How Companies Identify Talent with Colin Beadle & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

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Atomic Cartoons Human Resources Hiring Strategies

Of course, nobody wants to harm anything intentionally. So, it’s important to ask ourselves if the decision we are about to make could end up doing exactly that.

As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Colin Beadle.

Colin Beadle is an internationally recognized animator turned HR professional, now HR Director for Atomic Cartoons. Colin’s career began in 1999 when he started working in animation, later moving into television and video game production. He has done work at major studios like Disney Interactive, Titmouse Inc. and Lucasfilm Animation. Colin now plays a pivotal leadership role in fostering this environment across Atomic’s three studios — Vancouver, Ottawa, and now Los Angeles, now able to house 880 animators across all locations. Their productions include the multiple Emmy Award-winning series Beat Bugs, the widely popular series Last Kids on Earth, and the groundbreaking new hit Molly of Denali, which continues to receive rave reviews for its authentic representation of Alaska Native culture. Most recently, Molly of Denali was named to the New York Times’ list of The Best TV Episodes of 2019.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?

I began my career as a studio runner fetching coffee for animation executives, racing videotapes to the airport for FedEx deliveries, and begging directors to let me animate shots on their shows. It was a wild and crazy time, and I was lucky to meet some incredibly talented people in the industry; most of whom I still work with today. From there I moved into a creative role as a 3D animator. I definitely enjoyed doing this work, but my heart was pulling me towards the production side. After I shifted into a production coordinator role, it quickly led to opportunities as a production manager, line producer, and producer. While working with my production teams on multiple projects, I discovered that I have a passion for helping and supporting artists. This led to the greater realization that if I moved into human resources, I would be able to support an entire studio of artists, not just one team. This is what prompted me to make the move I did, and shift my career within an industry that I was already passionate about.

Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?

My father worked in HR for his entire career, and I wasn’t initially sure I was making the right decision by following in his footsteps. But once I asked to make the move, the leadership team at Atomic was extremely supportive. So, I went back to school and took a course in HR Fundamentals at the UBC Sauder School of Business. I remember the first thing an instructor told us to do was get onto the floor of your workplace and find out what everyone does. It was that moment when I realized I’d made the right decision. As someone who had worked in a wide variety of roles within the industry, I already had a good understanding of how the art that we produce is created. And, with my existing creative and production knowledge, combined with the support of Atomic’s leadership team, I was set up for success as I moved into an HR role.

Wonderful. Now let’s jump into the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?

1. Hiring from outside your industry: You don’t always have to look within your industry for talent. This is especially true when searching for new members to join production teams. The hardest working and most organized people could be the barista at your local coffee shop, or server at your favorite lunch spot. All they need is for someone to recognize the value they bring to the table and open the door to a new opportunity. When waiting in line for a coffee, I often find myself thinking “I bet that person would be an amazing production coordinator.” In fact, multiple members of our team came directly from the service industry, and their multi-tasking and co-ordinating abilities are in a league of their own.

2. Demo reels and portfolios: In the animation industry, it’s all about how strong your portfolio or demo reel is. It is about what you have produced, and the quality of your work. What your resume looks like is not that important — because often that isn’t a reflection of what a person actually does. I have learned throughout the years that self-promotion doesn’t come easily for everybody, and I don’t want to miss out on incredible talent because someone can’t toot their own horn. Our recruiting team always says they just need to be able to easily find your contact info, and when we make the decision to bring an artist in for an interview, most of the time we’ve already decided they’re technically able to do the job.

3. Personal work: When looking at a reel or portfolio it’s obviously important to see professional work, but it’s equally important to see personal work and understand what makes a person tick. In our industry, doing great work and being passionate about producing it go hand-in-hand.

4. Past experience in unrelated fields: Everyone’s past experiences outside of their current industry have helped shape them into the person they are today. Whenever we see resumes with past experience in the service industry, it’s usually a good sign the candidate has a strong work ethic, ability to multi-task, and can handle feedback.

5. Casual interview process (getting to really know candidates): Interviews at Atomic are more of a freeform conversation than a predetermined list of questions. We’ve brought you in to meet you because we know you can draw or animate. What we don’t know is whether you’re the right fit for the studio and if we’re the right fit for you. The more casual the conversation, the easier it is to get a sense of what it would be like to work together. Do we think you’re cool? Do you think we’re cool? Can we make something awesome together? Cultural fit is really important at Thunderbird and Atomic, just as it should be for all organizations. It contributes to workplace happiness and employee retention. It also results in a passionate team of artists producing incredible work that they are extremely proud of.

With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?

1. Kindness: I’ve never forgotten what it’s like to attend a career fair with your demo reel in hand hoping you’ll land a job. It can be really scary, and for some people, it takes a lot of energy and strength to put themselves out there. With this in mind, it’s so important to be kind and compassionate to anyone that’s interested in working with you. The first conversation you have with someone is often the one they never forget.

2. Connecting with the next generation(s): The animation industry in North America is expanding and there aren’t currently enough schools to fill the demand for talent. It’s a long game, but if you can get into the high schools and middle schools in your area, there’s a great opportunity to inspire the next generation of artists to join your industry.

3. Networking and community engagement: Attending job fairs and industry expos are important, but in these venues, you’re up against every other competitor. It can be tough to stand out. One of the most effective ways to meet new talent is to invite them into your studio to see first hand what a typical day looks like. We regularly invite classes and individuals to Atomic to connect with in-house artists and answer any questions they may have about the industry. This is a great way to start conversations about future opportunities.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Kindness and respect have been two of the key factors in our studio’s success. No matter who you speak to on our management team, everyone is there to listen and their doors are always open. I’ve never worked at a studio where an entire senior management team was this aligned, from the CEO down. Atomic’s culture has changed as we’ve grown, but because our entire leadership team believes in treating people with kindness and respect, we’ve remained a highly sought-after place to work. It’s amazing how something so simple can be so powerful, and I think my movement would be centered on this — just trying to make the world a kinder place.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?

A few years back I had the privilege of attending a talk given by Gene Baur, President, and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary. In his presentation, he said, “If we can live well without causing unnecessary harm, why wouldn’t we?” That stuck with me, as I think it’s the perfect response to so many decisions in life. Of course, nobody wants to harm anything intentionally. So, it’s important to ask ourselves if the decision we are about to make could end up doing exactly that.

We are blessed to have some of the biggest names in Business, VC, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?

Erin Ireland is the owner of To Die For Fine Foods and is based in Vancouver, where Thunderbird and Atomic’s head offices are. She’s also the creator of the best banana bread on planet earth (the lemon poppy seed bread is amazing too). Since we are content creators and she is an amazing chef, business owner, and public speaker….maybe there’s a way we could work together on something? And I’d be more than thrilled to discuss this over banana bread.

Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!

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