January 26, 2017 – The booming technology sector, vibrant even when the economy was softer, shows little sign of retreat. It continues, in fact, to produce capabilities and services that few imagined just a decade ago. And while that should keep executive recruitment firms well occupied, the challenge of identifying top-flight talent to lead the tech charge is mounting.
“The ubiquitous deployment of technology across the globe has made mobile, big data, e-commerce and social media highly competitive sectors for talent,” says Charley Polachi, co-founder and partner of Polachi Access Executive Search.
He says he is also seeing a redefinition of jobs – a head of sales is now chief revenue officer, professional services is now client delight/ success / experience. With the growing frequency and awareness of hacking and data breaches, cybersecurity leaders are and will continue to be, in huge demand.
Charley tells me the marketing function is also being totally overhauled and automated; some 2,000 enterprises of varying size are making major platform shifts, he says. “All these changes and upgrades require fresh talent.”
Entrepreneur at Heart
Charley and his colleagues are certainly well suited to answer the call of this new day. Charley, his brother Peter, and partner Susan Mills founded the firm in 2002. National in scope, the Boston-based outfit serves the technology, private equity, and venture capital industries, with a focus on chief executive officer, general manager, and vice president level roles.
Charley, who has helped place hundreds of candidates during a career that’s spanned three decades, founded a number of search businesses, including Fenwick Partners. That firm concentrated on assignments for early-stage technology firms and was acquired by Heidrick & Struggles in 1998. For several years afterward, Charley was office managing partner at Heidrick’s Route 128 office as well as a member of the firm’s North American Management Committee.
Charley also started International Technology Partners, a network of independent firms from across the globe for the technology sector. And 10 years ago, he helped create Access Search Partners, a high performance partnership of leading technology search firms working globally.
Recruiters Now Essential
For Charley, the idea of ‘access’ is critical to delivering excellent search results. That’s why the word is included in his firm’s moniker. “When we use the term ‘access,’ it denotes that we are accessible on all levels,” he says. “We have the experience and reach gained from being in the executive search business since 1978 to have access to all potential candidates. We can and will call anyone on behalf of our clients. People take and return our calls and we execute the work we sell personally.”
For all the changes that technology has wrought, Charley says he never forgets that recruitment is at its core a people business. Concepts like building trust and connecting with clients and candidates, for example, will always be important. “Executive search is very much a one-on-one business and it’s that personal touch that drives many elements of the process, especially quality,” says Charley.
Service is at the heart of his firm’s business model. “We are a specialty boutique by choice,” he says. “We focus on board and C-level work for technology vendors, ranging from startups to public multinationals.” But the firm also has a specialty practice recruiting investment professionals for venture capital and private equity firms. “We run a limited number of engagements at any time, have virtually no off-limits issues and never any candidate contention. We never parallel process candidates,” he’s proud to say.
Private equity and venture capital have long been among the search firm’s main areas. As the sector has evolved over the years, Charley says, search firms have become even more essential to the success of these companies and their portfolio businesses.
“Historically, this was an apprenticeship model – you hired a talented, young, recent grad and matched them up with a senior partner who inculcated them with values, methodologies and who eventually groomed them to partner,” Charley says. “Today, as more money is raised and new PE firms are formed the luxury of time is no longer present to develop talent, so executive search firms get the call.
Last year, he says, his firm helped Pamplona Capital Management, which was a new fund, hire Darren Battistoni and Hiren Mankodi. “We also helped Senator Bill Frist and PE veteran Bryan Cressey hire Chris Booker for their new firm Frist Cressey Ventures.” In 2016, firm also recruited Yogesh Gupta to become CEO of Progress Software, a NASDAQ company. Mr. Gupta had most recently been CEO at Kaseya, Inc. Prior to that, he was CEO at FatWire before it was sold to Oracle. “This was an extremely well-run assignment as we had an excellent search committee,” remembers Charley. “It was run as a confidential engagement due to the fact it was for a public company.” From open to close the engagement took Charley and his colleagues just 75 days to complete it. And, most importantly to any recruiter, there were no leaks during the entire process. “The board wanted a candidate whose roots were in technology management but who also had CEO experience,” says Charley, and that’s exactly what they got.
Millennials, Charley told me, are a big part of the talent equation moving into the future. Eighteen to 35-year-olds make up almost a quarter of the workforce today and will represent more than half by 2020, he told me, citing a recent report out of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
These ‘millennipreneurs,’ are starting more companies, managing bigger staffs and targeting higher profits than their Baby Boomer predecessors. “They have grown up with technology,” Charley says. “They run their lives and their businesses on mobile devices and either drop out of college or immediately after graduation go off and build successful businesses. They have a high tolerance for risk. They believe in the shared economy and companies like Uber and Airbnb. They want a good work / life balance – they work hard and play hard. They use social media for everything: from checking references, raising money, conducting due diligence, purchasing, and making vendor evaluations.”
Being an entrepreneur himself, Charley no doubt has special regard for those coming up. After all, he and so many of them are kindred spirits. “They are entrepreneurial and have role models in Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, Katia Beauchamp at Birchbox, among many others,” he says. “Some of them will likely become the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, who were Millennials, by definition, when they started their companies. It’s an exciting time to be in the tech ecosystem.”
Contributed by Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor and Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief — Hunt Scanlon Media