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S1E06 - How do you build a tech team? (Alfie Whattam)

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Inside this episode

Today we are in conversation with Alfie Whattam as we talk about his company Alfa and how they help companies grow tech teams.

Host: Aaron Rackley

Guest: Alfie Whattam

Book Recommendations:


Show Transcript

These transcripts where auto generated by Descript. If you see any issues, please do reach out and we can rectify the issues.

Aaron Rackley: [00:00:00] Hi everyone and welcome to this episode of the Tech Leadership Decoded podcast. The podcast where through conversations we unravel the interests of leadership in the tech industry and provide insights on how to become a top performing leader. Today we’re in conversation with Alfie Whatom answering the question, how do you build a tech team?

I hope you enjoyed the conversation and if you do please remember to subscribe to this podcast on your favorite player to be notified when we go live with upcoming episodes and if you’re a tech leader and would like to come and have a conversation with me about a you’re passionate about, please reach out via email.

At contact at set leadership decoded. com. And with that, let’s get straight into today’s conversation. Thank you for joining me today, Alfie. Um, how are you doing?

Alfie Whattam: My pleasure, Aaron. Yeah. Thank you for having me. I’m all good. How are you? Yeah, great. Um,

Aaron Rackley: on this, as we just said, just saying before we started this lovely Monday afternoon, um, so today I’ve got you on board cause we’re going to be talking about how to build a tech team and [00:01:00] potentially a tech company.

We’ll see how far we get into the rabbit hole. But, um, before. we get into the, into the topic. Why don’t you just introduce yourself to the audience? Let us know a bit about your past and obviously why you care about building tech teams and we’ll go from

Alfie Whattam: there. Sure. Yeah. So my name is Alfie Wattam. I’m a London based, uh, entrepreneur and podcast host and author and speaker, husband, dads.

I wear many, many different hats. Um, And I, my company, my main company is around building tech teams and recruiting kind of 10 X software engineers and building out top high performing, uh, groups of people for all types of companies, from large businesses like Google and Gymshark to small startups working in AI and the metaverse and everything in between really.

Um, and I’ve done that for basically my entire adult. So, um, it’s got a little [00:02:00] bit of a different journey and background to, to most people that, that have, um, kind of wound up in my, in my position. Um, but yeah, happy to share that story with you today and, and any advice or tips, which might help the listeners as well.

Yeah, no,

Aaron Rackley: no problem. You talking about your, uh, background there. I. Tell me if I’m wrong, did I say that you used to be a magician, or still am a magician, or…

Alfie Whattam: Yeah, I, when I was a kid, and a teenager, uh, Aaron, I, um, got into it, like, like most people do, really. You get a deck of cards as a Christmas gift or something, and you can do a few tricks.

For whatever reason, I never seemed to grow out of it, I still really loved the idea of being a kid and being able to, you know, completely, um, blow the socks off adults and, and, you know, do something which they had no idea how I was able to achieve it. And that sense of wonder and excitement and happiness that you can bring to people really led me to keep doing it and keep doing it.

And then before long I was doing [00:03:00] shows and parties and weddings and… Performing all around the world on television shows, like Britain’s Got Talent and my own platform. Um, and it was a lot of fun, did it for, for a while, built a business around it, around hiring magicians for, for other, um, events and that sort of thing.

And that’s kind of how I got into recruitment in a, in a weird way. Um, but yeah, a lot, a lot of fun. And, and as you mentioned, definitely not the, uh, origin story, which most people have, I suppose.

Aaron Rackley: I think, um. That’s super, super interesting. I think that’s a great way to get into anything, really, and I think if one thing that I assume that it’s done is made you a great presenter.

Alfie Whattam: I like to think so. Yeah, I don’t think I’m the best speaker, you know, when I see, like, Like world class speakers, like, I don’t know, someone like Obama or something and how he’s eloquent and succinct. And I think I’ve got a long way to go till I can speak like he can. But, um, the magic side definitely taught me a lot about [00:04:00] communication around presenting around, I guess, sales and marketing and entrepreneurship as well, and relationships and all of those, uh, very, very important life skills I was able to apply to.

Um, you know, my, my other. Uh, businesses in Korea to help me where other people perhaps struggled. Maybe they didn’t have those skills and that type of thing. So magic really, really did help for it through teaching me those types of, um, attributes, if that makes sense.

Aaron Rackley: Yeah. Um, amazing. How did you end up?

Building tech teams. How did you end up that as that as a business from from magic to building tech teams? Like what was that

Alfie Whattam: journey? Uh, I got really busy doing the uh, the magic gigs Um, and it was getting to the point where I was basically being asked to be in a couple of places at the same time So i’d be doing a show in london.

I’d get requested one in australia or germany or Singapore or whatever. And I couldn’t literally, despite being magic, I couldn’t be in many places at the same time. And obviously I wasn’t that good. [00:05:00] Uh, and I would essentially hire other magician friends to do the shows for me and take a cut, take a margin.

It’s recruitment 101. I built up a magic recruitment agency business, which sounds, uh, really cool. Um, it’s not as Profitable as you would imagine. It’s only people working a couple of hours a week for you, you know, on a Friday night, Saturday night sort of thing. So, um, a lot of fun, a lot of, um, a great experience doing that and a great journey, but, um, I realized pretty quickly that I was going to be in a much better position if I was able to pick a sector to, um, to recruit for, which was a little bit more in demand than, than Mike.

A magician for a corporate events, if that makes sense. So, uh, tech was always the thing, Aaron, that I, that I loved. And ever since I was a kid, you know, obsessed about everything from, um, you know, building websites as I did when I was 13 years old to, [00:06:00] you know, trying to sell. Ecom products or whatever the, whatever the application was, the obsession was always there.

And I used, um, tech, I use social media to build up my, my magic business. So that was the other thing that I really knew about. Um, so that’s kind of where I made that shift and, and, you know, thankfully it was the right decision.

Aaron Rackley: So I’m, I’ve got a startup and I’m looking to start out a tech team. Um, I know that I’ve just identified, I’ve got this part of it.

I’ve got a SaaS product. I’ve got one guy just working on it and it’s starting to take off. I want to go out and build a team. Where do I start? What does that

Alfie Whattam: mean? Well, it depends on what you need really, right? Um, I have a business which recruits software engineers for the companies across the UK, so perhaps I could speak to, to that angle.

Um, I think, you know, a lot of the time, the advice that I’ll give here will be applicable to many other areas as well, but it’s really. Important in my opinion [00:07:00] to hire specialists, not generalists when it comes to, to tech, especially if you’re an early stage team and that sort of thing, because if you can get a developer that can do Java, C sharp, Python, Ruby, React, Angular, iOS, Android, then I guarantee they can’t do any of that stuff very well.

Like the best developers that I know are people that stick to a particular area and they master it and they become really, really good at it. And then they can add value from that. Perspective and then, you know, they could look at doing other things, but first they master, you know, something as their core foundations to begin with.

Right. So I think quality is something that people tend to get wrong. Aaron, they tend to try to hire too much in one individual, which makes sense. If they’re a startup, they’re trying to say. Um, but it’s much better to get people that, um, you know, uh, inch wide, mile deep rather than mile wide inch deep, if that makes sense.

Um, so I think, I think quality obviously is, is paramount. I think speed is just as important [00:08:00] though, Aaron, because oftentimes people, when they want to hire, they seem to get this, like. power ego trip where they think, okay, I’m going to make all the candidates do five interviews where they’ve got to do two hour take home technical tests.

They’ve got to do, you know, this weird Google cultural interview where if you get like a brain puzzle question wrong, then you’re rejected instantly. So I think speed is just as important. Treat candidates like they are in demand because they are a good developer. When we, when we find somebody, you know, after a week, after a couple of weeks, they’ll, they’ll have multiple offers from, from companies.

So, you know, why should that person work for you? You know, not why should, um, sorry, why, why should you be their employer? Why, You know, it’s, it’s not

just a one way street anymore. It’s about. You know, making it work for both ways. So I’d say quality, I’d say speed. And then once again, um, just to do the logical side of it, I’d do price, you know, ultimately, [00:09:00] if you’re going to hire, you do need to pay people what they’re worth or pay people more than what they’re currently on.

Um, I work with some clients who want to have, you know, an A star unicorn, but they’re paying like peanuts, right. And you’re going to, you’re not going to have to get a senior if you’re looking for a junior salary. So I think it’s about getting those three components, right. And if you can do that. You can hire some amazing people and they can add a lot of value to your company, to your team, to your vision.

If you get any one of those components wrong, if you don’t, if you are too generic, if you’re too slow, if you’re not paying market rate, then everything starts to crumble. So it’s really about getting all three in, in order if that works.

Aaron Rackley: Yeah. So just to confirm that, was that quality, speed and

Alfie Whattam: price? Is that what you?

Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s nothing that I’ve invented, by the way, that the USP is like one of the most fundamental parts of, of business, but I often find, especially from a technical perspective, if somebody is like head of engineering or something, they haven’t got that background and that understanding. So, um, oftentimes it’s, uh, it’s about [00:10:00] repeating common sense because it’s not always common practice.

Aaron Rackley: Yeah. So I think that’s going to be, um. Very apt for our audience base because this podcast is aimed at obviously new technical leaders or people that have transitioned from, uh, like a tech role into a tech leader or, you know, come from a PM and stuff. So, like you say, not everyone has experience, especially in those three things, right?

For example, if I am recruiting for my company, I don’t necessarily know the prices of things. I’m never going to know that speed. Yeah, a hundred percent probably could be quicker, but you normally stop behind some recruitment process. Um, and quality now, I think that’s something that everyone struggles with when they’re hiring.

So I think if we start a quality, how do you, uh, for your business help adjust that pool to find the right

Alfie Whattam: [00:11:00] people? Yeah. Well, when it comes to hiring developers in my specific example, quality. It kind of comes down to two very separate things. You have quality of technical skills, and then you have, I guess, just quality of the individual in terms of, um, more of like the soft skills, communication, attitude, et cetera, et cetera, right?

I think both are perhaps equally as important. Maybe the attitude is more important because it’s better to get somebody who might not have the skills, but is willing to learn. Is willing to put in the time and their free time the weekend to upskill as opposed to having somebody that, you know, might be might have all the right technical skills, but they’re not willing to, you know, learn more and have the right attitude and be adaptive and all of that stuff.

So I think quality. Really comes down to those two areas. And then I guess what you’re looking for is very, very subjective. You know, one version, one person’s version of quality is very different to another person’s. And that, that just [00:12:00] depends on what they’re looking for. So if a client came to me, let’s say Google came to us and they said, Hey, you know, we really need to hire, you know, um, You know, five Java developers, um, need to have this, this, and this, um, finding people just with the right keywords on a resume as in, you know, Java, spring boot, AWS, et cetera, et cetera, that that’s only going to get you so far.

Like you need to then actually vet them, not just. Based on keywords on a resume, but actually call them do a zoom with them, you know, speak to them about perhaps any short gaps on on of tenure. So if they’ve been somewhere for three months, six months, six months, you know, why try and work out the reasons why are they going to join this new company and then leave again after three months or.

Is it a genuine reason why they’ve moved on, or is it something like, um, perhaps there’s, I don’t know, spelling mistakes all over their CV, or maybe it just doesn’t sell itself as [00:13:00] appealing to the reader. Because ultimately a CV, It’s just a sales pitch to get an interview. I mean, the point of a CV is to get an interview.

The point of an interview is to get the job right. If you break it down to first principles. So, you know, when I’m speaking with them, when I’m interviewing them, are they selling me on why they’re a good fit? For that position. Are they selling me on why they can solve the problem, which the hiring manager is having.

And that really comes through in the interview. You can’t get that from a CV. So I guess the vetting the, um, the quality piece, you know, there’s a many, many, many different metrics to it from, from references to their LinkedIn page, to their CV, to the interview, to referrals, to the, to the tech stack, to the communication, you know, it’s a multi.

Faceted problem to, to, to solve. Right. But I guess that’s, that’s the reason why companies like mine existed to solve those problems.

Aaron Rackley: Okay. Perfect. And I guess that just helps with speed, right? Because you have taken the time to [00:14:00] do that first initial, um, probably horrible way, but culling of, of the pool, right?

So try and find. The best, um, that you have, and then that helps us make decisions quicker when we’re

Alfie Whattam: hiring. Yeah, um, and the speeds, just to add something there, Aaron, the speed is, um, is often misunderstood by, um, People that are looking to hire when using a recruiter, because they will, they will go to a recruiter.

They’ll ask for some CVs from a very, very hard to find, you know, skillset. And, you know, 48 hours later, they’ve got, you know, five amazing options. And, and they’ll, they’ll think, Oh my God, it took them 48 hours to find these five options when, when in reality, it took them five years to find the five options because it’s their network, it’s, it’s the relationships.

Bill over the past couple of years, maybe they were recruiting for a different company, looking for a similar skillset, and they had an add up and that person applied. And they’d been sitting on that recruiters database for [00:15:00] a couple of years, and they’ve been building that relationship. Maybe they met them at a networking event.

Maybe it was on LinkedIn. Maybe it was on Twitter or X as it’s now called. Right. So. When you’re paying somebody for time, you want it to be done as quickly as possible. But what you want is somebody with experience who has already done all the work. So what would take you five years to do, they are able to do in 48 hours, if that makes sense.

Oh

Aaron Rackley: yeah, 100 percent agree. Something that I’ve been trying effectively over the last year as well is now that I’m starting, you know, I’m into leadership roles now, I’m starting to hire, I’m starting to interview people for roles is. Is I have been going to a lot more kind of meetups really starting to get to know people trying to get As I as you say that network growing so that if when I do work somewhere that requires someone I can send out an email Yeah, um, or I can just put a linkedin post and then I might have a selection of people that i’ve already talked to who are ready to go and i’ve got a variety of like [00:16:00] Um, discord channels where it’s the same thing, but like you say, it does take time.

Um, and I think like you alluded to a moment ago, the other side of the speed is you as the person employing your reactiveness to those people, right? Like you mentioned, making sure they don’t take weeks and weeks to get back to someone because as we all know, it’s very competitive and you’ll lose very good talent quickly.

Um, the last thing you mentioned now, I wanted to ask you, obviously. There’s a big difference between a startup and some company that’s been going on for a very long time that has a decent budget going with them. So… With that resource constraint that a startup has, what advice would you have for founders or leaders that are trying to build out a tech team that do have a limited budget?

Like what kind of things can we do in that scenario?

Alfie Whattam: Well, you know, budget and salaries. Uh, [00:17:00] different because a salary is one component of that budget, right? A large company oftentimes can’t give up equity, for example, whereas a startup can. They can give shares to that early team. They can calculate, you know, estimate what the value of that equity would be.

And then that, that it gets included in the package. A startup can have a lot more flexibility. A lot of the times with job titles that they give to somebody, you know, instead of calling them a. Senior engineer, when there’s only one engineer in the company, you know, why, why not call them the head of engineering or the CTO or something like that, which to a lot of people is worth 10, 20 K, which you don’t have to, all it is, is, you know, a word on a, on a, on a document.

Whereas a big company can’t do that. So a lot of, you know, big companies are an advantage if they have. Great benefits package. You know, if they have a structure and specific ranges that they can work to and, and offer pretty competitive salaries, let’s sell it that startups perhaps don’t have that, that capital to, to, uh, you know, to, to [00:18:00] give the high paying salaries and the benefits and et cetera, but, you know, they can give all the other things that I mentioned there as well.

And I think another thing to keep in mind is that, you know, a lot of people that are. Working for big companies, they want to work for a big company. And a lot of people that work for startups, they want to work for a startup. It’s a very different type of beast. I mean, I spent five years working for a big company before launching my own startup and, and, you know, I’ve been doing that for the past year or so now.

So it’s, it’s a completely different type of. Environment and culture and, and way of doing it. And, um, if you have somebody that perhaps is willing to just do anything, you know, I don’t know, startup, big company, I don’t care. Maybe that’s not the person that you want because you want somebody that knows what they want because they’re very, very different worlds, if you know what I mean.

Aaron Rackley: Okay, interesting. So we’ve talked about obviously what we’re looking for, how we, how we get out there, find it. But I think, um, one aspect that [00:19:00] I see online that people talk about a lot is culture fit. How do you use culture fit when you’re trying to build a team for, um, a startup? Like, are you looking at a bigger picture of all the, say you’ve got the remit of hiring six people for a new, a new team that are coming in for Google?

I don’t know. Are you looking at how those six people are going to work a job together during your And if an initial stage

Alfie Whattam: startup, or I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t, I don’t like the word culture fit. I prefer like culture art because a culture fit just gets you in that situation, six straight white guys, probably, you know, like if you want diversity, if you want.

Equality and, and, and inclusion. And if you want these things, then trying to find people that are like a replica of you is not the way to, to, to do it. Right. Um, so I think, I think [00:20:00] culture art is better, you know, how can they add to the culture, you know, rather than how can they fit the existing culture? I think from a recruitment perspective, there’s only so much that you can do.

Cause you obviously don’t actually work for Google in this. Hypothetical. So I think, you know, a lot of the time, what we would do is when we’re speaking to the people making the decisions, the hiring managers and the leaders and the recruiters trying to get an understanding subjectively of their personality and, and, and how they are.

And then when trying to find candidates, trying to obviously find people that will gel with that and, you know, make a connection, it’s probably a bit more of an art than a science, to be honest, when it comes to that sort of thing, and you don’t always get it right. Um, but yeah, I, I, I’ve never been a fan of the word culture fit.

I like culture art. I think that’s a better way of looking at it.

Aaron Rackley: No, that’s, that’s great. I’ve actually, um, just did some, um, interview training at work and that was literally the part they added was like, don’t look for culture fit. Look for culture. So it’s interesting that you also threw that out at the beginning.

[00:21:00] You mentioned what your company does and how it works, but there was a phrase that you threw out that I think is. Very interesting that we’ve not talked about before on the podcast. And I think it’d be interesting if you’d want to spend two minutes on it. And you mentioned the phrase 10X engineer. Did you want to just maybe tell everyone what that means and elaborate on

Alfie Whattam: that a little bit?

Well, I mean, it’s the concept is it’s an engineer who can do. You know, 10 times the amount of work in the same amount of time than like a regular, um, software engineer would do. I mean, if we’re honest, it probably applies to basically anything in life. There’ll be 10 X recruiters. There’ll be 10 X gardeners.

There’ll be 10 X shopkeepers, et cetera, et cetera. Um, and I think it just comes down to the fact that, um, You’ve got the Pareto principle, right? You’ve heard that 20 percent of your actions lead to 80 percent of your results, but you can find that across anything, even in nature, like 20 percent of the, the pea pods will start 80 percent of the peas, you know, everything in life.

It’s like a, uh, [00:22:00] Fibonacci, you know, mathematical, you know, law of the universe, 10X engineers are no different. It’s just people at the end of the day, if you, if you strip away all. This is a good way of looking at it, right? Take all the money out of all the hands of the people in the world and then give it five years.

The rich people today will probably be rich again in five years because it’s what they do, what they know and the actions that they take, which allow them to get to that. That destination and that point 10X engineers, it’s their personality. It’s their nature. They, they’re the hardest working, you know, they, they, they get in first.

They stay the latest, they, they do what’s required. And, and as a result of that, they, they achieve the most, um, 10X engineers seems to be like a term, which is used quite a lot in the, in the deaf community. But that term could be applied to basically anything, I think.

Aaron Rackley: No, thank you, um, yeah, I’ve definitely heard it all over, all over the place, and I’ve heard it argued.[00:23:00]

For good and bad on both sides. Um,

Alfie Whattam: of course, and that’s often what we look for though, because if you are looking to recruit a software developer and you go out there and do it yourself, maybe you pop an ad up on, on LinkedIn, or you ask some of your friends or whatever, and you get, you know, a decent engineer, then that’s amazing.

But if you, you know, work with. A partner, which is all, that’s all they do, you know, day in, day out, interviewing hundreds and hundreds of people in order to try and find that needle in the haystack and they can give you that person, that 10 X engineer. Then it’s like hiring 10 people instead of, but you hire one.

Um, and one person is a lot easier to manage than 10 people as well. Let me tell you that. I mean, real 10 Xs don’t even need to be managed. They kind of manage themselves to be honest, but, um. Yeah,

Aaron Rackley: no, it’s interesting. I need to, I feel like, um, it’s like one of those subjects that you, again, you could spin off into a whole episode on, so I won’t delve much more into it.

But, um, what role do you think leadership plays in building a successful

Alfie Whattam: team? [00:24:00] Well, oftentimes, if somebody in the team is not doing as is required. The question is, is it down to that individual or is it down to the leader? And I think that in the vast majority of situations, it’s down to the leader, really, you know, the, the leader has to set the vision, you know, has to inspire the team in terms of this is the outcome.

This is where we need to get to, whether that’s a financial target that they’re working towards and like a sales environment, whether that’s a product, you know, something being built in like a. Dev team, you know, or whatever, right? They set the vision. Then they need to inspire the troops to go along on that, on that, on that journey with them and, you know, allocate, okay, you got to do this part.

You got to do this path. But if we all do our part together, then we get to our final result into our finished goal. I think oftentimes. In the, in the dev world, where the mistake is made is they just put the best programmer in charge of the team. Right. And [00:25:00] that’s great. But people skills and tech skills are two very, very different things.

And you can be the best coder in the world, but you can also be the worst manager. So the best, you know, development manager is not oftentimes the best dev. It’s, it’s a different skillset. And I think being a leader comes down to those points I mentioned. It’s about vision. It’s about strategy. It’s about collaboration.

It’s about inspiring people. And I think fundamentally it’s about holding people accountable. This is the part where people tend to forget in leadership. When somebody is doing a great job, everybody can praise. good performance. Everybody can walk around and go amazing. You’ve done that. You’ve hit that on time.

Well done. The part that people struggle to do is the slapping people on the wrist when they need to be told off. And if somebody isn’t doing well, you know, gathering, uh, them quietly and telling them what, what, you know, what could be done to be improved and upskilling them and mentoring them. That’s the difficult part.

That’s the part that people get wrong. And [00:26:00] then. Obviously, unfortunately, X, you know, um, dealing with underperformers and exiting them out of a, out of a company if, if it’s needed, where most people, if they are told them to fire somebody that they’d freak out, they wouldn’t even know where to start. Right?

So I think being a leader is very different to being a developer. Um, it’s very hard for most developers just due to their personality to do that. Um, but. The ones that can, can, you know, go off and, and do that if they want to, it’s, it’s part of their careers.

Aaron Rackley: Yeah, no, I 100 percent agree. A good thing you there is you threw out a few good, um, words and we could definitely spend time going into each of them, like vision, strategy, inspiration, inspire, um, accountable.

But I think one, um, I’d like to just try and jump into a little bit is, do you have any kind of, um, experience or, Some tips on how leaders can inspire that team. Cause I think that’s the one a lot of people really forget. [00:27:00] I’ve worked in a lot of places where you don’t ever feel like your management are there for you or helping you encourage you to get over the finish line or, you know, it becomes a monotonous kind of day job of coding, coding, coding.

Yeah. So. Do you have

Alfie Whattam: anything on that? Yeah, I think, you know, inspiring is largely down to winning hearts and minds. And I think what people tend to go wrong is they just focus on the mind’s part. And the mind’s part is a little bit easier, really. You know, we talk about the goal, talk about what we’re trying to achieve, talk about your part in that puzzle.

Um, and logically it makes sense and they can do it. And it’s, you know, in your mind, you know what you’re doing, you know what you’re going after. I think the part where leaders tend to. So to forget is about the hearts and, and they don’t win the heart. And the way to do that is to, you know, I, I, I guess, get them to become a friend just as much as they are as an employee.

So I often would take a team for a, for a walk outside. And first question is you look, how are you [00:28:00] immediately? Everybody’s gonna start telling you about the project. They’re like, oh yeah, yeah, it’s going well, we’re doing this. And just, just, just, just stop, stop a second, right? How are you? How’s, how’s life?

How’s the missus? How’s the kids? What’d you do last weekend? If you can get somebody to open up and trust you as a friend, then you’ve got the heart part is, is there. And by the way, this isn’t like some, like, manipulation To try and, you know, coerce them, you know, ultimately if they’re, they’re working in that job, they’ve got a job to do and you’ve got a job as a manager.

Right. So unlocking the heart as well as the mind will get somebody to work towards what you want them to work towards, but actually they’ll want to do it. That they’ll, they’ll, they’ll enjoy the work. If, if, if they feel like you’ve got their back and they’ve got yours, if they feel like. You know, you as a manager trusts them and, and gives them the ownership and the accountability to make it happen.

That’s, what’s going to decrease retention and make people want to stick around, you know, when people enjoy. People don’t leave [00:29:00] their family, right? You never hear about, I’m going to leave this family to go to this family. Well, sometimes, but that’s more of an unfortunate thing, Aaron, rather than like a rule, right?

But people leave companies all the time. People will happily leave a company and go to another company because people aren’t. They don’t feel like it’s their family. Family might be the wrong word to use in that circumstance. I’m not trying to say build a cult or something like that, right? But, um, a place where you really, really enjoy to work is a place that puts hearts over minds, if that works.

Aaron Rackley: Yeah, no, yeah, definitely. I definitely feel like, um, There used to be a time where a job was a career and people would go there and feel like they were part of something and it was, they would want to be there for 10, 20, 30 years. And it definitely, what I’ve seen in the last 10, 15 years that I’ve been working is just people like jump around all the time.

And it, and like you say, some places it’s because of a manager. Some places because of the product or a [00:30:00] lot of time, it’s just boredom. Like if you’re doing the same thing over and over again, that can be a thing as well. So I think, like you say, trying to find the heart and the mind of each individual is definitely a great.

Um, for, for your team members and then trying to figure out how they can all work together. Um, do you have a, it can be a success story or it can be a failure story of like, um, when you’ve found it difficult to get a team together for a client or even in an individual. Aspects of your life.

Alfie Whattam: Yeah, sure. Um, so what in what in what context the team that I’ve built of developers or recruiters or

Aaron Rackley: Any of them right?

Like if you’ve if you’ve you’ve you set out with the challenge of just building a new team Whether that was of your magicians, um, uh recruiters and everything But then you found that the approach you take you’re taken Might have been slightly off or you got the wrong people or Like, um, once you’re in that situation, if you have [00:31:00] been, how do you think you can get around bringing that back on track?

Or

Alfie Whattam: I’ll give you an example. Before I had my own company, I spent five years working for a huge corporate, um, recruitment agency and started there as a trainee. Worked my way up when I finished, I was, uh, in charge of the UK and Ireland’s, uh, software development business, you know, over 50 people offices all across the UK and Ireland, India.

Um, and I think one of the main challenges that I had in that role was a lot of the teams that we had were very, very, um, I guess, how do I put this? Um, The people didn’t have any motivation or drive or willingness to want to really, really go after it. And I think the problem that had been followed prior to this…

Change, which I’ll talk about is that basically [00:32:00] everybody was unfairly labeled as being motivated by money, which I think for a lot of people is the case and I think for myself, I think that’s, that, that, that’s definitely one of the motivations, but I think for everybody. It would be a bit of a blanket statement.

Not everybody is motivated by money, but I think at the time that was the way that they were managed. So the carrot was you do this, you get this commission check. For example, this is in the context of recruitment, obviously, um, rather than developers. But, um, you know, in trying to build these teams of recruiters, if you’re waggling a carrot in front of them, but they don’t.

don’t really that interested in carrots, maybe they like broccoli or something instead, right? Then you, then you’ve got the wrong motivation. You’ve got the wrong lure. You know, you’ve got the wrong thing that they’re, they’re, they’re working towards. So oftentimes it’s not even about replacing the people.

Oftentimes it’s not even about replacing the [00:33:00] systems. You know, oftentimes it’s not even about replacing the business, the business is about replacing the incentive. And if instead of it being about money, if instead, every time that you have, you know, secured a position for somebody, you can talk about the fact that that can literally change somebody’s life.

Like if you get somebody the drop, the job of their dreams, you can change their entire life. And that can change. Their family’s life. If they’ve got kids, it allows them to, you know, go out there and live a better life and be happier. It also can, can transform the organization. You know, we, we did some great work with like, uh, health tech companies for example.

And if you can get a great developer on that project that can build something which can save lives, then that is an incredible feeling at, at the end of the day. So instead of talking to this person in, in the one-to-one meetings about, Hey, you’re gonna make this much money, you’re gonna do this, and just seeing them.

Not really that interested instead talking to them about, look, you could, you can change this person’s life. You can transform this organization. [00:34:00] This, this company creates medicine, which can cure cancer patients. You know, you could be a big part of that process. Suddenly their eyes get bigger. Suddenly they get hungry.

Suddenly they get smart. So, like I say, if you want to build a team and you’re having trouble with your own challenges, just look at the incentives are the people. That are within the team motivated by the message that you’re repeating. And if they’re not, then change the message. Because, uh, you know, oftentimes it’s something literally as simple as that.

Aaron Rackley: No, that’s perfect. I think that’s a great way to circle and finish off that, that aspect of it. So, yeah, amazing. Thank you for, um, Really going into deep, deep detail there about like building up that team. I think personally, I think it’s just one of those things that will take a very long time to really master.

And I think, I don’t even know if you ever can master it. I think that’s the [00:35:00] important part. I wanted to take a moment. I do want to talk about your business and. A few things that you do. So first of all, you have your own company. Um, is it alpha technology? Is that, is

Alfie Whattam: that the name of it? Yeah. I’ll, I’ll, uh, I guess would be my, uh, holding thing.

And then within that, I’ve got alpha technology, which, which makes almost all the money. That’s the recruitment part. And then I do other things from, from, uh, books to podcasts to newsletter, speaking, some coaching, but, uh, the recruitment is, is kind of what I’ve spent the past, you know, almost decade doing now.

Aaron Rackley: Yeah, so I thought we’d just take two quick moments just to, um, Just talk about your book and your podcast. So, I’d like to, I’d like to share as much as I can for the people that come on to the, on to the podcast as well. So, if you want to just tell us what was your book about? Obviously, I know, but the audience

Alfie Whattam: doesn’t.

Yeah, yeah. So I, um, I’ve, you know, been very, very [00:36:00] lucky in recruitment that 90… 5 percent of what you’re doing as a recruiter is speaking to people and networking and building relationships. And, um, I’ve had, you know, the, the look really to meet some of the most talented people in the world from, from, you know, the top AI specialists to people that are running massive, massive companies, you know, with billions and billions and billions of pounds.

If you’re American, um, to bestselling authors and everything in between. So I’ve met, I’ve met, you know, uh, an incredibly collection of people that are way smarter and talented than I am. And I, I’d always ask them, you know, I don’t know why more people don’t, but like, Hey, what, how do you do it? Like, what, what’s the secret?

Like what’s, what, what are the top things that you would, that you would do if you were in my position? And I just spent years and years collecting a notebook of ideas from, from the, the greatest. Minds in the world and then I put them together into a simple collection of habits [00:37:00] routines I think the weird not almost not weird But the the thing is if you ask a hundred, you know millionaires how to become a millionaire Almost like 80 of them will give you the same answer and that’s what I found when doing the book.

So I was able to Take the, the answers, uh, to how, how did you become successful or some variation of that, of that phrase. Uh, and I put it down to basically seven, you know, key lessons, rules, which if you apply, if you follow, you will achieve more success in your business, in your life, in basically any area.

And I’ve taken these ideas and applied them to my own life. And, um, you know, being able to, um. To make it work. So it’s a very simple set of routines, habits, hacks, life tools, which if you apply, hopefully will help you in whatever you’re trying to do as well. And I don’t take any credit for them. They’re they’re, they [00:38:00] were borrowed and stolen by people greater than me, but I’ve, uh, I’ve done all the hard work of.

Of collecting them and putting them into a structured system blueprint, which if you follow can, can help you out as well.

Aaron Rackley: Cool. And that’s trust in alpha seven simple rules for success. Yeah.

Alfie Whattam: Get it from anywhere. I’ll make sure

Aaron Rackley: I link it. Yeah. Yeah. And then obviously. You just mentioned there because because of your your your job and your exposure to all these people you also have a podcast as well Yeah, and I watched a few episodes since I’ve I haven’t caught up on all of them I’m getting there.

But um since I met you online, so do you want to just tell everyone again? Just kind of plug that So they know what that is. And obviously I’ll link it in the show notes as well.

Alfie Whattam: We’ve done like 120, 30 episodes or something now. We’ve done it for a couple of years now, maybe four, three and a half years or something.

Um, where I’ve interviewed everybody from, um, I mean, it’s a tech [00:39:00] podcast. So, you know, DHH, the creator of Ruby on Rails. I did one the other week with Harry Stebbings, uh, 20 VC guys. You know, a super popular podcast and a tech fund, um, to people like Peter Wang on the Python side. Um, and just hundreds of, of very talented CTOs, founders, heads of engineering and so on.

And basically we talked to leaders in tech about everything from what’s happening with digital trends from. AI to the metaverse to blockchain and, and, and beyond. And we also talk about how those people have built their companies, how they’ve built their teams, ideas, and lessons that you can take away from that as well.

So, um, I would say the podcast is probably aimed at, uh, tech and business type people. Um, and yeah, we’ve been doing it now for a couple of years and, and been very lucky to have some, some really, really great conversations with, um, people you know, [00:40:00] bestselling offers to world class investors and everything in between.

Awesome. I’ll

Aaron Rackley: make sure I share that in the link as well. Um, now before I, we wrap up and, um, get you to just share your socials and links about, there’s one question I ask everyone when they come on, I ask everyone, if you could recommend one book and it doesn’t have to be a tech book, it can be. You know, I always say it could even be Harry Potter, right?

It can be any book you want, but if you could recommend one book to give to someone to read, what would you pick?

Alfie Whattam: Well, I’d probably be biased and give them my own book to be honest. But if I didn’t pick my own book, um, you know, I’m, I’m a massive reader. I always have been. And I’m pretty sure I always will be.

Um, I do like it. One audible audio book like every week to two weeks and then I’ll always read like a physical book every week to two weeks as well. So, um, I, I try and get through like, I would say like 40 books a year. I try. [00:41:00] Now, a lot of them are, uh, re, um, Reading books. I’ve already read. If there’s something that I really like, I will read it many, many times to, to, to try and get the points down.

Um, and I’ve, you know, I’ve read a couple of hundred books now around business and tech. I think my favorites of all time would, um, Do you want me to recommend one or, or I’ll give you a couple?

Aaron Rackley: If you want to do a couple, you’re more than welcome. I just have to make my bookshelf

Alfie Whattam: longer. If people haven’t, um, read Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.

That is, um, exceptional. That’s the story of, of Nike, uh, Nike and, and how it was built from nothing to, to what it is today. Um, I think Steve Jobs autobiography by, by Walt Isaacson is, is a classic. Um, and then obviously my, my own book as well. There’s so many depending on the area that you’re talking about.

If you want to talk about business, you know, some of the classics, like think and grow rich or how to [00:42:00] win friends and influence people. Um, seven habits of highly effective people, Stephen Covey, it’s great. I mean, there’s so many on the tech side, fiction, like ready player one. It’s a great book on, uh, the future and what VR could become.

I mean, I’ve got, I’ve really have got an endless list, but those are just some that come to mind, mate. Well,

Aaron Rackley: that’s perfect. We’ve got a nice, nice couple there and I’ll put onto the bookshelf. I’m actually currently in the process of building the new website for the podcast, and there will be an actual bookshelf where I’ll link to all the books that everyone’s mentioned in each episode.

Um, yeah. So I just want to say thank you for coming on. I know how busy you are and. It’s been great getting to know you and meet you. So. Before we go, do you just want to let everyone know where they can find you online,

Alfie Whattam: and… Yeah, yeah, I think just, if you just go to my website, so alfiewhattom. com I’ve got a difficult spelling on the surname, so it’ll be in the description or something.

Um, and if you click there, it will link [00:43:00] you to all of my other socials, so rather than trying to list all of them, just go to that one website and it will have X and YouTube and… The Gram and all of the ones that people know and love will be on there as well. I did have Threads on there as well for a little while, but it doesn’t seem to have, uh, have taken off as much as Zuck would have hoped, perhaps with people sticking around.

Had an amazing, uh, first week and then it kind of crumbled afterwards. So, um, don’t follow me on Threads. Follow me on the other ones that are going to survive.

Aaron Rackley: Perfect. No, thank you for joining me. Thank you.

Alfie Whattam: Cool. Thank you, Aaron.[00:44:00]