After my last entry on tools and resources for non-designers, Mike Harding of re.vu dropped me a comment about defining your own career story. I hoped to address this very question in a future entry, but his comment lead to an gracious opportunity to interview someone who I would consider an expert in the field of infographic resumes. Mike is one of the co-founders of re.vu, a website and tool dedicated to helping people tell their own career stories using the visual resume paradigm.
Our interview was full of insights, fun facts, and useful data. Not only does Mike provide a wonder perspective, both as a hiring manager and startup co-founder, but also as someone who has researched the field extensively. In the interview, Mike covers:
- his personal motives and interests
- the genesis of re.vu
- what drives their company and its direction
- their audience and user research
- advice on creating your own resume and story
- and a great deal more…
The transcript of the full interview is after the link, with some minor touch-ups to make it easier to read. Enjoy and feel free to leave comments or questions for myself, or Mike. In a future article, I plan to do a review of the re.vu site itself.
Interview with Mark Harding of re.vu
December 2011 – Page 1 of 3
Dana: On a personal level, what really got you interested in visual resumes?
Mike: There was a restructuring of the product group, at the time I was a general manager of our unbundled software group. And after the re-org, that role didn’t exist, my group didn’t exist, so it was time for me to find another gig. And so I looked at my standard resume, and I was like, “Man, this really sucks. There has got to be a better way.” So I started looking around, and there were things like VisualCV, and there was About.me and Favors.me, and some others of these things floating around, but they really didn’t do it for me. I looked at my LinkedIn profile, obviously I looked at all of these and said, “Yah okay, fine. But maybe there is a better way.” So I started off with PowerPoint, and created a bunch of different PowerPoint options.
“Man, this really sucks. There has got to be a better way.”
In fact, I’m giving a talk tomorrow at the Silicon Valley Product Managers Association, and I’m going to share that, so I’ll just show you a couple of these. As a designer, you’ll probably get a nice chuckle out of these.
The talk is on benchmarking, The Tyranny of Benchmarking. The first thing I did was think, “Maybe I’ll try to pull a bunch of different things and put it on a slide.” I didn’t like that one so much. Then I tried a different look with it. And I experimented a little bit more. “I’ll try a different look here. Okay, maybe I’ll try a baseball card approach.” That didn’t work so well. Then I started getting a little bit more into the infographic widgets. And about that time I saw this infographic which is about the business of Starwars. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this one.
Dana: I haven’t seen that one, I’ve seen similar.
Mike: It’s a really interesting kind of thing. I partnered up with a guy that I knew, Steve Years, who is a visual designer, and also the co-founder of re.vu. And this is what we produced. So instead of all that other stuff, we kind of got this together, [on] which he did a pretty good job. By the way, this got me the gig that I have now, I’m the GM of our developer unit at Juniper.
Mike: By the way, I used it externally too, and got great response from it. So it was like, “Uh, that’s kind of interesting.” Steve and I started noodling around a little bit, and said, “What if we could make this an automated tool, and kinda’ put Steve in a box almost?” This was our first prototype. And then pretty soon we got some interesting things. This is kind of where we ended up right now. That’s where we are now, but it’s not the end point. This happens to be where we are in the product development.
Dana: It is a nice genesis story. I’m always interested in process, and how things get from one point to another. That is really neat to see in a visual way.
Mike: And understanding, I’m not a designer, I’m a developer by training. I know what I like, but unfortunately I don’t seem to have the tools in my own personal inventory to be able to translate. You can see that in the PowerPoints. It was an attempt. They’re not as ugly perhaps as ugly can be, nor do they represent what I really wanted to represent. So, you know, a step forward…
Dana: Steve’s background is in development or visual design?
Mike: Actually Strategic Communication, so I think he’s a designer by necessity, but really he’s been doing strategic communications. He used to work on my team at Sun Microsystems 6 or 7 years ago. So we’ve had a relationship beyond that. And we have a third co-founder who was a developer, and his name is Bart Clarkson. Bart is in Texas, Steve in Fresno, and I’m here, so together we have kind of a virtual company.
Dana: Did you build the site on your own, did you work with others, or contract out work?
Mike: Including Bart, we have four part-time developers. They weren’t all on at the same time. I think the peek that we had on at the same time was three. We used a hack-a-thon called 59 Days of Code.
Dana: I read about it, it sounded really interesting.
Mike: Yeah. …to move forward and get to a point where maybe we thought, “Now maybe this is an interesting product to launch.” And we actual got to market in early September.
Dana: How has the response been so far?
Mike: It’s been great. We’re tens of thousands of users at this point. And we’d like more. Essentially the more that we collect, the more variation we get, the more we’re understanding what works and what doesn’t work. We’re just about to push another major revision of the site out. We’ll do that just before the holidays.
Dana: I was going to ask what your near term plans are then?
Mike: Near term… there are a set of things that we want to do for job seekers. There are a set of things we want to do for people seeking talent. And there are things we want to do, for lack of a better term, around ‘insights’. Things we can draw from the interaction between seekers and talent.
Dana: Can you give me an example?
Mike: Well, I’ll give you an old data warehousing example from the 1990s because it is kinda’ a fun one. It’s not relevant, but it will get the point across as an analogy.
As 7-eleven started collecting data about who was purchasing what, when, they discovered there was a correlation between men going into a 7-eleven on a Friday night, and buying beer. There was also a 60% likely hood they would buy disposable diapers. As a consequence, they started putting these bundles together of beer and diaper specials, which boosted their profitability pretty dramatically in that Friday night slot.
It is when you’re looking for something that is a little bit non-obvious, between what someone might be doing as a job seeker, and what somebody might be wanting as a talent seeker. And we think it is that ‘insight’ aspect that probably is the most valuable thing that we’re doing. Ultimately, since we are a business, we will find ourselves in a place where the things that we are doing right now are free, and they will always be free. So we’re not trying to take anything away from anyone who uses the system. But we will introduce a tier of capability that is available at a premium, for a price to job seekers. The same things will be true for talent seekers. So it is just, ‘where to go’. I think you could expect in the near term to see a lot more in terms of what we’re going to do for our baseline offering, the free offering for seekers. And at the beginning of the year, I think you may see the premium tier begin to appear. We didn’t want to introduce it too soon; we didn’t want to scare people off. We really want to just provide value.
Dana: So the premium tier is enhanced features for end users. I’m not quite sure how Monster.com works, but are you using a similar business model, or what is your model going to be from the business side?
Mike: We’re not ready to disclose that yet because we’re still designing what that would look like. But ultimately I think that you would see a similar type of model. I think Freemium models work in today’s economy. You know, you hook somebody with something that is valuable, and get them to use it. If you have an opportunity, you get to up-sell them into whatever the premium mode is. Some small percentage of your user base will do that. We think the same thing is possible on the recruiter side. And then ultimately there is this third leg, this ‘insight’ leg.
I think Freemium models work in today’s economy. You know, you hook somebody with something that is valuable, and get them to use it.
Dana: It sounds the most interesting and fascinating.
Mike: Yeah, and we’re not quite sure what to do with that yet, but all of our systems have been setup with the ‘insight’ outcome in mind. So there is a little bit of a progression.
Dana: When you say “setup”, you mean as a way to collection data?
Mike: Think of the data model, think of the infrastructure, think of the process and work flows that we go through. They have really been setup with that outcome in mind, because we’ve known that’s really going to be the differentiated aspect. And by the way, I think a lot of that insight will get focused back into the seeker products, both free and premium. And certainly will be in the recruiter products, both free and premium.
Dana: You mentioned the word “differentiating”. How do you compare re.vu to the competition, such as Visualize.me?
Mike: Boy, I’ll tell you, one thing that has been interesting is when we first started out, there was pretty much no one. We started in February of last year. And coincidently just two weeks before we won the 59 days of code, Visualize.me won a hack-a-thon in Toronto. And they went out and they went viral. They did a much better job of viral than we did, and got a better mindshare. Congratulations to them for that. I don’t know what their business plans are, I won’t presume to know that. But I think one thing that they did a very nice job of is visualizing LinkedIn profiles; using the LinkedIn profile as the center of gravity for the job seeker. There is a clear acquisition strategy for them there. And again, Eugene and the rest of the crew I think have done a nice job. But to contrast that, I think we’ve been going down a path where LinkedIn is a starting point, but it’s not at all the ending point we want for people. Nothing against LinkedIn, fantastic company, I use it, and I think this is an adjunct to LinkedIn. But ultimately I think what we’re trying to do is create a place for a person to establish a professional, personal brand. To be able to promote that brand in a sensible and structured way. And to be able to understand through analysis of the performance of their profile, of their brand, what they should be doing to enhance that.
But ultimate I think what we’re trying to do is create a place for a person to establish a professional, personal brand.
Dana: Sounds a lot like blogs in some way.
Mike: A blog I think is a very important part of a personal brand. Again, you can view this as a unifying place. Since not everyone is a visual designer, look at myself as the customer on this. I’m not [a designer], isn’t it nice to be able to take professionally developed templates and apply those, and be able to customize those. Rather than have so many choices, [where] I’m going to create something that looks like hotdog on a stick. But I have enough choice to make something distinct, unique, and that is reflective of what I want. That’s the kind of thing that we’re headed toward.