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Diversity or Diversion? The Blair Fambro Confessions

Brace yourselves for the roller coaster ride of snark that is the "Chad and Cheese Podcast." It's your audacious dive into the world of HR, where co-hosts Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman take no prisoners and spare no feelings. Each episode is a concoction of brash opinions, industry insights, and a healthy dose of mockery, aimed at anyone within earshot. Join us as we dissect the recruiting world, interview industry bigwigs like Blair Fambro from Hershey, and generally wreak havoc in the most delightful way possible. If you're looking for political correctness, you've taken a wrong turn somewhere.



PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION


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 opinion, and loads of snark, buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel: Oh, yeah, what's up everybody? It is the San Diego chicken's favorite podcast, AKA...

Chad: Oh, love that.

Joel: The Chad and Cheese podcast.

Chad: Chickens.

Joel: I'm your co-host Joel Cheesman, joined as always the Felix to my Oscar, Chad Sowash is in the house, and we are excited to welcome Blair Fambro to the podcast.

Chad: Fambro.

Joel: Blair is the manager of Strategy and DEI at Hershey. That's right. Blair, welcome to the podcast.

Blair Fambro: Thank you for having me. Thank you for having me.

Chad: One of the famous tasting companies of all of America.

Joel: Still the number one chocolate bar in America, right?

Blair Fambro: Yeah. Yes.

Joel: I mean, so Blair, a lot of our listeners won't know who you are. They know Hershey, of course, but give them a little bit about what makes Blair tick.

Blair Fambro: What makes me tick is being motivated to make an impact on our organization. It gets me motivated in the morning. What can I... About myself, so I've been in the industry for 13 years now. So all of my background has been DE&I and talent acquisition. So being based out of Detroit, Michigan, one of the things I've always been passionate about is working at the time for the auto industry, trying to make an impact there.

Chad: Yeah.

Blair Fambro: Being from Detroit. That's all I heard. The big three, working at the big three, and one of the things I wanted to do was work there, but I also had a passion about technology. So every company that I worked for, it had a component of IT. So that's what motivates me, but also being a diverse workforce. Something I love to do.

Joel: And are you a Lions fan, Blair?

Blair Fambro: Absolutely. My Lions will be back in the Super Bowl.

Joel: You're off the ledge. How are you feeling about this season?

Blair Fambro: I'm feeling good. You know what? It's funny because this is a deep dive into that, in my entire life, this is the furthest I've seen the Lions go.

Chad: Oh yeah.

Blair Fambro: So this was like a Super Bowl to me. But now let's see what they can do next year.

Joel: Yeah. Is it a one-off or do you think they can repeat?

Blair Fambro: I think they can repeat.

Joel: Okay.

Blair Fambro: I think they learned their lesson. They have a good solid coach and we'll see what happens.

Joel: Optimistic, optimistic.

Chad: Great coach, great coach.

Blair Fambro: Yep. Definitely.

Chad: I mean, a great coach, players, I was rooting for Lions 'cause Lions...

Joel: If you weren't, you didn't have a soul.

Chad: Exactly.

Joel: Yeah.

Chad: Who did not have a Super Bowl? I mean, come on, man. And then, yes, to watch...

Joel: You know I was rooting for the Cleveland-Detroit Super Bowl.

Chad: Yes. That would have been...

Joel: That would have broken the NFL altogether.

Chad: That would have broken the internet.

Joel: And so I know you are a Central Michigan grad, a proud MAC conference graduate, just like me, just like me.

Chad: Oh, come on, man. Come on. MAC conference. When are they joining a real conference? Anytime soon? Anyway...

Joel: Chirp, chirp, bitch. All right. Chirp, chirp.

Chad: Says no man ever. Okay. So real deep down personal question. Did they make you come to Hershey to actually like interview, like the town, Hershey?

Blair Fambro: No. Everything for me was remote.

Chad: Oh, yeah? Do you wanna go though? Because all the like documentaries when I was like...

Joel: It's like Willy Wonka.

Chad: I wanna go... Yes. I don't wanna be the blue boy or anything like that, but at the end of the day, that looks...

Joel: The Oompa Loompa.

Chad: Yes. It looks amazing.

Blair Fambro: Yeah. I'm looking forward to visiting. I haven't visited yet. I've seen how they started, but this summer I'm definitely gonna go, and definitely take on the amusement park they have there, and get sugar wasted. Take the family down there.

Joel: Sugar wasted. Is that what you said?

Blair Fambro: Yeah. [laughter]

Joel: Wow.

Blair Fambro: That should fun.

Chad: I love it.

Joel: That's a whole wasted I haven't experienced yet.

Chad: Okay. So here you're a newbie at Hershey, so we're not gonna dig into that. Okay? We're gonna give you a little time before we have you back on the show then we'll talk a little bit about Hershey. Let's talk a little bit about GM, transition to Twitter. Let's talk about that, 'cause you grew up Detroit.

Blair Fambro: Yeah.

Chad: Big three. That's what you knew.

Blair Fambro: Yeah. Exactly.

Chad: Right? And then you had a chance to go to GM. How did that feel? Did that feel like, oh man, here we go. Promised land.

Joel: Was your mom proud?

Blair Fambro: Yeah, they definitely were proud. Even though my family is more on the Chrysler Stellantis side, I was still proud to be a part of a GM. It was great because for me, that's all I grew up seeing either for Chrysler or GM. So working there, it was exciting because when I came in, GM was bringing everything in-house. So you think about what they'd done over the years and all the employees they hire, they always did things from an RPO perspective.

Chad: Yes.

Blair Fambro: So I was able to come in and be the first wave hire in 2016 to support their IT division. So being successful with that, coming into an organization and building their IT division, not only in Detroit, but Atlanta, Phoenix, and also Austin, Texas, I think that was amazing. And that pretty much spearheaded my career into other areas. So if you look at what GM is doing now with the electrification vehicles, with the electric Hummer, the Silverados, at one point I was the recruiter hiring people to design those batteries. So that was a sign to say, hey, on my resume, if you see the shift in the automotive industry, I played a huge component in that in regards to the hiring aspect of it. But then I had the opportunity to be a DE&I lead for the organization for engineering, so that's pretty much solidified every way to be well-rounded within TA and diversity, that role pretty much spearheaded where I am today.

Chad: What did that consist of though? Because we've talked about, on the show, there have been a lot of DEI leads that just didn't get the resources necessary to actually move the needle. It didn't feel real, right? You were put in a position where you didn't have the resources necessary. Was it a scrap? Was it a fight? What was it about? Or did you get the resources you thought you needed to actually move the needle?

Blair Fambro: It was both. And the reason I say that because GM had a strong presence in regards to diversity, and not in TA, but in regards to the global diversity team that was responsible for TA. So I had the support system there, but I pretty much had to fight to say, "Hey, if we want to make an impact from a TA perspective, we need to make some adjustments." And I had to make a business case of a certain resources, certain conferences, and to get certain visibility for my colleagues. A lot of people didn't understand diversity from a hiring perspective. A lot of people were intimidated about having those conversations.

Chad: In Detroit?

Blair Fambro: Yeah. Yeah.

Chad: They didn't understand diversity...

Blair Fambro: Yeah. Yeah.

Chad: In hiring, so, but...

Blair Fambro: Yeah. Where it was about 85 to 95% diversity.

Chad: Yes.

Blair Fambro: So it was something I was passionate about and I needed to spearhead that. And it was not focused just on Detroit. And I think a lot of people, from a location perspective, had... Didn't understand that or was intimidated by the discussion because you wanna make sure that you're being sensitive to other people's needs, but you wanna make sure that you don't cross the line when communicating with someone. And for me, I don't believe in crossing the line, I believe in having open dialogue. And I love to have those uncomfortable conversations. And one of the things, it's my pet peeve, if you feel a certain way, tell me how you feel. You don't... And just 'cause I'm a Black male or considered a minority, you don't have to walk around eggshells. I wanna know how you feel, I wanna know your perspective. So it's a learning curve for everyone. So that's what was important for me.

Joel: So sticking with GM for a second, it seems like every week we talk about the United Auto Workers, another win, another notch on their belt. How do you feel being out of the industry knowing the unions and the win against the Big Three was diversity initiatives part of that maybe we didn't see in the mainstream media? What were your thoughts as the union was winning against the Big Three, the concessions?

Blair Fambro: I thought that was huge for two reasons, because I think the world was pretty much watching that. So everything from supply chain, automotive, anything that has to do with plants outside of the Big Three, people were watching that. I think they pretty much spearheaded what they were doing from a manufacturing perspective. And the diversity component, more... If you look at the numbers and the statistics, more minorities and women are in those factories. So from a diversity perspective, that was a huge win for them.

Chad: Okay.

Blair Fambro: So getting where they needed to be. We think about the fight of people who were working there for years as contractors, not getting those raises, not getting profit sharing, I think that was huge that people made that investment to work there five or 10 years and keeping the same compensation even during inflation. So being able to bring those people on board after 90 days and getting them what they felt that they deserve, I think it's great. So that was a huge win.

Joel: You were at GM during the George Floyd, the Me Too movement. What was it like being at a major corporation as these huge events, social events were happening? And how did you see maybe opinions change or processes change during that time?

Blair Fambro: It was huge emotions from everyone. It was of a lack of understanding. It was confusion. It was unanswered results on what transpired for everyone. But one of the things I can say about the organization is that they made an environment for everyone to come together during that time. We had open discussions in regards to how individuals are feeling, no matter your background, what you've seen and what you believe. And I think that pretty much helped the organization come together as one. That's one thing... That's one of the things I can say I enjoyed working about at GM. When something transpired, I think we came together as an organization and even as a community to support one another.

Joel: That's great.

Chad: Is that the culture? I mean, the culture was like, "We are our people". Most companies talk about that. They talk a big game. But it sounds like what you're talking about, GM actually believes it.

Joel: It's genuine.

Blair Fambro: Yeah, I believe they believe it because of the leadership that we have. The Chief of Diversity during the time I was there, I had a close relationship with her, I believe every initiative and I believe her passion based on the equity and inclusion and belonging. So that's what made me want to stay there for the long term. I think, if you look at my background, I moved around a bit because I wanted to get every experience that I can, but if you look at my background, I stayed at GM the longest than any other organization.

Chad: Good for you, opportunities pop up, you take the opportunities. Let's talk about the other side of the coin on that one, let's talk about Twitter. Okay. So because that culture changed dramatically while you were there. So what was your position while you were there? And talk a little bit about that experience.

Blair Fambro: So working at Twitter, I wasn't sure if I wanted to leave, leave General Motors and go to Twitter, but I can tell you the experience... Just the interview experience blew me away.

Chad: Really?

Blair Fambro: Yeah. One of the things, and I've always been based in Detroit, Michigan, so working for a company that's based in San Francisco, culture was different. People were different. But going through that process and learning about the culture, and what they're looking to do, and one of the reasons why I decided to go to Twitter, because I was gonna work on something new. No one was doing machine learning like Twitter and like the Metas of the world. So I wanted to get my hands on that to be able to say, "Hey, I worked for an organization that did the electric vehicles. Now I'm working for an organization that doing machine learning."

Chad: That's just forward-looking. I mean, come on, batteries, machine learning. I mean, because that was before the big drop of ChatGPT, right?

Blair Fambro: Yeah. Yep. Yeah.

Chad: Right? So...

Blair Fambro: Yeah. Right. Right before that.

Chad: Yeah.

Blair Fambro: So when I was at Twitter, I was doing pretty much, if you use Twitter and you notice the recommendations or who you can connect with, the news feeds, I was a senior technical sourcer there hiring the people that pretty much worked on that platform, the recommendations, news feeds and all the components of that.

Chad: Are you talking about data scientists or what are we talking about with regard to the types of positions that you were actually hiring for?

Blair Fambro: Data scientists were part of it, but NLP, natural language processes was one of the... So predictive text, things from that perspective, I was able to do. Before leaving Twitter, exiting Twitter, I was also a part of their security team. So anything from, if you think about the security aspect of it, if you think about safety or abuse or child abuse or anything that happens on Twitter.

Chad: Yeah.

Blair Fambro: I was responsible for that. Also, just the overall privacy. And one of the things is, if you create a Twitter account, and you deactivate your account, Twitter can keep your information for a year. But the government requires them to delete all that information to keep your privacy safe, so I was responsible for that, and I felt that each part of the team I worked for at Twitter was impactful, and I think it was innovative. And I pretty much enjoyed that.

Chad: So Linda Yaccarino today testified in front of Congress that they had all the security protocols buttoned up. Everything was good. Although they decimated a lot of the staff, like 80% of the staff. So the question is, to the public out there, how can you stay secure with less people? Can AI help us be more secure? Because it's almost like that's how many of the companies want us to think, "We don't need people to do this. AI is gonna keep us secure."

Blair Fambro: Absolutely not. I don't believe that one bit. You're gonna always have people. One of the things I like to say about AI is, is it's gonna help us work more efficiently. And it is gonna be... It is more like a Google assistant to me where it is helping you enhance your day-to-day experience, but it's not gonna take away anything that we do from a security perspective. I don't know how they're doing it with less people. I don't know how secure it is. But I think once things started to pick up again and these tech companies, that's probably gonna be the biggest area of hiring, security. I mean, without security, the platform is no good. You can have mediocre machine learning, but if you don't have security, your platform is not gonna last long.

Chad: Yeah.

Joel: You've been part of some incredibly competitive industries, the car industry, not just the big three, but Germany and Japan. You've gone to Silicon Valley, you've got Facebook, Google, all the other tech companies, the startup, the hot cool startups that are there. Talk about how you approached recruiting in such competitive industries and how did you think about DEI being an advantage over your competition and helping you recruit top talent?

Blair Fambro: That's funny, 'cause when I... In my aspect, when I think about recruiting, I think about my style, I try to mimic a programmer. And the reason I say programmer, because although my title has been recruiter, I've always been a sourcer, so how do you find talent is being able to come up with unique site commands, unique coding to find individuals. And sometime you have to have that mentality to be able to find those individuals. And what helped me stand out opposed to other recruiters is being able to do things recruiters won't do. And for me, a lot of recruiters are excellent in regards to negotiation, in regards to other things. But in regards to finding those purple squirrels, that was my advantage, and I wanted to beat the competition by doing that. I felt that at one point I didn't have the gift or gap to have that salesman approach. So I said, what can I do behind the scenes to outwork them?

Chad: Find your superpower.

Blair Fambro: Yeah. And I think the sourcing aspect was always...

Joel: It's like you outworked them.

Blair Fambro: It was always my superpower to outwork them and find candidates that they wouldn't be able to find instead of relying on the ATS.

Chad: Yeah.

Blair Fambro: That was my superpower. But I can say for me, DE&I really became a passion when I started working at Hewlett-Packard. When I... And this is when I really was sitting in the tech industry outside of the staffing world. And I had never seen diverse teams. It was all male-dominated, and I seen that you know what? How are these hiring practices? How do you build diverse teams or, you had ERG groups in the organization that people weren't leveraging. So I said, "You know what, how do I work with these people?" This is back in 2013 and I was still mid in the industry. So how do I tap in with people that's already here to engage with people? How do I network with them and learn what they're doing outside of the organization so I can get engage those individuals? And I started to just do more speaking engagements, talk about diversity inclusion and in tech industry. And that's a pretty much, you know what, this is gonna be my niche. I have the background with engineering, IT, but a lot of people are not invested in the diversity aspect of it. Because the reason diversity is important because your company is more profitable. Everyone is a customer. And at the end of the day, I look at an organization, the only thing that mattered is the financial gain, when it comes to that. And when it comes to a business growing and constantly growing.

Blair Fambro: But when customers, and even myself, when I see individuals that is a reflection of myself or a reflection of someone that's not myself, I think that diversity is diversity of thought. One of the things I always looked at was when I hired people at tech industries they only wanted people from tech industries. Why? You're just hiring the same people, the same thought process.

Chad: Yeah.

Blair Fambro: What if you bring someone from banking that does things a different manner, they have a different process, they can implement what they've done in the industry that you may not have thought of that the other companies are doing.

Chad: Yeah.

Blair Fambro: So I took that approach and that pretty much helped me along my journey.

Joel: Recently, it seems like a lot of companies are gutting their diversity efforts. They're laying off managers or executives that have taken those roles. We obviously see the Supreme Court of the country eliminate affirmative action initiatives. What are your thoughts on the future and present of DE&I and where it's going? Is it, are you bullish on it? Are you skeptical that it can have a future? 'Cause obviously there was a lot of positivity in the wake of George Floyd, et cetera.

Chad: Oh, well it evolves.

Joel: But now it feels like, we're on the down slope. What's your take on that?

Blair Fambro: There's two things. I will say, unfortunately with DE&I and HR to like, we're always the first to go when it comes to big layoffs in that perspective. But I think seeing that is gonna help more people gain opportunity outside of relying on the organization. I've seen more people have startup companies since these layoffs of DE&I, than anything else. I see it changing because I think the people, the customers and also the employees are gonna enforce that. They said the same thing about working remotely. "It's not gonna work, it's not gonna be impactful." People are fighting against that, but the people are actually fighting against working remotely and changing the workforce as we see today. And then you think about it, there's another generation coming up.

Chad: Yeah.

Blair Fambro: And with the Gen Z, they are extremely passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion. They're also passionate about work life balance. So companies are gonna have to adjust with the generations upcoming. 'Cause they're gonna be the ones to make the make the demands. One thing I can say, once the market increases and we're seeing that diversity being cut, HRs being cut, I think in 2025 or 2026, when people start hiring again, people are gonna remember this. All the layoffs, getting laid off by emails and things from that perspective, people are gonna remember this, and I think there's gonna be a shift in the next two years. I think DE&I is gonna come back stronger than it has.

Chad: People are gonna remember you, Blair. We appreciate it, my friend.

Joel: Even though he didn't bring any Hershey bars to the interview.

Blair Fambro: [laughter] Next time.

Chad: Next time. Next time.

Joel: I'm a little bitter on that. All right, next time.

Chad: He's new.

Joel: I give... He's new.

Chad: Give him some time.

Joel: I'll give a pass.

Chad: Blair, if somebody wants to connect with you, where can they find you?

Blair Fambro: So you can find me on LinkedIn, it's Blair Fambro, or you can find me on YouTube, I have a YouTube channel that talks about tips and tricks, interview tips.

Chad: Nice.

Blair Fambro: Sourcing tips. You can find, my name on there is your HR Connect. So feel free to follow me on YouTube and also just check, check me out on LinkedIn, I look forward to connecting with you all.

Joel: You heard it here first. DE&I is gonna be back in '25 and the future. Another one in the can everybody, we out.

Chad: We out.

Outro: Thank you for listening to, what's it called, the podcast, the Chad, The Cheese, brilliant. They talk about recruiting, they talk about technology, but most of all they talk about nothing. Just a lot of shout outs to people you don't even know. And yet you're listening. It's incredible. And not one word about cheese. Not one, cheddar, blue, nacho, pepper jack, Swiss, and so many cheeses and not one word. So weird. Anywho, be sure to subscribe today on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever you listen to your podcasts, that way you won't miss an episode. And while you're at it, visit www.chadcheese.com. Just don't expect to find any recipes for grilled cheese. It's so weird. We out.

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