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Just Do it. Take the risk. Now.

Guest blogger Lauren Jones, Senior Director of Operations at Star Staffing, captured her impressions and insights at the TechServe 2017 conference. Lauren served as a guest speaker at the annual Women’s Lunch and made the most of the diverse and educational sessions on offer at the conference.

Just Do it. Take the risk. Now.

These short, yet powerful phrases permeated the presentations, panel discussions, lessons learned and the overall "attitude" at this year's TechServe Alliance Conference 2017. It was a welcomed and refreshing contrast to the "present the facts and information" only conferences of years past. The message was clear; we need to TAKE ACTION, TAKE RISKS, and EXECUTE.

And ya know what, I LOVED it. I’m going to share with you readers my favorite morsels of amazing goodness from TechServe Conference 2017. I promise it will leave you itching to attend in 2018!

Approaching technology and business with fearlessness, awareness and a focus on being creative is exactly what IT/Engineering staffing demands today. At TechServe 2017 we were thrust into the boxing ring (with the great new conference ballroom set up) and Mark Roberts, CEO of Techserve Alliance, came out swinging with a great discussion line-up; Susan Thaden, President, CRi and Pat Patel, CEO and President, Intelliswift Software, Inc. shared some of the following insights on emerging technologies and how they are choosing to approach these controversial topics;  Susan said, “The creation of vibrant, relevant solutions will set you apart as a solutions architect, creating excitement on the part of our customers and consultants. Remember to look at the problem rather than the technology.” While Pat assures us all that, “The human component of our business cannot be replaced. We must approach our business without fear.”

With a staffing centric ecosystem growing at an overwhelming speed, I loved their message and believe wholeheartedly our industry, no matter the technology, will always require human interaction and engagement. Talent Tech Labs, Inc. helps us make sense of all the tools available, what category they fit in, and potential value-add to your business. The Innovation Lab is a nice addition to the TechServe Alliance suite of annual conference offerings. The innovation opportunity our industry has to all those that take the risk should motivate you and get your blood pumping!

Our first Keynote Speaker was Chris Fussell, Partner, McChrystal Group and author of ONE MISSION. Soft spoken, articulate and wicked smart, Chris left me with this outline to share with MY own teams.

  • Define your ONE MISSION and your story
  • Empower your leaders to execute
  • Act with competence, integrity and relationship in mind
  • Be transparent and inclusive in leadership – ALWAYS

He broke it down to the simplest form of human interaction and narrated a way to create trust and master change management. He now has a HUGE fan in me and I now have a signed book #fangirl #onemission.

As I made my way throughout the sessions, I heard leader after leader talking about the attributes needed to succeed; grit, determination, communication, tenacity, resilience, passion and self-awareness (to name a few). But what really got me was the repetition of what they would have done differently. They would have done it sooner, faster, bigger – which left me and others around me a sort of anxiousness to get back and put our never ending “TO DO” lists in action.

One of my favorite speakers Eric Gregg, CEO, Inavero, gave us an always entertaining presentation on candidates/buyers and what influencers affect their decision-making process. This is paramount in the staffing industry as a candidate’s motivation is essential in making the right job connection for them and ultimately making our staffing clients happy.

Three things to consider:

  • The way people navigate the world (and their buying decisions) has dramatically changed. People don’t buy anything without a review! MEANING: Brand awareness, ratings matter.
  • The modern buyer doesn’t always want to talk to us! So how can we utilize some of the technology we talked about earlier to augment and enhance our practices to give each seeker what they desire. MEANING: Don’t be afraid to innovate and try new things.
  • Some things haven’t changed – don’t forfeit sustainable strategies in favor of a “quick fix.” Service really does matter.  MEANING: You need to earn those good ratings and ensure your happy customers share their happiness!

The theme of fearlessness and awareness continued to infuse the topics as I moved through the conference and I felt empowered!

TechServe Conference 2017 offered up some exceptional speaking talent this year. Darren Simons, President, CDI Corporation North America, Kip Wright, President and CEO, Genuent, and Eric Gilpin, Senior Vice President of Enterprise, Upwork, shared their insights on the evolution of the recruiting industry. Eric Gilpin (another favorite speaker) spoke passionately about how “technology is bringing work to the worker.” Upwork is the leading freelance platform disrupting the way businesses address the talent gap. I agree completely with Eric that there is space in our industry for us to partner with companies such as Upwork to increase the overall offerings for individual companies, thereby diversifying portfolios and expanding business potential. Boundaries can be erased! We must embrace this space.

This brings me to my most favorite part of TechServe Conference each and every year that I have attended.

The Annual Women’s Luncheon sponsored by ClearEdge Marketing and led by none other than the fierce and fantastic Leslie Vickrey, CEO, ClearEdge Marketing. This event hosted three speakers on three diverse topics, Mindy Zaziski,President & CEO, FYI Solutions, Inc, Anna Frazzetto, Chief Digital Technology Officer & SVP, Harvey Nash and me, Lauren B. Jones, Senior Director, Business Operations, Star Staffing.

Mindy kicked us off with the importance of Culture within an organization. Giving those that work for you something to believe in and strive for is paramount in realizing positive results. Mindy shared with us that culture is not just up to leadership (but it does start at the top), but that it must blossom within every member and our job is to help perpetuate that message and drive results and momentum forward.

It was then my turn to speak to this diverse, intelligent and engaged group of women and my first job would be to not mess it up! My topic, of all things was “Making Life Commitments Work for You.” As I said in my speech, if you would have told me 2 years ago that I would now be the poster child for work-life balance, I may have laughed you out of the room!  I was not good at this AT ALL. That said, many of you read my “Goat Leadership” article that went a bit nuts on Twitter and LinkedIn. I believe it spoke to people (especially women) because it often feels like there is this never evening push for women to do and be EVERYTHING. And a few years ago, I cracked. I bought a farm, found some balance and now, I’m sharing my story and what I’ve learned.

Here were the 5 things I left these hard-working women to think on:

1) WE/YOU are in control. No matter how much is on your plate, no matter the pressure – we can NEVER lose site of the fact that we are actually in control. Repeat that to yourself – over and over and over.

2) A unified vision at home (mission statement) is equally important as one at work and can help you create happiness in your relationships like nothing I have ever experienced.

3) “The power of NO has brought me more opportunities than saying YES ever did.”

4) The power of a servant life mentality in ALL you do, whether it is work, relationships and like will provide better results. ALWAYS.

5) Make the little things big. No no, don’t sweat the small stuff. That’s not what I mean. I mean, you have one life, a finite number of hours in the day. Choose how you use them wisely. Take the extra 5 minutes in the morning to have silence and coffee with your spouse. Even at total exhaustion, take 10 minutes to sit at the edge of your teenager’s bed at night and just listen. Shake the hand of the guy who loaded your groceries. Take a breath, look at those tiny little moments you have each day to take that extra action to make a connection.

We saved the best for last because Anna Frazzetto completed our speaker session talking about confidence and how to turn your weaknesses in to your greatest attributes. No one better to speak on this topic as Anna exudes confidence and energy. Her message of authenticity was a perfect exclamation point on this exciting women’s event.

But wait, there’s more!! When you think it couldn’t get any better, TechServe Conference 2017 was ready to “Go big or Go home!”

Leslie sat down with Karen Wilson, President/CEO, MAKE Corporation. What I loved most about Karen was when she said, “I want to be a part of the journey and I want my voice heard.” Karen has devoted her career to ensuring women have a voice. She is the purest definition of “JUST DO IT.”

Darren Simmons, President CDI Corporation, again shared one of his most profound statements of the conference in this intimate setting stating that, “Our industry is guilty of constantly measuring metrics instead of measuring value.” As a leader in this industry this statement punches me in the gut. We know at the core of what we do that “activity equals results,” yet we can’t get out of our own way long enough to ensure the activity we are doing is actually adding value. BOOM. Drop the mic Darren, awesome.

Another Discourse on Disruption session then led me to my new favorite “serial disruptor,” Dyan Finkhousen, Director of Open Innovation & Advanced Manufacturing and President & CEO GENIUSLINK™. There was so much to take away from her interview. I almost couldn’t keep up! I am going to give you the best of what Dyan shared. She has an amazing vision and attitude towards technology and how she has decided to embrace new ideas, technologies and tools consuming our industry.

  • The future of sourcing talent with technology “will enable more rapid sourcing for a more precise area of expertise.”
  • “The scarcity of talent can be solved by opening up traditional sourcing boundaries”
  • “The tools and technology we now have at our fingertips will elevate and accelerate the human experience, drive value and results for all. Think beyond the boundaries of your traditional solutions. Augment & experiment where you can to get the desired results.”

This attitude is exactly what we need and where we need to focus our energies. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Many of the new tools and technologies out there have a BETA period. Get in early and see what happens. It could be something that completely changes the way you do business and could create pivotal opportunities for the organizations you lead.

Finally, for a conference with an anthem around taking risks, doing it now and the like, there was no better send off than Jia Jiang. He is quite literally the “King of Rejection.” If you’ve watched him evolve over YouTube, or giggled at his inquiries for the bizarre to total strangers, you’ll understand he is on a mission to not let fear or rejection get in the way. I thought this was a PERFECT way to end the conference that is all about execution. We know, in order to execute you need to be fearless. You need to be determined and you need to JUST DO IT. Determined to no longer grapple with his doubtful six-year old self, Jia shared with us that “if you don’t run from the rejection, you no longer feel bad.” “You no longer suffer from self-doubt.” All of a sudden, people began to say yes. I’ve already devoured the book and it’s a keeper I’ve added to my “MUST HAVES” for all (it’s sitting on my teenager’s night stand).

TechServe Conference has now become a staple in my annual conference dance card. Next year people, just say YES to TechServe Conference 2018. I walked away with some amazing new connections, a few authors I had yet to discover and a little attitude and determination to JUST DO IT. (Whatever it is) NOW.

Lauren Jones
Senior Director of Operations, Star Staffing

Lauren Jones has been a leader, influencer and innovator in the staffing industry for 20 years. She is currently the Senior Director of Operations for the women-owned Star Staffing firm in Northern California. She is passionate about elevating women professionally and has become a writing and speaking staple at many staffing events and throughout the Sacramento region. She sits as the VP of Communication and current Board Member for the National Charity League for Mothers & Daughters. She has been the recipient of multiple staffing awards, with the Staffing World ASA Care Award for service and participation in putting the brave men and women who have served our country back to work as a major highlight of her career. Lauren resides on a farm in Elk Grove, CA with her husband Peter and their 2 girls Emily & Allison.