Smashing Spotlight: Ty Williams, Recruiter
Ever wonder what makes Smashing Ideas so smashing? Our people! We sat down with Ty Williams, Recruiter, to talk shop, what the sound of his recruiting style is, musically speaking, how growing up in Shanghai shaped his personal and professional perspective, and what his inside scoop is on getting hired at Smashing!
As Smashing’s Recruiter, you are responsible for finding and aligning the best talent for our agency. Regardless of role, what are the specific things that you always look for in candidates?
No matter what role I’m recruiting for, the biggest thing I ask myself when I’m speaking to a candidate is if they embody our values. We absolutely live by our values here at Smashing, so beyond making sure that they have the right technical skills for the role, I’m always asking myself if the applicant is naturally curious. Do they have a bias for action? Are they life-long learners? Do they embrace challenges and ambiguity? Will they paddle out for their team? Do they create with heart and take pride in their work? It becomes very clear throughout the interview process if someone embodies our values and will be a great future Smasher.
What’s the sound of your recruiting style, musically speaking?
Although the music snob in me wants to say my recruiting style is akin to a John Coltrane saxophone solo, I think it’s much closer to bubblegum pop. I’ve actually been told by some of our designers that, when I meet with candidates, my “recruiter voice” makes me sound like a Disney character.
Interviewing can be a challenging and vulnerable experience for a lot of job seekers, and I think talking to a recruiter who is friendly, enthusiastic, and empathetic goes a long way towards making the whole experience less stressful. To that end, whenever I’m speaking with a candidate, I do my best to keep the interview breezy, catchy, and conversational. I might be the Carly Rae Jepsen of recruiting.
For those potentially interesting in working at Smashing, what are your tips to have a candidate move successfully through the recruiting process?
Preparation is key. I get so many applications from people who clearly haven’t taken the time to understand who we are or what we do, so it really stands out when someone studies our website, writes a thoughtful cover letter, and asks insightful questions about our company and the role they’re interviewing for. I might be biased, but I think it’s pretty hard not to get excited about working at Smashing if you’ve done any research on how amazing this place is. And please, please, please, don’t tell me about how much you want to work for a marketing agency (that’s not what we do!).
You spent a majority of your childhood living in Shanghai. How has that global perspective shaped who you are today?
Growing up overseas, I went to an international school where it was normal to be in a classroom with students from ten to twenty other countries. When you interact with people from so many backgrounds and cultures, you very quickly learn that, despite our apparent differences, there is so much more that connects us than divides us. There are smart, brilliant, and kind-hearted people in every corner of the world who are willing to share their wisdom if you listen with an open mind. I still have friends and teachers scattered around the globe from my time in Shanghai, and it’s an incredible luxury knowing that, no matter where my adventures take me, there’s probably a friendly face nearby. Living abroad also reinforced, from an early age, the importance of travel. I truly believe every new adventure broadens the mind and expands our capacity for compassion. To quote Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
What do you always share with candidates regarding working at Smashing?
The main thing I always mention is how wonderful the people are. Every day I come here excited because I’m surrounded by some of the kindest, funniest, and most brilliant people I’ve ever had the good fortune to work with. I think we sometimes take for granted how rare it is to collaborate with peers who inspire, challenge, and entertain us on a daily basis. But the more people I speak with, the more I realize that the culture we have here is really something special. When I first came to Smashing, I felt a sense of community that I hadn’t experienced in a workplace before. Our people truly are what make our company such an incredible place to be every day.
You are a songwriter and musician – one of many in our studio! As anyone who’s played in a band knows, you have to create a specific environment for creativity to flourish. Would you say that’s the same at Smashing?
Absolutely! Anyone who works in a collaborative creative field knows how important it is to foster an environment where people feel safe taking risks and expressing themselves. Nobody is ever at their creative peak if they are forced to hide parts of their identity to fit in. In music, that means being brave enough to exhibit vulnerability in your playing and songwriting. If you’re part of a band or ensemble, it’s crucial that you encourage and support your fellow musicians when they have the strength to exhibit that vulnerability.
Here, we foster a creative environment by encouraging people to bring their authentic selves to work, geek out about their passions, and celebrate the things that make us diverse and unique. If you’re comfortable being yourself at work, then chances are, you’ll also be comfortable sharing your ideas and perspectives, which is a cornerstone of creativity.
Diversity is critical when solving hard problems from a multitude of perspectives. However, it can feel like companies are just talking about diversity without actually acting upon it. What steps do you take to ensure it’s a priority and not just another buzzword?
There’s an undeniable problem in the tech world of companies fostering cultures that are hostile towards women, minorities, and underrepresented groups. On a personal level, I’m very aware of my position as the tip of the funnel for all candidates who interview here, which means I have to be especially cognizant of my own inherent biases. When I’m screening candidates, I make a concentrated effort to ensure we’re including people from a wide range of backgrounds who will bring fresh perspectives to our team. In my free time, I also do a lot of reading about best practices for building organizational cultures that support diversity and inclusion. There’s a lot of great literature that has come out on the subject in the last couple years, particularly as it has gained more media coverage.
More broadly speaking, one of the reasons we’ve been so successful at creating a culture that values diversity is our emphasis on bringing our authentic selves to work. One of our values is, “Keep It Real – because our diversity enhances our creativity.” Far more than just a corporate slogan, it’s actually something we put into practice and that our people take to heart. When we’re hiring, we put that into practice by looking for people who will push us in new directions and bring new ideas and perspectives to our company. Obviously, there are always areas where we can improve, but our whole team is committed to making this the best place we possibly can, which is amazing.
It has come to our attention that you are a lover of musicals. If Smashing was a musical, which one would it be and why?
We’d definitely be a true ensemble production; a show with no single main character and where everyone in the cast has their moment to shine. We would also be a musical that is a little bit quirky and has an offbeat sense of humor. The score would be super catchy, but also innovative and slightly avant-garde in its willingness to explore new creative territory. Most importantly, it would have a strong underlying message that shares a new perspective with the audience. So, off the top of my head, maybe we’re Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods (minus the bloody second act where everyone dies).
Among peers, you are known to be quite the model Smasher. Meaning you are such an enthusiastic and energized person, who never seems to have an “off” day. What inspires and motivates you and how do we get such an infectious energy?
It definitely helps that I genuinely like all the people I work with. It’s really easy to have a sunny disposition when you’re surrounded by lighthearted, energized people on a daily basis. More broadly speaking though, I tend to view positivity and kindness towards others as my (very small) contribution to society. Life is incredibly hard for so many people, and sometimes a friendly smile or an empathetic ear can go a long way towards brightening someone’s day. Even if I’m going through a rough time personally, I do my best to be energetic and kind towards those around me. That being said, I do have a secret morning recipe for daily positivity. It includes two breakfasts, one large green smoothie, forty-five minutes of intense exercise, and a healthy dose of Stevie Wonder on the bus ride to work.
What is your favorite thing about recruiting for Smashing?
I really love being in a position where I’m the first point of contact for every new person that joins our company. I get to speak with so many brilliant people on a daily basis, and I learn something new from every single one of them. I remember when I first joined Smashing, I was blown away by how many people here were recruited by my predecessor. She played an integral part in shaping the culture of this company by helping to hire so many talented individuals. Now that I’ve moved into that role, I feel a huge sense of responsibility to honor her legacy and connect with people who will have a similarly positive effect on our company. Everyone at Smashing plays a part in shaping this incredible community of innovators we’ve created, and I’m just happy to contribute in whatever small way I can.