#In321 with Rayanne Thorn, Product Marketing & Strategy for Technomedia
1. Rayanne, you’ve been in the trenches of the HR industry. Tell us about your career journey, as well as your role at Technomedia.
It has been an interesting journey and one I never expected I would take. I grew up in a religious home, was married by the time I was 21, a mother at 23, and happy in my life as a wife, mother, and dental assistant. I never expected nor aspired to be where I am today. But I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I had decided after serving for a few years on the PTA, one as PTA president, that I needed to go back to school to become a teacher – I was coaching at a local junior high and I ran into many teachers who hated that particular age group – I didn’t understand this because I loved these kids – they were at a crossroads and needed other adult figures in their lives besides their parents.
While attending college one day, I came across a bulletin board with a job posted for a sourcer – someone to do name gen for a local executive search firm, with the words, “you can work around your school schedule” – I thought, “I can do this.”
I was already working two jobs and taking five classes as a single mom with four kids – what was one more job? After my face-to-face interview, I was hired on the spot and I started working by week’s end. My first paycheck was for $36.
Within three weeks, I was actually recruiting because I didn’t understand making more than one call into an organization – why not just pitch the job as soon as I had someone on the line? This was pre-LinkedIn, pre-social media. This was during the days when the whir of a fax machine was the greatest sound ever because it meant a resume was arriving.
I fell in love with recruiting and it became everything to me. I coached for several more years at that junior high, but my major changed from education to business and my career path became clear. That fist recruiting boss had me take a StrengthsFinders test - my first two strengths were Woo and Strategy. And I wanted more self-revelation. I realized the more I talked to people, the more I read about the recruiting industry, the more I saw the changes in my life and the lives of people with whom I worked, the more I wanted more. So I began my life of learning. I discovered MySpace and theLadders and loved the changes that were happening in online communications. And I wanted more. Everyone around me thought I was wasting my time, including my boss.
My next job was as part of a corporate services team working closely in HR as an in-house manager of recruitment and retention. And I fell in love with HR. Along came LinkedIn and social media was quickly showing me that these new technologies could help me do my job better as a recruiter. I saw something in early social media – I saw potential to help me to do my job better and faster… I had been blogging on MySpace for years when I joined RecruitingBlogs.com where I became the first featured and PAID writer. Yep, way back in 2008, I was being paid to provide online content. And I loved it.
Writing every day gave me personal clarity and an opportunity for learning I never thought possible. I wrote incessantly – I can remember falling asleep at my keyboard many, many time in those early days. I spent about 18 months living in absolute poverty while I learned everything I could about social media and how to use it for branding and hiring. I worked from my home and spent many days, weeks, and months fretting about how I would make it, how would I continue raise my kids but I just stayed the course. I never gave up or stepped away from what I knew was my path.
One day, I called Kelly Robinson – a recent transplant from London to Newport Beach, California where he was launching Broadbean Technology US. I was trying to sell ad space on RecruitingBlogs to Kelly. He accepted my invitation to lunch and about 45 minutes into our conversation asked me, “How do you make your living, Rayanne? I know you don’t make enough money selling ad space to support your family…” I explained my other work, the consulting I was doing with small businesses on how to market and brand themselves to compete with the big guys – how to hire and source business using social media. He said, “I want you to do that for me.” I had several clients on retainer at this time and I said, “Sure, when I get back to my office, I will send you a proposal – as I only work on retainer.” He laughed and said, “No, I want you to come work for me full-time, as a Broadbean employee – as my Marketing Director.” I was shocked. But three months later, I was employee No. 4 at Broadbean US.
My years at Broadbean were a deep drenching in recruiting technology and I loved every minute of it – I was argumentative and always wanted to know more. Kelly once told me I wasn’t invited to the tech dev meetings anymore because I asked too many questions and wanted to know too much. I laughed about but soon realized maybe that wasn’t so funny. So I learned to change my approach and prepare a bit more.
I had heard about Technomedia and wanted to know more – I knew they were a full HR suite enterprise solution competing against the big dogs, but wondered why I didn’t know more, why I hadn’t heard of them. I connected with Dwaine Maltais on LinkedIn and asked about Technomedia and if he thought there was a place for someone like me on the team. He didn’t respond for several weeks, I thought maybe I had overstepped – when he did write back, he wanted to schedule a call. Within 8 weeks, I was accepting a position as VP of Product Marketing & Strategy.
My responsibilities at Technomedia range from branding through content development to product management, product marketing, employee engagement, partnership development and relationship management, analysts’ relationships, and on a broader level – creating a bigger voice for Technomedia by helping to expand our visibility through social media and conference speaking engagements - just me continuing to be loud about the work of a recruiter and the HR professional.
Technomedia is unique in that we are concerned about how technology has and will continually evolve. We want what is best for the workforce and continually develop technology which aids performance management and career development. Recruiters work very hard to hire the right people quickly. The QHQ Factor – Quality Hires Quickly. The next step is to hang on to those quality hires, so retention is vital. What we are doing, how we continually develop and innovate – mobile first, engagement, metrics which matter – leads to that end. Hiring the right people and hanging on to them.
2. You have a very distinct social media brand. Can you give our readers some tips on building their brands and why this is so important?
I am who I am. I live the “what you see is what you get” truth. I am eager to be transparent, to talk about my bouts with poverty, to share the hard truths that got me to where I am. Engagement takes work. You cannot simply post information without responsive listening or feedback, follow-up and follow-through.
There are many folks out there with ideas of how to do this best, those who are “experts” – I am not an expert because my style is continually evolving. I want to incessantly learn and I want to share what I learn. How I present myself is as someone who is not perfect. I suppose my biggest tip is to listen, but to also break away from “business always”. Share who you are in life, as well as who you are in work.
The greatest takeaway from social media engagement is the opportunity to get to “know” people you may not otherwise get to know.
People still want to do business with people they know, people they like, and people they trust. Social media allows you to exploit yourself as someone who knows their business or their trade, as someone who listens, as someone who seeks, and as someone who is resilient and responsible.
Additionally, if I ever question what I am about to post or how I am about to respond – I ask myself three questions:
1. What would my mom say or think about this?
2. What would my boss say or think about this?
3. What would a future boss say or think about this?
These are my posting guidelines.
The best advice I can give about developing your own personal brand is to be authentic but be respectful of yourself and anyone who might read what you are posting.
3. As a radio show host, marketing executive, mom and technology expert, you blend all of these worlds and more every day. Is work/life balance an outdated concept?
My brother is an executive coach and he shared with me a message which has really stuck with me. There is no such thing as work/life balance. There is only life, and work is on the same side as life in the equation.
Life + Work = something
We each create what our own something is. In many aspects, my work is my life and my life is my work. But included in that life are many other things which enhance my work – being a mother, the hardest job I will ever hold. The battle of wills is very strong between a mother and child, how could I not handle a contract negotiation after that experience?
Over the years, I have learned that not only is life what you make it, but it is also what you allow to happen or not happen. I do not sit and wait for life or work to show up. I am responsible for my own busy-ness, for my own work, for my own happiness. And my life and experiences did not create the person I have become. I created this life, by pursuing an experience or allowing one to happen. I am in control. I choose my path. The greatest thing I can ever hope to attain is to be of value - that might work or my words benefited someone else. We hear all the time, “I just want to know that I made a difference.” Sometimes, that difference is so subtle we will never know it occurred. So how do you measure it? Perhaps you can’t - but for me, if I am able to sleep at night and if I wake each morning eager to get back at it, that is enough.
If someone who lived over one hundred years ago, like my great grandmother - who taught be the art of patience and generosity, can have an impact on my life today, who’s to say that I won’t have an impact on someone one hundred years from now?
I have a silver dollar dated 1887 with a little dent in it. My grandfather gave it to me, telling me that the dent reduced the value of the coin. But not to me – to me, it is cherished because of the dent. Perhaps it wouldn’t be in my possession were it not for the dent and I would never have had that conversation about “value” with my grandfather. These are the lessons which continually change me, make me who I am.
What is balance? Is it the ability to stand on one foot for an extended period without falling, or is it the ability to spin seven plates at one time? Perhaps it is getting just enough of everything that you need. Maybe it’s the understanding that there is no such thing as successful multi-tasking. Balance is different for me than it is for you.
I love my work, I love my job. So, it is a big part of my life. For someone less enamored with their job, it is far less important to them. We either chase passion or we squash it. I choose the chase.