Perform the Discovery with Dominique Top (1/2)

Welcome to episode 174 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we share part 1 of an interview with Dominique Top, detailing her journey from music student to band leader, a stint in consumer electronics, and a move into recruitment in a DevOps vertical.

Original Recording Date: 05-13-2022

Topics – Meet Dominique Top, The Music, Singing vs. Presenting, A Different Type of Work Experience, Sales Perception and Recruitment, Advice for Working with Recruiters

2:23 – Meet Dominique Top

2:48 – A Love for Music

  • Dominique has been fascinated with music since she was very young.
  • She joined a secondary school around the age of 12 or 13, and there were loads of musicians there.
  • At some point she wanted a band. She wanted to play music and sing songs.
    • She was eventually pretty busy with a band, having about 50 shows per year. Dominique was with the band about 7-8 years.
    • Dominique felt this was what she wanted to do with her life and joined the Dutch Pop Academy in The Netherlands, a very hands on university study where one learns how to be a better musician.
    • Dominique did sound engineering and vocals as well. It taught her a great deal about the music industry.
    • Dominique was one of the lead singers of a band called Two Way Radio (7 person band). They even have some videos out there on YouTube.
    • After being in the band she started doing work as a disc jockey (dj), which she still does today.
  • She was also the sole lead singer in a different band after Two Way Radio and has been involved in music in some form or another ever since.
  • Dominique has a side project called Duality Sync with a friend from the Netherlands that keeps her involved with music.

4:58 – Singing vs. Presenting

  • Does being a singer in a band help get you past stage fright one might experience giving a presentation?
    • There is a certain overlap. Being a lead singer requires a certain mindset and personality type.
    • Dominique likes being the center of attention. Being on stage kind of does that to you.
    • When doing meetups, Dominique liked introducing the next speaker. She tried to be more awkward than someone who might be giving a talk or a presentation. If she was excited and over the top, it might make it easier for a speaker that was nervous to calm down and bring their best self to a talk.
    • Nick feels like this helps create a safe space for people.
    • A singer can’t stick to only singing when on stage for an audience. They will likely need to say a few things to interact with the audience. Dominique says she was not always very good at this.
    • Dominique remembers when she was 16 / 17 and the band had a few gigs across the country. She told a joke that didn’t quite land with the audience. Her band members told her they were not sure the audience understood the words she was saying. They encouraged her to speak clearer to ensure the joke / message lands.
    • When you’re on stage having just sang a song you are full of adrenaline and excited.
    • When Dominique gets excited she tends to talk very fast, and at the time she did not have the tools to rein herself in a little and slow down. Slowing down comes a bit more naturally for her these days after some deliberate practice.

8:07 – A Different Type of Work Experience

  • Dominique eventually went into consumer electronics. She mentioned it was more a stroke of luck than anything.
  • After graduation from the Pop Academy, Dominique needed a job.
  • As a musician, there is a big gap between getting money for your music and being successful when you first start.
  • Dominique was walking around her hometown thinking she needed a job, and the only shop she cared about was the iCentre (an Apple Premium Reseller).
    • Dominique had friends who worked at the shop and thought it seemed like the most interesting thing she could find in her area (without a great deal of travel). She asked if they had any openings.
      • Dominique and her father were very into gadgets, having a computer in their home early on. Dominique was one of the first people in her class to have a mobile phone as well.
    • The Apple ecosystem at the time was very impressive to Dominique. This was in the early 2000s.
  • Dominique got the job, citing it as very fun. She was able to learn about the different devices and processes.
    • She enjoyed having conversations with people and asking what problem people expected a certain product to solve for them (a bit of a thread during her career).
    • Dominique liked the Apple way of understanding the people and why they want to buy certain things. Simon Sinek’s Start with Why is a good reference.
  • Dominique is the type of person that wants to know everything about everything to do a good job.
    • The store where she worked had a service desk staffed with certified technicians.
    • When technicians would swap out RAM, hard drives, change SIM cards, etc. Dominique was very curious and started asking a bunch of questions. Constant curiosity is something that has served Dominique well.
    • A service technician friend to Dominique at some point asked if she wanted to give it a try (a repair to a demo device) with the technician looking over her shoulder.
    • The experience was fun and got Dominique more excited about the inner workings of computers and how everything else worked.
  • Dominique believes the social interaction with customers was likely easier because of her background compared to someone else who may have been fresh out of school.
  • The branch where Dominique worked was one of the larger ones in the country (and had a very large team). People would come from all around the area to this specific store.
  • There were certain regulars that would come into the store.
    • Through asking about why people were needing a specific device, who would use it, what people’s hobbies where Dominique was about to learn a great deal about them.
    • Some of the people who came into the store back then remain friends with Dominique to this day and talk to her regularly.
  • It also helps if you don’t have an embarrassment or discomfort talking about yourself or with other people. Dominique really likes talking with people.

13:14 – Sales Perception and Recruitment

  • Dominique never struggled with the perception of salespeople while at iCentre.
    • She felt she was really helping people, feeling she was advising them to make purchases.
    • Dominique likes the pragmatic approach and helps people make educated decisions.
    • She understands salespeople get a bad reputation and felt more that way when she later went into recruitment.
  • After about 4.5 years with iCenter, Dominique felt she wanted something else. Devices get refreshed, but at some point you’re having the same conversations.
    • After this much time doing something, it felt like she was ready for a next step.
  • Dominique went and worked for a recruitment company (which she touched on in her DevOps Loop talk linked above).
    • A friend of Dominique’s suggested she create a LinkedIn profile and see what happens.
    • Dominique felt something more "grown up" was needed, perhaps something in an office.
    • She wanted something which would enable making connections with people. Maybe that was sales, something like account management, for example, which could suit her skills.
    • After a couple of days the messages started rolling in, and a recruiter (from the company where she eventually worked) said he might have something for her in IT recruitment.
    • The first thing Dominique wanted to know was more about IT recruitment. The explanation went something like this:
      • You have a customer and some candidates for an open position (with specific requirements). Each side wants something, and you basically match them.
      • To Dominique that meant she could talk about technology all day and help people, and she said "let’s do it."
    • When she started they put her in a DevOps vertical. She first wanted to know what that meant.
      • She was told they had heard it was lucrative and that she needed to ask her candidates.
      • Perhaps it should have been a red flag at the time. It’s always easy to talk about things in hindsight.
      • In learning more about it, DevOps seemed interesting to Dominique.
  • As Dominique spent more time in recruitment she realized people don’t like recruiters at all. In fact some people hate recruiters or hate working with them. That was difficult for her to reconcile.
  • Later when she started going to more meetups (or user groups) related to DevOps and adjacent topics, telling people she worked for a recruitment firm might cause the person to walk away.
    • That was a really weird experience, a bit humbling and awkward.
    • Dominique told people she was there to learn about the technologies to setup the possibility of moving into that field deeper one day.
    • The treatment she was experiencing did not seem fair, so at one point she stopped talking about her job entirely until she worked at a role that was more focused on the community.
    • General recruitment practices might be to close the candidate at the lowest salary possible and then protect the most margin for the firm getting the candidate for an end customer.
    • Dominique does not like these practices, feeling she identified more with the technical people she spoke to daily than the recruiters who were her co-workers. That has been a huge catalyst in getting her to where she is today.
  • As a recruiter, how can you determine if a candidate is qualified for a role you have never done?
    • This is something not every recruiter has figured out yet. For Dominique it comes back to wanting to know everything about everything.
    • In the first several months of her time in the role speaking to engineers, Dominique wanted to know:
      • What is DevOps? There were loads of interesting explanations.
      • What are the technologies you are using, why do those technologies work together / why would they not work together, what does the software development lifecycle look like, and why is it important to you and your company?
      • What do you want to do in your job and in your career? What is your ambition?
    • Dominique asked the questions and was able to figure out
      • Who the person really is
      • What they are good at
      • What they are NOT good at (if they will share)
    • On the other side, she would ask the companies that needed candidates why they needed the position, why they wanted a specific person, why the technologies were important to them, etc.
    • Not everyone was willing to share, but looking back at it, Dominique feels she did get a lot of helpful information and that not every recruiter asks these questions.
    • Dominique feels that over the course of her life she has been able to make friends easily and that most have been pretty forthcoming with her.
    • People might ask her why she needed certain information. Dominique would make it very clear that though she might not have something for the person right now she could at least keep their goals and ambition in mind as she heard about more roles to be filled (i.e. might have something later).
  • In the recruiting world there are two main types of recruitment.
    • Permanent recruitment is looking for people to fill permanent positions.
      • This can involve a headhunting fee.
    • Contract recruitment would be filling temporary positions (i.e. 3 / 6 / 9 / 12 month roles perhaps). Once someone finished the role (often times to help with a project), they would be looking for something else (part of the reason Dominique made sure to keep in touch).
      • In these cases there is usually a contractor’s day rate + margin that has to be paid to the recruitment company on a monthly basis.
      • The contractor would bill the recruitment company, and the recruitment company would bill the end customer.

23:05 – Advice for Working with Recruiters

  • Dominique will only give time to recruiters she feels are good at what they do.

  • She works to treat others as she would want to be treated.

  • An auto-generated e-mail to her might not receive a response. Generally she will respond to those who took the time to read her LinkedIn profile.

  • She is a little more guarded with the information given to recruiters after spending some time working as one.

    • There are a number of bad seeds in the industry who are only motivated by money.
  • "A good recruiter is worth their weight in gold. That’s it." – Dominique Top

    • Look for a good person who can represent your needs and interests, understand what the industry does, and really understands the role they are representing.
  • Estate agents are (or can be) worse that recruiters.

  • Maybe we should filter the recruiters who contact us and feel them out a little.

  • Dominique is happy she is no longer in recruitment, but as a word of advice…

    • If you are contacted, did the recruiter take the time to read your profile?
    • Dominique gets contacted most every day by recruiters and does not respond to most of them. She recommends feeling out whether the person is good enough.
    • If something looks interesting, ask the person to send you a salary range. Look for those willing to talk about it. Everyone has a budget.
    • Is the job even related to what you do today? Dominique cites getting contacted about things she has not been in for a number of years.
  • Check out Episode 148 with Chris Wahl as mentioned in the outro.

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

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