Executive InterviewsLatest

Meet Taisiia Mliuzan – Managing Partner of CNA International IT

Today we have selected Taisiia Mliuzan to take her interviewShe is the Managing Partner of CNA International IT.

First of all, how are you and your team doing in these COVID-19 times?

Our initial course of action was to make employee safety the priority and switch to remote work. It was rough early on, but our workflow settled into a new groove after four-five weeks, and things went smoothly ever since. In a way, it was a change of pace that transformed the company for the better – it brought fresh approaches to doing things.

The big thing about remote work is that it throws a wrench into the workflow structure. In essence, things are more or less the same, but the way we’re doing it is so much different. 

You need to reiterate your workflow to fit the asynchronous communication and distributed team format. It was a trial and error process, but we’ve learned a lot about our workflow functions.

  • For example, client meetings now require a very different kind of preparation that includes audio and video equipment. 
  • Requirements elicitation is now purely document-driven, and because of that, it is easier to keep everyone on the same page. 
  • On the other hand, status updates are now much more flexible and have an informal discussion feel. 
  • Then there is more emphasis on documenting work and maintaining task management logs up to date. 
  • The remote work made the work process much more documented. You can analyze it deeper and subsequently optimize various aspects. It helps in making day-to-day work more comfortable.
  • Furthermore, a more documented process is easier to onboard into – simply because you can read about it and have reference materials properly presented. This approach makes cooperation with junior specialists a bit smoother.

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company?

I started working in IT recruitment in 2006. It all started as a student gig and gradually evolved into a full-time job as an internal recruiter. I was handling recruiting duties, and later on, as HR Manager, I was cooperating with freelance recruiters and hiring agencies to close vacant positions. 

At that time, it was eye-opening to realize how hard it is actually to find a qualified partner to delegate closing the vacant positions. I had previous experience working in recruitment agencies, and I was interested in exploring this business venue. 

CNA International IT started in 2014. My motivation was to get things right. I wanted to do a white-box recruitment agency that does its job well through and through on both ends: 

  • as a recruitment partner who finds like-minded high-profile talent; 
  • as an employer that provides a meaningful and fulfilling employee experience that facilitates professional growth.

In the beginning, there were three options:

  1. Start a company on my own.
  2. Open a Kyiv office of a recruitment agency headquartered in Dnipro. 
  3. Open a Ukrainian office of the international recruitment company.

The latter open option made the most sense. At that time, CNA International was considering opening an office in Ukraine. So we got on the same page and started working together. 

How does your company innovate?

CNA International IT is innovating in three different areas:

    • Customer experience – in this case, our goal is to build a trustworthy and transparent business relationship mutually beneficial. How exactly we innovate in that? 
      • We’re keeping detailed documentation about each aspect of our work. 
      • To keep everyone on the same, we have detailed requirements elicitation process covering every conceivable angle of information. 
      • This approach makes our work very focused. When data is detailed to a tee – you can close a complex with one candidate simply because you know exactly who you are looking for.
      • In addition, this results in a lesser threat of bottlenecks. Because of thorough documentation, there is less dependency on the specific person in the pipeline. If someone goes on vacation or on sick leave, the substitute plugs in the system and proceeds with the process with no productivity losses. 
    • Candidate experience – in this case, our goal is twofold. On the one hand, we need to carry the candidate through the recruitment pipeline. On the other hand, we want to find a job worthy of the candidate. How do we innovate to meet these goals?
      • While working on vacant positions, we emphasize culture and values. Culture fit is essential if you want to hire a specialist for a long-term partnership. Hard skills are critical, for sure. But mentally, the work can be so much more than just an income source. 
      • Because of that, during our screening and interviewing process, we explore those features of the candidates. Then, we match the findings with the culture\values aspects of the company we’re hiring for. As a result, our candidates tend to stay with companies long-term and receive numerous promotions up to top-management positions.  
      • Additionally, we always keep in touch with the candidates we’re working with. We keep them in the know. We gather feedback after each recruitment stage. As a result, we’re maintaining the balance between the client and candidate so that the hiring process would be at its most efficient and mutually productive.
  • Employee experience – in this case, it comes back to the reason we started CNA International IT – to provide a meaningful and fulfilling work experience. How we innovate in that regard?
    • Personal Development Plans – one of the aspects of a mutually beneficial relationship between the employer and employee is providing growth opportunities. We invest in our team honing their skills, expanding or deepening their expertise. 
    • Encouraging proactivity and a can-do approach – the other important aspect is to give room for the initiative to bloom. It is crucial to keep the workflow dynamic and flexible, to try new things and methods. Our team experiments a lot with sourcing techniques, recruiter\candidate interactions, interview assessment methods – there are so many things to explore, why stick to the formula?

How the Coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

The Coronavirus pandemic forced us to evolve and think outside the box. Because of the circumstance, we couldn’t do “business as usual” anymore, so we needed to find another way of doing business. 

One of our significant services before the pandemic was relocation. With the pandemic running roughshod, relocation is on pause until things clear out. Because of that, we redirected our efforts back to the local Ukrainian market.

Furthermore, we started to diversify our business. 

  • In addition to our core services, IT recruitment, and executive search, we doubled down on the other services. 
  • HR Consulting became a more significant part of our business because IT companies adapt to the new normal and need HR expertise to transform their approach.
  • Employer Branding also started booming during the pandemic. In 2019, the perception of employer branding as a concept in the Ukrainian IT segment was more of a gimmick. In 2020, it became the necessity – the need to design employer value proposition and present the company as a viable workplace. The demand grew 200% from the previous years.
  • Finally, we started working on market research projects. We did a 2020 Salary Survey. It was an exploration of the salary levels of different specialists within the Ukrainian IT segment. Structurally, it was a part online survey, part open-source analysis, part networking data sourcing, part big data analytics. We went through hundreds of different sources and calculated the most realistic salary figures. In our day-to-day work, this research helps optimize the client’s value proposition for the vacancy to more market-competitive terms.   

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

If anything, the pandemic made us avoid making difficult choices. I’ve seen enough companies losing steam and letting people go because they hit a bump or two on the road. The troubles come and go, but the people are gone forever, and it is not the same anymore. 

The other Ukrainian recruitment companies downsized the team, weathered the storm, and started hiring again near the end of the year business as usual.

I didn’t want to do that. Because of that, I’ve made it my priority to keep the team together during the pandemic’s hard times. Cutting people was not an option. The business always has its ups and downs, but when the company fires people during a pandemic because of the “business first” mentality – it leaves a bad taste. 

In the end, this approach paid off. We’ve managed to avoid cutting employees, and by the lot of the work, our team started to expand again. 

What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?

Regarding tools and software:

  • Our assets are always at hand because of cloud storage. Because of that, our switch towards remote work was less stressful. 
  • As for ATS, we’re using one general ATS for overall operations. However, due to our HR Consulting services, we’re always testing different ATS available on the market. Because of that, each quarter, one of our recruitment teams is testing its features and preparing usability reports. 
  • Day-to-day task management is handled via a combination of Jira and Trello depending on tasks and occurring needs. It was another contributing factor in our smooth transition to remote work.
  • As for the documents, we’re using Google Docs (Corporate) as it is the most compatible tool currently out there. 
  • We’re using Infogram to present graphs and infographics. It helps to visualize our progress and explain its different aspects.
  • As for communication, Slack is for text-based back and forth, while Google Meets is for calls and conferences.

Regarding management skills:

  • We’re using several different types of stand-ups and status updates – whole team (to keep everyone on the same page) and team-based. 
  • Then there is an employee feedback system. Managing a company is a two-way process. You can’t do it without having proper feedback. Usually, it is a combination of anonymous surveys and regular one-to-one meetings regarding workflows, workload, and other handy suggestions. I’ve experimented with this approach before the pandemic, but it rarely had any additional insight. However, after switching to remote, a consistent feedback loop became vital in keeping the operations efficient.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

In our understanding, competition is an opportunity for change and growth. 

If there is no competition on the market – how would you get better at your job? What will drive you to be better if there is no one else who can do the thing you do? 

In that regard, the more, the better. We can learn a thing or two from every participant in our niche. We are constantly working on our value proposition and looking for new angles of presenting our unique selling point with our competition.  

As for the second question, you can deliver the best service in the world, but if it is presented poorly – no one will care. 

That’s why we’re putting effort into marketing, into presenting different aspects of our company through valuable content. We’re not just saying we’re good at our job. We’re giving proof – through expert content, case studies, market research, surveys, and more. 

Your Final Thoughts

Ever since I started CNA International in 2014, it was a constant learning experience. Each day I’m learning something about some aspect of my work and I’m so excited to share my experience with others. Even this interview, was an opportunity to reiterate in plain terms so many things. 

As for the CNA International IT team – we’re always ready for another challenge. If you have a recruitment query or need HR/Employer Branding consulting – we can work it out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button