January 20, 2017 – A boom in the technology sector has created increased demand for executive search firms with the versatility to remain ahead of the curve when top professionals in the field. It has resulted in the rise of specialty recruiting boutiques focused on identifying leaders for venture capital & private equity firms and their portfolio companies.
Polachi Access Executive Search, a Boston-based search firm focused on placing executives throughout the sector, has recruited hundreds of professionals for high-growth tech and software companies over the past decade. Its founder, Charley Polachi, has seen the boom and bust of the internet bubble, the rise of the SaaS model and the current tech revolution due to the cloud and Internet of Things.
With that in mind, we reached out to Mr. Polachi recently to learn more about his firm’s concentration in board and C-level work for technology vendors. In the following interview, he shares his thoughts on identifying talent for enterprises that have little time to develop it internally. As companies redesign their platforms to catch up and stay relevant in the digital age, he looks at new roles being created and tells us why mobile, big data, social media and e-commerce remain competitive hotbeds for talent.
Charley, part of your firm’s moniker is “Access Executive Search.” What’s that phrase referencing?
When we use the term ‘access’ it denotes that we are accessible on all levels. 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. 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. We are a specialty boutique by choice. We focus on board and C-level work for technology vendors, ranging from startups to public multinationals. We also have 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.
Technology is such a broad industry. Which sectors within it are the most challenging from a senior level recruiting standpoint?
The tech ecosystem is booming right now and even in a soft economy it had been vibrant. The ubiquitous deployment of technology across the globe has made mobile, big data, e-commerce and social media highly competitive sectors for talent. We are 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 is, and will continue to be, in high demand.
“The ubiquitous deployment of technology across the globe has made mobile, big data, e-commerce and social media highly competitive sectors for talent.”
And last but not least, the marketing function is being totally overhauled and automated; some 2,000 enterprises of varying size are making major platform shifts. All these changes and upgrades require fresh talent.
Your firm conducts a number of assignments with PE and VC firms. What are some nuances in working with them?
We have recruited in this space for many years and it’s always interesting, challenging and rewarding. 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. Today, as more money is raised and new firms are formed the luxury of time is no longer present to develop talent, so executive search firms get the call. Last year, we helped Pamplona Capital, 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.
You recently recruited Yogesh Gupta as CEO of Progress, a NASDAQ-traded company. How challenging was that search?
This was an extremely well run assignment as we had an excellent search committee. It was run as a confidential engagement due to the fact it was for a public company. From open to close the engagement took us just 75 days to complete. 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. Yogesh was the CTO at CA Technologies before transitioning to the CEO role at Fatwire which he sold to Oracle and he most recently was CEO at Kaseya.
How are you bringing Millennials into the fold?
Millennials who are currently 18-35 years old represent more than 25 percent of the workforce today and will represent more than 50 percent in 2020 according to an article published just last month by the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Sometimes called ‘millennipreneurs,’ according to a 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneurs Report they’re starting more companies, managing bigger staffs and targeting higher profits than their Baby Boomer predecessors. They have grown up with technology. 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, i.e. 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 endor evaluations. They are entrepreneurial and have role models in Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, Katia Beauchamp at Birchbox, among many others. 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 Christopher W. Hunt, Publisher and John Harris, Managing Editor — Hunt Scanlon Media