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‘We’re working together to help DC be cool’: 1776’s Dominique Taylor on hiring in DC

After discovering the D.C. startup scene a few years ago, Taylor is all in.

Startups working at 1776. (Photo by Tajha Chappellet-Lanier)

Before Dominique Taylor found out about EverFi, she had no idea there were startups in the District. “It honestly didn’t occur to me that startups could exist in D.C.,” she said. But now, five years later and in position as Managing Director of talent and culture at 1776, Taylor is all in.

Taylor started her career in strategy consulting, working in Boston before moving back to D.C. for a job at the Advisory Board Company. There she worked on “workforce fulfillment” — attracting and retaining talent at healthcare organizations. But when she heard about local edtech startup EverFi, her interest was piqued. She found her way into a recruiting role there and worked her way up to senior vice president of talent and culture. In October 2016 she jumped ship for 1776 — attracted to the opportunity to share her expertise with startups around the world.

We sat down with Taylor to ask about the good, the bad and the inspiring of attracting talent and building culture within startups in the District.

In terms of the good, Taylor said, “you have incredibly smart people” in D.C., and candidates tend to be looking for a specific kind of opportunity — the fast pace of startup life with a healthy side of doing good. This is attractive to Taylor from a talent-retention standpoint, as there tends to be less hopping between opportunities than she sees in Silicon Valley.

The downside? “Engineers are always hard to find,” she said, with a shrug that suggests this may be more status quo than anything. And then there’s the more challenging issue to address — the fact that D.C. can struggle to be seen as an innovative type of place. The city’s close ties to the federal space — its brand as a government town, if you will — mean D.C. has to overcome any negative feelings one may have toward a federal administration.

Changing this image is a constant work in progress.

But at the end of the day what Taylor really appreciates about D.C. is the fact that it’s a collaborative environment. Two or three years ago, she told Technical.ly, she started going to HR events in the area. At one of these events she connected with the head of HR at Optoro, and the two decided to start a group of their own — a group aimed at sharing best practices and lessons on hiring in this city. “We don’t really see ourselves as competing with each other,” Taylor said. The more good talent is attracted to D.C., the better for everyone. “It’s sort of like we’re working together to help D.C. be cool.”

Speaking of which, Technical.ly DC has its own “cool” jobs fair coming up. Check out NET/WORK on March 29.

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Companies: 76 Forward

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