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Aumni Spotlight: Lead Recruiter Darwin Jones Shares Upside of Living and Working in Utah

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Aumni’s Lead Recruiter, Darwin Jones, has been matching great companies in Utah with talented professionals around the globe for more than six years. Much of his career has been rooted in finance and FinTech industries, where he has worked for both large, publicly traded companies and early-stage startups with as few as six employees. Our Aumni Spotlight conversation sheds light on how to land a rewarding and lucrative career in Utah, the West’s most vibrant hub for emerging technology companies. 

Q: Can you speak to the evolution of the technology ecosystem in Utah?

A: Back in 1995, WordPerfect co-founder, Alan Ashton and his wife, Karen Jackman Ashton, opened Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, about 30 miles south of downtown Salt Lake City. I remember my dad asking, “Why would anyone build anything in Lehi?” There were only a few small businesses there at that time and the fledgling ecosystem offered little indication of what the next 15 years would bring. 

Since then, both Lehi and the I-15 corridor in Utah have emerged as a major technology pathway, pulsing with energy and economic vitality. It's remarkable how many startup companies eventually joined WordPerfect to create the growing legacy of business acquisitions and IPO’s that have fueled Utah’s booming technology sector. A lot of the recognition is due to the formation of the region’s most vocal organization: Silicon Slopes. 

“Silicon Slopes” was a term coined and promoted by Josh James, CEO of Domo, following the acquisition of one of his earlier enterprises, Omniture, which sold to Adobe for $1.8 billion in 2009. Playing on the name for the Bay Area’s world-renowned “Silicon Valley,” Josh sought to promote Utah’s Wasatch Front as a promising contender for the next regional leader in US technology innovation. The business community rose to fill the lofty expectations of the moniker and, in 2016, Silicon Slopes was founded as the namesake nonprofit organization that would continue to partner with government, educators, and technology founders to share the news of Utah’s prominence with the global technology markets. Since then, Silicon Slopes has leveraged Utah’s appealing underdog status as a spectacular, snowbound tech-mecca in the mountains, and has helped promote the success of Utah’s global technology brands through its conferences, partnerships, educational forums, service initiatives, and other forms of marketing and publicity.

I still remember when Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. The city was transformed and the community was out in force, working and volunteering to show Utah’s infrastructure in the best light possible. Everyone was talking about how the world would discover Utah’s natural beauty and, enchanted by its landscape, find any reason to move here. We are seeing another influx of new residents moving to Utah but not because of the Olympics; rather, it’s because of the quality of the innovation and entrepreneurial success in this region. The quality of the companies that comprise Utah’s technology ecosystem has shifted the presiding public opinion from, “Why would anyone want to move to Utah?" to, "Utah is the ideal place to be." 

Q: What brought Aumni’s headquarters to Utah?

A: In the initial analysis of potential headquarter locations, capital efficiency emerged as the most compelling data point. Our co-founder, Tony Lewis, spoke about what brought Aumni to Salt Lake City. In the October 2021 edition of Silicon Slopes Magazine, he shared: “We used to say that Salt Lake can build a company capitalizing on Bay Area valuations, but operating on a Utah capital efficiency, although that delta has closed significantly since we set up shop here in 2019." 

Luckily, in Utah, the support for incoming entrepreneurial ventures abounds. Investors, service providers, legislators, educators, ski lift operators: everyone seems to be conspiring to remove obstacles and welcome founders to the business community. Both Tony and Kelsey, our co-founders, believe in Utah in much the same way that Utah has believed in them. Of course, I have to share that both of them are avid outdoor recreation enthusiasts. They see Utah as the optimal environment for accessing and attracting a highly-skilled technology workforce. Utah provides a natural setting in which they can create the enduring balance and quality of life that they desire for themselves and Aumni employees alike.

Q: Can you speak to Aumni's recruiting objectives?

A: We are, as a company, extremely lucky to be where we are. Not only are we a technology company, but we exist to serve the venture capital community and the private capital markets, both of which are thriving despite the heavy economic impact of the global health crisis. Interest in Aumni is rooted in the career aspirations of individuals from all over the world, seeking to participate in this unique financial industry. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are meaningful measures for recruiters like myself across the US and the Silicon Slopes community is no exception. It’s at the forefront of Aumni’s hiring strategy and core to the evaluation of our human capital program success. We are fortunate to receive applications and inquiries from the best and brightest engineers, designers, and developers and have been able to benefit from the array of perspectives that help us innovate and design our shared future. 

Q: Are there certain positions that have been tougher to recruit for? And how do you think outside of the box with those?

A: There is a large percentage of the workforce that has changed roles and companies within this past year, myself included. It's a candidate's market presently and it feels like many companies are seeking similar team members across talent profiles. This means that companies are searching for longer periods to find candidates that are differentiated from the competition. For example, it has taken quite a bit of time and consideration to fill positions on our engineering technology leadership team. Leadership is meaningful and distinct at Aumni; we wanted to find someone who aligned across our values and our business objectives, someone that demonstrated the Aumni-distinct commitment to caring and vision.

It’s fair to say that every hire that we make right now is crucial, especially in leadership. We make sure we are thoughtful, that we can offer a meaningful path for growth. Not only do team members at Aumni need to have robust technical skills, but they also need to bring something to the organization that we aspire to develop as a broader leadership attribute. We listen for the folks that have a unique voice because we know they will add depth to our internal harmony. 

Q: What appeals to job candidates considering living and working in Utah? 

A: Core incentives for candidates tend to be quality of life and opportunities for career growth. As for the former, the great outdoors, of course, is a huge draw— the incredible hiking, biking, skiing, rafting, climbing, boating, running, and so much more that you just can’t access easily in a major metropolitan area. 

Beyond recreation in nature, the opportunities for career growth are astounding here. You get the same level of exposure to technology, growth, and innovation, if not better in some cases, that you would find in a larger city. In “Small Lake City” it can seem like everyone knows everyone, which, in a tech hub like ours, can help launch careers and debut new technology companies through a tight-knit network. There are meet-ups, workshops, local LinkedIn groups, and experienced, impressive founders all over town. They're more willing to share their ideas, educate the ambitious, and inspire a new generation of professionals. And it’s not just one industry that dominates the region—there are so many different industries: venture, FinTech, eCommerce, defense, retail, and more. We have the infrastructure in place to fund, staff, and support the brightest ideas at the pace necessary to capture market share. 

Q: What incentives does working for Aumni add beyond the above? 

A: At Aumni specifically, employees get exposure to the fields of technology, venture, and legal all in one. As part of our unique approach to data analytics for the private capital markets, our team members wear many hats. Even though the company is growing rapidly, we run lean, which provides ample opportunity for professional exploration. We're all building and synthesizing our best work and our brightest insights for our customers. As I’ve stated, balance is a priority for our team. Aumni’s culture respects the whole human and encourages our employees to find joy and meaning broadly — enjoy the great outdoors, participate in networking, and discover learning opportunities outside of work. We have unlimited paid time off and our executive team models a brisk work pace punctuated by periods of rest and renewal. Aumni employees see that example and feel good about taking a vacation, working from home for a few days, working remotely for a little bit, leaving early, etc. At Aumni, everyone trusts everyone to do their best work. 

Another part of the conversation we have with Aumni job candidates is our recent Series B funding round, which was just shy of $53 million. Aumni’s proprietary data analytics engine provides an unprecedented view into private capital markets, which piqued the interest of committed investors and provided external validation of our value proposition. Securing the Series B round de-risked Aumni in the minds of many candidates.

Q: Where can someone interested in joining the Aumni team go to learn more about job openings? 

Our job openings are listed on our Aumni Careers page at www.aumni.fund/careers. We frequently open roles in engineering, product, development, as well as roles in customer success, sales, and other areas. We are also always thrilled to receive resumes from experts in the areas of venture capital, law, and fintech, as well as those who are eager to learn, even if their qualifications do not match any current openings. New positions arise regularly and if our values align, we’d love to talk to you – you can email questions or additional information to us at contact@aumni.fund.

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