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Client Spotlight: Alan Stein, Kadima

by | Nov 30, 2021

XLRWhen the pandemic derailed our lives in 2020, some chose to look for new ways to do business and others chose to start new businesses altogether.

Our client spotlight this month is Alan Stein, founder of Kadima Career XLR8R, who chose to launch a new enterprise in July 2020. Alan saw an opportunity to bring his talents and passion to the table to create more equity and diversity in the tech industry. During a time of incredible stress during the COVID-19 shutdowns, Alan found a way to bring what he does best to the people who need it the most.

Can you tell us a little bit about your business and how IT got started?

My business is called Kadima Career XLR8R. I help people get great jobs with more money at the world’s best tech companies quickly. It started with my own career.

In my 33-year career, I have worked for 21 different companies, 35 different bosses, 29 different jobs. Over that period of time, I probably was offered about 50 jobs in my career. I’ve interviewed for hundreds of jobs, thousands of times. So, I’m a very experienced interviewer. I have hired lots of people as well. I’ve probably interviewed north of 2,000 people in my career, looked at 10,000 resumes, and hired hundreds of people during my stints at Google, Facebook, Salesforce, and American Express. Outside of American Express, which was growing slowly, the other companies I worked for were large, fast-growing companies where I needed to scale up teams quickly. In 2015, I interviewed 225 people alone during my tenure at Google. I know that because Google tracks that sort of information. I was number two across all of Google in the number of interviews. During my time interviewing and holding interviews myself, I’ve just learned a lot about this space.

I’ve also achieved goals that a lot of people think are hard to achieve. On the surface, they may be. I got a job in venture capital, and I worked in venture capital for two and a half years. I went to the baseball winter meetings in 2003 and came back with jobs working for the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays—not at the same time. I got into a top 10 business school. I was able to get into Google, Facebook, and Salesforce. As an undergrad, I got into a prodigious program for a Ph.D. in clinical psychology with a full ride.

I’m very good at identifying goals and achieving those goals. When I get there, I may not be so happy, but I’m very good at establishing goals and achieving them. Because of that, lots of people have reached out to me over the years. They’ve asked, “How did you get into Google? How did you get into Facebook?” And I’ve helped them. I’ve gotten 9 people referred into Google. I got several people into Facebook, Amex, and Salesforce. I was also able to help people get into other companies as well. I’m really good at that.

I’ve also been a very staunch proponent of diversity and inclusion. I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff going on over the last decade at the companies I’ve worked at. I’m a privileged white dude that was born in Long Island to loving parents. I was a first-generation college student, but my parents were able to pay and support me to go to college and leave without any student debt. I’m very appreciative of that, but I also want to give back and support others. And with that, I’ve been focused on diversity.

I started really focusing on diversity at Google. I was there during the Trayvon Martin murder. There were a lot of town halls during that time. There was a lot of talk, but not much action. I got a little disappointed with some action that I wanted to take but was told, “Don’t bother. It’s too complicated.” I think that wasn’t right, but that’s what I was told. At Facebook, I saw another company talking a big talk. They actually do some things right with their diversity and inclusion, but I got reprimanded at one point because I tried to set up a woman on my team with a woman mentor. I was told I couldn’t. My wife has women mentors and male mentors and she gets different values out of each. I got reprimanded by HR and was told not to talk about gender in the workplace.

At Salesforce, I tried to help underrepresented individuals get into entry-level roles through a great program called YearUp.org. This program helps underrepresented, underestimated 18 to 24-year-old kids get into tech companies. I was told by my SVP at the time, “Don’t do that. Let’s just hire in India.” I said, “We can hire in the States, also.” He said, “It costs twice as much in the States for even these underrepresented folks than the Indian talent.” I was told this even though Salesforce has contributed a million dollars to this organization.

I saw all this hypocrisy in the tech space when I was trying to be proactive. Last year after the George Floyd incident, my wife started reading Ibram X. Kendi’s book How to Be an Antiracist. The book talks about how most people aren’t racist, but if you’re not doing something active, you’re essentially complicit with systemic biases. I wanted to merge my talent, skills, and passion to help get underrepresented and underestimated people into tech companies. I started doing that in July of last year, started charging for it, and started building my business.

There’s a lot of demand out there. There are talented Black people, LatinX women, differently-abled military vets. The big tech companies want to hire more people in these groups, but they’re not making great progress. There are some inherent challenges internally that I saw while working at those companies that are not going to be addressed quickly. By working directly with a candidate, I can help them be aware of these issues and circumnavigate them. I don’t think most tech companies have outwardly racist policies, but there are systemic challenges and friction in place. By giving some guidance and coaching, I can help people circumvent that. If I get them in front of the hiring manager (or the recruiter or the decision-maker) and they’re quality people, they will be considered and get jobs. I’ve succeeded in doing that.

That’s part of what also drew me to VaVa. I was really intrigued that it was a woman-owned business, and I wanted to help support their entrepreneurship. I’ve worked with fantastic diverse women as part of the VaVa program. It’s important to me to not just talk the talk, but walk the talk as well.

Tell us a little bit about how the pandemic impacted what you were doing, either positively or not?

On the positive side, I had a lot more time on my hands to think about things. When I started Kadima, (which means “forward” in Hebrew, like accelerate), I used to travel two times a month. I was on the road a lot and focused on work. With the pandemic, all of a sudden, I wasn’t traveling. I had a lot more time on my hands. My kids—my daughter is 13, my boys are 15—don’t want to spend much time with me anymore. I have twin boys. They’re all playing video games. I had nothing to do. I started binge-watching a lot of stuff, but then I got bored with that. I needed to do something more productive with my life. I had to figure out some sort of exit path with Salesforce.

I was listening to my wife read How to Be an Antiracist to the kids, and I absorbed it. After the horrific George Floyd incident, we were all glued to the TV. What else was anyone doing except watching TV nonstop? I was watching the crazy politics and the divisiveness in our country. All of that was in surround sound in front of me. I thought I can do something. I thought, “I’m not going to save the world, but I can do my part in helping people accelerate their careers—build long-term generational wealth for individuals who have not had the same privilege or opportunity as me.”

Working remotely, it was very easy for me to launch a side business. Because I wasn’t going to the office. Because I wasn’t traveling. Salesforce knew I was working on the new business. They approved it. I don’t know if they knew how much effort I was putting into it. I wasn’t sacrificing my day job, but I was putting a lot of time and effort into it. That allowed me the freedom to continue to do my day job with Salesforce, but also to start the side business which I think a lot of people have done during the COVID shutdown.

On the negative side, the pandemic added lots of stress and challenges. The stress of the political situation, the COVID situation, the quarantine situation, the lack of social interactions. I read this article from 2015, a David Brooks article, maybe, from the New York Times, where he talks about how people during the early stage of their careers are padding their resume. Then in the later stage, it’s about the eulogy. What are you known for? My resume is pretty decent as it is. If I worked at Apple or Stripe now, my resume would only be incrementally nicer. I’m halfway through my life, and I’m trying to leave a little bit of an imprint.

what DO you love about your work?

I love helping people. I love seeing their success. When I get someone into Facebook making $78,000 when I get someone into Amazon making $98,000 when I get someone into Salesforce making $132,000. The first one was a Black woman, the second one was a LatinX guy, and the third one was a Black guy. Their thanks and their appreciation makes me happy. They’ve recorded testimonials and written nice recommendations for me on LinkedIn. It’s not all me. They do the hard work, but I’m able to give them a couple of tips and guidance to get there.

That’s what I loved most about my job before: growing and developing people. I’ve had lots of people on my teams that have worked for me multiple times, multiple jobs, multiple companies. That’s what gets me excited. I have a mantra that I developed over the course of my career: “Treat people right and get shit done.” And “right” is an acronym.

  • Treating people with respect is the R.
  • I is act with integrity,
  • G is be genuine,
  • H is humbly appreciate my privilege, and
  • T is build trust. That’s the hardest one to do because there’s a big investment in that. You can very easily lose trust. If you do all that and still make progress, that’s fantastic.

I did that at my jobs at Salesforce, Facebook, and Google. I was trying to improve the quality of our advertiser data by 14% or I was trying to improve our customer satisfaction for enterprise customers from a 4.42 to a 4.57. Whatever. I’d much rather dedicate my time to impacting something that makes me feel better, that makes other people feel better. I’m holding myself accountable. I’m using some of the same management processes that I used at Google, Facebook, and Salesforce. I’m holding myself accountable through those processes, but I’m the only one that I need to hold up.

I have people that I work with on my team. Not full-time employees, but I have contractors, like Alyssa at VaVa. She’s awesome. And I worked with Kerri. I’ve been told that I’m a good leader. I’ve worked for some companies that have a strong set of values. I was probably attracted to those companies because they had a strong set of values. But when I saw people not adhering to those, it’s like, why even bother to have these values.

What advice would you give for other business owners?

Talk to people that are doing what you want to do already and are doing it well. Ask a lot of questions. I have learned so much by meeting great people. In my CRM, my customer relationship management database, I have 700+ people that I’ve had conversations with over this last year and a half. I’ve learned a lot from many of them, and they’ve put me in contact with others. Increase your service area by talking to people, seeking advice, and listening more than you talk. That’s been very helpful.

Also, test out a lot of things with a small amount of money or a small amount of resources. If it works well, continue with it. Like Vava, for example. I started with a three-month initial commitment, and I continued for a while. I actually paused and then I restarted. You don’t need to hire people. At some point, I plan to have employees. Probably in 2022. There are lots of contractors out there, lots of talented people, lots of freelancers, whether it’s Upwork, Fiverr, or Virtual Assistants. You can find some good people. You can also find some bad ones, but you can easily test and invest in what works and quit what doesn’t. It’s a lot easier to do that with contractors than with employees. It’s a lot less of a commitment, and you can easily test.

I’m also getting better at ascertaining who’s going to be a good vendor or partner to work with and who’s not. I think I’m making fewer of those mistakes. I just had to cut the cord with my marketing agency. It wasn’t the right fit for me. And there are some that are awesome, and I continue to invest.

How has it been working with VaVa?

I’ve loved it. I found out about VaVa because my wife was part of some coaching classes with physician moms. It was a woman doctor entrepreneurship program, and they mentioned VaVa. I reached out. Lauren Gall, VaVa’s co-founder, called me. I had great conversations with her. The fact that VaVa came referred by someone that my wife trusted was helpful. The onboarding was great.

My first VA, Kari, was great. I worked with her for probably a year. I was disappointed when she stepped back. I was a little concerned about getting another VA, but my new VA Alyssa has been fantastic. She brings different things to the table than Kari did. Their work is high quality and highly detail-oriented. Alyssa has already identified some things that have slipped through the cracks, like a prospect that I forgot to follow up with. She said, “You only followed up with these eight, what about this ninth one?” I forgot to follow up with that one. It’s an opportunity.

Alyssa has been phenomenal, scrappy. She’s eager to learn things. I’m trying different software packages, and she’ll get in and check out the videos. She knows some of the stuff, but she’s willing to learn. She’s been amazing to work with. And that’s while she’s balancing her kids and her family as well.

Anything that we didn’t ask you that you would like to share?

I’m really supportive of women-owned entrepreneurship. I’ve recommended a few people to VaVa and will continue to do that. I’ve had a very great experience with Vava.

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