we really need to prioritize this and what editing means is you have to choose what's important but you have to take away the stuff that's not and you know as we work in larger and larger companies that the muscle to just add more more meetings more reports more features whatever it might be becomes really overdeveloped it was to the point where at at square the role of the product manager was actually called product editor and it was really important to him yeah that it was not called p.m everybody calls it p.m you know it's like the natural thing but he would really correct people you know it's the role of this person is to edit the product and so I think any manager any leader can take that principle of being an editor to the experience of your team to your processes whatever it is um and more often than not that's probably the right answer versus starting something new which is such an easy thing to to add on the top of what already exists that that is just great I think this feeds well into uh the topic that we have today right which is playing the long game so what does that mean to you and how do you how did all the experiences that you had along the way sort of feed into your core people philosophy core recruiting philosophy of really playing the long game when you look at it you look at the talent space yeah so I'll start by talking about uh people right and then there's another extension there into recruiting so um at next door the name of our our function is the people team right and was actually what we called it when I was at yahoo and also what we called it when I was in square and you see that that the name of that function more and more and more and I really believe the significance of that word choice people and team kind of says everything you know in a lot of companies and historically you get the the word the words hr right and hr human resources but hr in particular kind of brings to mind this metaphor you know evil hr that I think if you center on people right that's really what it's about yeah like and if you always remember it's people these are real people is a jumping off point whatever your problem is that's a good place to start yes the second word team you know team is really not the correct organizational term for the size of the org it should be function or organization but team also really calls to mind like an image of how people work together right and I think whether that's eight people or eight hundred or eight thousand like working as a team like that teamwork is so essential and so I really believe in that when it comes to our our group but also to try to model that and bring that into the rest of the company because when everyone's really pulling in the same direction you can really do amazing things right but if you have to stop and look internally to figure out why people aren't working the right way together whether prioritizing themselves over the success of the group like it really can really slow you down that that keep going I was just getting super excited here how you were sort of taking each word uh breaking the definition apart and helping every single person internalize what those words mean and what they should really mean uh for a function in general so keep going yeah sure well the other point which which gets into recruiting um really I've learned you know multiple companies now when you come in is like what's the role of the recruiting team yeah in a company and what I've found is and again my experience is kind of biased in towards the tech industry right that's where I've spent my career but what I've seen is people tend to want to think about recruiting in one of two ways and I actually when I come into a new company and leaders have been there I really pose this choice to them when you're trying to just get started and establish like how do you want to work together and the the way I distinguish it is like do you want the recruiting team to accelerate recruiting or do you want to delegate recruiting to the recruiting team you know and like like where do you want us to play and because all of the really strong companies use the recruiting teams to accelerate their recruiting efforts and what I mean by that is like my example of Sarah before the managers who are building their teams or the leaders who are building their organizations are making it a priority and they're driving the growth of their teams forward by being really actively involved and doing their part and the recruiting team makes them just go even faster right really kind of accelerate everything they can accelerate the pipeline they can up level the talent and you just have this exponentially positive effect that becomes the essence of like what a recruiting culture is yeah the other side which is delegate which many of us all worked in is what did you like who did you find for me today recruiter you know what's on what's on the menu you know which which which engineer did you find for me to decide if I want to talk to you yeah you know then you have to put more and more people into the recruiting team because the candidate experience is really felt like it's been deprioritized versus a company that's really made it on top and so there are companies that just they just throw money and bodies at the problem from a recruiting team front it's kind of their responsibility to deliver the talent but I've always found like when you're when you use it to accelerate the outcomes are just dramatically higher yeah absolutely I think one of the concepts I've learned from you and I've what you exemplify which I've come to internalize and also I've seen across the board is you can never build a recruiting team large enough to be able to help any company at some point but it takes every single person right to be able to happen to true team sport so since it's a team sport and you know you've described it really well managers are really really involved how does diversity fit into the mix of this yeah yeah great question there's I guess there's two things I'd say there's a lot I would like to say what I'm currently thinking about this topic is I really think you have to start by centering on the culture right you have to think about ideas like belonging and inclusion and you have to also make these concepts a priority you have to understand the sentiment of your employees who come from underrepresented groups make sure your practices are fair and inclusive because if you don't do this and you just focus on recruiting right if you just focus on representation so to speak you you won't be able to hire effectively and if you are able to hire effectively they won't stay yeah and so I think I've learned over the last 15 years I've just seen companies try to just only focus on the pipeline part of the problem I'm not saying that you shouldn't focus on that part of the problem you have to focus on that and measure it and make it a priority but if you don't look at the whole thing like including the culture of the company and how employees experience that it's not going to be successful you know and we all know there's some companies that just focus on just just access these communities and get them in yeah but I just think you can't deconstruct it and just make it about that that piece the the second thing that when you're talking about trying to attract candidates the the best principle I think I've learned that I keep coming back to on this when it gets into this problem of some people you know they look like you you work with them and some people you don't you don't know them and they don't look like you and that's that's not really a fair assessment right which leads to a lot of the friction in the process around bias and excluding different groups and the Kapoor Center which is based in Oakland introduced this concept I haven't personally worked with them but I learned this from them and I think it's an incredible ideas to pay attention to this idea of the distance someone traveled right and so we make this mistake of looking at where people are today to decide if they're good right they work at the right company are they at the right level and if you don't think about how far this person had to come to get there you're really not understanding the trajectory of their career you're just kind of taking a snapshot of them today the journey the journey the journey telling the full story yeah what did they have to overcome exactly such more important information than what they've been doing for the last 12 to 18 months because people tend to look for I want what they're doing right now to look exactly like what I need someone to do and again what's more important is like what's what's the growth rate of this person and you have to kind of go to well where do they start yep you know to really get a good sense of that I think that's really missed in a lot of assessment processes that is great so talking about what's been what's has been missed before and some of the mistakes and learning experiences what have you learned along the way for me it's essentially hiring out of desperation yeah instead of hiring for tomorrow we have a headcount to fill now therefore we are going to prioritize that and hire someone quickly to plug the hole what are some of those examples for you as a recruiting leader and also a people leader that you observed yeah I mean I think a mistake I've learned myself over and over and you know I've seen other managers make is when you hire someone usually because you're under pressure to get the role filled that you take a chance on something that you don't have confidence really that it's going to work out and so I guess I should be clear yeah to hire someone who has a gap that you know about and you think you can help them bridge like you're you're really going to find a perfect person that has everything but you can kind of say hey they're changing industries or they haven't owned this one piece before but I kind of have a plan on how to do that there's another situation where you're like I'm just not sure about this you know and I but I'm just going to go ahead because I'm out of time and we need to just get someone in here that second scenario almost always becomes a huge regret because whatever you were worried about you were just kind of on the surface understanding and it tends to be to be worse out and you're exactly right like it's usually this mistake is usually made because you're thinking about time versus finding the right person yeah and so I always regret that that's great so when I use a phrase this phrase in recruiting which a number of folks use and the phrase is this is how it's always been done yeah what do you hear and how how do we overcome that yeah I think there's so much inertia to what people think is working both at their current company but also where they came from before this is what we did at my last company so this is what we're going to do here you know and so usually what's happening is people are just plugging in an approach or they're unwilling to engage in a debate right and I think where some of the biggest unlocks I've had especially in recruiting is when you can actually have the discussion around assumptions of why why this is working the way that you think it is incredible you can then get into an opening of well actually it's really not maybe we should try some things you know you probably can't change everything but that will give you a way to to take some of these bigger problems yeah that's great that's great now another phrase before we jump to another topic another phrase is well I'm really thinking about the future here and then someone else is saying well I need someone now I think you touched on it a little bit with the other one but how do you reconcile both yeah yeah so I was thinking about this before before we got on here you know if you have a choice between two candidates in one you have a lot of confidence they can do the job today but low confidence they're going to be able to grow into the job two to three years from now and you another person you're really excited about what they can do in the future but you're not as sure about what they can do today that second one is the one you should choose because it's the easier problem for you to solve right you they just might need help bridging again into a new industry into helping build their team like that's an easier problem than you get someone in place and then a year later or 18 months later they've been outgrown like they weren't able to keep up right and I think to your point people see today like what they're doing today in the job today as like I've got the answer yeah instead of trying to imagine what's this going to look like as the company continues to grow as we have to figure out new problems we don't know exist today you know what's the what's the capability going to be there so I'm with you the future is going to have a whole host of problems you don't even know what they are yet and if you're talking about those today you're going to have to keep starting starting over absolutely as one of my friends said many many companies would have probably missed on Steph Curry because of how he was described but you know just fast forward how many years 10 plus years right now in the NBA he's changed the way the game is played and it feels like the next generation is you know more and more attempting to play like him so he's completely changed everything right and people who now try to hire for work or in the NBA who try to build a team around what worked 10 years ago like they can't they can't react to what's happening today absolutely now shifting gears I realize that we have a number of folks watching us today there are leaders that are watching this program and then they're hiring managers that are actively recruiting and then there's some other folks from the other people teams and recruiters who are also watching us so let's start with one or two critical advice that you give to leaders it's similar to the question earlier about the role of recruiting but what I would tell leaders is if you're not making recruiting your top priority right for for you for your team for your company there are a lot of other really great companies who are you know they have leaders like you Scott who have made this the number one focus of the company yeah you just will not be competitive yeah you know like there's too many good companies that are prioritizing this so you're only even if you make it your top priority it's still really really hard but if you don't make it a priority you're not you're not going to be successful competing for talent at scale and there's every single great company that I've seen in the last 20 years in tech is really good at this so maybe there's going to be some Steph Curry version of a company that you know doesn't matter but I really don't know how that might work because nothing is more integral to your success or failure than your ability to hire and grow and retain people yeah single biggest determinant of how the company how the company goes over over time right and that's that's why so many of these strong leaders make it their their top priority and then for the second thing which is for leaders but also for managers because I think this is one of the number one number one learning I see new managers or newer leaders go through is you know they it's kind of like they don't work for you until they work for you and even when they work for you shouldn't really think about it that way but there's this mistake of of prioritizing the company's time before you decide to get involved right so I know one thing you've done incredibly well is you're so aggressive when you see someone who might be good yeah no to to get them and get them involved and get them into the recruiting process where what most companies try to do is protect people who are busy from talking to good candidates until there's like a signal that they might be good yeah and again like if someone's good someone like you and your team is going to be all over them before another company even figures out that they should be more aggressive like they've waited to see the phone screen they've waited to see the interview it's now been three or four weeks and they're like wow this person looks really good I should call them um that's just not that's not as competitive you know and so it's really learning when you say I'm not available for the next two weeks to meet a candidate because I'm working on a project like the candidate's going to go somewhere else and again what I've learned from people like Sarah people like Marissa Jack Dorsey Sundar Pichai Susan Wojcicki like so many people they dropped everything to meet a good candidate you can always reschedule another meeting but if this candidate gets recruited by somebody else you've missed the chance now to add more talent to your to your company what an incredible advice keep going I'm just taking everything and I'm sure our audience is doing the same thing here so keep going sure no sure I think the last thing you pointed out was you know just in uh advice for people or recruiters yes um I think one thing that's uh can be underappreciated by people who work in the people function and recruiting too I don't I don't like the framing of like the HR side and the recruiting side like I really believe it all goes together yeah um the the trust trust in any organization begins with the leaders right like if you don't trust the executive team it's it's an existential problem for the company yep but what's underappreciated is after that or even in parallel with that trust in the organization really begins with this group of people because they have access to so much sensitive information and vulnerability and how you treat that sets the tone for how people behave internally you know what interviewers said about people who started you know what people make you know why someone didn't get promoted like there's there's all these things and how you kind of respect that confidentiality and vulnerability and sensitive information other people will see that and it could set the tone for other types of conversations so I've always found like trust is such an important quality in any any strong company and that the people team how you deal with that really really can uh can define that can define that aspect of the culture wow wow brian what what a great segment that we've just had right now we we're almost at time but just to summarize this um essentially if you're a leader listening or hiring manager listening uh great advice from brian power uh head of uh people at next door um drop everything to talk to candidates prioritize recruiting and also to the rest of the people team and also to recruiters uh what we need to do um is dial up the trust factor ensure that we're building trust ensure that we're trusted uh and also ensure that we'll be in great partners across the board I hope I've captured everything here brian absolutely Scott you know I could go on for another half an hour and listen to all the lessons from you you know you built an incredible team the company's awesome to watch you know from from the audience so to speak and uh I'm really humbled and thanks you know thanks for having me on I really appreciate the opportunity well thank you very much and thank you to our audience for joining us today on our very first segment of leading with talent and playing the long game thank you