Sarah Peck, LSSGB, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Head of Talent Acquisition at AEVEX Aerospace
Sarah Peck is the Head of Talent Acquisition for AEVEX Aerospace where she leads a virtual, geographically dispersed team of Talent Acquisition professionals. Sarah has built the TA function at AEVEX from the ground up, incorporating six new companies from M&A activities that touch roles on five continents.
A big proponent of using data and analytics in recruiting, Sarah will graduate from University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management this fall with an MBA in Business Analytics. Sarah volunteers as the VP of Programs for San Diego Society for Human Resource Management and has served on the Association for Talent Acquisition Professional’s Content Council, contributing to ATAP’s News You Can Use newsletter since 2020. Sarah currently serves on the ATAP Board of Directors for FY 2022-2025.
Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Joining a board – interview best practices
- Best practices for assuming a new role on a board
- Time management for your board responsibilities
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:02] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Association Leadership Radio. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:17] Lee Kantor here another episode of Association Leadership Radio, and this is going to be a fun one. Today on the show, we have Sarah Peck With AEVEX Aerospace. Welcome, Sarah.
Sarah Peck: [00:00:29] Hello. Glad to be joining you, Lee.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:31] Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to, but before we get too far into things, tell us about ABC’s. How are you serving folks?
Sarah Peck: [00:00:37] So this is a full service, full spectrum, ISR provider, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. And I know that sounds a little scary, but just so you know, we’re doing some good work helping the folks out in Ukraine. Our why is empowering people to make the world a safer place. And we really are committed to supporting folks on the ground, whether they be a Department of Defense contractors or US or foreign military elements. We do some really great work. We save lives. A lot of that I can’t talk about. But yeah, we’re, we’re I’m super pumped about our mission, our people. It’s a really great place to be.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:20] Now, as the head of talent acquisition, you probably have a bunch of challenges just in that job. Can you talk a little bit about your work there? Is it difficult to find folks?
Sarah Peck: [00:01:33] It can be. It can be uniquely challenging. But one of the real resources we’ve tapped into and you probably hear talent acquisition folks talk about this all the time, but a strong referral network is really the way to go. A lot of our folks, I want to say about 70% of our company is veterans, military, male spouses. And so we have a good network within the Department of Defense and within the military helping folks transition out of the military. In terms of diversity metrics. The military is a great place to go for diversity. I mean, you have LGBTQIA plus you have different races, different neurological NEURODIVERSE You have a lot of disabled folks who get out anywhere from 10% to 100% disabled via the VA. And so you really do tap into a very diverse network of people. And as I’m sure you’ve all heard, the companies that hire diverse traditionally outperform the companies who do not, and it’s made for a very robust workforce.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:45] Now, what’s your back story? How did you get involved in this line of work?
Sarah Peck: [00:02:50] I’ve been in talent acquisition for, gosh, about eight years now and I was in sales beforehand, which is everybody jokes about talent acquisition. You kind of fall into it accidentally. One of the routes to talent acquisition is via sales because a lot of the traits carry over. And I came to AV X and worked my way up into a position of leadership and it’s been incredibly fulfilling.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:20] Now, any advice for the talent that’s out there to be found by people like you? Is there anything they could be doing that helps them stand out or maybe get identified as somebody worth getting to know better?
Sarah Peck: [00:03:36] Well, I want to call out an example of an intern who had applied to one of our internships. Our internships are highly contested. This particular one was in San Diego for software engineering or mechanical engineering, I’m sorry. And we had over 300 applicants and the VP in charge was just too tightly bound by his schedule. He wasn’t getting interviews in. And one gentleman, Tomas, had followed up with me on LinkedIn, and he was literally the only person who had messaged me on LinkedIn out of the entire candidate pool. And I told him, I’m sorry, we’ve got an unresponsive hiring manager. And just when I thought the position was closed, we have literally closed it out. It was off the books. He messaged me again and he said, Hey, any updates? And I said, You know what? I like this kid. I looked at his resume. It looked good. I forwarded his LinkedIn profile to to the VP in question and he said, Yeah, I’m going to interview him tomorrow at 9 a.m.. Set it up. He was hired by the end of the day. Now we have an intern where it would have gone unfilled. This happens more than you think, where people will reach out on LinkedIn or via email or however. And just the squeaky wheels, man, they just get the grease. Because if you have the guts, especially as a 20 something intern coming out of college, to really step up and make those connections, I mean, it really goes a long way because someone like me will be an advocate for someone like Tom. Was because I saw he had the initiative. I saw he had the drive. We’re very pleased with him. He’s already started. And I just I honestly think if more people took the initiative to reach out to the recruiter who’s hiring or to someone like me, I think they’d get a lot further.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:34] Yeah, I agree 100%. I think it’s one of those things where people think that just applying is enough.
Sarah Peck: [00:05:41] And enough.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:42] And then just but. And you like you said, one out of 300 followed up on LinkedIn. I mean.
Sarah Peck: [00:05:49] Yeah, yeah. Over 300. Right. Literally, literally. He was the only one who took the time not only to send the initial message, but then not to get discouraged by a lack of response. Like I responded to him and said, I’m sorry, this is not even on this guy’s radar right now. And then he followed up two months later and he was like, By the way, I’m still available. Is there any way? And I said, You know what? Maybe there is. And honestly, if there were a host of other people who had followed up who probably would have gotten the job before him, but because they didn’t take that extra step of following up, but he did. He got the job and now he’s flourishing. And, you know, it just goes to show that little extra something that shows your worthwhile will go a long way with an employer.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:41] Yeah, I think that and it’s and it’s so funny, it’s not even that it’s that strenuous of an activity to do that. Right.
Sarah Peck: [00:06:51] It was it was a two line email and I accepted his email. And, you know, I can’t help everyone who reaches out to me. Sometimes they reach out about jobs that are already closed or we have an internal candidate or maybe they’re just not in the running. But for something like this, especially with these high volume situations, if you’re applying for an executive assistant role or reception role or one of these roles where there are a lot of junior level applicants and they’re all willing to take the job, you know, setting yourself apart and really taking that extra initiative and step to reach out to somebody with maybe a little bit of a scary title like head of talent acquisition, like he did not hold back. And I have the utmost respect for that because that just shows a lot of initiative.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:40] Now, is there any kind of advice you can give folks that are because a lot of organizations are relying on data and automation to go through the candidates, is there anything that a candidate could do to leverage that same data and analytics to work in their favor?
Sarah Peck: [00:07:58] So there is kind of a life hack that I like to tell people about. And what you do is you pull up their job description and this involves extra work. This is not one of those just click a million buttons and apply to 100 jobs. This is when you want to apply to five in a day, but you want them to be quality applications. So first you take the job description and then I tell people literally plagiarize, pull the bullets out, put it in your resume if in fact you can back that information up. So let’s say it says 2 to 3 years of experience with software engineering. You go in there and then copy and paste it in and then put whatever your number is, two years of experience with software engineering and then if it says something like must know C++, put in your resume. I know C++ and I mean literally go line by line because when there are axes and we don’t use these because we’re small enough, but with some of these big companies, if you’re applying to a Bank of America or a FedEx, what you want to do is as closely resemble your resume to their job description because they’re going to pick up the ATS is going to automatically pick up on all these skills and keywords, and it’s going to provide a match score of some sort.
Sarah Peck: [00:09:20] And it really helps you beat the system. Honestly, though, with those big companies, I still advise they may be getting 1000 applicants. The ATS may get rid of half of them. You’ve still got a recruiter who’s tasked with going through the remainder. Set yourself apart. Reach out to the recruiter, do some research on LinkedIn, figure out how to get a hold of them, and then do it and look, pull up the company, search for an org chart. You know, do what you have to do because it’s the out of the box thinker is the ultimate will ultimately make their way through the hiring process. And unless you’re in a super niche role like for example, we have certain intel analysts roles where you have to have a full scope polygraph and you have to have like 25 years of experience. Those people know who they are. They know everybody wants them. They can just show up and. The job is theirs. But for for someone who’s maybe trying to break in, someone who graduated in 2022 or 2021, 2020. You want to you’re trying to break into a very competitive market, even though there are a lot of jobs. So you have to differentiate yourself.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:34] Now in your career, have you been active in associations and taken leadership roles?
Sarah Peck: [00:10:40] I have, yes. Going back as far as 2008, I was with the Junior League of Fresno for several years there and I was on the board, did some good work with them. And then since about November, because I kind of took over early because some pre planning hadn’t been done, but basically for 2022, I am the VP of Programs for San Diego Society for Human Resource Management. And then as a march, I want to say March of 2022, I’ve taken over a three year stint as a board member for the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:28] Now, that kind of work, joining the board, volunteering, taking leadership roles, it seems like, Wow, I’ve got so much to do. Do I have to do that too? But I just find that those are the people who take those roles, are the ones that are thriving. And they’re they’re rarely kind of unemployed. They’re somebody who wants them on their team because they’re showing leadership. They’re demonstrating this. Is that been the case for you? Where where that kind of work has kind of it pays off in ways that maybe you can even anticipate.
Sarah Peck: [00:11:59] Dividends in ways you wouldn’t even imagine. For example, my work with the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals, I’ll be honest, I don’t even know how I got on the board. I interviewed apparently I did well, and then I beat someone out in a vote, and for whatever reason, I found my way onto this board. And it is a board of some of the most intelligent, experienced, powerful people in talent acquisition. We have people who run their own companies. We have people who are VP head of talent acquisition for isms. We’ve got the VP head of talent acquisition for Ford. We’ve we’ve got some real high fliers there. And I’m kind of the little fish in a really occupied pond, if you will. But one of the only reason I bring all of that up is to say that I now have access to these key decision makers with all of this wealth of knowledge. And I have benefited so much just from my association with them. I have so much more knowledge. I switched my ATS in December of 2019, early 2020, and I realized from being around these folks, I did it all wrong. And I think a lot of us don’t have the opportunity for exposure to these really strong minds because we don’t necessarily have the opportunity to be on a phone call with them and pick their brain. And I think one of the biggest benefits of association leadership is getting around the cream of the crop, the people who are giving back, the people who have worked their way up.
Sarah Peck: [00:13:45] And if you’re someone who’s more junior, that’s not necessarily a barrier to entry, because if you show the willingness to volunteer, you prove yourself on a committee level. Quite often they’ll move you up into a leadership role. And frankly, I mean, it does wonders for your career and it’s a résumé builder. I haven’t looked for a job in almost four years now, but when the time comes, it serves as a really good reference point for my skill set because I’m approving a pal, I’m looking at historical data, I’m building content, I’m helping with membership drives. There’s there’s a lot of different things that goes into this. And then within my role with San Diego, Sherm, I’m know because I’m the VP of Programs, I’m meeting all of these great speakers to line them up for our breakfast programs. And so I’m talking to CEOs, I’m talking to authors, people who have written books. Some of them are both. It’s just really great connections. And God forbid, let’s say my company was acquired by another company and my role was eliminated. I guarantee you within two weeks I’d have, if not another job already, I’d be well into the interview process because I have a lot of resources in terms of my network.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:05] And another thing is that even in your work, if you had a question or a challenge or something came up that you didn’t know, you now have, you know, the movers and shakers that can. Say, Yeah, I’ve had that happen to me and I can hear some recommendations.
Sarah Peck: [00:15:19] Oh, God, completely. They will point you in the right direction, both at a tap. I’ve gotten some really good references. I mean, really good references to software, to just methods to approach recruitment, to managing a team, to managing up to leadership, how to talk to people in the C-suite. I mean, there’s just a lot of benefit I’ve derived from the overall experience, and it’s not all about me. I’m doing it to give back. I don’t have kids like I’m very understanding. Fiance It’s okay if I spend a few hours a month on, you know, on conference calls for board meetings and then some extra work on the weekends doing whatever activities and things that we have going. But really, for what I put into it, I would say I definitely derive exponential value compared to what I put in.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:17] Now, any advice, you know, maybe from a time management standpoint that you can share, it sounds like you’re good at juggling a lot of things.
Sarah Peck: [00:16:25] Yeah. So just setting boundaries around what times are available. I made sure that I found out right up front when all of the board meetings were held and they were scheduled consistently on the same days of the month. And so just making sure folks understood that that was kind of sacred time, that needs to be devoted to the meetings. I mean, obviously, if there’s an emergency, I can get out of the meeting, but I really prefer not to also just really setting aside a few hours or just maybe even an hour every day to just sit down and look at my responsibilities, see if there’s anything I can be working on, send emails, communicate with the people I need to be in communication with. Honestly, I find it’s a lot of sending emails and then grabbing quick meetings here and there. It’s not a huge time commitment, but it’s meaningful work.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:20] Yeah, and if you know in advance, it’s kind of easy to block the time and just kind of account for it.
Sarah Peck: [00:17:26] Don’t do a lot of last minute stuff with my organizations. Usually it’s well thought out in advance and we’re very, very fortunate to have executive association leaders helping us out for San Diego. Sherm, we have Emily Mullen. She is very, very capable. She does an excellent job as executive director. And then we have Kristin LeBlanc for Atap. And she’s just a powerhouse. They’re both very dynamic women who just keep us on track, keep us honest, help us rein ourselves in. If we’re having too many ideas all at once and maybe it’s not actionable. So they really are. They they’re practitioners and they walk a fine line between bossing us around and accommodating us completely. So I don’t know how they do it. Honestly, I couldn’t do that role, but they do one heck of a job.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:22] Now, any advice for folks that were maybe in your shoes? The young person that assumed a role on a board was there like kind of a 30 day, 90 day plan that you had that allowed you to kind of ease into the role and not feel overwhelmed or even, you know, have some of that. Sometimes people have that imposter syndrome.
Sarah Peck: [00:18:44] Yeah. And there’s a little bit of that. I tend to be a very strong, decisive personality. But when I don’t know my environment that well, I tend to keep my mouth shut and just listen. What did they say? Better to be a fool with your mouth shut than open your mouth and remove all doubt. Right? So I’ve spent the first couple of months on both boards just kind of keeping my head down, doing a lot of listening, asking a lot of questions. I don’t know if I would exactly call it imposter syndrome, but I will admit to being a little in awe of the people I’m working with because they are so established in their careers and in their industries. Depending on the organization, you may or may not have a thorough onboarding process. My onboarding for a TAP was superior. The executive director forwarded me everything I needed to know in terms of documents and then took an hour to just explain it all to me, which was unique in my experience because like when I was with Junior League, it was it was kind of a hot potato that just kind of landed in your lap in San Diego. Sherm The previous thing coming out of the VP programs role, she did a handoff, but it was not as comprehensive in terms of documentation, so to speak. But regardless, they will, for the most part, get you up to speed. Sometimes you’re thrown into the mix and you have. To just kind of produce without a lot of tools and maybe background knowledge. But either way, like if you just stick with it for a few months, you’ll have it down pat. It it gets easy, I promise you.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:28] Now, if somebody wants to learn more about your journey or connect with you, what is the best way to do that?
Sarah Peck: [00:20:35] Well, probably through LinkedIn. Hold on. I recently changed my LinkedIn. And let me give it to you because it’s a little long. It is LinkedIn. Dot dot com. Black backslash in backslash. Backslash. Sorry. Sarah Peck. All one word. Sara HPC k dash, dash, backslash. And you can reach me to spec additive x dot com for more business related questions. I’m also open to taking requests for mentorship, things like that. I don’t have a ton of extra time, but I will take the time aside for a 30 minute phone call just to answer some questions and let you know kind of about the interview process for various organizations and how you do get into a leadership role.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:33] Well, Sarah, thank you so much for sharing your story. You’re doing such important work and we appreciate you.
Sarah Peck: [00:21:39] No problem. I appreciate you. Thanks so much for having me on.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:43] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you next time on the Association Leadership Radio.