E67 David Strausser: Make Your Own Path

November 23, 2020 Mike Roberts Season 1 Episode 67
E67 David Strausser: Make Your Own Path
Show Notes Transcript

Mondays seem to hit extra hard on short weeks. The only remedy for this is a solid helping of SnackWalls! Enjoy

David has found that finding diverse talent can be difficult depending on an organization's diversity strategy. Companies who succeed at recruiting this talent, are open about looking for diverse candidates and are willing to establish talent pools with individuals from various areas. David has experienced how degree requirements can pose a barrier for growth to individuals entering the tech industry. In today’s world where many software technologies can be self taught, candidates should be evaluated by their accomplishments not by a piece of paper. If someone has gained the experience necessary to do a job, they should at least be considered for the position. Whether it be vocational schools, apprenticeships, or other programs, there are alternative methods to successfully gain knowledge and experience that don't come from a college degree. David believes the best way to retain diverse candidates is by establishing a culture from the top down, that is inclusive and welcoming to all employees. Similar to how a business is expected to treat their customers with respect and consideration, companies should share this attitude with their employees, partners, or anyone else they work with.

David Strausser is the General Manager of the Northeast Region at Vision33, an award winning, certified Gold SAP Partner for small to midsized enterprise (SME) solutions. He works hand-in-hand with SMEs to understand their challenges and recommend solutions that help their businesses grow fast, run simple, and increase revenues. David is also the host of Shark Bite Biz, a podcast dedicated to helping small businesses pivot during the global coronavirus pandemic and achieve growth.

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Mike (00:01):
Welcome back to the SnackWalls podcast. I'm Mike Roberts, your host, and we're here to talk about increasing and maintaining diversity in tech, beyond the perks. While companies think they can lure people in with unlimited PTO and dogs in the office. We're here to talk about how you keep them.

Mike (00:23):
All right. I'm going to throw it over to our special guests today. Can you tell us in a few sentences who you are and what it is that you do?

David Strausser (00:29):
Yeah. First off, Mike, thank you so much for having me on your show. Really happy to be on SnackWalls, and my name is David Strausser. I am the general manager for vision 33 in the Northeastern region of the United States. We do ERP enterprise resource planning systems with SAP business One, soon to be Sage Intacct as well too. And I also host a business growth podcast called Shark Bite Biz.

Mike (01:00):
Nice. All right, we're going to have to get into that. We're gonna have to dig into that a little bit later. Let's just jump right into the questions and, you know, see, see what your take is. So I'm hearing from some thought leaders and some folks in, um, tech that finding diverse talent is a challenge. What are your thoughts?

David Strausser (01:17):
So it is, but it isn't. First off you had to look how the hiring market was just a few months ago, we had record levels of, uh, employment. It was really hard to actually find people to hire. And because of that, I think it was a strain for many, many companies to get diverse hires, because I believe like, look at black unemployment that was supposedly, I believe at record highs, stuff like that, but you got to make sure that you're not using that as an excuse, not to go out there and exclude diverse candidates from your hire. I mean, the policy should be, you know, being inclusive in everything and it really comes back to your organization's diversity strategy, making sure that you're really open for what you're looking for, that you have a pool, uh, a pool of, you know, diverse candidates that come from, especially if you're working remote, like we are where they're coming from different areas, different regions, uh, because you really want to try to make sure that when you're hiring people, that it, you know, your employee base is a true reflection of who your client base is, especially in an industry like ERP so that you're able to, you know, better suit the needs of your customer.

Mike (02:50):
Yeah. I think it's so important because without that perspective, it's hard for us as engineers. If we don't have a lived experience of using this product, this tool, this service as an end consumer, it's kind of tough to solve those problems and vice versa, right? You're not going to be a happy person enjoying using somebody's tool or SaaS platform if it wasn't designed with you in mind. Right?

David Strausser (03:13):
Right. Exactly. I a hundred percent, a hundred percent agree with that. Like say with me covering the Northeast, obviously. I mean, we had places, Baltimore, DC, Philly, New York, I mean me having a customer, that's using our system in center city, Philadelphia. Yes. From the management standpoint, I can do everything I can to make them happy, but actually having the people that are down there, day-to-day working on that. I want someone that's going to understand their culture, understand where they're coming from, what they mean and to help them achieve their goals. That's why in ERP, when we look at our relationships with, with customers, it's a growth partnership and you need to make sure that you have that diverse team in place that's able to help, you know, your customer and me and my company reach our organizational goals. And that only happens through diversity.

Mike (04:16):
Yeah, absolutely. So what do you think about the push to remove the requirement of CS degrees for like some of the software engineering and technology roles?

David Strausser (04:25):
So I'm torn on it. I think if you're going to buy somebody, if you're going to hire somebody to construct a bridge, yeah. You probably want that person to have an engineering degree, those type of requirements, because there's a lot at stake. Computer sciences this day and age is not what it was 20, 30 years ago. It has changed, changed, meaning that the level of access to information to be able to be self-taught is totally different. You have a lot of people. I was programming for years before I even went to college myself. I went to college late in life. And because of that, I mean, it was hard to get a tech job back in the early 2000s without the degree, but it's like, I can do everything they teach you at school. Why are you going to make me spend 50, 60, 70, $80,000? So I think depending on the role experience is experience, you know, it can be taught, it can be learned, uh, just through doing it on your own. It really depends on the role that you're looking for and what that person has actually accomplished to, uh, you know, so far in their life. If they know how to do it, a piece of paper should not disqualify them from holding the position.

Mike (05:56):
A hundred percent agree.

Mike (05:58):
I think it's more about, and hiring managers in tech tend to be a little better at this because they realized the pace at which technology changes and evolves and how unique it is. Sometimes to have someone that doesn't have the traditional academic background, but instead has the hands on the keyboard experience that they value. But then there's the other side where they're like, well, I went and got a CS degree, so everybody else has to too. Right. And so you get the both sides, but it's good to see the is sort of shifting and evolving

David Strausser (06:25):
A hundred, a hundred percent totally agree with that. And just my personal experience alone. I, you know, growing up through the two thousands, it was hard for me to excel to where my true level was because everybody wanted a degree and I'm like, hold on a second. I've accomplished more in my life than people you have on your staff that have a degree. And it was a barrier for growth. So I am 100% totally aware of that. And I'm very, very open-minded as far as that goes, you know, it, it comes down to, can you do it yes or no? It's that simple to me.

Mike (07:05):
Yep. So tell me, what do you think about an apprenticeship pattern? Do you think it would work for some technology tech roles?

David Strausser (07:12):
Yes, I think it could, but I wanted to get your definition. What do you view as an apprenticeship? Do you view that as an internship like that type of a role or what exactly?

Mike (07:26):
Not usually. So I think someone could create a sophisticated internship program that could have most of the features of the, what I call it, the apprenticeship pattern. Obviously, to be a registered apprenticeship program, you have to be approved by the DOL or approved by your state. And so there are guidelines and work standards and things like that. But in my mind, the difference between an apprenticeship pattern and an internship is really about, in the apprenticeship, it's much more of a mentorship relationship that has to be part of the experience versus the internship where sometimes you don't get mentorship, you don't get an opportunity to really learn side-by-side with someone. And instead you're getting exposed to the business for a short period of time getting some experience. But that experience is a little different typically than what's implied by an apprenticeship. You're working next to a master. You know, you're getting some real, like this is how it's actually done type exchange of knowledge. And then there's usually a kind of liking it. There's a difference between being in being engaged in dating, right. Internship is like dating, and apprenticeship is like engagement at the end that there's the goal that you convert and become a full-time employee, but there's no such solution in the dating realm, right. There's no marriage guaranteed when you're dating. Right.

David Strausser (08:42):
So I'm going to swipe right on apprenticeship. Cause I definitely, according to your definition there, I mean, it comes back to how I answered the previous question. Okay. It comes down to experience and people can do it without the CS certification stuff. If they actually know and can, you know, show to a degree that they can. Same thing with the apprenticeship. I think with the cost of college, the cost of education, the cost of some of those insane certifications that they try to get people to force into we've learned over the past couple years. I mean, it's not necessarily, I mean, there's alternative methods to be able to gain experience and gain an education. So an internship gives you a certain level of experience as you were talking about, but the big difference is, is having that mentor in the life, teaching them, coaching them. I mean, it also depends on the candidate too. I mean, they have to be open to the coaching and absorb it. Uh, but if they're willing to take it in and actually learn, what's being taught to them, I think that's probably way better than the modern education system.

Mike (09:58):
Nice. I agree. A thousand percent

Mike (10:02):
Shifted over time. We used to have more of more vocational programs, you know, back in the sixties and seventies. And then what they noticed was there were some tracking happening where students were sort of at an early age being directed down in certain paths. And so they wanted to eliminate a lot of that, I think at the high school level, you know? And so rather than them saying, let's do this in a smart way. They're just like, we can't do this. Everybody's going to go to college. And now the big push is everybody's gonna go to college. So that's the success path. And the vocational path is sort of like a, it's an alternative that is not looked upon as a first class way to get an education and skill yourself for the relevant jobs. And so I just, I don't, I don't really buy into that and I don't think it's binary. I think you can, you can go through some training and then when you get on the job, you can decide like you did later in life to get a degree when it makes sense for you.

David Strausser (10:57):
Yeah. Yeah. You know, I hear, I'll tell you a secret. I usually don't tell many people this, this might be an exclusive on the air, uh, for you, but you know, I never even graduated high school I got a GED. Uh, I went down a different path, moved to Mexico when I was 18, lived down there for about 15 years, worked for the Mexican government, all that crazy stuff. But I did that without any real degree, except for a GED. It was the drive that I had. Cause I knew I could do this stuff. And I felt like I, uh, 18, I was cocky, a little arrogant and I'm like, hey, this school thing is holding me be back. I got things to do and I could do it. So I went out, I made my own path. I don't regret it. And that's where I, I fully support that people can make their own path.

David Strausser (11:50):
You wait first you should graduate high school. That's the minimum you should just cause I did doesn't don't does not mean you should not, but after that you can make your own path. They're all, there are alternatives. You did not have to go into the, I call it the university money-making scam essentially, because there are different things you could do from vocational schools to apprenticeships to be able to learn the skills and oftentime because you're learning real life experience. You're going to be better after that apprenticeship then you actually would have with more experience than someone with a brand smacking new, a college degree.

Mike (12:35):
Yeah. A hundred percent agree. So that's said we talked a little bit about the requisite skills to, you know, to get ready and then hopefully people are, are getting candidates to come into their organizations by removing some barriers. How do you retain folks? So once you have them on board, how do you get them to stay? Especially if they're diverse, uh, individuals.

David Strausser (12:57):
Yeah. So that's always a good question. I mean, you hear so many stories of companies, mostly I guess tech companies, they're like, Oh no diversity, diversity. We need diversity. They hire people and then end up having huge turnover rates because while they changed hiring practices to be more diverse, they actually didn't change the company culture behind it to not, you know, not, not be exclusive to one or push someone down, but being inclusive to everybody just as you are with your customers, okay. If you own a business you're inclusive to your customers, you understand though, you know, they're Asian, they do things like this and you work, you accommodate them and you build that into your business plan of managing their relationship. You need to have that same type of strategy, um, you know, and just really make diversity the key in your hiring practices. How do you do it? But it comes from the top down, be an inclusive, open arms, you know, uh, respect the people, making sure that you understand their culture, their background, what things are important to them, just as much as you would, if it was your client.

Mike (14:19):
Yeah. No, I think that's a great approach and treating your folks like, like a customer, like is always, right, right. So how do we have that higher level of cultural competence that really understand what it's going to take to make this person feel welcome and feel included.

David Strausser (14:36):
I think that's one of the reasons why I excel with Vision 33 at this position, even in the podcast, I've had an extremely diverse crowd on they're all different backgrounds and it's because you know, a lot of people will be like, Oh, you've got to manage your team this way. You manage prospects this way. You manage customers that way. I'm universally inclusive all around. And my management practices, whether it's an employee, whether it's a customer prospect sales, a partner, whatever it is, it's all the same. I treat everybody the same. I'm an inclusive to every thing. And I think that's the approach people should have in order to really have the retention and make diverse candidates feel welcome inside.

Mike (15:34):
Yeah, sure. So who is someone like yourself that you think you'd like to acknowledge as a leader and should be invited on the podcast like this?

David Strausser (15:43):
Somebody like myself that should be on the podcast like this. I need a second to think there's so, so many people, I would like to say, I think somebody, like one of our partners like Avalara John Regan, who is great out there, Avalara has a lot of diverse people, diverse candidates work it, you know, salespeople, huge salesforce. And they have, I think hundreds, maybe thousands of employees in the U S, they're quite large. And they do everything they can in order to make sure that they have the, the company culture built around diversity, especially once I don't know how much tax will all, you know, but there was the Wayfair ruling where it changed it to where companies have to charge sales tax or can be forced to charge sales tax across state lines. So with that their business, you know, it blew up from, you know, X amount of customers to four X the out of customers because everybody, all of a sudden needed this type of software solutions. And they basically bake that into their hiring practices from what I'm told and extremely diverse pro diversity, great people.

Mike (17:06):
Nice. All right. I'll put them on my radar. See if we can have someone come out tell me some of their secrets, um, cause we want everybody to be doing this. So it's really, it's not about keeping the secrets. It's about sharing best practices. So where can we find out more information about your company? This is a great time for any shameless plugs. Maybe a little podcast.

David Strausser (17:24):
Yeah. Yeah. So, uh, really easy That's for vision 33. Um, you can find me on LinkedIn, just David Strouser. There's also the SharkBite biz podcast. You can go to or preferably go to our YouTube channel. Just look up Shark Bite Biz we got about 2000 subscribers. We've been for about three, four months. Now we started during the pandemic as a way, just, uh, help people grow and pivot their business during a global pandemic. And it's been a runaway success so far. I could not have asked for better results in the first 90 days.

Mike (18:07):
Nice. I like it. So we'll throw all those links into the show notes. People can easily find them. So, um, last and most important question, and that is what are you snacking on lately? What's your favorite snack?

David Strausser (18:20):
My favorite snack is beef jerky. I tried to do low carb slash keto. Although since I've moved out to Philly, I think I've gained 30 pounds because I love calzones, but, and I could not stop eating. Uh, but besides that, uh, beef jerky is my go-to snack right now.

Mike (18:42):
Okay. So does it have to only be like real beef jerky? Are you okay with the, like, one of my favorites is the slim, Jim. I know it's salted and im not supposed to eat the slim Jim's, but they're so good.

David Strausser (18:51):
They are so good. I could go with Slim Jim's basically, um, you know, I'm I'm I got a lot of Jack Lakes and Tillamook, uh, I buy it in bulk off of places like, uh, Amazon or Sam's whatever's cheapest and have decent quality because if you're eating the same type of thing, like meat, you know, you can only eat so much of the cheap stuff before. You're like, ah, I'm just tired of it, the good stuff. But slim Jim is a good brand., I love Slim Jim.

Mike (19:21):
Yeah. That good stuff. So. Awesome. Well, thanks again, David. I really appreciate you coming on the program.

David Strausser (19:27):
Oh, no problem. Hey, thank you again for having me. And I'm looking forward to having you on Shark Bite Biz.

Mike (19:32):
Absolutely. Let's do it.

Speaker 1 (19:35):
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