July 14, 2020 - 8:03 am
Recruiting tech talent to Traverse City: Q&A with Erich Wuhrman, Head of Talent Acquisition at 20FathomsBy Keri Amlotte, Director of Marketing
Building a talented, highly effective team is important for any business focused on growth. For tech startups, finding the right people in an extremely competitive environment is crucial… and often challenging.
At 20Fathoms, one way that we foster the success of our member businesses is by providing them national level talent recruitment services at no additional cost. We partner with our members and provide the heavy lifting on recruiting the best talent for their growing teams, freeing up time for them to focus on other business priorities.
This service is led by Erich Wuhrman, a 20+ year recruitment and human resources veteran. Erich built his career in Seattle and specializes in working with startups and tech companies.
Can you describe your role at 20Fathoms?
My role is focused on helping to build the tech ecosystem in the Grand Traverse region and I do that in three ways:
First, I lead the internal recruitment and HR for the 20Fathoms team, ensuring that we have the right people and processes in place to support our community.
Next, I work with our 20Fathoms members on their recruitment needs to help them build out their teams.
My third priority is supporting recruitment efforts in the broader Traverse City community by helping candidates and companies make a top talent match.
Specifically, what sort of services can you provide 20Fathoms members?
Talent recruitment can be very time-consuming and that’s a heavy lift that I can shoulder so our members can focus on other day-to-day activities.
I help our members create compelling job descriptions and develop compensation plans. I network, connect, perform applicant reviews, screening, and interviewing. More broadly, I can provide insight on creating roles that provide the best ROI for a business, as well as provide recommendations on remote hiring practices which is becoming more important.
What is your background?
My background is in talent acquisition for early stage startups, hyper-growth companies, and venture-backed companies. Prior to joining 20Fathoms, I worked at Trupanion (NASDAQ: TRUP) for 7+ years which is the fastest-growing pet insurance company in North America. This was an incredible opportunity to build a remarkable and diverse culture and successfully help take a company public. I was employee #30 and the first Recruiting & HR hire. As VP of HR, I built their recruiting processes and hired over 600 people – from interns to C-level executives. I also built the HR department from just me to a team of 12.
I specialize in listening and understanding people and their motivations. I grew up in a home that welcomed international exchange students from all over the world to live with us and my parents later ran an adult family home. These early experiences gave me great insight into people from different cultures and all stages of life, and that’s something that I carry with me and have applied to my career.
What inspired you to join the 20Fathoms community?
I have a strong interest in startups in general, as well as startup studios and incubators. I understand the value they provide to communities and was really impressed by what’s happening at 20Fathoms – the office, tech, people, energy, and positive momentum. Also, I really enjoy helping other people build their businesses and talent. When the opportunity at 20Fathoms came about, I felt like it was a great fit.
What is your approach to recruiting?
When I’m working with candidates, I focus on their motivations. What drives them? What are they passionate about? I also dig into their traits and uncover what would make them successful in a role.
Similarly, when I work with hiring managers, I first want to find out what traits they’re looking for in an individual and what a great hire would look like at their organization. I also want to learn about their hiring process and company culture. That allows me to find a good match between candidate and employer.
What do you most enjoy about your work?
I like helping people. I’m a connector and an advocate for members of my network. When I’m working with candidates, I want to give them the best experience and provide an opportunity to help them land a new adventure and advance their career.
I’ve been on both sides of the hiring equation and have had an opportunity to be a part of growing companies, building teams, and developing culture. I especially love the rush of working with hyper-growth stage companies looking to build their teams quickly.
I also really enjoy promoting equity opportunities to job seekers. There is tremendous value to joining mission-driven, early-stage companies with ownership opportunities. Not only monetary value but the value of being a member/owner of something big that is disrupting or changing an industry. I have examples of the benefits of being in on the action in the early growth cycle of a developing company.
What do you see as the greatest challenge to your recruiting work?
Not being able to build in-person relationships during the pandemic. Also, the pandemic has caused so many businesses to shift their hiring plans and budgets which is a challenge.
What opportunities are you seeing?
The pandemic has created new opportunities for remote work. I’ve been talking to hiring managers a lot about the potential there.
I am also doing a lot of work with boomerangs – people who grew up in Northern Michigan, moved away to establish their careers, and are now interested in coming back. As the tech sector in Traverse City grows and as remote work becomes more common, there are more opportunities for boomerangs. I talk to people around the country, share local opportunities with them, and connect them with hiring managers.
What do you like to do for fun?
I have a passion for the outdoors. I’m an avid canoer and mountain biker, but I especially love the mountains – I’m a mountaineer and I’ve summited Mt. Rainier. I also love pickleball and actually built a pickleball court in my backyard in Seattle.
My wife Kristin grew up in Michigan and we moved here from Seattle a few years ago to be closer to her extended family. Since then, I’ve created a network in Michigan and really enjoy exploring Michigan, especially Traverse City, Elk Rapids, and Suttons Bay.