Jennifer Seith of Randstad USA Shows Us the World of HR

Brooke German

November 27, 2018

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Jennifer Seith, SVP Recruiting Strategy & Innovation at Randstad USA, is a leader in HR technology with over 20 years experience. She highlights the joys of her career, the obstacles she's overcome, and how she navigates life.

Brooke Lazar (BL): What sparked your interest in your role, and how did your background lend itself to this position?

Jennifer Seith (JS): I have been in HR technology for about 20 years. I started working at an applicant tracking system as the assistant to the CEO and quickly moved into managing technology partnerships ("relationship building skills" go a long way). While working on a partnership with CareerBuilder, they asked me to come to build a team of process consultants responsible for ensuring the way their clients' technologies and processes integrated well with CareerBuilder.

After building hundreds of global relationships with both clients and technology companies, I decided to try my hand in CareerBuilder's consulting arm—writing methodologies and consulting with clients on which technologies fit their needs best.

Unfortunately, CareerBuilder's consulting business fell victim to the economic challenges of 2009, and I moved back into a partnership role. Our CEO came to me and said, "The industry is moving in a new direction, and we need to respond." Just like that, I became a "product person."

With a small team and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, we brought "Talent Network" to the market. Within the first year, it was one of the most impactful products launched. By the time I left CareerBuilder earlier this year, the product had thousands of customers in 32 languages. We changed the way candidates interact with employers' websites, expressed interest in job openings, and remained engaged with individual employers.

My focus over the years has been a combination of strategy, understanding recruitment processes, and how technology can increase efficiencies for both candidates and recruiters. When I saw the job advertisement at Randstad, it was a perfect combination of everything I'd done over the past 15–20 years and was the right time for a change.

The beauty of being at a place like Randstad is that you can focus on how candidates want to interact with you, how they want to communicate, and what technologies they'll use, and see them through their entire journey—from job search to hire. It's an exciting opportunity to impact people's' lives by listening to their needs and helping them find the right job.

BL: What do you enjoy most about your job?

JS: What I enjoy learning is how different types of candidates interact with people and technology. For example, nurses and forklift operators utilize technology differently—what may work for one may not work for another. Technologies like texting, AI chats, and resume builders are augmented by human touch. Where in the process does that need to happen? It's like a puzzle that needs to be solved over and over again.

BL: What influenced you to pursue a degree in business?

JS: HR Technology wasn't my dream growing up. After many years of being in the field and developing relationships, I realized that I had been making executive-level, strategic decisions without the academic rigor or thought process. Gut and instinct can only take you so far, and I wanted to learn how to think differently. This decision was delayed while trying to become a parent, but when my son was two, the time seemed right.

BL: Was it difficult earning your degree with a child?

JS: It was tough. My husband took the brunt of everyday life for a little over 15 months. The program was blended, so it was online and in person, but there were weeks of global travel. For weeks on end, and every weekend, he did everything. I couldn't have done it without his support.

BL: What obstacles have you had to overcome throughout your career?

JS: One of my biggest obstacles is self-confidence, especially being in a room of male executives. Throughout my career, I've been one of few (if any) women in the room of male technology executives, and I have had to learn how to be heard.

Being knowledgeable about the subject I'm talking about is important. I have to articulate facts in a way that is not only human but is also data-driven and forward thinking. There's a fine line between a woman who pushes back and how she's perceived and a woman who stays silent and gets the job done. Unfortunately, I stayed silent for many years.

It's also complicated when women decide to start a family. I was lucky to have a company that was supportive of that. We had a long fertility journey that required time out of the office. I partnered with other people internally at my organization to help maintain my level of output while still trying to become a mother.

BL: Forty-seven percent of the leadership at Randstad is female. Was that alluring to you?

JS: Randstad's numbers did not seal my decision, but it encouraged me to see that there was an opportunity to be heard and grow as a leader, especially in technology.

BL: How do you manage work-life balance?

JS: There is no real answer. Work-life balance is what you make it and is how you decide to balance your priorities. Turning the phone off every day at 5 p.m. is not a reality for a lot of people. There have been many evenings when my son has had conversations with my colleagues on the phone. But I will always make every effort possible to be present when I'm with him; at that moment, he is the only thing that matters.

BL: Why is being part of a network, such as WITI (Women in Technology International), important for women in technology?

Networks like WITI didn't exist when I was coming up in the world. I find myself talking to other women, asking, "How did you make your voice heard? What did you use to overcome the ‘no' that you continued to receive when you were trying to make your point?"

The networking capabilities and support are important. Women can share their stories and ask for guidance. When you are trying to grow while working in a field that is primarily dominated by men, it's easy to lose your voice. It's beneficial to learn from other people who've gone through those scenarios to create a network of support and to learn from others.

BL: What's your perspective on girls in STEM?

JS: When I was growing up, STEM wasn't a conversation. Now, our socio-economic growth is dependent on these skills. However, I still believe in classical education, and I am concerned about the academic pressure our children face today. I would caution girls who are only focused on STEM not to neglect, but to become a well-rounded person, as critical thinking is vital to growth. Play an instrument, dance, play a sport, practice etiquette, learn about different cultures—these things will teach you to think differently.

One of the things I try to do with the engineering teams I work with is getting them in front of the end user. I see it often—engineers are solely focused on the solution because they are trained to think linearly. It's difficult to see the problem they're trying to solve because they immediately jump to the solution. When this happens, mistakes are made, and the end product generally fails.

If you look at some of the top technology leaders, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, they sent their children to schools that emphasized the "whole person"—emphasizing everything from spirituality, to the arts, to history, to STEM. The reason is the importance of critical thinking. Critical thinking is rooted in curiosity—the desire to see something holistically—which allows you to see the problem before you solve it. STEM is a vital piece of that puzzle but cannot be the singular focus.

Your life changes, your interests change. It's important for us to set the example for our girls by embracing our journeys, even if they don't make linear "sense."

Brooke Lazar is WITI's content manager and digital editor. She has a BA in Professional and Technical Writing from Youngstown State University.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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