Tech recruiter: ‘Companies that don’t let the pandemic define them will allow it to refine them’

When companies had to make cuts at the start of the pandemic, many released their contract workforce first. As a result, businesses like Sonia Petkewich’s Taurean Consulting Group took a hit.

Petkewich is CEO and tech recruiter for her business, an IT staffing and project solutions company. As businesses bring back workers or make decisions to fill key roles, though, Petkewich says they are reaching out again. And one upside of the pandemic is that as local companies work remotely, they are opened up to talented potential employees who don’t live in or plan on moving to the area. “Some of those roles may stay indefinitely as remote,” Petkewich said, “though I see most coming back to in-person as things get better.”

Have you refined your approach or made changes to your recruiting practices due to COVID-19?

We’ve been working with our clients as well as candidates to adjust as the labor market in many industries has contracted. With many across the valley working from home and furloughed due to quarantine, we wanted to support them by providing access to online learning at a considerably reduced cost. We started offering online courses toward IT certifications for 95% off list price. Our Quarantine Online Certification Training Sale was a big success. We feel the more you learn, the more you grow professionally. We wanted to be part of the solution to helping candidates make themselves more marketable. We also increased the level of coaching we did for candidates and clients — because none of us has been through anything like this before.

Has “normal” forever changed, or will you aim to get back to what normalcy was pre-pandemic?

My 13-year-old daughter hates the term “new norm.” She says it is uncool to say that. She’s also been known to call me cringeworthy. I do think our city is very resilient and Vegas will come back. I also believe that will require a technically savvy workforce, and therefore jobs will be created again. I also believe companies that don’t let the pandemic define them will allow it to refine them in the way they hire talent; and as a result, we may become a very attractive place for people to seek employment.

Other than the obvious, what’s the biggest issue facing Southern Nevada?

Our biggest, most challenging issue right now is education. I am a mother of three. I see our education system as one that needs some dire attention and fixing. I have two children in private school and one in public school this year, so I see a stark difference in the way education is provided. I do not think this is unique to Las Vegas. If there is one thing that can be taken out of this pandemic as it relates to education, it is that we need to put more value into our teachers, we need to support them more, we need to help them continue to improve themselves so they can continue to help educate our children, and we as parents have an opportunity to come together as a community here. I’ve leveraged my communities to help collaborate with others on the best ways to parent my kids and help them adjust so they get the best education possible as well as socialization. We were quarantining with other families in our neighborhood and this was a top topic of conversation among all of the parents and kids.

How do you give back to the community?

I became a business owner in my earlier 40s without a college degree, and the biggest gift for me was aligning myself with other business owners through a variety of programs offered here.

I took the Emerging Leaders program through the Small Business Administration and I joined a small business mastermind group. The relationships I forged there helped me learn and grow personally and professionally. It is because of that that I have launched my second business in Vegas, Catalyst Mastermind Collaborative, as a way to give back to other business owners who are looking to grow and develop themselves. It’s important to not only be a part of the change that you want to see in the world, but to leave things better than the way you found them. Because of that, I always look to take an active role in organizations that speak to my passions.

Being a board member of the Southern Nevada Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners is a passion of mine. It allows me to connect with some pretty incredible women business owners. I’m also involved with the Southern Nevada technology community, which honors the talented women and girls who accelerate innovation with game-changing ideas through the LV Techie Awards and Aspiration Awards. The LV Techie Awards takes a “what they will see, they will be” approach to highlighting the impact of women and girls across technology industries. The Aspiration Awards, meanwhile, recognizes girls in middle school and high school who aspire to careers in computing and technology.

I’m also a board member for the local chapter of National Center for Women & Information Technology, which recognizes local young women excelling in pursuit of computing and STEM careers.

What is your most useless skill? Most valuable?

I have noticed that at times I will get sucked into mindless Hulu marathons. There is no one that can binge watch a season of senseless reality TV better than me — a total useless and senseless skill for sure.

My most valuable skill that I think people would tell you I have is that I am a natural born connector. I have a way of bringing the right people together when and where they need each other, most of the time unbeknownst to them, and yet some of the most incredible relationships and collaborations have taken place because of that magical connection.

Did you develop any new habits during the quarantine?

This took me a while, as there was a time when I definitely felt on the downward part of the “corona-coaster.” Though I would say, reaching out for connection and support was vital to my mental health and well-being. As an uber extrovert, this was a hard adjustment to not be able to meet with and connect with people in a way that I was most familiar with, though I would often create Zoom moments with people in order to have that lifeline outside of my home. I also noticed this was important for my kids to connect this way with their friends and our family. We even spent some time hand-writing letters to our family members, as we thought it would be a nice surprise to send and receive these during this time.

What is the secret to life-work balance?

Oh gosh, I don’t know that anyone truly has work/life balance figured out. It’s a myth. I think it is more important to be aware of what is paying the price in your life when something else is taking over. Be aware, ask for feedback from the people you care about as to how you are showing up. It is easy, especially during this time, to tune out to what is happening so close to us because the sound of what is happening in the world is so incredibly loud. I do not know that I get this right all of the time, though I do make an effort to carve out time for the people and things I care about most.

What is the best advice you’ve received in 2020?

There are two speakers I had the pleasure of hearing this year. One of them, Todd Musselman, said two things that I think about so often. He said, “there is no there.” This really spoke to me, as we are so often trying to get “there” to have and do the things we want, and what happens when we get there? Then we decide we need to get to another there — somewhere else entirely. What about right here and now?

He also said “no one is coming.” This is so much in line with my belief that if it is to be, it is up to me! We are the creators and drivers of our own destiny.

Finally, a coach named Courtland Warren, who has had such an incredible impact on my life, recently said to me that “there is a difference between things or happenings defining us or refining us.” That is so beautiful, as being refined in our businesses, our relationships and our lives is such a beautiful, inspiring and boundless place to be for me. We all have an opportunity to refine ourselves in 2020 instead of letting this year define us.

What is something people might not know about you?

I definitely have a sense of adventure. In the 1990s, I bungee jumped 300 feet over the ocean in Acapulco, bound by my ankles on a dare. It wasn’t smart but it was definitely a thrill. Also, in my early 20s, I had a dance cameo in “Real World Las Vegas” at the Palms.

Do you have any advice for aspiring IT professionals?

Keep learning. During this time, take advantage of any offer or opportunity to keep up on your skills. Technology moves fast and those skilled jobs are going to come back, and you get to be ready. And connect. Connect with the IT community to see who needs help and how you can support them. People will always remember those who were of service when times were toughest.

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