BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
The fifth in our All in a Day’s Work series spotlights Rona Borre, CEO of the technology recruiting company Instant Alliance, and known to many as “Chicago’s Tech Connector.”
We welcome your suggestions of other inspiring individuals who have turned their daydreams into their day jobs.
I was quite inexperienced at running a business when I started my company. I actually think that was an advantage because I had to trust my instincts and not overthink things. My advice would be: learn quickly and move on. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes today because tomorrow is a new day. –Rona Borre
With clients such as Allstate, McDonald’s, Baxter, and Walgreens, dynamic and empathic Rona Borre seemed to be just the person to advise on how to navigate the technology industry and build a significant career.
A native of West Bloomfield, Michigan, Rona grew up in an entrepreneurial family, working part time in the family business as a teenager.
“My grandfather founded what is now one of the largest natural disaster restoration companies in the world. My uncle, Sheldon Yellen, an amazing CEO and leader, now runs the business. I remember in high school one summer being picked up by a truck at 6 a.m. and then working 10 hours a day cleaning soot off furniture, trying to restore what can be salvaged from fire. It was one of the hardest jobs I ever had in my life.”
Tell us about your company.
Instant Technology was founded in 2001and Instant Alliance in 2014, when we decided to expand our offerings to place talent in the financial sector. I believe that hiring the right people is a key differentiator, and the goal of my firm is to identify talent that will make an immediate impact toward the success of a business. I started my company to find like-minded individuals and build a company culture around these ideas. We have placed thousands of jobs in Chicago and have a network we can rapidly and effectively leverage.
As a female business owner, do you consider your gender an advantage or disadvantage in the technology field?
I actually think that being a woman in a male-dominated field like technology has its advantages. Early in my career, people did not take me seriously because I was young and very few women sold in the technology space. Any business owner has highs and lows. Establishing great relationships is key. We believe in a team and celebrate the work environment.
How have you overcome obstacles along the way?
I feel like I really have been through it all. I had awesome years and I have had horrible years. I hired great talent and bad talent. I have been trough lawsuits and have lost my entire team to a competitor. I have rebuilt my firm twice over. The one thing that has kept me going is a positive outlook. My dad always said: ‘If it were easy, everyone would own their own business.’
What have you sacrificed, personal and otherwise, to build your business?
I have sacrificed time with my kids and family. They grow up so fast, and I did not have time during my firm’s founding to be as present as I would have liked to be. The business had to be my top priority for a long time. Fortunately, I’ve been able to shift that as my company has grown. You have to have balance between your work and your family.
What keeps you going in business, especially when times get tough?
I refuse to allow my business to fail, so there is no other option.
What are you most confident about as a CEO and what are your biggest worries?
I am most confident in my ability to build great relationships and deliver talent to make a difference. I must think about the company’s health and morale of my team. I want to make sure our employees are happy and feel fulfilled in their careers. We strive to provide a platform and environment for our staff to achieve their goals. We all work extremely hard and want the team to achieve success.
What advice would you give young people who are considering a career as an entrepreneur or business executive?
Take the chance and believe in yourself. If things don’t work out, the skills you gain will benefit your next employer. You will have an incredible story to share and lessons learned.
You have to have drive and persistence as well as be a great reader of people. If you are not sure what direction to take your career, find items in a job description that interest you. Prior to your interviews, always know whom you are meeting and make sure you have researched their background and know why you are interested in working for that company.
What are specific recommendations for the technology field?
Stay ahead of the curve. The job description you’re applying for today has clear skills, but companies want to know that you’re also going to match what their needs will be in the future. A technologist should always keep their ear to the ground and, thus, is more likely to be a long-term match.
Every organization I’ve worked with wants people who not only know technology but live technology. They are looking to hire people who stay relevant in new developments and trends and people who know what is coming down the proverbial line.
You also have to cultivate the soft skills. Being a strong technician is no longer enough to land any job. Businesses expect more of their technical staff. Being able to communicate how technology is impacting the business’s strategies and the role technology will play in the future of the organization.
What tips would you offer for job interviews?
Work with your recruiter. They have a good understanding of the hiring manager and the role as a whole. Push to schedule time with them before any interview to talk about what you can expect and how you can best position yourself for a successful meeting with your potential boss.
Do your research. Find out what the company is currently doing and what it has done recently. Being able to talk about the business and qualifying your questions with information about the business can make the conversation flow a lot more naturally and lead to a better understanding of your next potential role.
Talk about your impact. I’ve seen a lot of candidates discuss their team’s work at a company and fail to discuss their individual contributions to the project. Every company wants a team player, but if you don’t effectively highlight what you specifically brought to the table, a hiring manager may overlook you.
How best to find out what really makes a person tick?
I always start with what people are trying to achieve and what makes them happy. I then work backwards from there. Once I know what’s important to that person, I can help them set a career strategy and begin on the right path.
What would be your life motto?
My life motto is ‘what does not kill you will make you stronger.’