The CEO of Indeed learned a lot about leadership and empathy by working in a psychiatric hospital
“I tried to become a rock star,” Chris Hyams, CEO of Indeed, told me. “I played as a drummer in various rock and funk bands.” He didn’t quite make it to rock star status. “But I had an amazing experience having the sort of privilege to try to pursue something that was a dream,” he says.
Hyams’ unique career journey includes working as a teacher, a musician, an entrepreneur, and a tech exec. He’s now leading one of the world’s largest hiring platforms at a time when individuals are opting to quit their current job for a more fulfilling position. “Instead of the Great Resignation, we’ve been thinking of it as the Great Realization,” Hyams says.
More than 3 million employers use Indeed to find and hire new employees. And over 250 million people each month search for jobs in more than 60 countries on the platform, according to the Austin, Texas-based private company. One of the top priorities right now for job seekers is better pay, Hyams says.
“You see a lot of employers who are getting creative and offering signing bonuses and higher wages, and we have seen an increase in real wages,” he says. “The employers who are doing well right now in retaining talent or attracting talent think about their employees the same way they think about their customers. You have to attract new ones. You have to worry about the experience they’re having. And you have to listen to them in order to help retain them.”
Like many job seekers, Hyams didn’t know his future would lead to the C-suite. After he graduated from Princeton University with a degree in the history and theory of architecture, he made a pivot. “I basically came out of school with this desire to go and do things to be helpful to people,” Hyams says. Being people-centric is the thread that connects all of the positions he’s had.
“My first job was working at an adolescent psychiatric hospital on the chemical dependency unit, working with young addicts and alcoholics,” Hyams says. He then relocated to Vermont to join his now wife of almost 30 years, and later landed a job as a special education teacher for a class of intellectually capable students who faced emotional challenges.
“We had a small program with nine kids,” Hyams explains. “One of them ran away in the middle of the year. We never saw him again. Another student got arrested and sent to juvenile hall. We never saw him again. And one student killed himself while on the phone with another student who was his best friend. He lived in the apartment below and was trying to talk him out of it. These were really complex, heavy human experiences.”
Since his days as a teacher, Hyams understands the power of empathy, he says. After teaching, he took his shot as a musician in L.A. at night while during the day, taking care of his grandfather, who had cancer. “I got to spend the last year of his life, every day, with him,” Hyams says.
His wife then got a job at Rice University in Texas, where he earned a master’s degree in computer science. “I went to this company called Trilogy Software, and I spent nine years there,” Hyams says. “I had my own startup for six years. And now, I’ve been at Indeed for 11 years.”
From 130 to 12,000
Hyams first started at the company as VP of product. “We were 130 people,” he says. “I got to learn the business, the product and then be a part of the growth.” He became CEO in 2019. The company has grown from 130 to 12,000 people, he says.
During the early days of the pandemic as businesses were shutting down and hiring was at a halt, Indeed felt the effects. “But we didn’t have to let a single employee go,” he says. “We were able to get our spending under control and knew that we’re in this for the long haul.” They built new technology around enabling video interviewing, which turned into a new product called The Indeed Hiring Platform.
Although Hyams didn’t reach rock star status, the arts are part of Indeed’s culture. In 2021, the company partnered with Emmy Award-winning writer Lena Waithe to create Rising Voices, a program for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who are aspiring filmmakers.
Since he’s a musician, I asked Hyams which recording artist he’s listening to nowadays. “According to Spotify, Stevie Wonder is my most played artist right now,” he says.
Have a good weekend. See you on Monday.
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A study by Fidelity Investments released on March 17 found that 55% of next gen (ages of 18-35) employees surveyed said they put their retirement planning on hold during the pandemic, which is higher than the general population (41%). About 79% who resigned from their jobs amid the Great Resignation viewed the move as having a positive effect on retirement plans. However, about 1 in 5 next gen employees who quit opted to cash out of their 401(k), which may have a longer-term negative impact, according to the study. The findings are based on a national online survey of 2,622 adult financial decision-makers.
In case you missed it, here’s what was featured in CFO Daily this week:
Here are notable moves:
Harlan Kowitt was promoted to CFO at Hickory Farms, an American food gift retailer. Kowitt joined the company in October as interim CFO at the company. Prior to Hickory Farms, Harlan held multiple senior finance roles at U.S. Foods, Inc. including FP&A, Accounting, and Supply Chain Finance. His experience also includes time at Unilever in a variety of finance and purchasing roles, and in Audit with Ernst & Young.
Christine Laurens was named CFO at Spencer Stuart, a global executive search and leadership advisory firm. Laurens succeeds Valerie Harper, who is now Head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa and Asia-Pacific for Spencer Stuart. Laurens joins the company from Kearney, a global management consulting firm, where she most recently served as CFO. Laurens joined Kearney in 2002. Previously, she was CFO of Keyrus. Laurens also served as managing director of the French subsidiary of Agency.com.
Bobby Lavan was named CFO at Bally’s Corporation (NYSE: BALY), a global gaming, hospitality and entertainment company. Steve Capp, Bally’s current CFO, is leaving Bally’s to pursue other interests and opportunities, and will continue to support the business through the end of April. Lavan has been SVP, finance & investor relations of Bally’s since May 2021. Prior to joining Bally’s, Mr. Lavan was CFO ofTurning Point Brands. Prior to that poisition, he was CFO of general wireless operations and held various analyst and portfolio manager roles on Wall Street.
Deborah A. O’Connor was named EVP and CFO at ACCO Brands Corporation (NYSE: ACCO), effective April 4. O’Connor was president and CFO at True Value Company from 2020 to 2021, having previously served as its SVP and CFO from 2015 to 2020. Prior to joining True Value Company, she served in various executive capacities at Office Max/Office Depot, including SVP of integration at Office Depot, interim CFO at OfficeMax, and SVP and chief accounting officer at OfficeMax.
David Schmidt was named CFO at Red Lobster. Schmidt comes to Red Lobster from Bloomin’ Brands where he has served as group VP and CFO of casual dining brands since 2019. He has over 30 years of progressive experience in finance, operations and accounting. Schmidt previously served as president of Bonefish Grill. Prior to his work at Bloomin’ Brands, Schmidt was controller/VP of financial planning Reporting and analysis at Avado Brands, Inc and manager of franchise finance at Denny’s.
Dennis Secor was named interim CFO at Guess, Inc. (NYSE: GES), effective April 1. Secor succeeds Katie Anderson, who is stepping down to pursue another opportunity as CFO at a privately-held company. Guess plans to use an executive search firm to initiate a search for a permanent CFO. Secor previously served as Guess CFO from 2006 to 2012. He has also held numerous CFO positions at companies, including Fossil Group, Electronic Arts Canada, and Torrid. Since 2021, Secor has operated his own management consulting practice in New Zealand.
Christopher J. Thome was named VP of finance and CFO at Graham Corporation (NYSE: GHM), a manufacturer of equipment for defense, energy and chemical industries. Thome joins Graham from Allied Motion Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: AMOT), where he served as corporate controller and treasurer. He brings nearly 30 years of experience in finance and accounting leadership, audit, public company financial reporting, treasury, operational accounting and shared services implementation.
"Hiding behind a screen makes it much harder for people to remember you and feel emotionally connected."
—Stan Hannah, Ph.D., a partner and leader of the talent and organizational development practice at Plante Moran, writes in a Fortune opinion piece that in-person presence is key to building trust in the workplace, but that has been offset by the current Zoom era.
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