Minal Verma has been a Senior Recruiter at VMware for over 5 years, and her journey with the company has taken her from technical to full-cycle recruiting, as well as a move from Bangalore to Australia. She helped launch and handle recruitment for VMware’s first returnship program in 2019, as well as their second program in 2020, held remotely due to the pandemic. As VMware launches their next returnship program, we talked to Minal about her experiences recruiting returnship applicants, the positive feedback on returners she has gotten from hiring managers, and why she’s excited to take part in VMware’s third program round.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you been in recruitment, and how long have you been recruiting for VMware?
I’ve been in recruitment for over a decade and I’ve been at VMware for five years now. I started my journey with VMware in Bangalore as a technical sourcer and I gradually transitioned into a full life-cycle recruiter. Three years ago, I moved to Australia with my family, and I was so fortunate to continue my employment with VMware. I’m currently responsible for hiring for one of VMware’s largest business units, the End User Computing (EUC business unit), and I love what I do here at VMware.
You participated in the pilot returnship program at VMware and again last year. How did you get involved?
At VMware, we constantly think of new approaches to attract more non-traditional talent. We launched the returnship program in EUC in 2019 with the support of VMware’s Senior Director of Engineering, Lilit Div suggested that we pursue the program and partner with the Path Forward organization. The returnship program sounded very appealing to the business,as it is a great way to tap into a source of non-traditional talent. I was amazed to witness a large pool of talent who were gearing up to return to the office. I’m very enthusiastic about participating in these non-traditional hiring programs and I continue to support any upcoming events.
How is recruitment for this program different from other recruitment efforts?
It’s an entirely different experience, and that’s one of the reasons I enjoy it to the fullest. If you look at our traditional recruitment efforts, there’s a robust interview process with several rounds of technical discussions. In contrast, we took a different approach to find the most effective ways to evaluate the returning talent. We realized the way we traditionally recruit might not be the right approach to evaluate someone who is not actively employed. We want the applicants to be comfortable, even before they start interviewing with VMware. We have a flexible interview approach where we give the applicants a take-home assessment; this process enables them to prepare themselves and present to us in an organized and structured way.
The best thing about the program is the ability that we have to evaluate performance throughout the program. Managers and returnees aren’t under pressure to make a longer-term hiring decision right away. Our ultimate goal is not just to fill the position or have participants come in for the returnship, we want them to be successful in the role long-term.
What kind of feedback on the talent pool did you receive from hiring managers?
We have collected positive feedback from managers at the end of each of our returnship sessions. In fact, one of the managers said, “I don’t see any difference in returnees and my current employees on my team.” They were really amazed with the quality of hires. They don’t think there was a big gap in skills and they couldn’t really differentiate the returnees from the others on the team. Overall, they were really happy with the talent pool.
Did anything surprise you about the applicants?
I have been so impressed with their enthusiasm and the fact that they were putting in all the effort to keep themselves up to date with the current technologies. Many of them were coding in their free time, attending bootcamps, training courses, learning new languages, and trying new things to help them get back to work. I thought that was really amazing.
Were there any concerns from the applicants about starting the program remotely last year?
Working remotely is a new normal for each one of us, not just returnees. It was obvious for returnees to be anxious coming back after a gap to work remotely where they couldn’t interact in-person with the team, but we tried our best to point them to as many resources as possible. They were assigned mentors who would check in with them on a regular basis as they got up to speed. At the same time, there were many applicants who were really excited to have the opportunity to work remotely. Prior to the pandemic, most of our positions used to be tied to a particular location, but now, many of our roles are remote, so there were no concerns about relocating. It’s a win-win situation, and VMware has so many resources to get people up to speed and comfortable with working in a remote environment.
You participated in both rounds of the returnship program and you’re back for the third. What made you want to come back?
I would love to continue contributing to this program. Each year, towards the end of a program session, there are certain takeaways for all of us. We incorporate learning and we’re constantly trying to improve. I feel personally very attached to the program. The kind of relationship I’ve developed with the candidates has been really great – the feedback I hear from them keeps me motivated. I’m glad to see how successful the past two years have been. Last year, all of the returnees were converted to full time positions so that was a great success. I’m already looking forward to this year’s launch.
How does this program fit into VMware’s overall approach to talent acquisition?
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is a top priority at VMware, and participating in this program has been a key initiative for the Talent Acquisition (TA) team to achieve our DE&I company-wide goals. In this competitive market, TA is always exploring opportunities like the returnship program to help us achieve our goals.
What support has been most helpful from Path Forward?
The most helpful thing that Path Forward has provided is access to a wide, and non-traditional talent pool. While reviewing the source of our applications, Path Forward was the top source out of all. We were happy to see the quality of applicants coming through this channel.
What would you say to organizations that aren’t running the program? What advice do you have?
I would say, “Just go for it.” Path Forward is a great way to access an amazing, untapped talent pool. If an organization is on the fence, they should just sign up.
What has been your biggest takeaway participating in this program?
It’s funny, but even when I’m screening in general, I think about this program and I’m able to direct candidates who are looking to return back to the workforce after a gap to start exploring opportunities with Path Forward. The program has allowed me to continue to help each candidate as individuals.
Why do you love working at VMware?
There are so many great things about working for VMware. I truly love the culture and the flexible work arrangement. I’m so grateful to be part of this amazing company where employees’ overall wellbeing is the top priority. I was fortunate to be able to continue my journey with the international move. My candidates in the US are sometimes surprised to hear that I recruit for the US while living in Australia, but that’s all because of VMware’s amazing culture and continued trust in my abilities to help me perform better!