From “Impossible” to “I’m Possible” – Personal perspectives on virtual hiring and joining during lockdown

From “Impossible” to “I’m Possible” – Personal perspectives on virtual hiring and joining during loc

Kilburn & Strode patent attorneys Arun Roy and Dave Wortley discuss their experiences as new joiners at the firm in the virtual working world we now live in. Jonathan Clarke, Director of Human Resources, speaks with them about joining virtually, building connections with new team members and clients, and their predictions for the future of office culture.

What is your role at K&S? When did you start?

Arun: I’m an Associate patent attorney in our Tech Team. I started at the end of August 2020 after training and qualifying at another top UK intellectual property firm. I’ve worked on all sorts of electronic and mechanical inventions. I’m particularly experienced in dealing with computer implemented inventions at the EPO.
Dave: I’m an Associate patent attorney in the Life Sciences and Chemistry (LSC) team. I specialise in antibodies, in vitro diagnostics and small molecule therapies. I started here in June 2020 after a fantastic time in-house providing expert counsel for a biopharma company specialising in bispecific antibody therapeutics.

Was all or part of your interview done virtually? What was that like?

Arun: Yes, my interview was done virtually. I was a little nervous, though being able to do the interview from my own home meant it was probably less stressful than a conventional, in-person interview. Apart from anything else, I didn’t have to worry about getting lost on the way there!
Dave: I interviewed Jan-Feb 2020 so just before the lockdown and all that followed! So I have actually been to the office at least once! In that sense, the interview was a ‘traditional’ one.

What was the strangest thing about starting a new job virtually?

Arun: It was very odd finishing my previous job and starting a new one whilst sitting at the same desk in the same room in my house. It was essentially like simply switching to a different work “app”. It made me smile to think the possibility of doing this would have been science fiction only a few years ago.
Dave: Genuinely, I’ve found it pretty easy starting from home. A lot of the job is email-based anyway, and the ability to have face-to-face Zoom meetings means I still feel like I’m able to really meet people properly, both clients and colleagues. When I started, the LSC team made a real effort to include me in lots of small social calls across the team so I could introduce myself and Duncan Bull does a fab job with organising LSC associate catch ups etc so I can get to know others better. If I had to pick something, I think the strangest thing is not bumping into people naturally in the office over a coffee, especially people I don’t work with day-to-day. I still have to regularly look people up on the intranet/website, although I suspect I’d be doing this too even if I was in the office!

Was there anything particularly good about starting virtually?

Arun: My partner and I have both been working from home since the beginning of lockdown. It’s been great to be able to spend more time together. I’m glad it can continue with my new role. I also have a fairly long commute into London, so appreciate the extra hour or so I get in bed when working from home!
Dave: Not having a 3-hr round trip commute! I live near Cambridge and am on the slowest train line to London. I love turning off my computer at the end of a busy day and being able to relax immediately (in the garden in the sun if I’m lucky!)

Have you visited or do you have plans to visit the office any time soon?

Arun: I’ve actually already visited the office a couple of times. It’s been hard not meeting and socialising with my new colleagues in person, so I took the opportunity to visit the office as soon as I could on a day when I knew other people I’d met virtually would also be in. The office is very trendy – I’m a big fan!
Dave: I’m not planning on coming into the office in the near future. But, I very much look forward to meeting colleagues in person once the general pandemic situation improves.

Do you have any advice for other people who might be thinking about starting a new job virtually?

Arun: Do it! My experience of starting virtually has shown me that, if you’re thinking about a job change, there’s no reason to think you need to wait until things get back to “normal” before you get the ball rolling. We’re lucky to be in an industry which is still able to thrive despite the current difficult circumstances. Forward thinking organisations will still be looking for talented people to join them even if it means doing this virtually.
Dave: I’d largely echo what Arun said. In terms of starting at K&S specifically, I’m conscious that I’m in a fortunate position in that I am already an experienced attorney who’s worked in private practice before with many of the same internal systems. In that sense, I felt I was able to hit the ground running. Significant efforts are being made to welcome all new recruits and get them established and comfortable as soon as possible.

Do you have any suggestions for colleagues on how best to welcome new starters? 

Arun: The biggest difficulty for me has been getting used to new systems and new ways of doing things without having someone around in person to quickly ask “silly” questions to. Arranging a video call at a specific time just isn’t the same! That said, people have generally been very happy to answer my queries quickly if I send them a message or email or even if I phone them up out of the blue. I think people have been very appreciative of the challenge of starting a new job remotely and this has made me feel welcome and part of the team more quickly. The beer I was sent in the post to enjoy virtually with some of my tech colleagues at the end of my first week was also a lovely gesture.
Dave: I think the firm has done a lovely job of welcoming me. As I mentioned, the LSC team made a real effort to include me in lots of small team social calls so I could introduce myself and Duncan Bull does a fab job with organising LSC associate catch ups etc so I can get to know others better. I also have weekly catch ups with mentor Kristina Cornish (who’s been fab!) to check how things are going and I’ve even enjoyed virtual cocktails with contacts and some of the other LSC members!
If I had one suggestion, I would simply say don’t be afraid to get in touch with a new starter, especially if it’s just to say hi! I think this really helps a new starter to feel welcomed and to settle in.

What do you think about the prospect of virtual hiring and joining becoming more common?

Arun: I think it’s great. Losing the need for everyone in an organisation to work from the same physical office building all the time gives organisations the ability to hire from a much broader, more diverse pool of candidates. It also allows people to more easily fit work around their personal lives and to work in a way which is most efficient for them. It is true “agile working” and I’m excited to see how the conventional “9-to-5” office culture might change in the coming years.
Dave: I’ve always been a fan of more flexible working so one of the few positives of the current pandemic situation for me is how this has demonstrated that our profession, along with many others, can be successfully done from home. That being said, I think it’s also highlighted the diversity of needs/wants for flexible working amongst individuals: some prefer working in the office predominantly, some more at home, and others in the middle or don’t know or perhaps it varies over time. If the economics support it, then I hope businesses such as ours can remain flexible moving forward so that colleagues can pick what works best for them, and therefore do their best work.

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