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Introducing Growth by Design Talent

Adam Ward

We started Growth by Design Talent because we wanted to help as many growth stage companies and emerging talent leaders as we could.

More specifically, we wanted to work with companies that share our belief that companies can grow quickly and thoughtfully. When you hire people who are not only deeply skilled at their craft (engineering, finance, you name it) but who are also good humans, the sky’s the limit. We aim to work with founders and leaders who believe this too, and who specifically believe in the power of diverse teams. It is our common experience that assessing for commonly held values and investing in the talent function early and often is critical. Willingness to walk away from candidates who might be impactful in the short term but values-misaligned is often the hard but right decision. After experiencing companies at every stage, from single digit start-ups to high growth pre-IPO companies and multi billion Fortune 50 companies, these are just some of the principles we want to help companies embrace to grow, scale and thrive.

No one grows up thinking: “I want to be a doctor, a firefighter or a recruiter”. We all fell into recruiting as a profession in our own way, usually unexpectedly. I always thought that teaching, coaching, or counseling would be my path. I come from a family of teachers, social workers and full time sports enthusiasts, so along with an ardent love for all things Pittsburgh sports, I have an intrinsic desire to help people. (And the ability to weather tough seasons for my teams.) For me, I stumbled into recruiting luckily and early in my career. An aunt of mine introduced me to an internship at Trilogy, a high growth configuration software company and one of the most innovative recruiting companies of its time. I didn’t know what University Recruiting was and I didn’t know what a software configuration engine was, either. But given the choice between learning something new or spending another summer sweating it out at our local dry cleaners, it was a no brainer, and it led me to a career path I love. That first summer before my junior year of college opened my eyes to ambitious people with audacious ideas, and exposed me to a fast, dynamic environment.

I later worked as a high school recruiter in student programs at the University of Texas at Austin, and then at Qualcomm and Facebook in those early pre-IPO days. It was there that I discovered that recruiting can also have such a tremendous and outsized impact on people’s lives. As an early career recruiter, you really play more of a counselor than recruiter role, and helping students find that first career opportunity can catalyze and embolden the rest of their career. Recruiting can be a powerful helping profession. I wanted to lead recruiting orgs that not only build teams, functions, and grow companies, but that are governed by the desire to match people to roles that awaken them personally and professionally.

Gulab Jamun — yum!

Trilogy eventually sent me to India to set up a university recruiting program for them there. I’d never eaten Indian food, let alone been to India. I needed to build a campus recruiting team, had no network in that market and the role didn’t exist at companies there at the time. So I went to trade shows and found the most engaging and thoughtful representatives at the exhibit booths and tried to convince them with my questionable charm and poor Hinglish to join up. Raising my hand for that vague and challenging assignment led to great career rewards. Had I never gone to India, I would never have discovered within myself my appetite for building programs from scratch or for gulab jamun (delicious).

India was the springboard that led to Qualcomm that eventually turned into a Head of APAC Recruiting that led to a Global Head of Campus Recruiting role. Despite little awareness around our brand, we built one of the best intern programs in the country and that notoriety opened up an opportunity to build the UR program at Facebook. Relationships I built at Facebook led to a bigger opportunity to lead tech recruiting at Pinterest and eventually the entire function. I saw my opportunities grow commensurate to my hard work and the lessons I picked up and tried to remember along the way.

And the challenges have been the richest part. I’ve been a part of three “internet bubbles” so far — companies that have been wildly successful (including two IPOs) and companies that have contracted and even folded. My first start-up out of school was focused on university recruiting. We were trying to redefine the job search for students at the exact time as the bubble was bursting. I’ve never forgotten that feeling of heartbreak when we walked out the door and turned off the lights behind us for what we knew was the last time. As my career has matured, I’m reminded of a concept from Sheryl Sandberg: looking back, a high growth trajectory always seems like a straight line of acceleration. But if you zoom in on any one area (a month, a quarter, a chapter), it’s actually a stacking series of S curves.

Those S curves have been the bounty and harvest of my career. I’ve been fortunate beyond measure to have worked with people who allowed me to be intrepid and the student first, learning through bandit, questionable methods in India, working with early career candidates, and taking on bigger and bigger teams always slightly before I was ready. Along the way, the unexpected path in recruiting has allowed me to actualize the desire I had early on to be a coach and counselor. Now as we launch Growth By Design, I have a new platform to fulfill that dream in a different way, and hands down the best part about it is partnering with Jill Macri and Mike Joyner.

After working with Mike for 8 years at both Facebook and Pinterest, I would tell anyone who would listen that I wouldn’t go to another company unless MJ was there. So we just made it simple and started one together. MJ’s commitment to excellence, operational DNA and holistic understanding of the talent function have always made him a tremendous partner. Jill and I found each other by gravitational pull while leading our respective recruiting functions at Airbnb and Pinterest. It was important to each of us to have a call line available in to someone of shared values when considering critical topics like values-based interviewing and D&I. Jill was my respected industry colleague in what is always a challenging and sometimes lonely role. It’s so great to work with with her and MJ in building GBD Talent now.

We offer our expertise in 3 central areas of focus:


We want to try to help as many like-minded companies as possible so typically these engagements last a couple of months or less. In order to fully understand and develop customized recommendations for each client, we start with intake and assessment, then develop recommendations. At that point, we decide with the client which projects we will move forward and implement, and which projects the internal team or other partners will implement. Typically, these recommendations fall into one or more of the following categories: Recruiting Process Design, Candidate Experience & Branding, Systems & Reporting, Systems & Reporting, Systems & Reporting and Recruiting Strategy.


Our approach to Search is informed by our experience building in-house executive recruiting capabilities from the ground up. We understand that talent and recruiting leaders are a cultural heartbeat while also holding the keys to growth for the company. We invest time up front to deeply understand profile needs, the environment in which the company is operating, and the characteristics that will best complement the existing team. We believe that it’s worth it to calibrate thoughtfully and strategically up front so that the interview panel’s time and perspective are always honored.

Recruiting Leadership Academy

Being a leader at a fast growing company is really exciting and a big part of why we love working in recruiting, but it can also be exhausting, high-pressure, and feel like a race to keep up with constant change. Through RLA, we want to build community by offering a unique, full range of content, covering all aspects of recruiting leadership including operations, and by providing actionable follow-up templates and guidance for immediate use.

If you’re interested in learning more, visit our website at

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