On Our Minds

Working with so many organizations across multiple issue areas gives us a unique view into what’s happening in the social sector. This is where we share our insights and ruminations.
Author's photos with the "Finding the right COO" caption
Reflections on joining the On-Ramps team

by Diana O’Neal (she/her), Jasmin Rothberg (she/her), Shanna Masdea (she/her)

On-Ramps is hiring! We have several open positions: Search Consultant, Search Analyst, and Administrative Coordinator. We wanted to provide some insight into what it’s like to become an On-Ramper. So we asked three Search Consultants—our two newest team members, Shanna and Jasmin, and a more experienced On-Ramper, Diana—about their experiences joining the team. 

On-Ramps is hiring! We have several open positions: Search Consultant, Search Analyst, and Administrative Coordinator. We wanted to provide some insight into what it’s like to become an On-Ramper. So we asked three Search Consultants—our two newest team members, Shanna and Jasmin, and a more experienced On-Ramper, Diana—about their experiences joining the team. 

Why did you decide to join On-Ramps?

Diana: I’ve been at On-Ramps for about three years now, but when I first started, professional services was completely new to me. My passion has always been in the nonprofit and public sectors so I really welcomed the chance to start working in the search space. I was excited to join a firm that was working with so many of the organizations that I followed and deeply respected. I was also excited to work on the business development side of things and help those organizations understand how On-Ramps can help them navigate the process of hiring mission-critical roles.

Shanna: I joined On-Ramps, in part because I wanted to support mission-driven organizations in finding those strong leaders in an efficient and thorough way. The bulk of my career has been in non-profits, in the education space specifically, with a brief period, about three years, working in a for-profit edtech start-up, where I had a heavy focus on managing client relationships. 

Because my background is in the social sector, I came to On-Ramps with a deep understanding of the importance of the work that our clients are doing, how busy and challenging that work can be, and how important  it is to have really strong internal leadership. 

The other thing that excited me about On-Ramps is learning about recruiting in different functional areas. Most of my recruiting work has been heavily focused in the education space for direct service roles. I'm just really excited to be able to learn more about hiring someone to fill a role in development, marketing, finance, etc. There's just so many different functional areas that I'm interested in and I feel like there's an opportunity here to learn about those different types of roles and work with so many varied organizations.

It's rare that you're going to work for an organization, where you're going to meet hundreds of different C-suite members, across hundreds of different organizations and develop deep relationships with them. At On-Ramps, I hope to be able to do that because we’re working with folks for several months on a search. That was one of the many things that enticed me to On-Ramps: Building this really exciting network of folks across the social sector in a really powerful way.

Jasmin: Like Shanna, my background is heavily in the nonprofit sector, and I wanted to bring my experience in that sector to the recruiting space. My background is not in talent recruitment. It's actually in volunteer management and recruitment for some pretty heavy direct service work. I'm bringing to the table the experience of having led much of the work that many of the roles that we are supporting searches for will be doing. It gives me a deeper understanding of the skills and attributes that are key to being successful in working in a non-profit at the executive level. So far already, I feel like it's helped a ton in assessments and in relationship-building within the work.

I'm also very interested in our business development work. So much of my background has been in relationship and partnership cultivation and engagement. So I want to be able to take the knowledge I’ve gained working in different types of settings and implement it towards On-Ramps' continued success, bringing on even more incredible organizations and foundations who are doing just such great work. I'm really excited to step even further into that and again have a different experience doing that type of work here.

What has your experience been like with the onboarding process?

Jasmin: The onboarding process has been incredibly thoughtful. Shanna and I are the newest members of the team. We both joined about three months ago, so we’re still getting acclimated. Shanna and I have had the opportunity to meet with and learn from lots of folks. And, we’ve been able to take ownership of our own onboarding process by going through it at our own pace, choosing which pieces we want to explore further and which pieces we're ready to fully jump into.

Shanna: The first month was really just helping us understand the rough sketch outline of how things work. A lot of our sessions focused on clearly outlining On-Ramps approach to recruiting because every firm has a different style and structure to the process. We're now in month three and we’ve been digging into the work and the world of project managing on searches. We’re heavily shadowing team members at all levels, so that we can understand who takes on what role. It's been really interesting to see and we have a ton of documentation from other searches. 

Jasmin: We’ve also been given a lot of space to request additional sessions on topics we’re interested in and meetings with folks leading this work. Organizationally, everyone has been so super receptive to adapting the onboarding process, to ensure that it feels right for us, as individuals and professionals.

Shanna: It’s also been such a joy onboarding with Jasmin. On-Ramps intentionally has people start in cohorts. That way, you have someone you can lean on and brainstorm with. During our onboarding sessions, Jasmin and I were able to go off of each other, taking the conversations in so many different directions. We even set up our own standing meeting, which we’re still doing. It’s a way to check in on each other, share what searches we’re working on, and brainstorm around those searches. That level of collaboration led us to a lot of exciting additional sessions, as Jasmin mentioned, and a real emphasis on collaboration and coaching, which we’ve also seen echoed throughout the broader On-Ramps team. 

Diana: I went through the onboarding process a few years ago now, but I remember that coming in with more years of experience and a master's degree in nonprofit management made my learning curve different from those hired earlier in their careers. I was familiar with nonprofit organizational structures and how the public sector operates. My previous roles have all had a huge project management component, which is largely the work of a consultant at On-Ramps, so having that under my belt really allowed me to lean into aspects of the role that I was less familiar with while still being able to run a search successfully. 

Jasmin: I agree, Diana. Shanna and I also both have pretty significant professional experience in project management, facilitation, relationship management, and coaching outside of the search space. For someone who started with On-Ramps as an analyst, the training emphasis is on learning those skills in addition to specifics of search work—but for us, it's less about learning those skills and more about adapting the skills to this role and this work.

What do you like about working at On-Ramps?

Diana: There are many things I like about working at On-Ramps. First and foremost, I truly enjoy working with everyone here. I have learned so much from my colleagues about recruitment and talent acquisition that I actively implement in my own search work. On-Ramps is also in growth mode and team members have different avenues (firm building groups,staff meetings, etc.) to share their reflection and input about what they’d like to see happen at On-Ramps in its next iteration. It’s a great feeling to know that I am helping shape what the future of On-Ramps will look like.

Jasmin: Something I love about working at On-Ramps is that there is a lot of space for adaptation, which really allowed me to bring the knowledge I’ve built as a manager at other organizations to my consultant role at On-Ramps. There are specific tools and structures that On-Ramps has in place to help us be successful, but Search Consultants also have the freedom to bring in different approaches and tools that have worked for them in past roles. There's a lot of receptivity at the firm for that. That open-mindedness really works to our benefit, given that we have had lots of experiences project managing, that we're bringing to the work, to the role, and to the team as a whole.

Shanna: I couldn't agree more. And at the same time, we’ve gotten so much support in learning On-Ramps’ search process. The team is very willing to do a quick Zoom call with us and share materials that they've used before. That willingness to connect really goes back to the intentionality around the structure of onboarding. 

What advice would you give someone starting out at On-Ramps?

Shanna: I think the biggest piece of advice is “don’t assume anything.” Know that no question is too small and that people will welcome the questions. Be very proactive about sitting in on things, about combing through materials, and bringing questions to check-ins. One of the things that has been really great is that each of us has a coach, who's coaching us around project management and sharing their best practices. We're also getting support from other PMs, partners, and associates and analysts. You really feel like a lot of folks are just rooted in your success. But it's still important to be proactive. Sometimes folks assume you know something that you don’t because you were never a search analyst and you were onboarded remotely. You need to be really transparent and just admit when there's something you need to learn. Immerse yourself in everything. Comb through materials and bring those questions.

Especially as people joining On-Ramps at a more senior level, we don’t have the same level of background knowledge as someone who started their career here. The bulk of the On-Ramps team started off as analysts or associates and then worked their way up, so they have first hand knowledge of every stage of the process. To clarify those pieces for ourselves, we’ve carved out time to shadow associates and analysts during our onboarding and we’ve proactively asked questions. 

Jasmin: I agree. The team is really receptive to our recommendations around how to shift or change things, but at the same time, there are established ways that things are done at On-Ramps. As people joining in more senior positions, we don’t have the same familiarity with organizational protocols and norms as someone who worked their way up. Three months in, there are so many areas where I'm still learning—but there are also some key areas that I have a lot of experience in from working at other organizations, so I’ve been able to be very successful in those areas. that I've been doing for a really long time and think I've been doing successfully.

If you’re coming in with that varied experience, it’s really about knowing when to bring that experience into your work and share that experience with the team, and when to step-back and focus on On-Ramps' protocols. 

Shanna: I couldn't agree more, Jasmin. It's important that you’re also valuing the experience you’ve had outside of On-Ramps and speak-up when you have an idea. In many ways, I was excited to join at this point in my career because I’ve been able to bring that outside experience in as the organization continues to evolve its approach to coaching and developing its talent. We spend so much of our time hiring amazing talent; it's also important for us to continue to cultivate the talent we have here.If you’re coming from a different organization and you have practical experience using different types of tools and systems, share that knowledge. 

Diana: I agree with what Shanna and Jasmine shared. Our team comes with a wide range of experiences within different roles and industries. I think it allows for us to come to the table with different perspectives on how to approach our work and any challenges we might face. Our ability to see the same thing from different angles helps us find creative solutions and paths forward. I’d also echo that people here truly want to see their colleagues succeed and are willing to answer questions and take time to help newer folks get a hang of things. Another piece of advice I’d give a new person: give yourself some grace; lean on your team for support and be open to learning a lot in your early days at On-Ramps. 

What stands out to you about the culture at  On-Ramps?

Diana: Coming into the job as a more seasoned person, culture was extremely important for me. At this point in my career, I know the type of culture that I thrive in and the type of culture that I want to contribute to. The one thing that stands out the most about On-Ramps is how coaching and thought partnering is a part of our culture. I have over twenty colleagues that I can lean on for support, encouragement, and advice. We also have a great responsibility to our clients and the communities they serve. The roles we hire can create immense impact and change for an organization and that is something our team takes seriously. I see this play out every day when I speak to my colleagues and we share our wins and our challenges.

Shanna: That’s really true. Leaning on our colleagues is definitely a major part of it. An intrinsic part of our search model is emphasizing teamwork. We use a matrix model, meaning we work in teams of three where every member plays a different role. That was something that was really new to me. Before coming to On-Ramps, most of the roles I held were very siloed. You could work heads down, focusing only on your own piece of the work. Here, I’ve found that a really nice part of working with a search team is being able to bounce ideas off of each other. You're always working toward one goal.

Jasmin: I agree that collaboration and community building are central to the culture. On-Ramps is really putting in work to consider what our culture is now that we’ve progressed to a remote space. My understanding is that so much of the culture prior to the pandemic was centered on this in-person, relationship-building collaboration. Working remotely, if you're not on a search team with someone, you won’t automatically get the chance to know them. You're not passing them by the water cooler or sitting next to them in the office. So it takes a little more work to build a relationship, build rapport, and continue to build a strong culture outside of the search teams. 

On-Ramps has been really thoughtful about maintaining that culture. Pre-pandemic you would have coffee dates with everyone, go for walks, and really have the chance to meet folks. Now, those same coffee chats are being integrated into the virtual space. When I had mine with Kristen it was scheduled on our calendars as a walk. She took it literally and decided to go on an actual walk while we were chatting. I loved that! 

Shanna: Another central aspect of On-Ramps culture is the emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion has also really stood out to me, in a way that's really refreshing, and we're actively changing our processes to reflect that. You don't always see that on recruiting teams. Sometimes there'll be conversations around DEI, but the actual process itself doesn’t shift or you’re not seeing a shift in the deliverables for a search. Here, we are being very intentional with the changes we're making, in both our process and how we approach the work. We’re even thinking about how to source candidates in the first place.

I feel like we are ahead of the curve with our large research team. Our research team is just so thoughtful. Cindy, leads the team, is amazing and really tries to coach around bias in the sourcing process. And, it's not just internal: We're coaching clients around DEI and avoiding bias when they’re evaluating candidates too. 

Jasmin: I’ve also been really positively surprised by the level and the frequency with which we talk about the role equity plays in the work that we’re doing. In the business development process, we really consider which organizations, institutions, or foundations are right for us to partner with based on whether they’re approaching the hiring process with an equity based lens. We really are shifting our work and our conversations to ensure that the internal and external parts of our organization exist within an equity lens.

Want to join our team?

Whether you’re early in your career or a seasoned professional looking to make a change, On-Ramps would love to connect with you. We currently have openings for Search Analyst, Search Consultant, and Administrative Coordinator.