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CASE STUDY
Stabilizing the Indian recruitment pipeline for a leading New York-based industrial safety startup
McKinley Rice
6 min read
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Learn how StrongArm Technologies used SecondOffice to create a world-class software engineering team.

The challenge

Help StrongArm technologies create a world-class Indian software engineering team that's better than their competitors - all within 9 months, in an extremely fast-paced and competitive recruitment landscape

 

THE SOLUTION

Use our proprietary recruitment platform to filter down our 90,000 strong candidate pool to find the desired talent, then vet and construct a reliable, globally competitive team - fast enough to beat the market.

 

THE OUTCOME

A specialized team of engineers that outperforms the competition, survives The Great Resignation of 2021 and has become one of StrongArm's longest-running and most reliable team - helping them reach a $50M Series B.

 

CHANGING THE PERCEPTION OF INDIAN TALENT

StrongArm Technologies is a startup that creates tools to support and protect individuals engaged in physically demanding, repetitive motion jobs.

After raising a Series A round of $2.3M in 2016, StrongArm had globalized its operation to produce products at affordable prices and remain competitive. Their globalization strategy had been to use transient Indian IT outsourcing vendors but they had found this process frustrating, unsatisfactory, and worst of all, endless. This had given them a perception that Indian software teams couldn't produce the results they needed.

However, they were in a fix. To produce quality products at competitive prices, they knew they needed an effective globalization strategy. One that would funnel Grade-A candidates to them. But how?

Their product was (and is) a complex combination of IoT devices, data storage, docking, uploading, and data processing. With a lot of different elements critical to the product's success, StrongArm needed to have a competent software team that could deliver quality at cost. Especially considering their ideal clients were big names such as Walmart and Amazon. The level of expectation was high.

To achieve their goals, they'd set themselves precise recruitment criteria:

  • Ex-Fortune 500 experience (Samsung, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, IBM, etc.)
  • Freshly graduated, grassroots talent from top universities who would be making history 20 years from now (in the vein of Sundar Pichai (Google), Satya Nadella (Microsoft), Parag Agrawal (Twitter), etc.)

Combined, this recruitment effort would help them jump-start their development center, land them a stronger engineering team than any of their competitors, and fulfill client expectations.

But accomplishing this goal was enormously difficult. They were faced with steep upfront costs of establishing themselves abroad or utilizing the services of a consulting firm (i.e. Deloitte).

On top of this, outside of their experience with transient IT outsourcing vendors, Strong Arm wasn't familiar with the ins and outs of Indian recruitment. For instance, candidates would use StrongArm';s offers to renegotiate their current salaries, or StrongArm's interview process was too slow for the market. By the time they'd found an engineer they wanted, he/she was gone. Usually to Amazon.

These difficulties were compounded by the fact they wanted this all up and running within 9 months.

When we met with StrongArm in 2019, we were confident we could help them achieve their goals through a completely different approach to globalization. One that could provide them with the candidates they wanted without requiring enormous upfront investment overseas.

However, they were reluctant to work with us due to their prior experience with Indian outsourcing vendors. Presenting us with an immediate problem - we had to prove them wrong.

 

BUILDING A WORLD-CLASS SOFTWARE ENGINEERING TEAM

Our proprietary recruitment platform gave us an advantage in that we knew we could build a team that would change StrongArm's mind about Indian talent. After a few meetings, StrongArm decided to work with us to see what kind of team we could put together, and once the go-ahead was given, we set to work.

Taking the criteria mentioned above, we set about putting together a team that not only met StrongArm's need, it would also function seamlessly with their HQ.

Our strategy was as follows:

  1. Use our 90,000 strong proprietary candidate pool to recruit people from Fortune 500 development centers such as General Electric, Ford, Samsung, and Rakuten. Candidates from impressive backgrounds such as this naturally had the future potential StrongArm was looking for.
  2. Structure the teams so that each team member in StrongArm HQ had an equivalent in SecondOffice. Each senior in StrongArm HQ would have an equivalent senior In SecondOffice.
  3. Back up the team with high-quality junior developers.

The result was that the balance of senior and junior developers helped cut costs without losing on talent. The seniors brought seasoned Fortune-500 experience that would shepherd the juniors throughout development while being able to interact directly with their counterparts in the US.

Initially, this started as a 3 person team, but over time grew to 22 people split into 7 teams - front end, back end, and more.

But while this might sound like mission accomplished' the process didn't end there, and the future wasn't without its obstacles.

The chief obstacle we had to solve was global recruitment market competitiveness. During the pandemic, from late 2020 to early 2021, global demand for tech talent skyrocketed. Everyone from mega-corporations to medium-sized businesses were competing for the best tech talent they could find.

This resulted in a couple of difficulties. The first was that certain roles, such as the Data Engineering position were extremely difficult to hire, largely because every time a candidate was found, Amazon would poach them. The second was that StrongArm's interview process wasn't in line with the realities of the market.

Thankfully, fixing the second problem fixed both. StrongArm was following a traditional U.S. approach to recruitment - multi-stage interviews, testing, flying out candidates to the U.S., and in all taking around a month to decide on a candidate. In the U.S. this works, because candidates are slow to join companies. But in India, recruitment cycles don't last months - they last days.

We advised StrongArm to drastically lower their time to hire by cutting their interview process down to short video calls where they could ask any questions they wanted and perform any required tests, then hire off the back of these short calls. The idea being that while in the U.S. you find the perfect candidate before hiring, in India you can only find out so much - and have to vet them after hiring.

Although a wildly different approach for StrongArm, this strategy allowed them to keep pace with the market and fill those hard-to-place roles.

The next obstacle for StrongArm came later in 2021 when Americans started quitting their jobs during the COVID19 pandemic at a record pace - an event which came to be known as "The Great Resignation."

This event hit StrongArm extra hard because of a side-effect of resignation unique to software development - something called loss of institutional knowledge. When development teams work on a project, knowledge accumulates that is unique to that project. This is institutional knowledge. When members of that development team leave, they take that institutional knowledge with them - and it is impossible to recover. When the entire team leaves - the knowledge is gone and only their existing work remains.

One way to conceptualize the difficulties this causes is by imagining a novelist working on a novel. He writes half of it, then leaves, taking the rest, which exists only in his head, with him. A new novelist is brought in and they have to reverse engineer what the book will become from the existing half that is written. Could they write a great book? Yes. Is it going to take them a lot longer to get up to speed? Absolutely. Are there going to be difficulties? Definitely.

This was the obstacle StrongArm was faced with. During The Great Resignation, their development teams were hemorrhaging members and, as a result, institutional knowledge was at risk.

 

A THRIVING, RESILIENT PARTNERSHIP

Now, while hemorrhaging employees and institutional knowledge might sound bad, it was here that StrongArm's partnership with SecondOffice bore its most impressive fruit.

Whenever someone on StrongArm's U.S. team resigned, there was a counterpart engineer in the India team who stayed put and acted as a safety net - meaning that while StrongArm should have lost institutional knowledge after each burst of resignations; They actually didn't lose any.

Their development was protected and unhindered - all because they globalized effectively using SecondOffice.

This was the beginning of a thriving, resilient partnership between StrongArm and SecondOffice - with the India team we helped a permanent global team that did not rely on freelancers or outsourcing agencies.

Since working with us in 2019, StrongArm has grown tenfold to $200M in valuation. They are now capable of emulating what market giants like Amazon are doing, replicating their practices, and going after the same Grade-A talent.

This would be impossible in the US. But with SecondOffice, it's possible in India.

 

GLOBALIZATION THAT WORKS

The StrongArm case demonstrates the benefits of selecting an effective globalization strategy - one that captures the advantages enjoyed by mega-corporations, but at a fraction of the cost. It is for this reason alone that SecondOffce has proven to be such an effective, long-term solution for modern business's globalization needs.

We want to help your business the same way we helped StrongArm. We want to give your business the globalization edge it needs to compete in today's marketplace.

Let's get started.

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