Real-life Experience: Anna Barbashova, Robert Walters San Francisco
Anna Barbashova, Managing Consultant, started out her post-collegiate career in investment banking. While she didn’t ultimately pursue a career in finance, this inside perspective into the finance world is part of what propels her success as a consultant to candidates and VC-backed startups in the San Francisco Bay Area. Hear her story and her thoughts on the role in the following story:
How long have you been at Robert Walters and what sorts of roles do you work on?
I joined the Finance & Operations team at Robert Walters San Francisco in December of last year (2018). Our team covers finance, business operations, and accounting roles for high growth venture-backed businesses.
What were you doing before your career as a recruitment consultant? Do you think the skills gained in those roles translate to your role at Robert Walters?
My first role outside of college was an investment banking position at Goldman Sachs (covering tech companies), followed by a sales operations role at Twitter. While I didn’t ultimately end up pursuing a career in finance or operations, I do think that my experience created a great foundation for working with candidates and businesses within this industry. I also found that I developed a strong work ethic in my previous roles, and the ability to understand businesses at a granular level.
How did you first hear about Robert Walters? Did you have any preconceived notions about what it would be like to be a recruiter?
The road that brought me to Robert Walters was full of coincidences and unexpected turns, and I’m so glad that things went the way they did. Basically, for my next step after Twitter, I started interviewing with multiple startups. By coincidence, Julia Noellert (who is the manager of the Finance & Operations team at Robert Walters and my current manager), was working on a role at the time which I was interested in. She was representing me on the role and we did a number of debriefs when we would discuss my thoughts on the role.
This is truly such a testament to what a good recruiter Julia is, because she saw something in me and asked if I would consider recruiting.
I had never thought of things this way, but a lot of the themes I was bringing up were very aligned with recruiting - for example, the thrill and excitement of a sales job, frequent interaction with people, being able to channel creativity in a job, having constant drive and recurring motivation in a job rather than things becoming repetitive, etc.
I came by the Robert Walters office to meet with a few people, and with every person I spoke with, it became increasingly more clear what an amazing team it is. It was so obvious that everyone I spoke with genuinely loves what they do, but they are also just such good overall human beings. One thing led to another, and here I am!
Can you describe your typical day from start to finish?
I always feel very driven when I come to work. It’s the only job I’ve had where I find myself wishing there was more time in the day or more days in the work week!
It varies day-to-day, but much of the day is spent communicating between clients and candidates and keeping our teammates in the loop about the individuals we’re working with. As recruitment consultants, we often play the role of trusted mediator between client and candidate.
It’s fun because we get to hear the “juicy details” on both sides, learning the motivations of both. At the same time, we maintain the utmost confidentiality on both sides, and it feels good to be trusted.
One of my favorite aspects of the job is all the psychology that goes into it - humans are just so fascinating. I love digging into the different factors that drive different people and working with them to help them land at their dream job.
What is the most rewarding part about being a recruitment consultant? Do you have any memorable placements?
I love hearing that we made a big difference in someone’s career. Probably my favorite moments of the job have been hearing from a candidate months after they started the new job and telling me that it’s even better than they expected. Moments like these make me realize that our job is so different from an average desk job - our jobs impact actual human lives.
It’s also great to hear from clients and learning that my placements have been doing well and contributing to the growth of the company.
There have been a lot of memorable placements. To be honest, they’re all special and memorable. Part of the reason for this is that you inevitably get to know the person and become friends in a way. For every placement, there is a human life and a personal story - a unique journey behind it.
One memorable experience that comes to mind is this: after I placed one individual at a startup, I later visited the startup a few months later to touch base with the team regarding another role I was working on for them. I saw my candidate sitting in an office but this time, HE was interviewing a candidate. It was really surreal to see him on the other end of things now - he was always the “candidate” in my mind but now I realized that he was trusted to make big hiring decisions and he was the one convincing others to join now. Moments like this are always very surreal and feel like a full-circle experience.
What’s the most difficult part about your role? Describe your most difficult day.
I would say that like any job, there are definitely ups and downs. Some days we learn that a client no longer has the budget to work with us, or candidates fall out of the hiring process. You need to be resilient in this job, but it helps that we’re a team, so we can ride those highs and lows together.
Would you recommend this role to friends? If so, what personality types or backgrounds do you think would succeed in this position?
Yes! This is the first job I’ve had that I genuinely enjoy. I would recommend this job to anyone who loves building relationships and wants to learn about the ins and outs of different startups. One good thing about this job is that because you are working so intimately with each role, it really forces you to understand the intricacies of the company. We meet so many really smart people and have the opportunity to work with CEOs and executive teams of high growth startups, as well as top candidates within the industry.
I think that as far as personality traits go, as mentioned before, resiliency is critical. This is a relationship-based business. We work with people, and people are imperfect. You need to be able to embrace the fact that a candidate may be eager to leave a role one day, and the next day completely change their mind. You can’t take things personally and just have to move forward!
What is your best piece of advice for someone starting as a recruitment consultant at Robert Walters
My best piece of advice is to be authentic, because I really believe that people can sense inauthenticity and disingenuity a mile away. We never want to squeeze someone into a career that’s not right for them. Being genuine, honest, and supportive with both companies and candidates is so important for maintaining the relationships that we have worked so hard to build.
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