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The journey begins with Growth by Design Talent

Mike Joyner

It’s been several months since I left a team and job I loved at Pinterest to build Growth by Design Talent with Adam Ward and Jill Macri. We have shot out of the cannon these past couple of months in the best possible way, and I wanted to take a moment now to reflect.

Firstly, I’m so grateful for Adam and Jill as partners. There are few leaders who have the skill trifecta of operational excellence, recruiting wizardry, and inspirational leadership. I can’t think of a better way to spend my days than with these two amazing humans and masters of their craft, using our combined experience to help companies grow thoughtfully as they scale. Looking back, building Growth by Design Talent feels like the destined culmination of my life and career experiences, though at the time I would never have guessed each moment along the path would have brought me here.

Secondly, all roads lead to a destination. Growing up as a kid in rural North Carolina, my first gigs were a collection of the best available jobs that would pay for other interests. They weren’t glamorous, but they taught me a lot. My most humbling job to date might have been the 3rd shift at a pickle factory. These summer jobs were a part of the path to get to where I wanted to be, and I’m grateful to have met people across all walks of life along the way that taught me the value of community, hard work, and nailing the details even when no one is looking. My dad was in the Air Force, and we were stationed where the SR-71 Blackbirds flew, which are still the fastest jets ever made. I grew up wanting to be an architect, an engineer, or a pilot. As a kid, it’s inevitable that you dream about being in the pilot’s seat one day. Turns out, prescription glasses don’t fit under a helmet flying thousands of miles per hour. Though I never learned how to fly fighter planes, my curiosity, wonder, and admiration for the technology that made them possible never went away.

I went to school on an architectural design scholarship, and while I was there enrolled in a bunch of engineering courses too. I liked them so much that I paid for an extra semester’s worth of non-degree coursework on a college kid’s budget, and started to dream of a career that would combine my love for well-built things with technology.

I ended up at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where I worked on large enterprise systems implementation projects. Consulting isn’t exactly design or engineering, but I loved breaking complex problems down into bite-sized pieces, architecting how processes were designed, while considering people interactions and how information flows. I worked alongside teams around the world, and it opened my eyes to the power of diverse teams and how work is done differently outside of the US. After working on several recruiting systems related projects, I joined one of our clients, Nortel Networks, in a recruiting operations role. That opportunity quickly opened new doors for internal roles spanning recruiting, HR, and L&D as part of a talent strategy team. I also had an opportunity to serve in a Chief of Staff capacity to the global leader of HR there. It happily raised my curiosity about the fascinating world of talent and recruiting.

Simultaneously, Nike and Apple were my dream places to work. They each integrated beautiful design with the latest technologies and had enormous reach to improve people’s everyday lives. One magical and unforeseen day, a recruiter from Apple reached out with a role to lead their recruiting technology team. Knowing what I do now about the near impossibility of being considered as a candidate if not by referral, it was pure luck that I got my chance to make one great first impression — which I thought I was doing by showing up in a full suit for my onsite interview. At Apple, I was met with incredible appetite to invent new ways and tools for recruiting, and I was surrounded by talented coworkers who were as obsessed as I was with beautiful design. I saw how much could be accomplished when a company is fortunate enough to compel really talented people across many disciplines, and it became clear how impactful a strong recruiting team is to the overall success of a business.

I joined Facebook a little over a year before its IPO to build out its recruiting operations. Apple embraced beautiful perfectionism while Facebook used data to celebrate fast progress and iteration. I was sprinting a marathon to create the foundations necessary toward being a public company, and had to do it in a way that aligned to the ‘move fast, be bold’ culture. I learned to prototype and use data to constantly iterate, and to operate deftly against imminent deadlines. Those lessons have paid countless dividends.

Pinterest, when I joined, was still a small start-up. It had fewer resources, so the theme was ‘scrappy’, but it still needed to build everything Facebook had done from scratch. We implemented programs for all the things — performance management, employee engagement and development, benefits, compensation, global mobility, contingent work, and recruiting. Along the way, we made bold and values-driven decisions to publish external diversity hiring goals, expand our support for both new moms and dads, and remove the golden handcuffs for early employees with stock options. I worked on the small team responsible for executing the company’s IPO and it was deeply gratifying. During my time at Pinterest, I gained knowledge of every vertical of the talent function, and most importantly I saw how critical it is for companies to have values, and to be brave in standing up for them.

Photo by Doran Erickson on Unsplash

Looking back at each of these early and varied moments along my career growth, I couldn’t have imagined that one would have necessarily led to the next, or that I would someday have found that they’ve crystallized into one deep career expertise. You wouldn’t think that working for PricewaterhouseCoopers would have led me to Recruiting Ops, and you would never guess that working at breakneck pre-IPO speed at Facebook would have armed me to tackle the breadth of work I was fortunate to have contributed to Pinterest. That call from the Apple recruiter remains one of my biggest career breaks, and it will always keep me grateful. It motivates me to create pathways for other deserving candidates who may not come from conventional backgrounds, and to build programs that continually fight for equity and inclusion in the talent market. Even that first job at the pickle factory is a reminder that everyone starts somewhere, and that every candidate deserves a chance to prove the breadth and depth of what they can accomplish. They all lend me perspective on the talent function and how to position teams to be one of the most powerful and helpful organizations in any company. I always dreamed of finding my way to a career that would combine my love for building things and technology — and now here we are.

Growth By Design is a natural output of my learnings and experiences, and I’m beyond thrilled to start this next chapter helping companies think about their processes, systems, and challenges as they scale their own talent functions. Through these experiences, I gained incredible colleagues along the way, and ultimately found my amazing partners, Adam and Jill.

We offer our expertise in 3 central areas of focus:

  • Advisory
    We want to try to help as many like-minded companies as possible so typically these engagements are quick sprints that would otherwise be heavy lifts for companies to do on their own . We offer advisory services that align to things we’ve seen as the biggest foundational needs in early growing talent organizations — executive strategy on creating a culture of recruiting and setting up the talent team for success, recruiting systems and connecting the dots to deliver insights through data, structured interview training and evaluating for values, crafting a compelling candidate pitch, designing a differentiated candidate experience, and serving as interim Head of Recruiting to articulate the profile needed for the future leader.
  • Search
    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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