Jam Portus, Director of Alternative Workforce at NetApp joins Hiring University to discuss how this 30-year-old technology stalwart is navigating a job market that has seen plenty of layoffs, yet is ripe with opportunities to acquire newly available talent.
"I think it's easier to find top talent because of the recent layoffs. In fact, we are working on a talent strategy to take advantage of these layoffs."
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What's up everyone? Welcome to this edition of Hiring University. I'm John Beck, your host Today, we are lucky and fortunate to welcome Jam Portes, director of Alternative Workforce at NetApp. Jam has been in the staffing industry and done some things six years at NetApp, again, currently running the alternative workforce, which I'm guessing is a lot of contingent labor.
And before that, managing director at Modus and before that held roles at Amazon Pontoon, at Google Rant, at Cisco Levi's and others. I've heard of some of those companies. Jam, welcome to the show and, glad to have you here.
Thank you. It's good to be,
You've obviously been some places and seen some things, and I wanna talk a little bit about your past, but for those listeners who've been living under Iraq for the last 15 or 20 years, tell us a little bit about NetApp and the program
that you're running.
So NetApp is it's a company, tech company that's been around for quite some time, um, well into almost 30 years. Solid and, Are transitioning over to the cloud and our primary business focus is data storage and solutions. I roll up to HR talent acquisition. And, I oversee NetApp's Global Alternative Workforce Program.
Alternative Workforce, or AWF is our, is our term for contingent workers. , we've got a little over 6,000 AWFs in about 40 countries, and we partner with about 500 staffing suppliers and service provider.
It's hard to believe that it's been 30 years. That makes me feel old because, sold, used, done all sorts of things with NetApp on the way.
That's, that's amazing. It's hard to believe it's been that long. Tell us how you got into this wacky, crazy business that is staffing. How, how'd you find it? Very few of us woke up or graduated with degrees and staffing. How'd you, how'd you find.
Yeah, I actually, went to school for international business in Japanese.
I lived in Japan for a year. Learned how to speak, read and write Japanese. I was hoping to be a Japanese. Gaming translator, but that didn't pan out. . There's still time . I don't know now. But I, I came home from my study abroad program, and my parents basically said, we're going back to the Philippines to retire.
You're on your own. So , I had to find a job quickly and I actually got a job working for Vent Staffing on site at Levi Straus, and I was responsible. Recruiting, temps recruiting and hiring temps for Levi's on site, and I'm, happy to see that they're still in San Francisco, so I'm excited about that.
Any significant changes or things as you think about , what it was like when you first started versus the way it is now? , any big eye openers that you think, boy, better or worse?
Um, you know, back in the day it was, Staff, a temps. But now we're at a point where there's so many different pathways of talent.
You've got independent contractors, you have service providers, you've got agency workers, you've got early in career. I mean, back then it was just, okay, if you're not an employee, you're a temp. Right. Two
categories. That certainly is all the different ways. Yeah. Might, might be better or worse. We'll come back to.
There's obviously a ton of news of late, with respect to the labor force and the job market. With as much news of layoffs, there's news of labor shortages and obviously low unemployment, which is held steady. How do you, you know, heading up, 40 country global, effort for a $15 billion 30 year tech company?
How do you navigate through, what is arguably uncertain times and, and messaging for your managers and maybe what's the profile of that app today as you look at it, as it exists today? And what we think is coming or not? Yeah. Um,
big question. We've been pretty fortunate not to have massive layoffs like the Twitter or the Mata and the Google of the world.
We are in a hiring freeze, and I think what's the challenging position that we're in now is to actually come up with significant cost savings to avoid these layoffs. And, you know, it's, It's been challenging working with our supply chain to get us those cost savings, but that's in the position that we're in today to avoid the layoffs.
We're still going through that exercise. We've been negotiating with our strategic partners and I'm hopeful that they will be able to provide us some cost savings so we can stay whole. And that's really the, the position that we're in. I'm just grateful that we are not doing any massive layoffs because I think it's going to be really hard to get that talent back, when the economy picks up.
And is it consistent globally or are there various parts of the world where it's more stressful than others or is it consistent?
I wouldn't say it's consistent. I mean, if for NetApp specifically, 80% of our alternative workers are in the US and in India. India is a low cost geo for us. So the focus from a cost savings perspective really has been in the us.
harder or specific to the us? Is it harder or easier to find talent today? And I know you're in a hiring freeze, but you know, versus six months ago and you mentioned obviously a lot of layoffs and good talent that's hit the street, which. Good talent is always gonna find a home. In some respects, I'll answer the question for ourselves first because there's been some layoffs, there's more of that capable talent on the street.
I think people are less, apt to hop around to, take an extra five or $10,000 and they're looking for safe harbor. But I'm curious what you've seen and has it gotten easier, harder, what's your per.
I think it's get, it's gotten easier to find top talent because of the layoffs. In fact, we are working on a talent strategy to take advantage of these layoffs.
The challenge though is, is really getting the budget to get that rec open, right? Our hiring priorities for this fiscal year is cloud engineering sales positions, and filling all of. Openings in our new international HQ in Cork, Ireland. And so if there's a role that falls outside of that, it, it's, it's difficult to get that role justified and pushed through.
So while there's a lot of talent out there, we just don't have availability in house.
And when you say hiring freeze, does that apply to full-time or contractors? All the above. That
applies to all,
yeah. Okay. So you're, you're strict. Yeah. You mentioned too, you know, the difference between your time at Levi versus today seems like our industry comes up with new ackermans in terms of how to find people and, and a lot of times it's semantics.
But what, if any new platforms or delivery models or technology excites you about where we are today and, and you think have legs for the future?
There's a lot of really cool intelligence tools out there, right? Like Brightfield tdx, magnet, who used to be Pro Unlimited have their own, intelligence tools.
So I think those are really cool, but there's a cost to get that implemented and we just don't have it. Yep. I think the VMSs of the world, like fuel glass beeline, they have an opportunity to add more value to their customers by integrating. Intelligence market data, kind of technology in their systems already.
I know Field Glass is doing some of that. We have yet to see it and implement it in our program. But, the reality is there's a lot of really good technology out there, but it's, it's very challenging to get the budget to get those implemented.
Do you think, that it's. The responsibility or even fair, and I'm gonna pick on Magnet and we love magnet.
We're in a bunch of magnet programs, so this is more of a, of a, of a macro conversation. But we use them example, cause I've seen their, their data intelligence too. And it's awesome. There's fantastic information in there. Doesn't it make sense to have that be part of the service to benefit you in every, because at the end of the day, the data that they're compiling is actually your data.
It's, and not all of it, but a lot of it, comes from you as a.
Yeah, no, I mean, to be fully transparent with you, that was an expectation until they came up with their proposal with the, with their pricing structure. So that was a little bit of a shock. But yeah, to, to your point, it is our data, this should be part of, I mean, this is where the MSP value comes in, right?
Is, is can they consult to the customer? We've gotta get away. I mean, at least the MSPs need to get away from the tactical operational. Side of, of supporting a customer, they've gotta evolve and elevate their role as the consultant. And you can't do that without the data. I hope it gets to a point where they include this as part of their MSP service, but you know, we're probably going to see the MSP fee go up.
Mm-hmm. , it's just not, it's not something that they can offer, as part of the overall service without having to increase or charge us something. Yeah. , I mean, that's every msp it's not, it's not unique to Magnet. Sure.
And part and parcel to that. Because I, I was first introduced to that team, , because we were, we had some clients that were interested in, some DEI metrics.
And it, it's fantastic that this is on everyone's agenda and the conversation is happening and, and there's movement there. And I too had some sticker shock when I saw the price. But it also, it, like, I asked the question to myself and of them, and I'll ask it to you now. There's shared responsibility between the client, the MSP, and the supplier to, to solve the problems and to share the data to even at the very least set of baseline, right?
Cause a lot of times, we'll, people ask us, well tell us about your, your diversity metrics. And we share it cause we track it and you know, California you have to and that sort of thing. But we're a very small sample size. . And I'll ask the question right back, like, what are you trying to solve to? What is your, what number are you trying to solve to?
And very few people can answer that question specifically. And I don't think the industry can, any thoughts or commentary or anecdotal, scenarios where it's either working or not, or there's room for improvement.
So what's exciting is that there's a lot of talk around dib. We, we refer to it as dib, not dei.
I mean it's pretty much the same. Yeah, the same concept. There's a lot of areas of improvement in terms of actually reporting head count. Mm-hmm. , so we have 25% of our spend in program are actually from diverse suppliers. And our goal is to, to, to have a hundred percent of our supply chain be a diverse supplier.
I think the challenge is how do we ensure the spend is a reflection of the head count. Mm. And that's the piece that's still being discussed. I have not seen an MSP or VMs provide that level of detail. So there's, you know, R M S P collects supplier EEO data from staffing partners. Yep. That they.
But how do we get to a point where that is visible in the VMs and not just limited to, to what's in scope for our msp? So this should also include our service providers, SOW workers, and independent contractors that we are tracking headcount for, but not necessarily managing, time sheets, expenses, things like that.
It needs to, we need to have like a holistic approach in terms of how we gather d IB data to really understand where we're missing the mark and, and where we can improve. It also drives how you recruit, right? Your overall recruiting strategy. And how you engage staffing partners and who to engage. And, and
I guess I'll go back cuz the one piece that you didn't mention, which I would, I would always challenge people is tell me what number you're trying to solve for.
What's the metric that you're solving toward? And it's gonna vary by category. If you're trying to hire, pick whatever it is, gender, race, within software developers, what's the number that you're trying to solve for at higher? Because until you have that, you don't know whether you're doing well or not.
It could be, you know, just you're guessing at that point. And I think, again, those folks that have access to large scale data, I mean LinkedIn could solve this problem pretty quickly if they wanted to. And I understand there's a whole host of reasons why they don't, topic for another day, but do you have that level of granularity or goals within your program to say in these categories, this is what our expectations.
feeling we're not Yeah, we're not there yet. Yeah. We'll get there eventually, but we're not there yet. We're still trying to figure it out on the, you know, internal side. And the idea is, you know, once we have a d i B strategy metrics internally, we can cascade that down to our external workforce.
Yeah. But yeah, I mean, It, it, it's also going to depend on, the role. You can't have the same d i b strategy across the board. It's going to depend on just your overall, landscape. Yeah.
There's no question that, that one size doesn't fit all. And I appreciate the comment around diverse suppliers obviously is a, owner, that's a middle aged white bald guy.
For those who can't see me, we don't fall into that category, but I, I do applaud those diverse. Own companies that also champion it as well too. And that doesn't always happen too. And I think that's an important role they could play. Let's switch gears a little bit to another topic, which is bubbled up recently in our state and, and obviously across the country, which is the transparent pay laws that were just passed in California.
Mm-hmm. . How is NetApp planning to address that? I think there's pros and cons to, to what has happened. Would love to hear your perspective.
So, it started with the New York Pay Transparency Law in California's coming. Our approach is to actually just, be transparent on the pay rate range for all positions in the us So we are, we've actually updated all of our requisitions to reflect the pay rate range for every role in the us.
added more. Categories. I know that there are some clients who have said, well, if I'm looking for a software developer, there are grades or levels one through, you know, 15. Is that part of the strategy?
Yeah. We didn't have to add because our, our. Job taxonomy and our just overall rate cards is a reflection of, of our salary guide on the full-time side.
So we actually take our salary guide, convert it into hourly, apply the appropriate markup, and that ultimately drives our rate range, our bill rate range, and that has every level, job title that we would hire for on the full-time side. So all we've done is we've taken the pay rate range within the rate cards that we already have in place.
Go ahead. Is is for our staffing partners to cascade that down and make that very transparent in their job postings when they're recruiting for talent on behalf of NetApp.
Yeah, and I think that's really where there's an opportunity for improvement is it's this, it comes back to the job des. because so often job descriptions are just cookie cut.
I, I've seen a study that says the average job description that's out there has been cut and paste over 15 times with not that level of granularity to tease out what the specific skill sets or experience levels are that warrant what the pay is. And that, to me is progress. Because I can't tell you how many times we get a job description and say like, you know, it just need more intel, need more information.
And, everybody can benefit from that, especially for people that are looking for the job too. Mm-hmm. . So, um, on the, on a personal note jam, every guest that comes on the show, gets this question, I've invented or come across the way back machine,
if I put you into the way back machine, and put you back to the point we first started your career in staffing, what one piece of advice would you tell yourself based on what you know today with all the things that you've done?
It's not so much an advice, but it's really, a pat in the back in that I pick the right role to be in. Never would I thought that a contingent workforce program manager would have. This, much visibility within an enterprise company. And it's been really exciting times. I think that just the contingent workforce space is really evolving.
I mean, if I look at NetApp, it's such a huge part of our total workforce, and being in the forefront of, you know, project initiatives. Driving, you know, streamlined processes and things like that, that affect our AWFs has just been, it has elevated me as, as a professional and it certainly got me to the level where I am today.
And I appreciate the visibility and the, the challenge of having to think outside the box to really help NetApp. So that's been all
exciting. It's about people at the end of the day, right? If, if that's right, especially in technology. And you could argue everyone now with the whole digital transformation effort and having access to that talent.
And there are still so many companies that don't place talent in that strategic category, which is just, mind boggling that, that hasn't, resonated. Anything in your career that you would've, done differently along the way if you had other opportunities that you passed or the what if or regret?
You know, no re regrets specifically. I think I've, I've certainly act, actually, I do have one regret. You know, you get to a point where you're so passionate about what you do and you put in the, the time effort, um, sweat and tears burn yourself out only for a company to lay you off. I, I've experienced that a couple times in my career and
it helped me kind of reflect and, and just remind myself that work life balance and setting boundaries is so important. And I, and I try to put that in practice on a regular basis.
Yeah. Easier as you get a little, um, wiser .
exactly. Yeah. An important lesson. Great. Well thank you for leaving us, us, and thank you for joining us, on the show.
We appreciate it. Promise me you'll come back, in a year or so and we'll see where, where things have shaken out, as we get to the other side of whatever this is. And for our viewers as always, keep safe, keep grinding, keep the faith, and we will see you next time on Hiring University.
Thanks, Jan. Thanks John.