Case Study: JetBlue Airways
Among the many assignments for JetBlue, there have been unique challenges. In one instance Kensington Stone was asked to identify, assess and recruit an exceptional Director of Quality Assurance, an FAA-mandated position. At the time a very young start-up company, JetBlue needed to fill this position as quickly as possible, and requested that we complete the entire retained search in no more than 30 days.
At no additional cost, Kensington Stone added a full-time associate to assist in the search, and passed on at least one other assignment to insure as much time as possible was available to conduct the search. Each weekend was dedicated to travel and the interviewing of candidates identified during the previous week. This insured that every moment of the work week was dedicated to identifying and screening new prospects.
In addition, a profile was developed that identified the traits necessary to increase the likelihood of success, given that airline engineers were typically risk-averse and less likely to take on the challenge of employment with new airline along with a relocation to the high-cost New York City area.
Within 28 days, two finalists were interviewed by JetBlue. Though the entire search took just over 30 days, JetBlue was comfortable with the progress and identification of a candidate they deemed perfect, and at the end of 30 days, our client considered the search completed.
Another challenge we faced at JetBlue was the search for the CIO, the key executive for providing leadership and vision over the company’s information technology. It was a crucial position responsible for ensuring that JetBlue’s technology adequately supported the company’s vital business functions, while growing at a frantic pace. At the time the company had grown from a few dozen employees to over 5,000 in less than five years and was operating entirely on a distributed Windows platform. The IT staff numbered 70, but was expected to more than double in the following two years.
The position required a very unique individual who could balance the entrepreneurial pressures, with the needs of a company growing into a large corporation. An additional challenge was attracting a world-class IT executive to a cost conscious, low-fare carrier based in the country’s most expensive city.
We realized that we had to get creative and identify unique individuals who had both entrepreneurial and big company experience. Furthermore, they had to have a unique balance between strategic vision and hands-on tactical knowledge. Finally, they needed to have a unique passion and connection with the culture and challenges faced by JetBlue at that time. Since the compensation would be less than similar CIO positions in New York City, there would have to be reasons beyond money for taking on this huge challenge.
The right person had to be “unique” and this was born out by the fact that we screened over 300 candidates, interviewed a total of 53 in person, and presented a whopping 29 candidates, each with a comprehensive assessment. As the search progressed, it became evident the search required 100% of our attention and as other assignments concluded, we made the decision to turn down any further assignments until the CIO role was filled.
The successful candidate made an immediate impact, identifying additional crucial issues that required immediate attention. His strategic vision and expert knowledge brought a new level of leadership to the IT department and enabled JetBlue to continue growing at a rapid pace to over 10,000 employees. Still today, executives at JetBlue call to mention what a successful hire this was. In large part due to his successful stint as the CIO of JetBlue, this individual was recently recruited to be the CIO of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, where he has global IT responsibilities for an organization with 145,000 employees.