Forgotten Fun

I’d forgotten the fun of Internet search.

I had a job come in during January. The position was for a senior-level manager in the R&D software group of a major storage business. The customer told me in the specifications that the person we were looking for was “an uber-geek who has the capacity and the desire to talk business to customers.” Further clarification pointed out that most qualified candidates “have blogs, or they’re named on the Web because they are conference speakers, award winners, or as with ____, have a brief profile of their background.” They were also likely to have been awarded patents.

It was apparent we weren’t looking for the average software engineer; what we needed was someone with many (in the range of 20) years of experience and the ability to be a spokesperson for a company or, in the least, a product line. “Chief Technologist” was one of the titles they were allowed to carry.

An “evangelist” type. We haven’t seen that word much lately. The word “evangelist,” according to many online dictionaries, points to a religious perspective. According to Wikipedia, a “Technical Evangelist” is “a person whose job or role is to promote technologies. This may be, officially or unofficially, on behalf of a company or organization or on a personal basis; for instance, open source evangelism. An evangelist promotes the use of a particular product or technology through talks, articles, blogging, user demonstrations, recorded demonstrations, or the creation of sample projects. The word evangelism is taken from the context of religious evangelism because of the similar recruitment of converts and the spreading of the product information through the ideological or committed.”

I noticed that the definition included the word “blogging” and this reminded me, humorously, that five years ago that concept would probably not have been included. How things change. Recognizing that this was a job that would require a sizable amount of Internet research on the front end, I got to work over the weekend. The following is my experience.

The first thing I did was visit LinkedIn for the low-hanging suspects, knowing that by using keywords found in the job description, I could cut closer to the bone as many of my targets were very large competitors of my customer. I was just as interested in the lower-level engineers I came across who had the specific keywords in their profiles (who says some of these don’t read like resumes?) as in the few titles that surfaced that appeared to be spot-on for what I was looking for. I needed 100 names, knowing that somewhere between this number and 50 would be what would be required for my customer to actually hire someone out of the bunch.

Why am I interested in the lower levels? Because they have bosses, and these bosses also have bosses, and it’s not too much of a challenge for a good telephone-names sourcer to agitatedly state to a harried gatekeeper: “I reached so-and so’s voice mail. Can you tell me, does he have a manager above him? And oh, by the way, in case I hit her voice mail, does she have someone above her?”

And bingo, I have it. But that’s not really what this lesson is about.

The customer had also graciously sent me a list of a hundred or so names that they had identified (some of these, by the way, were the same names I was surfacing on LinkedIn) with their internal notes as to the person’s skill sets. I cannot impress upon you enough how valuable this is. Not only will you, as a name sourcer, not duplicate your customer’s work, but you will also gain vision into the company based on the customer’s work already in place. In most instances, this will help you get in faster and more efficiently. (This is very dependent on how recent the work is. Anything inside of a year is mostly going to be good still.)

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Before we go further, I should also confess that as I was doing LinkedIn, I was also doing patent searches on each company, using the refinement option in the patent search field to refine my results. It worked like a charm. I was uncovering and copying out those names (patent filers) at each company as I went along. I was also hatching some of the customer’s names as I did this, revealing to me that it had probably done this patent searching as well. Notice I said “some.” I was coming up with new names as well.

By going directly at those names that appear to fit the customer’s bill, you can pretty much closely identify others in those persons’ hemispheres that will also fill the order. After I finished the LinkedIn and patent capturing, I filtered the results against the customer’s sent work. There were several crossovers. Not a lot, but some. Peering closely at the crossovers, I decided to go at these first. I don’t know why I did this. I just did. Habit, I guess.

Pulling up my Google screen, I typed the person’s name in the box. I chose the patent holders first. If the name was unique enough, I typed it within quotations without the corresponding company that the person worked for. If it was not a unique name (and a surprising amount of them these days are not), I added the company’s name also. Voila.

On many of the results, other names came up. Seizing upon those names, I typed them in, one by one. (Do you see how we’re descending into the ethersphere?) Results on those names began to reveal all sorts of things, including revelatory blogs and titles. Once I had a batch of them assembled, I got on the phone and did my thing. Within a couple days, I had my 100 names, confident that any of them could fill the open requisition.

“But Maureen, we thought you were a phone sourcer?” I am a phone sourcer, silly, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the chase, the events leading up to the telephoning. When I first started name-sourcing, I relied heavily on Internet results. It mostly worked back then because not many people were doing it. Knowing that I am technologically challenged and that learning the ins-and-outs of Internet search would tryingly contest my limited abilities, I realized early on that if I was going to survive in this space, I’d better develop, as Gypsy Rose Lee’s mother used to say, a “gimmick.”

Recognizing my deadly propensity for verbally gathering information from people, I adopted, like the famous stripper, a self-mocking attitude that, at times, helps me put on pseudo-sophisticated airs in order to get my work accomplished. It works like a charm, too.

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm TechTrak.com, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at techtrak.com or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!

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