Ahmed Hashem joins the Lumanu team as the Head of Technical Recruiting! He comes to us from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, where he was the lead technical recruiter and helped build out the Engineering, Design, Research, Data Science, and Infrastructure teams.
“My biggest professional accomplishment so far has been the relationships that I’ve cultivated,” Ahmed tells us. “Recruiting is a people business, and the full candidate experience cannot be quantified in a graph. Centering the human experience in the interview process builds authentic connections that are built on trust and transparency.” Did we mention he’s also been a DJ for the past 16 years? Talk about a multi-talented player. Don’t forget to ask for his Spotify @… Welcome, Ahmed!
How did you get your start in recruiting and why did you choose to become a recruiter?
I started my career working with a nonprofit organization that focused on refugee resettlement and providing resources for new immigrants in the San Francisco Bay Area. A big part of it was really understanding the refugee experience and the injustices that they’ve lived through in their homelands and what caused them to immigrate and seek asylum in the United States. Being a refugee myself, I wanted to be someone who could create a welcoming environment to new immigrants in their resettlement process. It’s tough navigating resources, systems and finding access to opportunities, so I wanted to create a process for them to direct them towards certain communities and resources that would be beneficial to them.
Eventually, after losing a few jobs because of budget cuts in the nonprofit world--unfortunately this is a really big part of the journey in the nonprofit world is finding budget and funding--I realized that as fulfilling as that work was, it was hard to maintain a steady level of income especially in the Bay Area, so I wanted to take my social justice experience and lens to the talent acquisition world.
I was particularly drawn to the talent acquisition space when learning about the phenomenon of folks who change their names or change certain things on their resumes in order to get job interviews but at the expense of basically hiding their gender, their ethnicity, or something else about their identity. I thought that was incredibly unjust and I really wanted to be someone who could open the door for people who are highly qualified to do the work but are discriminated against through the interview process and through resume reviews. I see a lot of value, strength, and brilliance in diversity, so I started my career in recruiting from that lens.
Tell me about how you transitioned from that nonprofit to a much bigger place like Linkedin, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and now Lumanu.
One of the students that was part of a youth program that I managed was a recruiter and I was trying to get into the recruiting space for a good year and a half. I was on Linkedin looking at people in my circle who were in the recruiting space, and sending my resumes to them. Through that I found out one of my students from the program I managed was a recruiter at an agency. I messaged her and asked her if she was open to a conversation about opportunities. She responded to say that she was getting married and moving from California to Michigan, and invited me to interview for her job. So she connected me with one of her colleagues and then I went in for 3-4 interviews. It took building a really great relationship with the recruiter to get a job offer from the agency and that’s how I got into that world. I was working in the agency world for a few years, and then realized I really wanted to get some in-house experience because I felt disconnected from the hiring managers, the team, and the product. In addition, I didn’t feel like I was moving the bar or creating that sense of inclusion and equity at the agency. From that agency I went to a startup, and eventually ended up leaving that startup and applied to Linkedin in, interviewed there, got the job - loved it there. It’s the recruiting center. From there I was recruited to CZI--the head of talent really loved my background in social justice work and it was a great fit given my technical recruiting background.
You’ve had so many different types of experiences in recruiting from an agency to startups to big places like Linkedin, CZI, and now back to Lumanu which is a small startup. What keeps you excited about the recruiting world and space?
I just had a moment of reflection today, where I was feeling the sense of urgency and realizing the amount of work we have ahead of ourselves to build something from the ground up, but I’m doing what I love. I’m doing something that I can see is creating an impact moving forward not only on existing employees but for future candidates and employees as well. Yes it’s a lot of hard work and long hours right now, but I’m already feeling like it’s paying off because I have the support of our leaders. I’m doing it with like-minded people who care about doing things with intentionality.
Recruiting used to be owned by HR before it was its own function. For those who are not familiar with it as a profession and business vertical, how would you describe it to them?
It’s a high-touch experience. It has to be a high touch experience for the candidates. Because you can look at a website and you can use a product, but if you’re looking for a career opportunity, the first interaction with that company would most likely be during an interview process. In attracting talent, there has to be a level of transparency, humility, attention to detail and understanding the candidate holistically--what are they bringing to the table outside of just their technical aptitude?
It’s also making sure that we are representing the organization and its values and embodying it during those conversations and interactions. And being as honest and intentional as possible with our candidates. My biggest sense of responsibility that I feel is that this candidate will eventually become my colleague or has the potential to become my colleague. I would hate for them to start and feel like they were misled during the recruiting experience. When someone is interviewing, they will get a holistic representation of the company, the work, the product, the values, and it’s people, and I don’t take that responsibility lightly.
What is it about Lumanu that interested you? And how did you make the decision to join?
It’s a fun product--and it’s a fun space. Being someone who has a creative side, it spoke to me on a creative level. I’ve struggled with my own process of creating contracts and invoices, building marketing relationships to get exposure and doing collaborations. There’s so much unknown out there and it can feel daunting. Lumanu helps with that.
Lumanu is not just a platform, I think it’s much more than that - I see it as an ecosystem. The reason why I say ecosystem is because there’s also a focus on community, and it’s a community of not just creators who have a vast array of different talents, but also of many different brand partners. Everyone can work together, benefit from each other, and so the product itself is exciting because it enables that collaboration.
You spoke a little bit about your creative side - can you share a little more about that?
I’m a DJ, and I’ve been DJ’ing for 16 years now. It really started out as a pure accident. I was at a lounge where I was listening to Arabic music, and it’s the only place in the area that played Arabic music. Given that Arabic is my first language, I felt a sense of community and connection to my culture and I just loved being in that environment, especially when you long for your homeland as a refugee. So I was there and one day as I was leaving, the owner stopped me and said, “Hey Ahmed, do you want to DJ for me?” Immediately I told him, “I think you have the wrong Ahmed--I’ve never done this before, I’ve never even thought about it before.” He said, “No I see you, you like the music, you get up and dance and get people excited. I bought the equipment, so try it out--you can come during the weekdays.” And that’s how I got started. Pure accident.
For the last 16 years, I’ve been able to have a lot of exposure to such a diverse set of music which has included Arabic, Latin, Persian, Turkish, Afghan, Indian music and more. So it’s been a lot of fun to expand my horizons and learn different dances and different traditions.
What are some of your favorite platforms to use socially?
I love Instagram. I’m one of those people who are super late to the social media game and will fight it until it’s years down the line and I’m forced to create an account--for example, it took me forever to create a Snapchat. I have an account now but only use it for the filters and some of the geofilters because sometimes my clients will create custom geofilters for their events. But Instagram is probably the platform I use the most.
Who are some of your favorite creators?
Are there any similarities between being a DJ and a recruiter?
You have to keep people excited and engaged. With candidates, someone actually said this beautifully, which is “the interview experience should feel like a crescendo of interest.” You have your first experience that will get you excited, and every person you meet after should continue the excitement. So that by the time you get to the finish line, there’s no doubt in your mind. You know you’ve had a great time--you feel connected to the team, you feel connected to the product, and to the vision. It should feel like a consistent crescendo of interest and excitement.
Advice to people who are looking for opportunities right now?
Make sure that you’re interviewing the company and the team as much as you’re being interviewed. It has to be a two-way street. Yes, bills need to get paid and life can be expensive and we have families that rely on us but there is a balance. It’s not a zero sum game. You can have a job where you feel valued, engaged, and excited while still being able to provide. That’s where we are at Lumanu, we’re in the passion economy. Doing something that you absolutely love that resonates and fulfills your creative side, but also puts food on the table and pays your rent. So I love sharing that with candidates and reminding them that companies need them more than they think.
You just started at Lumanu, what’s top of mind for you as you start in your role as Head of Technical Recruiting?
I’m listening to Adam Grant's book “Think Again” and one of the things that really resonated with me in that book is this notion of not limiting yourself to a “best practice” because saying best practice or creating “best practice” means there’s only one way to do things. I want to create a robust, equitable, inclusive and scalable hiring process where everyone feels like they can contribute, everyone feels like they can take part in it. My goal is to understand the lay of the land, work closely with hiring managers, understand what they’re looking for exactly in candidates. I plan on taking their insights and wisdom and sharing my own experience and insight into what it takes to hire and attract talent and bring in talent that will get us to where we need to go.