Minnesota Headhunter On The Schmidt List Podcast

Minnesota Podcast

A couple of weeks ago I sat down with Kurt Schmidt to record a session of his The Schmidt List podcast. Kurt is the President of Foundry (@FoundryMakes | Instagram) and he can be found by clicking LinkedIn, @KRTS & The Schmidt List with (as I post this) 36 podcast episodes. We’ve bumped into each other a number of times over the years and had a bunch of quick chats. But this is the first time we had some quality time. Here is his current bio:

Kurt Schmidt began his career as a graphic designer and filmmaker in the skateboarding and BMX biking industry.

In 1991, while recognized as one of the top twelve professional bike riders in the world, he co-founded Standard Byke Company.

In 2010, he was tapped by The Nerdery to be the Director of Project Management and has been responsible for the delivery of over $300 million in software development and design.

Currently, as the President of Foundry, he leads product design workshops, drives digital transformation initiatives, and hosts a weekly Podcast called “The Schmidt List” where he interviews leaders in design and technology.

While well versed on his business and technology background, I did not know about his BMX skills until after we recorded. Where have I been???

Here is what we covered over the hour (we had wayyy more things we could have riffed on) and you can listen below. Be sure to check out The Schmidt List on iTunes.

We start by talking about how I got into recruiting (old school, answered an ad in the newspaper) and how “Minnesota Headhunter” came to be and my then lack of SEO knowledge.

We talk about how the Minnesota Recruiters group started including a nod to John Sumser.

“What makes a good recruiter” is a fantastic question.

I get to ramble a bit on why some recruiters suck and I stick up for my corporate recruiter and HR friends.

I take to task the line CEO’s give that they want the best and the brightest and why I think that is BS.

Can a technologist burn a bridge with a recruiter?

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Recession 2020: Will You Be Ready?

The dreaded “R” word reared its ugly head last week when the NABE (National Association for Business Economics) released its Q2 2018 quarterly report that their 45 economists saw the economy going the following way:

+2.8 % GDP in 2018

+2.7% GDP in 2019

That OK news. More of the same of the past 10 years. Not great, not horrible. Moving along at decent pace.

Here is the bad news:

Around 50% see a recession by the end of 2019 and early 2020

60%+ see a recession by the end of 2020

These numbers are similar to other recent surveys from The Wall Street Journal and Zillow.

Things are going great for most people so why does it have to end?

Most likely… wages should start rising more and at some point companies will have to raise prices. If inflation goes to high and the Fed raises rates then costs of borrowing increase, home sales will slow and individuals and businesses may slow spending. There are other scenarios like government spending, the Trump tax cuts, overseas issues including tariffs, etc.

Let’s be clear, I am not an economist. I do watch CNBC and Bloomberg all the time and I am fascinated by how an economy works. I watch for trends, numbers, hiring and layoff announcements all the time including a bunch of Google Alerts. I have survived 2 recessions while being a recruiter. They’re not fun for recruiters (corporate, search and consulting). If a company does not plan on hiring then we are the first to get cut. Long before noticeable layoffs are seen and heard about.

I watch this stuff because it impacts my life in every way. And the “Great Recession” gives me night sweats.

Why am I bringing this survey up?

What if it happens… if the shit hits the fan am I prepared, am I ready?

Are you prepared? Ready?

Are your skills current?

Is your employer stable?

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MSP On Deck Podcast #19: Reeher And Redbrick Acquired, Gravie Funding, Minnesota Recruiters And Minnesota Tech Layoffs

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We start this episode talking about Redbrick Health… a frequent topic on our show and a group we had been thinking would have an “event” of some sort later this or next year. Out of the blue they are acquired by private equity and merged with another group.

Casey walks us through why this is a bummer. It’s not a great exit and he talks about who did well or in this case not well. The one bit of good news is it appears to some extent the Minneapolis office will continue on.

I of course go on to who is next to have a bell ringing moment… seems like this leaves us with Code42 as “next team up” and a few groups down the road including Calabrio.

You will hear why Casey calls Digital River the JCPenney of Minnesota SaaS.

Kathy brings us back to Redbrick and how corporate wellness programs may not be as cool a business as once thought.

We move on to the Gravie funding announcement (note, I am a customer/user) and speculation on who would be interested in buying them.

And the Reeher acquisition that we all agree was a sweet win… a bootstrapped group and a buyer who will continue to grow the team in St Paul.

Good news… I talk about how the recruiting recruiters trend is continuing and how this is a predictor of how the economy is going.

Bad news… the Capital One layoffs and ONE20 “shutdown”.

Casey talks a bit and is real direct about how a CEO should handle bad news or the closing of a company.

We talk about the startup career fair at WeWork.

Kathy made a “mistake” and asked if I had anything else to rant about… I mentioned I had written about Amazon HQ2 =>

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3 Lessons Learned From Minnesota Tech Layoffs: Capital One And ONE20

Laid Off

Back in December on the MSP On Deck podcast we made 2018 predictions and mine was that we would see continued greater tech hiring and we would see more layoffs… that we would see more churn in 2018 than 2017. To hear the episode click:

MSP On Deck #12 - The most popular tech news stories of 2017 + what big things are in the pipe for 2018?

At the beginning of May news broke that the Capital One office in St Cloud had cut around 24 tech staff:

Capital One announces another round of layoffs in St. Cloud

This one is not a big surprise… Capital One has been reducing the size of the St Cloud office.

Mid May the staff of Minneapolis startup ONE20 arrived on a Monday morning to find the office door locked. Outside of the company this one caught people off guard. Internally it seemed that many were aware things were rocky. There also seems to be some drama about this one regarding current customers, a few employees being retained (most are not) and what comes next:

Minneapolis Truck Tech Startup ONE20 Crashes, Laying Off 50+ (Tech.mn may require a subscription)

There have also been a number of groups that have “realigned” in some fashion causing 5 layoffs here and 10 there while still hiring across the company.

Here’s the deal and I swear I feel like this is old advice that doesn’t need to be said but then it does when tech pros are surprised to hear of layoffs. And I think I spoke about this during my Minnebar session or maybe because it seems to come up all the time… generally companies are going to do what they need to do to keep shareholders and investors happy. Whether you work at a private/public/startup, large/small, agency/med tech/manufacturing company this includes you. Which is almost everyone.

Including you.

So no one should be shocked, surprised or otherwise taken aback when something like this happens.

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U.S. Tech Jobs Roundup v1

U.S. Tech Jobs Distribution

I was in a meeting today with a group of senior HR leaders from about 15 companies and I was asked if I could give them some examples of what is going on in other cities around the country when it comes to tech and IT job trends. Were some cities and regions seeing growth, astronomical growth… were smaller cities and rural areas seeing people leaving for big cities?

What they were getting to (and I do this a lot) is “how are we doing” compared to other cities and can we speculate on some conclusions.

Let me speculate first and a reminder that while I am highly interested in economic development I am not an economist. I am a tech recruiter, regional advocate and highly opinionated blogger and podcaster.

Are we doing OK? Yeah

Are we doing better than we used to? Yes

Do I think we are about to could get passed by some other cities that “rank” below us? Absolutely

We need to get off our Midwest, we don’t like to promote ourselves ass and started being vocal about the career and life opportunities here. If you know me at all you have heard me say something like that 127 times by now. Yet… I am still saying it because we have barely moved the needle on it. As individuals, employees, companies, elected officials and community engaged people we need to get loud. Louder.

We have to get this idea into our head… we are NOT competing for “talent” (still hate the word) with Best Buy, Target, 3M, Total Expert, Code42, Accenture, Medtronic and whoever is going through a growth phase. We are competing with regions like Boulder, Austin, Chicago, startups in the Bay Area who allow workers to be remote and the tech companies in Atlanta who lives and breathe diversity and inclusion.

We MUST more frequently and more loudly tell our Minneapolis/St Paul story. It’s a good one. And if we don’t tell it then we can’t be shocked when other regions look more attractive.

You can find some more on this topic by clicking A Bunch Of Thoughts… Minneapolis And Amazon HQ2

The quick research I came up with for the group:

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MSP On Deck Podcast #18: Minneapolis Tech Events, Minnesota Funding News And Amazon Growing Minneapolis Office

MSP On Deck Startup and Tech Podcast

After a 2 month or so hiatus because of vacations (not mine), work schedules (sort of mine) and a freak spring blizzard during Minnebar… it was good to see Kathy, Casey and the mic’s again.

Which as we start the podcast we note that maybe we had accidentally been using Kathy’s internal mic, as we our podcast tech amateurs, but it turns out not to be the case. We had (and will have) 3 mic’s but could not get the adapter to work. We’re still working on the low volume of the recording.

Here is a photo of Kathy and Casey working on it and I love Kathy’s expression on this one:

MSP On Deck Startup and Tech Podcast

Anyway… to what we spoke about:

I gave an overview of Spring 2018 tech events including Tech Cities 2018, Minnebar and Enterprise Rising including LinkedIn data showing we had more tech pros migrate to Minneapolis and St Paul than away, the huge turnout for Minnebar and topics covered at Enterprise Rising.

We then had Casey dig deeper into his event as he had a mix local, regional and national investors, entrepreneurs and startup co founders. Casey also spoke about Cack Wilhelm and her presentation on how to invest a small amount of dollars not necessarily waiting until you are an accredited investor. I then brought up how Thompson Aderinkomi was running his previous startup on around $250 a month in tech overhead.

All of this was a reminder for me that our tech and business community puts on top notch events.

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A Bunch Of Thoughts… Minneapolis And Amazon HQ2

Amazon logo

NOTE: over the past months I had started writing a bunch of posts relating to Amazon HQ2 and did not finish any of them. Most of the time I was frustrated. I’ve clearly been vocal be it on the podcast or quotes in local news stories. All of those are linked below. As I edit this I know I ramble a bit and left some details out but these are the highlights of what I have been thinking about…

What do we do about HQ2

When news first broke about Amazon searching for a location to grow a 2nd HQ’s I became immediately interested. My thought was that this is a once in a career… maybe lifetime (so far for sure) opportunity to change the landscape of a community, city and region.

The first thought I had was there are three options the region had:

- Do nothing

- Be aggressive

- Sell your soul

Do nothing was not an option for me.

I was slightly more than “be aggressive” and not anywhere near “sell your soul”.

No way we let this opportunity to go by. The region needed to make a very strong bid, offer reasonable incentives and really go after this.

Restrained Bid

And then we read the now infamous quote from Governor Dayton saying the state would be giving a “restrained bid”.

I read that and was upset. I swore out loud.

Restrained??? Why bother.

We learned that Governor Dayton and then Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges reached out to the CEO’s of Target and Best Buy. To do what… get their permission to do their job? Did our elected officials reach out to other companies years ago when Minneapolis gave Target tax breaks to build their new HQ’s in Downtown?

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30 Days With phData

PhData Logo
Being a Fueled Collective (formerly CoCo) member I have been watching phData the last couple of years grow its staff and footprint in the space.  A couple of months ago I reached out to a member of the leadership team with a friendly referral for a role they had open and that person was hired. I was also aware that they were about to enter another significant growth phase so I reached out again to learn more about them and see if they might need some help.

Fast forward a few weeks to the end of March and my first all hands meeting... and the BIG announcement of the $2.5M Series A funding through Arthur Ventures.

PhData Funding Announcement

That's a fun way to start working with a group. The leadership team did a great job describing how the funds will be used, that not much changes, we will be adding new members to the team and Ryan Bosshart was named CEO. Essentially, this is my take on things… phData is shifting into a higher gear and things are in place to make it happen.

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MSP On Deck Podcast #17: Bind Funding, HelpSystems Acquisition, Recruiters Being Recruited And Ping.MN Debuts

MSP On Deck Podcast, Minnesota Tech Podcast, Minneapolis Tech Podcast, Minnesota Startup Podcast, Minneapolis Startup Podcast

We start our 17th podcast episode with news of the Bind $60M Series A funding.

That’s not a round size I think anyone was expecting. Kathy walks us through her conversation with Tony Miller, CEO of Bind, and how they are trying to tackle many of the things that people do not like about health insurance including doing away with deductibles creating “on demand health insurance”. We went deeper into the Lemhi Ventures and UnitedHealth Group relationship.

Kathy and Casey nerd out on Minnesota startups that have been created out of the success of previous startups. They use the phrase “startup mafia”. They mention Definity Health and Imaginet. I suggest Net Perceptions engineers are in town but they have not created companies. Casey lists off a number of groups who have been started by former Definity Health leaders.

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Commercial Project Manager Best 2018 Job On Indeed

Top U.S. Jobs, Commerical Project Manager #1 Job, Minnesota Jobs  

Indeed has their The Best Jobs in the United States: 2018 and I am happy to see construction related jobs are coming back:

  • #1 Commercial Project Manager

  • #5 Preconstruction Manager

  • #6 Construction Superintendent

  • #12 Construction Estimator

  • #19 Construction Manager

While I am a tech guy and not surprised that 8 of the 25 jobs are tech related it is good that other jobs are in(coming back in) demand. And not as a political statement… we need to focus on infrastructure in our country. Not everyone needs to or wants to code and the construction industry is one place people can get training, earn a good living and have a career.

I was asked by some high school students if everyone needed to go into tech and my answer was,:

“No. Is it a good idea to learn some basics? Yes. Is it a good idea to understand tech in a macro sense? Yes. There are plenty of careers outside of tech that will not be going away anytime soon. I am not a believer that AI and robots are taking all our jobs. Will they have an impact? Yes. Things change. We must too. And let me be clear that tech companies also have marketing, sales, customer success, help desk, HR and other jobs. No, you don’t need to be a coder but you do need to be a life long learner in every career, whatever you do.”

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