A Monster Discussion
A veteran of the Recruitment Tech industry for 20 years Kshitij Jain (aka KJ) has worked with well-known companies like Monster.com, Mobolt, and Indeed. A career steeped in jobs and technology sees him today at the helm of the programmatic platform Joveo as Founder and CEO. Before we step into the world of programmatic, Joel and I want some history starting with a truly Monster discussion.
Enjoy this history lesson as we talk about how it shapes the future.
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Morgan: Voices, we hear them every day. Some voices like mine are smooth and comforting, while on the other hand, The Chad and Cheese Podcast is like listening to a Nickelback album, you'd rather stab yourself in the ears with an ice pick. Anyway, y'all now listening to Voices, a podcast series from Chad and Cheese that features the most important and influential voices within the recruitment industry. Try not to fuck it up boys.
Intro: Hide your kids, lock the doors, you're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinions and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls, it's time for The Chad and Cheese Podcast.
Joel: What's up everybody? Welcome to another edition of Voices, our Uber popular series, where we talk to really smart people-
Chad: I dig it.
Joel: ... to help make ourselves look even smarter.
Joel: I am your co-host of The Chad and Cheese Podcast, Joel Cheesman, and I am joined as always by my co-host, Chad Sowash. And today we welcome KJ from Joveo, founder and CEO, industry icon, and overall product leading bad-ass. KJ, welcome to the podcast.
KJ: Thank you so much guys. I'm glad and excited to be here.
Chad: Excellent man. We're glad to have you.
Joel: No kidding.
Chad: We'll talk a little programmatic, but we're not going to get there just yet. We're going to build up into the crescendo on that bad boy. First off, thanks for coming on. Second, for Voices, one of the big reasons why we wanted to do Voices is because there are plenty of people that are out there who have really expertise steeped in this industry, steeped in technology. And you are one of those dudes. Give us a little bit of a history of KJ. Why did you get into this industry? Tell me how, and just let's flow through it. And then as you do that, we'll probably hit you with questions and whatnot.
Joel: Tell us about your mother.. I'm kidding. I'm kidding. Into the industry, what happened?
KJ: I worked before Monster, for a couple of other startups in India. One was the biggest B2B marketplace in India at that time, it was like the Alibaba of India. I was always interested in learning how to see a thing shape up from a seed stage to a much more advanced, grownup tree state. And how does that foundation take place? So Monster was just starting out in Asia, back I was one of the very first employees.
Chad: What year was that?
KJ: It's actually a few months after you left, I left Monster, Chad. It was about in July or August, 2001.
Chad: Got you.
Joel: When the glory years started-
Joel: ... after Chad left.
KJ: I said yes before, but so ... Believe it or not, back in the day, we were trying to sell free jobs because we wanted an option to happen. And from there on to ... and I moved from Monster, APAC managing there. Having managed some product for APAC, sales for part of
India, managing the cross-border sales. So we called global sales at Monster for APAC to the US. We had grown to, I think if I'm not wrong, more than 2000 people just in Asia PAC. And that was phenomenal, right? It iwas just ... from the first 10 to 2000 journey in a matter of two to four years, or so. I think the world hasn't seen a growth like that, like that dramatic in that short frame of time in any division, and at least in our industry, that I'll acknowledge.
KJ: So a lot of what I learned over there, what is really exciting for me is my job was to travel within APAC, to meet the heads of talent acquisitions, recruiters about the cultural nuances of their countries. Why someone recruit in a certain way, why not. What are the latest and greatest in recruitment tech out there? And then when I moved to the US and Monster, it was even more, right? Now I was not only looking at cross-border sales in APAC, middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, Russia, Turkey, Latin America, but just an amazing experience to be like a subject matter expert of knowing everything that happen in the world of recruiting outside of North America and bring that knowledge back to our multinational customers, and Monster had some really big ones back in the day by the way. Like spending millions of dollars and go in front of those global heads of talent acquisition and say, "This is how you're recruiting worldwide. This is what you're doing right and wrong. And this is the new wave coming."
Chad: Well, that being said KJ, Monster back in the day, tried to take their US business and really just carbon copy it all over the world, with Monster UK and Monster Carin, Monster this and Monster that, and it failed for the most part, in many of those different countries. Were you are a part of that group and helping them, and advising them on how to do it?
Joel: Were you a part of that group that failed?
Chad: Or the group that actually helped them get it right?
KJ: That's such an interesting question. And only someone who knows their inside would actually ask that question. So, yes, there was a one size fits all kind of approach that was there, and that was not going to work when you're talking with people with so much of a cultural ... Like for example, in India, you call it grad as someone who's done bachelor's, I heard you call it so.
Chad: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
KJ: Just that, and you're looking at a resume and say, "Hey, I'm looking for a grad," but the person is something else. So, as a product manager, along with my executive leadership that time, we took a very hard call to de-link the Monster platform and create our own platform. And that is the reason why APAC grew that dramatically.
KJ: So we were the first country, and perhaps the only region, to have done that and said, "We will create our own monster." So for all practical purposes, it was the same company, but the entire technology, website, everything was scripted from scratch.
Chad: Got you. So when you're talking about, like today, we see a bunch of companies in the US, start here, because this is really where a shit ton of the money is, and then they've got to move globally for many different reasons. Do you see the same issues happening as they're building? And they're just really just trying to carbon copy, and a carbon copy is not going to work. Or are there, I would say, more attuned companies today than there was back in the old Monster days?
KJ: Well, I would say that definitely is changing, but it's changing too slowly. Companies are still failing and not just in our space, but otherwise more often than not, in going to international, not getting it right. Like even large, large multinationals, even when they become like billions of billions of dollars of companies, don't go to China. A small little company like us, we were in Mobolt, we went to China and we had companies which were Lenovo, back in the day Lenovo was huge, Huawei as customers. And the point I'm trying to make is, it can be done right, if you just know how to, and companies are still messing it up all over the place. It's better, at least the sensitivity, the realization is there, that you got to act local. Like McDonald's, right? The Mobile McDonald's sells in India, is something you would have never heard of. Right? So they started getting there, but it's taking time.
Chad: So, they're really rushing into the market as opposed to taking their time and really figuring out how the culture is, and doing their research. That's what I'm hearing, is that correct?
KJ: That's one, that's a very important thing to do, primary research, right? The multinational global managers sitting in headquarters should not think that just because they do some secondary research, they know the country well enough. Then number two is, trust your local management, and give them ... don't bond them by corporate tic tacs, and boundaries, and mandates, let them create a new version of you in the local countries. And I think the combination of these two would work, right? Doing primary research, you get to sensitize, like, for example, I've not worked in Brazil, but if I go there, I will actually go on the ground, meet at least 25, 40 customers. I'm just trying to make it up, right? Like if I were to go in Mexico, or anywhere else, I would do that, to get a feel. And then knowing that no matter how much I do, I'll never be local, and then trusting the local management to actually lead that way. But now when they talk to you, you know why they're talking in a certain way. You know the reason why, you know the cultural nuances why. And that, When it comes together, actually creates music.
Joel: You were at Monster for a very long time. You saw the rise, the fall, and then the attempt to come back from 2008-9 great recession. I'm curious, just sort of your overall take of the business, the leadership, how things changed, was it all on the great recession that really caused Monster to collapse? What's your take on the history that you were there?
KJ: Sure. I think I'll call it two phases of Monster history. Right? I would see Monster as preAndy McKelvey, like Andy McKelvey, and post-Andy McKelvey. Andy McKelvey was of course, the owner of TMP. And he was an entrepreneur at heart. He actually ... his executive team respected and worked with Jeff Taylor, who was the founder of Monster. And at that time teams werre empowered, right? They were innovative, they were failing fast, they were correcting fast. And whatever happened, right? And, Andy had to step out for the legal reasons. And I guess at that point of time, that DNA of constantly trying to innovate rapidly and see what works, what does not do, kind of that thing was a little bit missing. And of course, right? When the downturn happens, the downturn creates a massive opportunity. And Monster was very much a great sales and marketing company, right? Even the best ad campaigns that perhaps have been created in the industry, you still remember, When I grow Up, that ad at Monster, right?
Joel: Of course.
KJ: So, they were great sales and marketing agents.
Joel: Of course.
KJ: But what they didn't realize, the world was changing and the tech, and the product, and the person who does that better than anybody else is going to be the ultimate winner. It's like the reason why Tesla became what it became today, right? It's Amazon. It's all of these companies were built on a solid tech foundation to deliver scalable results. And that's where someone was coming from the ... you could not even see the rear view mirror and the likes of Indeed came, and then just literally zoom past monster. And I think that's what Monster had to do, catch up. And if they had reacted on time, it would have done well.
Joel: What's your take on Sal Iannuzzi and his sort of strategy. He seem like a Wall Street guy that was hoping to get as much shareholder value as possible, as opposed to innovation.
Chad: Sal was an idiot.
KJ: I would say things could have been done a lot, lot better. For leading a tech company, you needed a tech leader and tech mindset, and then a person who deeply appreciates the both marketing and the tech side of the house. Sal was extremely, extremely sales driven, but without a leader driving the innovation, is what the point is, right? It's leader sets the culture, leader sets the tone of what the company prioritizes. And it was run like more of a brick and mortar company that time, which was exactly the opposite of what it should have been done.
Chad: But there was definitely an ego that monster had, that nobody was going to take their mountain from them. And many of us who were ... I was actually on the outside at that time, I saw Indeed coming, and I saw exactly what they were doing. The whole Trojan horse scenario wasn't really that much of a Trojan horse. Everybody could see exactly what was happening. The only problem was, Monster didn't think they were susceptible to breach, and they were totally breached and they were taken.
KJ: Until about 2010, '11, Chad, I even saw that there was a whole gender mindset of dismissing LinkedIn as a threat. Well, they were already seeing that three X or five X bigger than you are, right? Or Indeed for that matter. Right? And even I've heard the the feedback that nobody who is a serious job seeker would ever apply for a job on a mobile device. And that was the reason why it was not an interesting thing for Monster to do.
Joel: Can Monster be saved?
KJ: I'll tell you one thing. Right? You go to build upon your strengths. Anything, anytime in life, right? Even you are in down, you've got to identify that strength and build upon it. I will tell you one thing, marketing has been Monster's strength, for whatever it is, that DNA still continues to be that. The brand is still strong. I would block on the road and I asked people, "Do you know Monster?" They said, "Hell yes, absolutely." Everybody knows it. If your brand has a value, people take forever to build brands.
Joel: Well, the pushback on that is a whole new generation of people who think Monster is an energy drink and not a job site. So wouldn't you agree that they've lost a generation branding wise?
KJ: They have lost a generation, but if you see, right? Still, I would say a significant number of jobs, and I'm taking a wild guess, in five, seven years, if you look at the working life of a person of 30 years or 35 years, the block was lost in seven years, you lost about 20% of the workforce that doesn't know Monster. So, if they captured the 80% right again, I think the rest 20% will automatically start gravitating towards that. There has to be a ... right? There's always a way to have a comeback.
Chad: Yeah. Well, I ... yeah. The problem is, you've got the good side, they're now owned by Ranstad, who is ... they're a moneymaking machine. The bad side is they're owned by Ranstad, they're a moneymaking machine who focuses on EBITDA and return and Monster's not giving them that return. So I think the perspective pro to this is also the con because Monster is not performing and because they're really on old technology, and to be able to pay that technical debt, to be able to build something new and really strive in a landscape that has all these amazing startups, they're not in acquisition mode. So I really believe that their chance of being that marketing engine, like you said, is gone because they're owned by Ranstad and they're going to pinch pennies, and they're not going to acquire for new tech. So therefore, guess what? I feel like they're going to be dead.
Joel: Yeah, I agree. And I'll add that, from above, you've got Google in the game now, we're hearing a lot of people talking about Facebook actually being serious. You have LinkedIn and Microsoft partnered together. There's no innovation and they're not so big that they can't fail, which I think they're in a really, really bad position, just like CareerBuilder and a few others.
KJ: Yeah. I guess so. You're right. Right? I guess sometimes, perhaps it's my 10 years of Monster that I feel some sort of attachment to, sometimes maybe perhaps it is because I've interacted with even the current leadership team in marketing, and I see the kind of quality they have is actually pretty top notch, on the top floor. And I believe that, even product team, there are some really cool people out there. And I think what Monster need is to stitch it together, do it fast. But I would not, if I was you, not write off Monster.
KJ: They really don't see monster at all, I will not. Because we have seen the Phoenix rising from the ashes.
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