Jayne Kettles is the chief product officer and co-founder of GR8 People. She has pioneered HR technology solutions that have shaped and changed the way talent acquisition leaders look to technology for performance, agility and results. She also played the leading role in developing VirtualEdge's industry-leading software that delivered scalable, world-class value for enterprise organizations until the company's very successful acquisition by ADP. As a technologist, operator, thinker and innovator, Jayne looks back on her career's journey that led to founding GR8 People and shares thoughts on how tech will continue to have a positive impact on talent acquisition.
Today you are the chief product officer and co-founder of GR8 People. Looking back, was there a definitive moment that ultimately led you to where you are now?
I'm not sure of a definitive moment, but I do believe that there are foundational experiences throughout a career that guide people to their next best thing. My entire career has been in software development and programming, including management roles at cutting-edge companies such as VerticalNet, Store Automated Systems Inc., and Schlumberger where I was involved in developing smart card technology piloted in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. I got the start-up bug at Verticalnet. The company was on a huge growth trajectory. It was there that I first experienced what it was like to bring something new to a market, create competitive edge and be part of a fun culture. I left Verticalnet a few months before their very successful IPO to start VirtualEdge with Diane Smith and have never looked back.
Why talent acquisition (TA) software?
Diane's entire career has been in recruiting, from higher education (Princeton and Towson athletics), to executive search. At one point, her company had just branched out into career fairs and needed some way of engaging with technology candidates because her recruiters didn't speak tech. I developed an app that would match candidate skillsets with the needs of attending companies. Their recruiters didn't need to speak tech—only guide them to companies the app told them to visit. It was a huge success and gratifying to see the impact of software. Fortunately, the owner of Diane's company did not want to explore web-based enablement for his business and thus—VirtualEdge and E-Fairs were born! From there we uncovered so many more opportunities in the talent acquisition process to automate. We earned the trust of some talented TA professionals and kept their needs at the center of everything we did.
What's the biggest risk you have taken?
That's easy. Co-founding VirtualEdge, my first company where I was Chief Technology Officer. Taking all your savings, selling your car and riding a bike—I even remember buying a 3lb box of Corn Flakes to save money. It was the riskiest thing I had ever done and the most rewarding. Good days, bad days, highs and lows. But the best part was putting a team of exceptional people together who loved it as much as we did. We grew VirtualEdge in 6 years from 2 to 90 people, our software supported over 150 customers in 80 countries worldwide. The team did such a great job we were acquired by ADP.
GR8 People is rapidly growing. As any one of your customers in TA can attest to, that growth can't come without "GR8 people" by your side. How would you describe your team?
Diane and I both come from athletic backgrounds and understand the value of team, as we both played and coached college sports. When we started VE we knew the importance of team. We knew it was all about creating a story of 'us'. Team was and continues to be our north star. It's the fundamental guiding principle that makes us go. The VE and gr8 People story is so much more than me and Diane. Building a world-class talent platform is difficult, but building a team that can develop, implement, support and market a platform, is even more difficult. As they say, it takes a village. At gr8 People it's been like getting your band or your athletic team's best players back for a chance to do it all over again—with the bonus of adding new talent to your roster—making you play or sound even better! It's a pinch me experience.
Advances in technology have advanced the profession of talent acquisition. In what ways do you think technology has been and will continue to be most impactful?
As a CTO and Chief Product Officer I love innovation and the HR Tech space has seen plenty of it over the years. I don't think there is a day that goes by without an announcement of a new AI, NLP or HR solution with the promise of revolutionizing the industry. The innovation has been boundless, but the big lesson is knowing how and where to use the best technology for the benefit of both experience and productivity. There is always going to be that next cool thing. To truly impact the talent acquisition market, you need to understand it and be mindful not to lose the true purpose of HR technology.
Keeping that in mind, what are GR8 People's goals for those who use the platform?
Our overall goal for talent acquisition professionals is to give them more than a few good recruiting tools. We want to give them a platform for all things talent acquisition; providing a seamless, connected experience. A platform with all the major components from one provider (CRM, Recruitment Marketing, Campus and Event Recruiting, Employer Referral and ATS that supports the hiring lifecycle, but also making it flexible enough for customers to choose what component they need. This connected ecosystem offers users and candidates a seamless experience of productivity and information.
What gives you the GR8est satisfaction at the end of the day?
If I could sum it up with one word it would be growth. But my definition of growth is not simply equated to the number of customers who choose GR8 People—it's about customer satisfaction and value. We believe the value customers receive from their GR8 People investments are the foundational element of our success. Our team remains focused on keeping our customers at the center of everything we do at GR8 People. Their success is our success. Our single-minded mission is to make engagement with our platform easier to get important things done, and always working tirelessly behind the scenes to evolve and continuously bring value. At the end of the day this is what drives us and makes us proud to be GR8 People.