Sometimes one’s “calling” is an abstraction. Other times, it’s a very specific material thing; you are called upon by circumstance to step into a role.
The latter is the case for Monica Durkee, who leads recruitment efforts at The Black Tux.
“Initially, I thought I was going to be a nurse, one who brings the newest little humans into the world, supporting women and families throughout that process,” Durkee said. “When I shifted away from healthcare, I decided to pursue the only other industry that captivated me: tech.”
When Durkee first joined The Black Tux, she did so in the dual role of receptionist and employee experience coordinator. She relished the opportunity to support her colleagues and foster a sense of community. She excelled in that role and was soon asked to take on new responsibilities as the growing company’s sole recruiter.
“I loved my job, my team and supporting the needs of our employees,” Durkee said. “And while I understood the significance my role played, over the years, I’ve widened my perspective, seeing more clearly how vital that role is — and all roles are — to achieving a balanced workplace. In recruiting, that’s the job, dissecting and articulating how a single role makes an impact.”
Expanding into recruitment has given Durkee a unique opportunity to harness her sense of satisfaction and drive to inform recruitment decisions throughout the entire organization.
In her current role, Durkee oversees a team of four direct reports. She and her team are responsible for ensuring that The Black Tux knits each of its team members into a fruitfully collaborative workplace — a workplace that honors her colleagues’ authentic selves, celebrates their unique capabilities and characteristics and champions their ability to come together and collaborate.
“Over the years, I found that creative spark in the support of new employees,” Durkee said. “I’m really passionate about people and the small details that make each person unique. I believe when people harness the things that make them special both personally and professionally, a truly authentic team is created. This inspiration is what I center around when building a recruitment strategy.”
What they do
The Black Tux is a direct-to-consumer online menswear platform that offers modern suits and tuxedos for purchase or rent.
How does working for The Black Tux help you make progress toward your career goals?
The Black Tux is really where my career has taken off and shaped me into a leader.
Our leaders encourage their teams to take risks, ask questions when challenges arise, to be autonomous and think strategically with room to innovate. We hold ourselves to a high standard with our work and uplift each other along the way.
A few years ago, I wrote down eight interesting areas I wanted to develop. Today, I can confidently say I am excelling at six and actively working with my manager on the remaining two with additional goals sprinkled in over time. I believe this has been possible because of the support and encouragement of the leaders around me.
“We hold ourselves to a high standard with our work and uplift each other along the way.”
What makes The Black Tux a unique place to work from a professional development perspective?
Our company believes that when we show up as the best versions of ourselves, we do our best and feel our best. Our team is empowered to communicate with one another, give and receive feedback, and be vulnerable. We encourage our team to know themselves well and communicate their desires for growth.
When we are aware of what we want and how to ask for it, we thrive as employees but also as people. This quarter, our talent and people team is launching personal growth reviews that will be held twice per year so that managers and direct reports will have the tools for a consistent check-in dedicated to career development.
How have you grown professionally at The Black Tux?
When I first stepped into recruiting, I was a team of one reporting into our chief people officer. We partnered on recruiting roles of all levels — from chief financial officer to retail associates. This was a big introduction with high visibility into my work across our company. I quickly learned the ins and outs of recruiting and dug deeper into the most critical components: cross-collaboration, advocacy for both our candidates and hiring teams and implementing a consistent recruiting process for the best candidate experience.
Now leading a team, I am harnessing my skills to drive our recruiting performance by tracking team goals, leading solutions to improve our performance and process, and thinking strategically about how to evolve.
“When we are aware of what we want and how to ask for it, we thrive as employees but also as people.”
What professional development tools and resources have you utilized?
One of our perks at The Black Tux is learning and development opportunities. We have a learning and development stipend that I’ve used to purchase books and trainings. And the company organizes workshops for teams.
Recently, all managers have been required to attend company-sponsored manager training with LifeLabs. We are taught how to hold effective one-on-one meetings as a manager, the art of giving and receiving feedback, and how to navigate career development conversations. As a new manager, and from what I’ve observed of others, these trainings have been immensely helpful in effecting positive leadership skills.
How are managers involved in the career development of direct reports?
Right now, our employee experience team is building a career development pathway for every role and team. This pathway will go hand-in-hand with our bi-annual personal growth review. Managers will have the structural support from our company to navigate employees’ career development.
Our team also uses a skills matrix that breaks down our cultural values by level. We use this matrix to refine our skills with regard to culture building throughout our tenure.
What are you excited to accomplish next?
My personal development is being upleveled. I’m currently on a pathway for a promotion from recruiting lead to recruiting manager. My manager and I meet monthly to check in on my progress, and I’m hoping to reach that level in the next couple of months. I’m also excited to build more substance around our brand as an inclusive employer.