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Starting from scratch – How our director has developed his recruitment career and new market at SThree

Team members in Japan discussing work

2022 is a huge milestone for our SThree business – it marks our 10th anniversary in Japan, and the year we hit our target of 100 employees in the office. We reached out to Tommy Haviland, Director of Digital Division at Computer Futures Japan and also one of the pioneers of the business, to share with us about his time in SThree and how he has seen the business grew in the last few years.

Background of Tommy

Tommy started his career at SThree Japan in 2015, when the business was significantly smaller than it is today at 12 employees. It has been a whirlwind of a journey for him where he learnt the basics of recruitment, started the fintech recruitment team, expanded the technology recruitment business and was pivotal in driving the Computer Futures business forward. Fast forward today, he now leads a team of 24 and is an expert technology recruiter within the digital space. Beyond that, he’s an extremely hands-on leader and still recruits for some of his key clients today.  

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Eight promotions in seven years

With zero prior recruitment experience, Tommy started as an Associate Recruitment Consultant, went through the relevant training programmes and learnt on-the job with mentoring from his managers. And he has since hit his targets consistently, resulting in eight promotions in the last seven years and leading one of the biggest teams in SThree Japan today. In his second year as a Sales Manager in 2018, he won APAC Manager of the Year.

Training & Development to build a career in recruitment

Because of the mentoring, training and development that Tommy has received in SThree through every stage in his career, he was able to pick up key skills such as recruitment, business development, negotiation amongst many others and learn real-time information about the technology market in Japan. He was given opportunities to attend technology conferences, webinars, and meet-ups to build his network and knowledge. What really helped Tommy is his passion for the digital technology industry in Japan, especially with helping start-ups establishing a presence in Japan and the wider APAC.

In doing so, he managed to work with a number of start-ups and technology companies in Japan to assist them with their recruitment efforts and talent strategy. All of these helped these businesses to achieve their business goals. This helped to build his external credibility as a recruitment expert in the IT industry in Japan as hiring managers trusted Tommy’s recruitment advice and the network he has. Hear from one of our clients on how Tommy has helped with their growth in Japan.


What were your challenges & how did you overcome those?

As he looks back on his journey with SThree, he shares, “One of the most challenging times in my career was when I first became a manager. Before that, I was a single contributor and was able to spend all my time working with my candidates and clients. I really enjoyed getting to know more about the markets I covered, which also made it easier for me to hit all my targets. I haven’t thought that it would be so much more challenging to manage a team, especially at the beginning where most of my team members were experienced recruitment consultants.”

He added, “It may sound obvious, but it was challenging firstly because I had less time to spend working on my own recruitment activities. It got me frustrated as I couldn’t perform as well as I used to due to time limitation. Secondly, managing my team made me realise that everyone is different in how they approach their tasks. I needed to find out what is the most effective way for each individual to learn new things, and and how to deliver feedback so that it will be well receive . At that point, I only knew what worked well for myself as a recruiter, but this isn’t a fit for all approach.”

So how did Tommy overcome these challenges?

He learned the importance of prioritisation of tasks, as well as using best practices in effective prioritisation. He shared, “Before I became a manager, I was trying to work on all the open positions I had. However, my then manager Chris (current Country Director of the Japan business) made me realise that it was not practical with the limited resources, and he spared a lot of time sitting down with me to help prioritise the tasks I had on my plate.”

SThree has helped Tommy in his journey to becoming a successful manager and one example was the CMEP training he received in 2017. CMEP is a training programme developed for new managers and managers-to-be. He joined a workshop held in Tokyo, along with other new managers from the APAC region. His key takeaway was to learn that 80% of your desired result comes from the top 20% tasks you’ve prioritised. He added, “It was a great opportunity to share my successes and challenges with colleagues from different offices who were in a similar role to me. It turned out that everyone was going through similar challenges as a new manager, and it was great to know that I wasn’t alone. With my manager’s support and learnings from the training, I learned to focus my time working on the tasks that make the biggest impact.”

Tommy Haviland
"With my manager’s support and learnings from the training, I learned to focus my time working on the tasks that make the biggest impact.” Tommy Haviland, Director at SThree Japan

Building his career as a leader in recruitment

Another one of Tommy’s huge milestones was when he stepped into a director position and oversaw the entire digital division of Computer Futures. He explained, “This was when I needed to push myself and shift my mindset from looking at an individual team to seeing a wider picture. I needed to identify what works best for the entire business. This included getting to know more about everyone who is working within the Digital Division not just the team I was managing directly, and making decisions in the best interest of the division rather than one team or individual.”

What really helped him was the continual support he received from his direct manager, but also the development he was given from SThree – whether it’s the opportunities to be mentored by leaders from other regions, leadership training, and many more. He was also able to learn more about budgeting, studying P&L and many more.


Is developing a new market what you’re most passionate about?

Technology in general has been an interest of Tommy. In 2017 where fintech started to grow in popularity, he started to also put in his heart and soul into developing the fintech recruitment team. He studied the market, did a lot of analysis, attended fintech conferences and really understood the talent landscape of the fintech industry.

Tommy shared, “Recruiting for a new market such as fintech has been very enjoyable for many reasons. Firstly, it’s a new market so there’s a rapidly growing, fun and start-up feel which people in the market can all share and resonate with. Secondly, there’s always new technologies involved – which forced me to learn more about rising technology, and network with a brand-new candidate pools whom I’ve never spoken to when I was focusing only on EC, Advertising, and Media. This also taught me to take a different approach when working with different group of candidates with varying skillsets or experience.”

As a result of fintech being one of our focus sectors, we’ve been able to assist with both start-ups and large companies in many rapidly growing sectors within the IT industry. As a STEM recruiting specialist, we’d like to leverage our achievements to grow further, and this is the reason why we’re actively recruiting for our Digital Division in Computer Futures.

Tommy mentioned, “The market is only going to continue to grow and I’m confident that we will be the go-to IT recruitment agency in Japan. We have a good network of local candidates – whether Japanese or foreign talent residing in Japan. Especially where Covid-19 related border controls are in place, resulting in a shortage of foreign talent in Japan, we still managed to support our clients for technical positions such as software engineer jobs that have seen an increase in demand.”


Join us on this exciting journey

2022 may be one of the best times to join us. We’re moving into a bigger office space in Japan, with more advanced technologies and very exciting growth prospects. If you’re interested in working for an international, inclusive, fun, rewarding and rapidly growing environment, or wish to develop yourself as a STEM recruitment expert or thought leader in the Japanese market, SThree is the right place for you. If you want to build a career for yourself like Tommy did, click here to see what SThree can offer in greater detail or get in touch with us by contacting us from below.

If you're interested in builing up your career from scratch or opening up a new market, contact us now to get to know more.

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