Coworking with David Peña

Originally Posted On
Morning Brew

David Peña is a talent specialist at the Santa Monica–based advertising agency RPA, which counts Honda and Farmers Insurance among its clients. Peña, who recently adopted a Kromfohrländer dog named Ava, plans to hire over 50 people for entry level positions in the coming year. (It’s unclear how many more doggies he’ll adopt.)

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

How would you describe your specific job to someone who doesn’t work in HR? I help recruit entry-level talent for one of the most iconic advertising agencies of our time—RPA. Whether it be internships, entry-level roles, etc., my goal is to help bring diverse new talent to the advertising world.

What’s the best change you’ve made at a place you’ve worked? We just started accepting blind applications at RPA for our summer internship program, [which] gives first-generations a chance to feel the confidence to apply for a corporate internship without the fear that a GPA, college, or not having a perfect background would disqualify them—all in hopes to attract truly diverse talent, as we want the form to be a way of having a conversation with our potential candidates rather than having this “Hi, I’m the employer, impress me” mindset. Whether you are someone from an underrepresented community, have worked at Spotify, or are a veteran, we want you to know and understand that everyone is welcome here at our agency.

What’s the biggest misconception people might have about your job? That entry-level and internship recruiting is easy. Although talent is more readily available compared to mid-senior level talent, quite often hiring managers’ expectations and values may not always align with Gen Z’s…which can make filling roles quite difficult. For example, someone who’s been in the corporate workforce for the last 10–15 years might have a totally different mentality and perception of what a career is and should be compared to Gen Z. I typically hear a lot of feedback from hiring managers stating that they don’t know if the candidate is a flight risk, if they really want to do this “long term”, which are all valid concerns, but you have to remind yourself every generation is different, with Gen Z being really focused on discovering themselves and aren’t just trying to get a foot in the door. So, finding the balance between both generations is a tricky craft and requires a lot of partnership and training on both sides, which can be very underappreciated at times.

What’s the most fulfilling aspect of your job? Helping young first-generation [immigrant] students who have diverse backgrounds get into the advertising industry; that really has an impact on our culture. Especially when we do check-ins at their 90-day mark, it’s so fulfilling to hear about their experiences, with so many of them working on amazing projects for clients that involve major national events such as the Super Bowl.

What trend in HR are you most optimistic about? Why? I have two actually. First is the hybrid-remote situation. I know employees will appreciate that flexibility and will feel more empowered by their employers if they have the power to continue to decide what works best for them and their lifestyle. As for the second, I really believe that the four-day work week will come to the states within the next two to three years, as the UK is going to be starting a trial run soon…and I have a ton of faith and optimism the results will blow people away.

What trend in HR are you least optimistic about? Why? Monitoring employees’ work activity. I’ve been reading about a ton of companies wanting to implement this technology and it’s concerning as it immediately signals there is a lack of trust, which isn’t great for morale and might influence your employee to rethink if your values align with theirs.

Tell us one new or old HR tech product or platform that’s made your life easier, and why: LinkedIn and Handshake have made my life easier, but I want to give a shoutout to Reddit; there is this very interesting subreddit called r/antiwork, and it’s really insightful to see the community’s conversation on the current professional work climate and landscape in America.