At the helm of JD HQ is founder and CEO, Jo Dalton. Leading and inspiring not only her team of ‘JDers,’ Jo plays coach, mentor and board advisor to some of today’s most exciting names in the tech ecosystem. So to launch our series of interviews with the people in and around tech who we basically want to suck as much knowledge and insight from as possible, we start with the creator of JD&Co itself.
You set up JD&Co after working in the recruitment industry for over a decade, why?
Out of complete frustration! The service levels clients were receiving were shocking. The lack of integrity and transparency was hard to stomach, and there was a real need from clients who wanted to work with a truly collaborative partner.
I used to hate being associated with the industry, therefore I want to build a business where myself and everyone associated with JD&Co can say proudly they are part of a new breed of executive search and talent consulting business that truly cares, and one that is not full of commission based, sales people.
What does the recruitment industry need to do to shake off its negative image – can it?
The industry has got to change, there’s no will it or won’t it because it simply cannot go on the way it is. It needs to evolve, there needs to be more collaboration with clients, less reliance on needless automation and we’ve got to find a new way to attract and acquire talent.
If you are looking for a role yourself, you want to be treated well, communicated to, and helped through the whole process – this is something at the core of everything we do.
The fee structures need to change. You cannot motivate consultants via commission and sales targets; it has to enable client service excellence.
Today talent is spread across the world, across hundreds of online channels and personal networks – you have to work harder than ever to find it so the old traditional ways of attracting and tracking talent aren’t valid anymore. You’ve got to have a global sourcing strategy that works innovatively to successfully find the talent that no one else can reach.
What made high growth tech and digital companies, and startups the recruitment sector for you?
Being someone who is disrupting the industry I work in, working with ambitious tech companies challenging the way we do things every day, trying to make life easier, more transparent or simpler to navigate just resonated.
In the early days, I was building out the very first ecommerce teams for retailers wanting to build online shops during the first dotcom boom and then a disruptive online gaming platform. I loved that they were open and receptive to new ways of working, innovative talent strategies, and this is when I knew I had found my home.
For me, ultimately, it’s about the people. Working with the game changers, the rule breakers that inspire me and motivate me to continue on my own journey.
As a female CEO, do you feel you have a responsibility to prove yourself?
I definitely feel I’ve got more to prove. When you first talk about a client and their CEO people assume it’s a he, and say, ‘What’s he like to work for?’ So when I say, ‘Well she is’, it always makes me smile that people still fall into that trap.
We have recently taken on bigger offices and the landlord was keen to talk to a male member of my team rather than me. Laughable really. I started my career in the city, many years ago now and it was a constant battle. I thank my lucky stars that I’ve left the city suits behind, but this kind of attitude still lingers.
What do you do on a daily basis to support women in business?
Showing that I am trying to be a great advocate, leader and a successful woman in the workplace, every day – without jumping on the feminist bandwagon, or changing my persona to please the in vogue stereotype.
Apart from that, I always try and do 3 things at the end of each day: reflect, learn, and share. If I can trigger just a spark in someone else, I feel like I have done my bit.
What drives you?
Building a sustainable long term business, a legacy for myself and for all of the incredible people I work with. There is still a huge gap in the market for JD&Co to really make a difference.
I believe there are also gaps for leaders who aren’t just full of ego or jump on trend after trend. I’d like to be a woman that leads change, and I’m just at the beginning of that journey.
Tell me about your best failure; what did you learn?
It’s really ‘in’ at the moment to have failures, but I think we’re going down a very rocky road if we’re too accepting of it. Everybody fails every day, in small ways, but I’ve seen grand scale failures and there’s a moment where it crosses over to irresponsibility, and lack of attention.
Instead of failure, I talk to my team about ‘battle scars’. I say to people when they first join – you’re useless to me until you get some life experience, some battle scars. Each time you make a mistake – it’s a learning opportunity, a chance to grow and evolve. When you’ve made 10 mistakes, you’re going to be a better, much more rounded individual, that’s my mantra for graduates!
You consistently mentor young talent – why is this important to you?
For me it’s about giving back, but I call it, ‘paying it forward’, that adds a much more positive slant on it.
Coaching is threefold. I feel I have a responsibility to hire graduates, because so few leave university with any of the skills they will need for working life, so if I can give them those first few grounding years in the workplace and a good overview of what working life is like, then I feel like I’ve done my duty.
Secondly, tapping into young talent who are early on in their career, connecting them with the leaders in their field, or just giving them the natural steps they’ll need to make it to the pinnacle of their career – is something that I just get a kick out of, a real buzz.
And thirdly it’s about myself learning and growing. I always learn something from every person I mentor, because they have a different perspective they never fail to disappoint. Then last but never least – when you’ve been doing this as long as I have, you need to recharge your batteries with the energy of young talent. I just plug in and recharge myself with shots of their energy.
Who are your heroes and why?
My family. My grandmother was the youngest daughter of a very large, Victorian family. All of her siblings went on to have careers, but as the youngest she had to stay at home and take care of the house. Even in her 90’s she ran everywhere and held down four or five part-time jobs at one time. She lived to be 103 and not a day went past when she didn’t laugh or see the good in every situation. In fact, all the females in my family are pretty awesome.
Proudest career moment so far?
I’m feeling that the best is yet to come.
How do you manage your work/life balance?
I don’t think there is such a thing as work/life balance. Why should you work OR have a life? Surely the two are intertwined and both attainable. For me, it’s more about being in the moment, doing the thing that most needs to be done right then. I am a plate spinner and one or two get fairly wobbly at times but that’s part of what drives me.
I’ve learnt to feel comfortable in the knowledge that there’s always going to be one part of my life that’s a little bit messy or disorganized. I always feel guilty about my time – a symptom of this crazy, fast world we live in, either not being with my friends and family, not travelling enough or not working on more projects – I am not very good at saying no!
At JD&Co recently we revisited our company values and the one that resonates with me most is Learn and Grow. I’m a voracious reader and surround myself with great people, because every day I want to be learning and growing. Choosing tech, and predominately tech startups, as my industry to work with is all about newness and growth – they’re learning every day, learning by their mistakes, and I do the same.
What’s next for you?
For JD&Co it’s about taking our new ways of working and being a beacon in the industry with a service level that our competitors envy. It’s defining our products and expanding internationally, would be nice to expand with our clients as they do. Personally, it’s about inspiring young people that want to do what I’ve done, then finally looking after the team I work with; I’m incredibly proud of them. They challenge and inspire me every single day and I want to create long term opportunities so that they can learn, grow and evolve too.
You have a rare free day – what would you do?
I try to find the antidote to the ‘always on’ tech world so for me, that’s disconnecting myself from technology and enjoying a day where I’m doing something physically demanding, normally up against the elements, or challenging myself in new ways.
I am also a secret ‘luvvie’, always trying to sneak off to see the latest play, music concert, dance production or art exhibition.