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Cedarians in (Zoom) Cafes Getting Coffee – With Krysta Kucinski, Senior Technical Recruiter

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and this year we are especially thankful for our rockstar lead technical recruiter – Krysta Kucinski! Take a break from planning your turkey day menu, grab a cup of coffee and read our latest edition of Cedarians in Cafes Getting Coffee!

Hi Krysta! Your Zoom background looks delightful. Where is this cute little coffee place?

So this coffee shop is Madame Sousou in Astoria, Queens, which is where I live! Madame Sousou is just fabulous. They’re owned by a lovely family, and in my opinion, they have the best cold brew in Astoria. They also have lovely pastries from Balthazar in Soho that they ship in. So it’s kind of like the best of both worlds – having the borough and having the city right there. And it’s literally catty-corner to my apartment, so it’s very easy to grab some snacks and coffee on the daily.

I’ll have to check it out next time I’m in Astoria! Tell us about what you do at Cedar – we want to know what that all that cold brew is powering.

I lead technical recruiting across engineering and implementations. That includes data science, security, dev ops – all of the things that bucket under engineering and implementations. My day-to-day is having a ton of conversations. You can kind of think of recruiting like dating, right? You’re trying to sell yourself, you’re trying to learn about the other person, you’re trying to be on at all times. As a recruiter, you really have to tailor your conversations and understand exactly the type of person you are speaking to. For example, a data scientist and a director of implementation services aren’t going to be motivated by the same things when looking for a job. So, you really have to understand the nuances of each role, and parse out exactly what potential hires are looking for in their careers.

That’s really interesting. Did you always want to go into recruiting?

I have a background in education. Education runs in my family – my mom is a school principal at the elementary school I went to, and my aunt is a teacher as well. And it was just kind of always in my blood and always expected that I would take the teacher route. I taught kindergarten for about a year and a half before realizing this is just not what I want to do day in and day out for the rest of my life. So I tried a couple of different industries. I tried hospitality for a while, and was the lead concierge at the Hyatt in Jersey City. I had a beautiful view of New York City. I grew up in New Jersey, so I had always seen New York kind of from a distance, gone there on field trips and day trips. But I never really thought about living in New York City. I actually thought I wanted to move to California, but I continued looking for jobs on the east coast and I came across a tech recruiter role. Not surprisingly, they don’t tell you what tech recruiters are in college, there’s no degree that you can choose.

But, I saw the overlap in skills and experience. I like talking to people, and that part of being an educator is definitely still in me. I also like “teaching” people about what a company does. So, I was like, “I think I could do this.”

Clearly it was something you excelled at! You joined Cedar in February 2019, which feels like a lifetime ago. Where were you coming from, and what ultimately drew you to Cedar?

After I landed my first recruiting job at a technical agency, I eventually realized that I wanted to make an impact at a company internally. I ended up working for a few startups, and actually really wanted my next role to be at a large, well-established company. But, a good friend of mine referred me to Cedar, so I decided to apply. And I was immediately sold – first by the people, and then by the product.

As someone who has dealt with health issues, I felt like if I had had a product like Cedar, there are so many hours that I could have saved in having conversations with doctors and insurance as I was struggling to figure out my bills. And seeing the direction that Cedar was going, with price transparency – being able to explain to patients what they’re going to be paying for, setting up payment plans – I was just blown away when I saw the product demo. And this is still two years ago, so even an earlier product looking UI than it is right now. And I was just like, “I love this. I love this so much.” I had another job offer at the time, and I called them up and said, “I have to decline your offer. I’m going to a small startup – Cedar.” And the poor head of recruitment, she was like, “I knew you would choose Cedar.” And now we have the most wonderful People Ops team, and I love Cedar even more now because of that team.

At Cedar, we are steadfastly committed to our values. Which one of Cedar's values is most relevant to you?

I think “Stay Positive” is mine. There are a lot of ups and downs in recruiting, particularly when it comes to having a funnel of candidates. In an ideal world, you would always have a large funnel (or large number of candidates) for every role at the top, so as you move through the hiring process, the number trickles down until you finally get an offer. But, you can’t always have 10 or 20 candidates at the top. Even if you do, you’re not always going to get to an offer.

There are always changes and things that you’ve learned throughout the process. You could think that a candidate is going to knock it out of the park and then they don’t. You could think that a candidate absolutely adores you because a little bit of bias about how much you love Cedar comes into play, and then they end up getting another offer and jumping out of the process. So, you have to stay positive. You have to make sure you don’t let these setbacks get to you, and that you keep fighting until the right person comes along – I told you, recruiting is just like dating!

Cedar is growing quickly, thanks to the great work that the People Ops team is doing! How do you think Cedar is doing in terms of managing that growth, and making our company an exciting place to work?

I think it’s important that as you grow, you make sure that you’re growing in a way that makes sense. For example, it’s important to grow your internal team into leaders, so you can build trust throughout the company. Trust is something that I talk about all the time with my candidates. I can trust my team, and I know teams trust one another. We want to make sure that as we grow we continue to build that trust, and that we are continuing to communicate and be collaborative across teams. I think this is something that Cedar does that really well. We offer a lot of opportunities for feedback, informally during one-on-ones and formally with tools like 15Five. So as long as we continue to build out an environment where people can share feedback and build trust, I think we’ll be able to grow in a way that really makes sense.

Cedar’s leadership has worked hard to holistically bring D&I into our culture. How do you personally think about diversity and what else would you like to see Cedar do to ensure inclusivity and foster a diverse talent pool?

Probably my favorite part about Cedar, other than the people, is that I can bring my whole self to work. I don’t have to be somebody else, and that’s something that I want everybody to feel.

Since we raised our Series C, we’ve been able to really invest in long-term growth. But the talent market right now, unfortunately, is not that diverse. And I think that the way to change that is to invest in talent as early as possible – like those who are just graduating. I’m a member of Mouse, which is a non-profit that invests in NYC-based youth who don’t have access to STEM education in their schools. Based on my work with Mouse, I think as we continue to grow as a company we need to start thinking about the youth in our local neighborhoods. That’s something that a lot of companies don’t think about. You just think about right now, how can we get diverse talent? And if the diverse talent isn’t there, it’s going to be really hard. So we need to diversify the market from the start so that companies like Cedar who really believe in inclusivity and diversity can be able to gather that talent and be able to grow them into leaders.

What is your favorite Cedar memory?

I’ve absolutely loved our retreats. I just love the opportunity to be able to get out and get to know people that I don’t work with every day. It forces you to just kind of build really meaningful relationships that you would otherwise not build. I also really loved our holiday party last year. We had this magician that came around, and he was truly the most stereotypical party magician, but in the best way. He was stealing people’s watches and making them disappear into puffs of smoke. I loved seeing everybody come together and have a great time, instead of rolling their eyes.

From a work perspective, I absolutely loved the hackathon that we did earlier this year in February. I think it’s because it forced me to think differently and really get my creative energy flowing. I really loved being able to just hunker down and brainstorm creative ways to fix the patient experience. It also helped that my team won!

What is something about you that we might not know that might surprise the readers of this blog, including your fellow Cedarians?

I love to cook and I love to figure out fun meals when I have no ingredients in my house – what can I come up with? What can I make? I made an awesome chana masala this year with limited ingredients, and I’ve kind of perfected it over quarantine.

Sounds like you would be a perfect contestant for Chopped! Besides cooking, have you picked up any fun new hobbies during quarantine?

Thanks to the #bravotv Slack channel, I’ve gotten really into Vanderpump Rules. I don’t know if I would consider that a hobby, but I did watch the entire series, and got very into all of the gossip. But I’ve also done a lot of exploring in Astoria, finding new areas that I didn’t even know existed! Astoria just has so much to offer, from the Greek restaurants and shops on Ditmars to the park area on the waterfront. I’ve had so many nice conversations during my walks (mostly with 70 year-old men who have lived in Astoria their whole lives!)

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Krysta is a Senior Technical Recruiter at Cedar. When she's is not leading technical recruiting, Krysta is taking long walks in Astoria with her dog, Maggie, and anxiously cheering on her favorite teams, Penn State and the Mets.

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