Episode 16: Scaling Culture


In this episode:

Company culture can be a true competitive advantage. But how do you grow without losing the parts of your culture that made you successful in the first place?

On this episode we talk with Tamara Iakiri, Director of Talent Experience. Tamara has been with us through several growth periods, starting when the company had just 50 employees through now with over 265 people across multiple locations.

We also welcome back Application Development Practice Manager and interviewer extraordinaire, Andrew Powell.

Tamara and Andrew discuss our unique view on talent experience and the systems we’ve put in place to help our culture expand and grow.


This podcast content was created prior to our rebrand and may contain references to our previous name (OST) and brand elements. Although our brand has changed, the information shared continues to be relevant and valuable.

Episode Transcript

Lizzie Williams: Hey, everybody. On this episode, we talk with Tamara Iakiri, the director of talent experience at OST. As someone who helped OST evolve from 50 employees to now over 250, she spends her time working on scaling company culture and serving our team so they can do great work. Tamara has some great insights about how we’ve maintained and evolved our culture over the years.

Andrew Powell: Oh my gosh, Tamara. Thank you so much for agreeing to sit down with me for the podcast. How are you doing this morning?

Tamara Iakiri: I’m good. I’m excited. It’s Friday.

Andrew Powell: I’m so, so glad you’re here.

Tamara Iakiri: Me too.

View Full Transcript

Lizzie Williams: Hey, everybody. On this episode, we talk with Tamara Iakiri, the director of talent experience at OST. As someone who helped OST evolve from 50 employees to now over 250, she spends her time working on scaling company culture and serving our team so they can do great work. Tamara has some great insights about how we’ve maintained and evolved our culture over the years.

Andrew Powell: Oh my gosh, Tamara. Thank you so much for agreeing to sit down with me for the podcast. How are you doing this morning?

Tamara Iakiri: I’m good. I’m excited. It’s Friday.

Andrew Powell: I’m so, so glad you’re here.

Tamara Iakiri: Me too.

Andrew Powell: Tamara, I sometimes struggle with how to pronounce your last name. It’s Tamara Iakiri. Is that right?

Tamara Iakiri: That is correct. It’s a hard name to pronounce.

Andrew Powell: I-A-K-I-R-I.

Tamara Iakiri: Yep.

Andrew Powell: Yeah. Okay. That’s your married last name?

Tamara Iakiri: That is my married name. My husband’s father was from Israel. So it was originally spelled with a Y. So you pronounce it kind of with a Y, but when he moved to the states, he changed it to an I. So it throws a lot of people off.

Andrew Powell: So, in my prep for this podcast, I was trying to do a little research to figure out what the heck are you curious? I typed Iakiri into Google. Do you know what I discovered when I typed Iakiri into Google?

Tamara Iakiri: That I show up before my husband?

Andrew Powell: That’s exactly what I discovered. Actually, number one search result in Google for just the word Iakiri is your bio at OST.

Tamara Iakiri: So totally appropriate. And he will be devastated.

Andrew Powell: Yeah, he’s number four. I think your sister-in-law comes before him too.

Tamara Iakiri: She does, yeah.

Andrew Powell: Man, that’s gotta be [inaudible], you go home and you give them a hug and you say it’s okay.

Tamara Iakiri: It’s okay. He’ll get his marketing people on it tomorrow.

Andrew Powell: Yeah, absolutely. Tam, I’m so glad you’re here. You are in charge of what at OST?

Tamara Iakiri: So I am the director of talent experience. So I lead our talent experience team.

Andrew Powell: Okay. So do a lot of getting in there, making things happen.

Tamara Iakiri: So we are responsible for the experience of all our employees and how that drives our business.

Andrew Powell: The experience of all our employees and how that drives our business. So is that like human resources?

Tamara Iakiri: It’s kind of like human resources, a different view. Not the traditional view of human resources and very intentional on how it fits into our culture. I’ve been at OST for almost nine years now, and this is the first time we’ve had this team. So in April, we put together this group that could really wake up every day and focus on the needs of our people and how that drives our business and talent experience was a very intentional name because while every company has HR functions that we have to do, right, we’re hiring, we’re paying people, we have benefits, we have compliance issues, OST looks at it from a different perspective. Instead of compliance, which is more traditional HR, to how can we do what we do in a way that honors our employees and helps drive our success through our people.

Andrew Powell: Yeah. Okay. So I want to play that back a little bit. You packed a lot in there, so you’re focused on hiring, you’re focused on benefits, payroll.

Tamara Iakiri: We do everything. So we like to say talent experience from the time we tap you on the shoulder and say, would you be interested in learning more about OST through your entire life cycle with us until the time that you decide that OST is not the place you call home anymore. So everything in between from hiring and onboarding and talent management, learning and development, communication, benefits, everything associated with that.

Andrew Powell: Wow. How big is your team?

Tamara Iakiri: We have seven people on our team. So also unique for a company our size, a smaller organization, but it also shows that when we decided to create this team, it was the right time and we were going to do it right. So we have recruiting resources. We have employee communications, someone just dedicated to helping us with our messaging for our employees.

Andrew Powell: That’s fantastic.

Tamara Iakiri: We have payroll and benefits. We have employee relations. So we do it all with that group.

Andrew Powell: So most companies our size would have how big a team?

Tamara Iakiri: Maybe one or two people.

Andrew Powell: Okay. So that’s a real investment.

Tamara Iakiri: It is it’s a huge investment for OST. And I like to say that even now, halfway through the year, we’re seeing the return on that investment already so

Andrew Powell: I’m with you. So I brought this quote just to sort of spur some conversation. Let me seeif you’ve heard it before. “What you do today impacts who you are tomorrow.” Are you familiar with that quote?

Tamara Iakiri: I love that quote. I say that a lot.

Andrew Powell: Do you know whose quote it is?

Tamara Iakiri: Condoleezza Rice?

Andrew Powell: Yeah, Condoleezza Rice. So, is that maybe part of the foundational thinking around what you’re trying to do that you’re trying to make sure that what we do organizationally today helps to build this sort of people we want tomorrow.

Tamara Iakiri: I think it’s a good reminder for each of us to think. I think it’s easy to get caught up sometimes and frustrated where we are but the fact is that every day that we come in the actions we choose is going to impact where we are tomorrow. So when we think about our own development, when we think about our personal lives, every day makes an impact. And so we have to focus, even if you’re not exactly happy. Are you happy where you are today? What you’re doing today is going to help you get to where you wanna be.

Andrew Powell: So do you think it’s your job to make me happy?

Tamara Iakiri: It’s not my job to make you happy. It’s my job to make sure we have a good organizational structure and support in place, that we’re taking care of our employees, but ultimately I’m not responsible for your happiness. You are. So if I strive to do the best we can to make this a great place to work and hire the people that might be a great fit for that and kind of appreciate the same things that we do. That’s what we strive to do.

Andrew Powell: Fortunately for you, it was a trick question cause I am happy.

Tamara Iakiri: Good. Super glad to hear that.

Andrew Powell: But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up a little bit. Tamara, tell me you’ve been at OST for almost nine years.

Tamara Iakiri: Almost nine years.

Andrew Powell: Where’d you come from?

Tamara Iakiri: So my background is much larger organizations, so locally I’ve had the opportunity to work for some great companies and grand rapids. So Gordon Food Service, Herman Miller, Amway.

Andrew Powell: Oh, my gosh. I’ve heard of all of it.

Tamara Iakiri: Yeah. So took all the learnings and experiences from there and been able to break those to OST in a way that makes it fit for us.

Andrew Powell: And you’ve been here nine years. How are you feeling about that?

Tamara Iakiri: Good. I’m really excited about where we are today and where we’re going. I would say it hasn’t always been a really smooth experience, especially coming from a really large organization. And then when I started, we were about 5,500. Today, we’re 265. So we’ve had a lot of growth, but just taking that transition from a large organization to a very small organization and then going through the growing plate pains like we all have experienced over the last couple of years. It’s not always been easy, but I’m really excited about where we are today and where we’re going.

Andrew Powell: So where we’re going is probably bigger, right.

Tamara Iakiri: Right. Yes. That’s some pretty aggressive growth plans. Yeah.

Andrew Powell: Sure. How do you scale culture and not end up being just like those giant companies you used to work for that aren’t OST.

Tamara Iakiri: Yeah, I think it’s really identifying who we are, who is OST, who do we want to be and being true to once we identify them being true to that, and that becomes our guiding light. So when I look at our guiding principles and we have five guiding principles on our delight, serve, embrace and learn, that becomes the core of who we are. So when we hire, we have to hire the right people and then with that, as long as we have that core and kind of core belief to who we are as we grow, as long as we’re true to that, we can still grow in a way that allows different geographies to have their own kind of spin on who that is. But we always have to come back with the same mission.

Andrew Powell: Sort of their own flavor of culture. So can I explore that a little bit as someone who hires people sometimes? I worry about building an echo chamber, lacking a better phrase that if we hire people who are just like the people we already have, we deny ourselves the diversity we need to be who we want to be. How do you balance that?

Tamara Iakiri: It’s something we pay really close attention to. So we have to say, what is core to us and in core being are they curious or do they have the technical expertise or do they believe in taking care of one another, you know, so we have some core things, but we also look for that what makes someone different? And so whether it’s where they live or how they work or what school they came from, being able to round out a team. We do a lot around StrengthFinders. That’s something that I think has been really helpful for us as an organization.

Andrew Powell: StrengthFinders. Tell me a little bit more about that. What’s that?

Tamara Iakiri: So it’s through Gallup. So probably a lot of people have heard of it, but we do the StrengthFinders assessment and then tape our teams through that as well as our leaders and how to lead and really focusing on—everybody has these core strengths within them. And so how do we create teams and how do we create work that’s able to leverage the strengths that we all bring to the table.

Andrew Powell: Now, is that something any business could do?

Tamara Iakiri: Absolutely. I mean, it’s a very well known program. That’s available in a lot of companies here in West Michigan, but around the country. I have used it in a lot of different ways that you can leverage it, but it’s been very helpful for OST.

Andrew Powell: I’m with you. So as you look at your organization you’re telling experience team, but also within OST and you imagine how we grow, how do you change as we grow?

Tamara Iakiri: I think our team is always having to be—we have to have the pulse on what’s going on and where we’re going. So we focus a lot on—well, first we have to have the, one of the things once we built this team is those characteristics that we’re looking for. That one, we’re a team that we can model behavior we want to see throughout the organization. So from the way we treat people, the way we behave as a team, the care we show for others, the level of kind of work ethic and drive that we show.

Andrew Powell: You gotta walk the walk and talk the talk.

Tamara Iakiri: Absolutely. And we are doers and that is something that I think is very important as an organization. We are all hands-on. So no matter what your role is or what’s going on, we are all jumping in. So if it’s running to get the donuts or it’s I’m going to visit someone at the hospital, whatever it is, we all jump in.

Andrew Powell: Can we back up for a second? What was that about donuts?

Tamara Iakiri: We always have—we have lots of donuts and celebrations. We love to celebrate at OST.

Andrew Powell: So I’m just throwing it out there. We’re recording this episode Friday, November 1st, and there have not been donuts in the office for at least 23 hours.

Tamara Iakiri: That’s true. We should have had November 1st day.

Andrew Powell: I mean, I just feel like if you’re going to mention donuts, we should have those that day.

Tamara Iakiri: Yeah

Andrew Powell: All right. So as you think through what you want to be the mark you leave on OST, the thing that you do for our organization, what is it? Do you have a one-sentence here? Here’s the thing, Andrew, I’m going to do this.

Tamara Iakiri: I think it’s employees first. I think when we say we honor employees, I want every employee at our organization to say that’s absolutely true.

Andrew Powell: How do you make sure that’s true because I’m going to tell you something. I tell people this a lot when I’m hiring. I’ve worked for a lot of companies who say they put their employees first. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever worked for a company that didn’t say some variation of that. Employees or famili-ness or whatever their words are that this was a priority of theirs. How do you make sure that’s true.

Tamara Iakiri: By our actions as well as making sure we’re asking the right questions. So for example, we just went through our employee survey. We— the question, the main measurement we ask is would you recommend OST is a great place to work. 98% of our employees said yes.

Andrew Powell: So how many of your employees answered that survey?

Tamara Iakiri: A hundred percent? And that is another important thing. That’s very unusual I think for an organization is that when they do their employee survey, this is the third or fourth year in a row that we’ve had a hundred percent participation. I think our employees coming from Meredith stating how important it is and how serious it is how we take this feedback and make a change. And the employees can see that. And I think that’s another thing over the last year is we took the feedback that we were receiving, whether it’s from the employee survey or through exit interviews and talking to leaders and talking to people and being able to implement change from that. Not wait, not overthink it, but just start making change. And so people can see that their feedback is making a difference.

Andrew Powell: Yeah. Okay, here’s what I’m hung up on now, Tamara. 98% of people said OST is a great place. That means rough math, five people said no. So are you on a mission to find those five?

Tamara Iakiri: I’m not on a mission to find those people. I’m on a mission to see where are we not doing what we should do. Now, in reality, and I remember having this conversation with Dan Behm, founder of OST, eight years ago, and when we did our first employee survey and we had one person at that point that said OST snag, he was devastated. And it’s putting into perspective that five out of 265. Still pretty good, certainly better than average. But at the same time I think that’s who we are to say, wow, we’re failing five people. And so where are we failing and what can we do? And again, it goes back to we can’t make everybody happy, you know. OST is a unique place and it’s not the right fit for everybody. And sometimes it’s, you know, it’s okay for people to acknowledge that and maybe OST isn’t the place.

Andrew Powell: Yeah. I think there’s an interesting dichotomy there because I think that our focus on those five is one way that we illustrate that we really do care about our employees. Sure, it’s great that 98% of employees think OST is a great place, but what are we doing for the five who don’t and maybe what we’re doing is helping them solve their challenges in their day-to-day work. But maybe what we’re doing is helping them figure out what is a great place to work for them.

Tamara Iakiri: Absolutely. And sometimes it’s, you know, we have a career development program and so as we take employees through the first session, we just spend on having them think about what’s most important to them. What is their strengths? What is their values? Where do they want to go? What do they need? Both personally and professionally, what kind of feedback—we’re taking them through all different elements of what it means to be an employee as well as a person. And then asking that question, how do we align? Does OST align to what’s important to what you value, what you need to your role, and if not then how can we change that?

Andrew Powell: Sure.

Tamara Iakiri: And if we can’t change that, then how can we put you in a position or a company? How can we help you—so where you are fulfilled and you’re getting energized from going to work every day in the work you do and the place you’re going to.

Andrew Powell: So that’s employee engagement. That’s actually physically engaging with the employees to help them. I got to believe in an organization like OST is that’s gone from 50-ish people to 250-ish people in the last eight years that you’ve got a lot of new managers to who you’ve got to coach through how they do that, right?

Tamara Iakiri: It is. And that in itself has been an evolution of you as you look at OST. We always valued being a very flat organization and we wanted to be simple, not a lot of hierarchy, but what we found as we grew, people, you can only manage and lead so many people. So Andrew, you yourself had like 60 people reporting to you at one point.

Andrew Powell: I did.

Tamara Iakiri: You did and it’s impossible.

Andrew Powell: I still have nightmares about that.

Tamara Iakiri: I’m still saying it’s impossible for you to care for all of those individuals and give them what they need, right.

Andrew Powell: It’s not impossible to care for them.

Tamara Iakiri: That’s true.

Andrew Powell: It’s impossible to give them what they need.

Tamara Iakiri: Exactly. And we saw that and we heard that. And from that, we knew that we needed to add levels of leaders and new managers. Not to create hierarchy, but just to make sure that people were getting what they needed from their leader. So as we’ve done that, trying to also make sure what are those characters of a leader that we’re looking for, who have those characteristics and how we can develop them? Cause we always— we’ve all had managers that were promoted just because they were really good at what they did. Those people are not always the best managers. So how do we make sure we’re choosing the right people, but also supporting them in their own development as they make this transition.

Andrew Powell: Right, right. Yeah. That sort of growth paradox that if you’re too good at your job, you get given another job that you’re not good at. Is a challenge not just the OST faces but that all organizations face?

Tamara Iakiri: Absolutely. And even the other thing that we looked at is creating career paths and being able to communicate career paths. So people didn’t feel like the only way it can grow is to lead people because we want people leading people because they love that aspect of it. And they love coach and they love developing. If we have individuals who love technology and just want to go deep, we want to show them a career path as well so they can continue to grow. They can continue to do what they love. They can earn more money, you know, all those things. But people need to see that path. And we had to do some work around how do we identify that? How do we communicate it out to people so they know what their options are.

Andrew Powell: Sure. Makes sense. So Tamara, can we talk a little bit about how culture scales as OST grows that has to be something you worry about.

Tamara Iakiri: It is. It’s something I think we all worry about and something we have struggled with over the last few years as we’ve grown through geographies. As we look at our growth, we know that growth is going to be outside of West Michigan. We have offices in Detroit and we have offices in Minneapolis. We know we’re going to have more geographies. We know that part of our strategy is to grow through acquisition. So a whole ‘nother element to bring on a whole ‘nother organization with their own culture. And so if you’re not intentional about it, It can quickly go off the rails. So part of our intentionality is to identify what’s most important to us and what guides our behavior. What’s our north star. So our guiding principles, we have five of them: honor, delight, serve, embrace, and learn. So yeah, you see them everywhere. They’re important and they provide that guide for us. When we look at making decisions, as we look at bringing on people, how do they align to what’s important to OST? How does our decision impact how we honor our employees or how we enable them to learn? How do we grow? And by having those five guiding principles and having that framework, it allows us then to go to Minneapolis and build up a team as large as the one in Grand Rapids but allow them to have their own flavor of culture as long as we still have those five core principles that we’re living by.

Andrew Powell: Jeepers, Tamara. That seems like a lot of work. It doesn’t seem easy.

Tamara Iakiri: It is a lot of work. You have to be very intentional. And that’s why it’s so important.

Andrew Powell: So, Tamara, I couldn’t help but notice. You brought a book with you.

Tamara Iakiri: I did.

Andrew Powell: Tell me a little bit about what book you brought.

Tamara Iakiri: So one of the things that have been our focus over the last probably 18 months, and you were a key part of this, certainly you were the main writer on this book, the OST way, and the OST way is something that actually Dan Behm wrote way back when and so as our initial, and as we looked at how we have grown and how the company has changed, we knew we needed to update the OST way. And the OST way is a guide for new employees to show them, tell them, help prepare them to come into this organization. That’s really unique and it’s going to be different than any other place today. Work, but also set expectations. So what they can expect from us, but also what we expect from them.

Andrew Powell: So maybe an attempt to set them up for success.

Tamara Iakiri: Absolutely. And it starts to give them a flavor of our culture and who we are and how we do things differently. What their first day is like, what’s the main points of our business, what happens when you mess up? All of those things kind of wrapped into a really fun book to give them—kind of becomes their guidebook, their playbook as they started.

Andrew Powell: You give that to a new employee when they start?

Tamara Iakiri: They get it before they start. So as soon as they accept their offer, we put this book in the mail to them so that they have an opportunity before their first day, that they could have a really good sense of who we are.

Andrew Powell: Way to reinforce that made the right decision to come work for OST.

Tamara Iakiri: Absolutely plus as we all know, as you start a new job, it’s really nerve-wracking and you start to doubt yourself. You’re excited, but you start to whoa, is this all true? This book helps reinforce that everything you’ve heard is who we are. It starts to set that stage for the first day, the first month, the first year that you’re part of OST. It shows you our quirky side. It shows you it’s a pretty truthful book on what we do well and the areas we don’t do well. And I just think it does a good job of setting expectations for people.

Andrew Powell: Have you gotten any feedback as you’ve started to use it?

Tamara Iakiri: The people—the feedback we’ve got has been very positive. The people really enjoy it. They love the quirkiness and that it really aligns with who we are so it’s been good.

Andrew Powell: Good. So as you look at the remainder of the calendar year, we’re just a couple of months away from finishing out 2019 or OST’s fiscal year, I think, runs through April 1st or March.

Tamara Iakiri: Yeah.

Andrew Powell: How are you doing? Do you have some goals you’re still working towards for this year?

Tamara Iakiri: We do. We have some big things coming up.

Andrew Powell: It’s been a transformational year.

Tamara Iakiri: It has been a transformational year I think for OST and certainly with our team and we’re excited about what we’ve accomplished so far. And we have a lot more to do, but the employee survey is what we just wrapped up. So we’re moving into that, looking through all the feedback and comments, and then communicating that back out to all of our employees and what’s our action plan. So what changes do we need to make moving forward based on the feedback, but also, you know, what have we done well in celebrating that as well. So we’ve got the employee survey and then benefits open enrollment. So a lot of organizations are going through open enrollment. It’s a tough time of year. It’s always kind of a crunch time as we start looking at—obviously, the cost of health insurance is it’s a huge impact to organizations. And as we look at what, how can we provide the best plans at the most economical cost that takes care of our employees, are there new benefits that we can offer? So we’re announcing some or have started to announce some really great new benefits that employees are excited about as well as maintaining our costs for our health insurance so.

Andrew Powell: Great. Great. So you got your hands full. As you look at say the next five years, are there other big talent experience plans?

Tamara Iakiri: Continuing to the work that we’ve already started. But as we look around career development is very important. Leadership development. Part of our growth plan is through acquisition so as we were involved in that acquisition process and assessing the culture and the people of organizations that we’re considering, that will be a key part. And then when acquisitions do take place, then certainly onboarding them and bringing them into our culture in a way that is very successful, that we know that will be an important piece. Talent especially within the IT sector is always critical. And if we cannot bring on the best talent, we can’t continue to grow our business. So making sure from a recruitment and onboarding and retention perspective, we are doing all the right things in that sense. So what is our value proposition? How do we engage talent? How do we build our pipeline so that when new opportunities come up, we have people ready to go because we need to make sure that we’re servicing our clients?

Andrew Powell: It sounds like it’s going to be an exciting few years.

Tamara Iakiri: It is. Absolutely yes.

Andrew Powell: It’s got your hands full. So how is what you’re doing impacting what our customers are doing?

Tamara Iakiri: I would say one of the main things we look at is by hiring the best talent and the brightest talent and making sure that they’re happy and engaged in the work they’re providing better services to our clients. We hopefully—that we can provide a model for other companies to consider, take little bits and pieces of things that we are doing and implement in their own organizations. I think we’re all struggling with the same challenges so as there are things that we do, we like to share kind of our best practices. We like to learn from others because we certainly don’t have all the answers. And so it’s really important to kind of be out there and communicating and learning from others.

Andrew Powell: Sweet. Alright. Alright. So, here’s my big question for you. The future’s automated, our cars are going to drive our—drive themselves. Our children will be the last generation of children with driver’s licenses. The world is changing. Can a robot do your job?

Tamara Iakiri: Absolutely not, no. What makes our team unique and what’s important to OST is that it’s a very personal touch. So when we look at situations that our employees are facing, we look at them individually. So what may work for one employee who’s having a health crisis is going to be very different for another employee who’s facing some challenges at home and in their personal life. So we don’t like cookie-cutter solutions. It’s important to us that we’re looking at each individual and their needs and that can only be done with the human touch.

Andrew Powell: Yeah. Yeah. Let’s back up a little bit though cause you said something about cookies. Oh, cookie-cutter solutions.

Tamara Iakiri: Cookie-cutter solutions? Yeah.

Andrew Powell: How do you feel about cookie style?

Tamara Iakiri: We love cookie. We love all food here.

Andrew Powell: Okay. All right. All right. But not cookie-cutter solutions.

Tamara Iakiri: No cookie-cutter solutions.

Andrew Powell: Okay. All right. Tam, I’m gonna switch gears. We’re gonna play a rapid-fire round. Are you ready? Superman or Spiderman?

Tamara Iakiri: Superman.

Andrew Powell: Wrong answer.

Tamara Iakiri: Nope.

Andrew Powell: McDonald’s or Burger King?

Tamara Iakiri: McDonald’s fries and fountain diet Coke.

Andrew Powell: Okay. Okay. I’ll back up on that one. The Beatles or Elvis?

Tamara Iakiri: Elvis.

Andrew Powell: Okay. All right. I’ll let it slide. Coke or Pepsi?

Tamara Iakiri: Coke. Diet Coke, specifically. Without a doubt.

Andrew Powell: What’s your favorite food?

Tamara Iakiri: Oh, can coffee be a food?

Andrew Powell: Sure.

Tamara Iakiri: Coffee.

Andrew Powell: What’s your favorite movie or book?

Tamara Iakiri: Oh my gosh. Favorite book, QBQ The Question Behind the Question.

Andrew Powell: Question Behind the Question.

Tamara Iakiri: It’s a workbook, but it’s really good. I’ve read it like 10 times.

Andrew Powell: You can go anywhere in the world. Where do you go?

Tamara Iakiri: I would go to Europe because that’s where I haven’t been.

Andrew Powell: And give me one thing nobody would guess about you.

Tamara Iakiri: People are always surprised I grew up on a farm.

Andrew Powell: You grew up on a farm?

Tamara Iakiri: I grew up on a farm. Yeah.

Andrew Powell: That was me being surprised that you grew up on a farm. Where’d you grow up on a farm? Michigan?

Tamara Iakiri: In Michigan. Reading Michigan, a very small town.

Andrew Powell: Oh sure. I know Reading Michigan. What kind of farming? Are we talking crops? Are we talking animals?

Tamara Iakiri: No, so it was a hobby farm, but my dad raised pigs. So hundreds and hundreds

Andrew Powell: Hundreds and hundreds of—

Tamara Iakiri: But definitely impacted my work ethic.

Andrew Powell: Was it a Charlotte’s web situation? Did you have cute little baby pigs you loved carrying around?

Tamara Iakiri: No, not really. No.

Andrew Powell: Are we talking food pigs? Are all pigs food pigs? I guess they probably are. I was not raised on a farm. You can tell.

Tamara Iakiri: People have pet pigs.

Andrew Powell: Yeah. Don’t pet pigs at some point you grow up—

Tamara Iakiri: The city has people have like Potbelly pigs—

Andrew Powell: There’s something called “teacup” pig. Are you familiar with this?

Tamara Iakiri: Oh I’m not familiar no.

Andrew Powell: I’m only familiar with this cause my youngest child was obsessed with them at some point cause they’re tiny little pigs, but I understand they aren’t really tiny little pigs. They just start out as tiny little pigs. One more question, Tam. What’s your favorite game?

Tamara Iakiri: Connect Four

Andrew Powell: Connect Four. Yes.

Tamara Iakiri: That is a really good game.

Andrew Powell: Oh my gosh. I’m so glad you said Connect Four. One of my favorites. That’s a great game. Good for kids. Good for adults.

Tamara Iakiri: Good for everybody.

Andrew Powell: Yeah. Strategy never gets old. It’s like tic-tac-toe but there’s four of them.

Tamara Iakiri: Yes.

Andrew Powell: And you stack them. Yeah. All right. Excellent. Tamara, I’m so, so glad you spent the last hour with me.

Tamara Iakiri: Thanks, Andrew. It’s always fun.

Andrew Powell: I know a lot more about talent experience than I did before, and that’s saying a lot because I knew a lot before. Thanks so much for sharing it with our listeners too.

Tamara Iakiri: You are very welcome.

Andrew Powell: Have a great November 1st.

Tamara Iakiri: Awesome. You, too.

Lizzie Williams:OST, changing how the world connects together. For more information, go to ostusa.com