Interview with Bartosz Toporkiewicz, CEO of itMatch "From dreams to realization"

Interview with Bartosz Toporkiewicz, CEO of itMatch "From dreams to realization" itMatch Blog Post

Published: April 4, 2024 by Bartosz Toporkiewicz

Interview with Bartosz Toporkiewicz, CEO of itMatch: "From dreams to realization"

Most of the articles on our blog are written to give you our perspective on recruitment. We also try to explain industry terms and share the knowledge we have collected over many years. Recently, however, we decided that it was time to step out of the box, and for this reason, we would like to publish a transcription of a conversation that one of the most experienced recruiters in our company, Justyna, conducted with Bartek, who is the founder and CEO of itMatch. If you are even slightly interested in the history, current situation, or prospects facing IT recruitment, you should read this article!

Visionary leader

Justyna: Let's start by introducing you to our readers. What is your role at itMatch? If you had to describe yourself in two sentences, what would they sound like?

Bartek: Well, then, I'm the CEO of itMatch, and I'm also the person whose job it is to look ahead, to plan, and to make sure that others want to progress. I also spend a huge amount of time making sure that my organization is not going in circles and reinventing the wheel, and that it is constantly looking for new growth opportunities.

Justyna: This all sounds great, but one thing intrigued me. You said that you are looking to the future. I'm wondering, when you were thinking about setting up itMatch, when the concept was just emerging, were you also based on a long-range strategy? By that I mean, did you see six months rather than a decade ahead?

Bartek: Definitely a decade ahead, I have the mindset of a visionary. Looking to the future, I focus on innovative solutions and continuous development, not only for itMatch, but also for the recruitment industry as a whole. I believe that the key to success is to adapt to changing trends and proactively take action to meet the challenges that await us tomorrow.

Genesis of itMatch: From a desire for change to a business

Justyna: And where did the idea for itMatch come from? How did it get started?

Bartek: I think I have this "naughty child" syndrome, that is, I can't be locked in a room and forced to sit in one place. I've always been suffocated by corporate processes, not-so-clear arrangements, and lack of opportunities to use my creative power, and when I came out of university, I was taught to use a lot of tools to help me start my own business. In fact, everyone treated starting their own business as an absolutely paramount goal, we all thought that making something of our own would be an indicator of success in life. I started my job in recruitment with this in mind, I wanted to work with and for people. In my last job, I noticed a lot of things that I created on my own and with the help of my team, but no longer with the help of corporate headquarters.  This gave me a clear message that this was my prime time, that it was time to act, and that I had all the knowledge, skills and tools to break out of the safe environment of working for a multinational corporation and create something local, something of my own. This, by the way, was the era of entrepreneurship in Poland (which I believe is still going on). It was also a time when local brands began to play their part and began to gain importance. I also remember the feedback I got from the head of Ocado. After a 20-30-minute conversation, I heard that it is rare to meet such ambitious and confident people who are not afraid of the future and the present to this extent. I absolutely don't think this is true, because inside I am experiencing a lot of doubts, but I think that actually, I have never lacked the courage to face tomorrow.

Justyna: So you're debunking the statement that you are the most ambitious person around you?

Bartek: Well, yes, because it's not quite true - I'm not afraid to admit that I'm afraid of some future events. I was also afraid when I founded itMatch, after all, I was giving up a very comfortable stool in an international company at the time. The position of manager, with a company car and a very good salary, was certainly very comfortable and secure. At the same time, I felt that it was 10 years ago that was the best possible opportunity to make the decision to create itMatch.

Justyna: Some people say that working with people is the most difficult. Weren't you afraid of this aspect? I'm referring to both your choice of career path as a recruiter and the moment when you decided to set up your own recruitment agency.

Bartek: Well, fate has given me a talent for working with people in terms of predicting the expectations of the other party, predicting what the person wants to hear and achieve. Although my predictions are not always accurate, I can say that I really often manage to get along with other people. God forbid, these are not attempts at manipulation - it's mostly about the ability to implement mutual assumptions while respecting one's own, often separate goals. I think I've spent a lot of time and energy developing a talent for rallying, engaging, and motivating people around me, and it's the reason I'm where I am and pursuing my career plans.

Justyna: itMatch is now more than 10 years old and has changed a lot during this time. Could you please tell us what the brand is today and what it does?

Bartek: Today's itMatch is a company that, in a city as large as Krakow, is one of the two most recognizable recruitment agencies in the local IT world. This certainly motivates and gives the wind in our sails - together, we've been able to achieve tremendous branding success, and on the other hand, I'm extremely grateful to our first clients who decided to trust us, who gave us something as business-essential as recruitment. When we signed a contract with Ocado 10 or 11 years ago, I had the feeling that it was quite risky for our client. We came there as a company consisting of three people and tried to conquer the recruitment market in Poland's second largest city.

Justyna: Do you remember how many people we hired for Ocado?

Bartek: Definitely more than 700. It's hard for me to say how many it was exactly, but I'm guessing it's in the range of 700 to 750 people. 

Justyna: Back then, for that time, such a result would have been unthinkable for a team of three, right?

Bartek: Certainly, it would have been hard to imagine. When we got involved with Ocado's service, I had rather short-term goals - I was hoping for 30 people, after which we and our client would go our separate ways. However, it turned out that the needs were different, and that we could do much more as well. I heard then that we had all the capabilities and tools to do more recruiting, and in fact, we were already very good at talking to people and convincing them that Ocado was the right employer for them.

Justyna: What do you think sets itMatch apart the most? Is the collaborative approach to clients our key to success?

Bartek: Frankly speaking, the entry barrier to the recruitment industry is relatively low - you just need to buy a few tools and set up an account on Linkedin. This means that in order to have real success in this business, you have to stand out in some way. We, over the past 11 years, have created a brand, a huge database, a network of contacts and merge, both from the candidate and client level. These are dozens of people we talk to every day, who give us knowledge of the market, who give us great experience and a sense of the current situation. Thanks to data analysis, we can instantly track trends and changes, which makes it easier, for example, to conduct market mapping. In addition, we are simply recognizable among candidates - people we hired 11 years ago for junior positions are today managers and heads. Those people we recruited at the same time for team leadership positions, today are VPs and even CTOs. At this point, we can count on many referrals and it often happens that when moving to a new company, the manager makes use of our services when the need comes. Knowing that itMatch can handle recruitment not only at the level of delivering the candidate and closing the process, but also at the level of added value, manifested, for example, by maintaining a high level of conversation with the recruited programmer, brilliantly conducted branding and looking for people who fit the organizational culture, the manager will stay with us - we establish business partnerships, often for many years, and this is our key to success and continuous development.

Justyna: And if you had to, in three succinct sentences, describe itMatch's area of operation and what your clients get when they choose to work with us?

Bartek: A client who cooperates with itMatch buys knowledge, skills and experience. Knowledge on how to recruit. Skills in terms of what tools are effective and how to use them, and experience expressed through a database that contains more than 40,000 candidates and market data from the last decade. The level of recognition of itMatch is undoubtedly high, which makes recruiting very easy - it happens that the candidate has already had contact with us and has the feeling that he or she is talking to competent and reliable specialists. Although the client can still surprise us, it seems to me that technologically and process-wise we are fully capable of tailoring recruitment to the needs of basically any organization. If a client is looking for a recruitment agency that simply sends a person and they will automatically talk to them and take an offer, it's unlikely to find that with us - our business is based not only on closing vacancies, which is of course crucial, but also on process consulting, branding, all the HR know-how. Without these elements, we are a de facto artificial back office creation that spits out candidates. This has no right to sustain itself - currently, the companies that are exposed to collapse are mainly those that deal exclusively with sourcing.