On Our Minds
“In conversation with On-Ramps” is a series that captures some of the internal discussions our team has as we sort through issues facing today’s social sector workers and hiring managers. Suzette Cintron (she/her), Emani Inoa (he/him), and Deonté Savage (he/him) are all search analysts at On-Ramps.
Suzette: Starting at On-Ramps in November 2020—about eight months into the pandemic—was an interesting process in terms of getting hired and onboarded. Even though everything was shut down because of Covid-19, I was still working in an office for a manufacturing company. So it was pretty hard to take time away from work to get on Zoom for various interviews. But On-Ramps made me feel so comfortable in the recruitment process. I remember one of the final stages of interviews was actually a coffee chat—not an interview. It was more of a candid conversation to get to know each other, and for me to ask about what the office culture is like. That really helped inform my decision to move into executive search.
Deonté: My experience was a little different in that I felt pretty accustomed to being interviewed remotely. That being said, I'm very relationship oriented, and that part of my personality really comes out when communicating with other people in person. I wish I could have had face-to-face contact with people that were interviewing me. So I really appreciated that the On-Ramps team member overseeing my candidacy made the effort to create a rapport with me. I also liked that On-Ramps had me meet with folks at a lot of different position levels. I talked with analysts, associates, a principal, and one of the founding partners. That gave me a much better understanding of the organization’s culture, and I felt like I had more opportunities to ask a variety of questions.
Emani: One of the things I enjoyed about interviewing with On-Ramps was that, even in the midst of living and working through such a tumultuous time, they still focused on guiding me through each step of the process and making sure I had enough information. Their transparency and willingness to share as much as they could about their company culture are what really won me over. That continued into the onboarding process as well. The three of us were hired as a cohort and assigned the same onboarding mentor, who made themselves consistently available to us for group check-ins and general ongoing communication.
Suzette: Our onboarding mentor did a wonderful job helping us learn from and build a connection with each other. They paced work similarly between the three of us so that we could ask each other questions and feel like we were all on the same page. It really helped ground me, especially as I was trying to figure out what working from home would be like. I could ask my cohort anything, from "How’s this assignment going for you?" to "How do you set up your calendar?" On-Ramps clearly put so much thought into our onboarding materials too. They clearly captured the process and made sure we knew where to access resources and other information we were learning. I've been through in-person corporate onboarding processes, and I don't know if I remember half of the stuff that I went through because that intentionality and patience wasn’t there.
Deonté: I agree. I think the one challenge of this process for me was the limitation to hands-on learning. We definitely developed a high-level understanding of On-Ramps’ different functions and processes during onboarding, but it wasn’t until I actually applied something in real time that I felt I truly retained the information. For example, I think it would have been helpful if we were not only shadowing a search, but also actively working on a search (real or mock) and going through the different stages and deliverables.
Emani: That’s true. On-Ramps did a great job of showing us all of their processes, but things are still shifting and changing as we continue to operate in a predominantly virtual working world. I think they did their best to listen to our feedback and incorporate it into our experience. In general, I think going through hiring and onboarding fully remotely only highlights the value of human connection at work—and how much of our success at work comes from our interactions as people in the office.
Deonté: Right, and that ability to learn together is something that's been very beneficial about the cohort experience. I thrive in collective learning environments because there are things that I may miss that the others won't. I think we did—and continue to do—a good job of communicating those things to each other as well as to the rest of our team.
Suzette: Everyone, even if they're not directly involved with onboarding, has been really intentional about saying, "Do you have the capacity to do this right now? I know you're still learning." It's been very clear to me that for the first several months of being in this cohort, On-Ramps wants to make sure that I don't burn out. They put their people first, and in a time like this we need to know that we are valued and that our time is respected.
Emani: Definitely. My background was in the private sector for executive recruitment, so I think I now have an interesting lens having done this work in both the social and private sectors. There will always be the stress of the work and the tactical challenges we encounter. And over the last year, so much has happened. It hasn't just been a pandemic. There's also been civil and social unrest that affects all of us, and that can affect different folks differently based on their lived experiences. I’ve so appreciated that On-Ramps doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to working with people. That makes me feel heard, and I think it will help ensure that our team is more successful.