Understanding Engineering Helps Widen the Hiring Net

Did you know that a Mercedes Benz S Class has about 100 million lines of code in the car’s onboard control system? Neither did most of us, which is why Riviera partner and tech guru Sam Wholley was recently invited up to Seattle to give a talk at Talent42, a conference dedicated entirely to tech recruiting.

Sam is no stranger to playing the role of instructor--he regularly runs courses in engineering basics here at the office. At Talent42, he gave attendees a crash course in some of the most commonly-asked questions that help companies think about engineering roles in a different way.  Sam’s regular courses are more than 10-12 hours long, so this was a very summary version.

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Given the huge demand for engineers, this type of training is incredibly valuable in helping recruiters understand the technical nature of these positions. And this is important because, often with engineering, hiring managers are too narrowly focused on a specific skillset when, in many cases, the requirements for some roles are overly constricting. For instance, an experienced, intelligent engineer whom is expert in Ruby or Java can learn Python within a week or two and deliver significant ROI over the course of her tenure at a company.

While this may not be ideal for a four-person company, larger companies can often benefit from training the right individual. A holistic thinker with a solid understanding of object-oriented design will take quickly to any language. The key is to come right out and ask a hiring manager to give reasons why he or she has a specific set of requirements. Sometimes, they have a good reason for seeking a specialist, but more often than not, they’re unnecessarily narrowing the funnel and a generalist could be a good fit.

Of course, even with some general knowledge in code and the like, it can be tough for some recruiters to discern what “good” means in engineering. For those who aren’t hugely technical, Sam suggests they have the candidate explain his or her accomplishments in layman’s terms. If they can’t explain it clearly and concisely to someone who’s not technical, they probably don’t truly understand it themselves. They should be able to opine on predictive analytics, as opposed to just offering a textbook response.

Some more interesting takeaways from the talk:

Want to check out the full crash course? You can view Sam’s presentation here.

Client Testimonial: MyFitnessPal

We live in an age of endless data and metrics, but there’s still nothing quite like a satisfied customer when it comes to making you feel good about what you do. One of those for us is MyFitnessPal, which has been the top downloaded app in both iTunes and the Google Play Store for the past three years, and was rated as the Best DIY Diet by Consumer Reports. We recently chatted with MyFitnessPal CEO Mike Lee to discuss MyFitnessPal’s recruiting goals, what he most enjoyed about working with Riviera, and how the recent placements are working out.

Riviera: Tell us a little about MyFitnessPal.

Mike Lee: The heart of what we do is help people track what they eat and the exercise they perform so they can make healthier decisions. Most people use it to lose weight and it’s incredibly effective. Eighty-eight percent of those who use it for seven days or more lose weight.

R: What are your main goals when it comes to recruiting?

ML: Hire amazing people of course! For us, we’re looking for people that fit three main criteria: skills, team fit and passion. These are critical for someone who hopes to succeed at MyFitnessPal.

R: What are some challenges you’ve faced in recruiting?

ML: It’s not that surprising: just finding amazing people is hard. There aren’t that many of them. And once you find them, it’s an incredibly competitive market out there. As a company, you want to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.

R: What were the driving factors in deciding to work with Riviera?

ML: Riviera was referred to us with high recommendations, and we saw that they were the experts in what we needed. Riviera helped us with our VP of Engineering and Head of Data Sciences searches. We also used Team Services for some mid-level hires.

R: What are some of the benefits you’ve experienced?

ML: Obviously, there was a lot of value with the VP of Engineering search. Riviera really spent a lot of time trying to understand what we’re looking for and giving guidance around those. They’re great listeners but also asked some tough questions. What do we really care about? Do we really need this or that? They’d say a unicorn candidate is the only one that would meet all criteria, and that helped us understand what was most important and what trade offs we could make. As we were going through the process, you introduced a bunch of candidates, and they were really different types of people. That helped us callibrate what we really wanted and narrow in on what we really liked.

Also, Riviera is very consultative. It wasn’t just, “hey, here’s a ton of people to sift through.” Instead, they took our stage of business into account and what we really needed, and then honed in on the people who were really a good fit. This saved us a lot of time and helped us get more clarity on what we were looking for.  And then when we honed in on the candidate we loved the most, there was help with reference checks, helped with the close process, and working what it would take to get this person on board. It was really an end-to-end experience.

R: What do you like most about working with Riviera?

ML: Riviera really feels like a partner. You don’t feel like you’re being sold to. It wasn’t just about finding a body, it was about finding the right person based on your culture and your needs, someone who would really fit in well. They put in a lot work working to help build out your team, and really act like an extension of your team themselves.

R: What results have you achieved?

ML: With the help of Riviera, we’ve hired a VP of Engineering, a Head of Data Science, and three mid-level people. They’re all extremely good fits, and are key parts of our team. These employees all help keep the business going.

How To Hire in EdTech

EdTech is growing, and that means the space is hiring more than ever. There are some unique challenges for startups in the space, but it also offers a relatively singular benefit: people really feel like they’re doing good in the world, and that’s a huge appeal. But how do you go about finding the best hires for your company, especially in the early stages where you may have as little as five employees? The following tips can help.

Create Your Ecosystem

The best way to find exactly who you’re looking for is to be laser focused on background skills and experience, and then finding representative places where these people are. This is what creates your hiring ecosystem for particular positions. Say you were trying to find a candidate with payments experience. You would look at sources such as PayPal and Square, and find people who have worked at these companies.

Know Your “Type”

At startups, the main reason new hires don’t work out has nothing to do with a lack of technical expertise. Rather, it’s that these individuals don’t fit culturally. Successful EdTech founders typically look for communicative, easy going people who are collaborative and good at keeping others in the loop. Honesty, integrity and a genuine interest in the field are also key indicators. Some of these can be hard to read until someone is actually in a position, so you should expect to fire some people, especially at first. Don’t get discouraged.

Host Events

The first place any startup founders find their initial hires is through personal networks, but that gets exhausted quickly. What many overlook is the opportunity that comes from just having people in the building. Host meetup groups and engage with attendees. Creating a sense of community goes a long way beyond just hiring as well.

Look Up

Many of the founders of EdTech companies are recent grads, so they have a tendency to look for other new grads to join the team. The problem here is that these candidates have a lot less flexibility on risk; they’re paying off college loans, dealing with recent moving expenses and generally don’t have a nice cushy savings to fall back on. Perhaps counterintuitively, more senior individuals are more likely to work for less money, provided there are other benefits, whether that’s equity, a good challenge or a great cultural fit.

Be Relentless...with Kindness

Once you find a good candidate, be prepared spend all day contacting this person. Know that it’s going to be time-intensive and create a structure of time-management. The founders of recent startups may spend more than 70-percent of their time on hiring and recruiting. Also, remember to be respectful--your conduct towards potential hires will naturally attract the people you want. A lot of companies make the mistake of being too aggressive to the point where candidates feel that the interest is not genuine.

Reap The Benefits

There’s huge advantage being education companies. Everyone wants to do something they feel is making the world a better place, and people want to join other people on a team that has the same values. Plus, you’re not really expected to be paying the most amount of money. Actually, salary should be the last thing you talk about with potential hires in EdTech. Which brings us to…

Watch Out For Red Flags

A big red flag in EdTech are candidates who are too money-focused and immediately want to talk compensation. Other warning signs: people who don’t seem that interested in the field, who haven’t worked on similar types of projects or who have bounced around too much. And of course there are the cultural points: if someone seems combative, overly opinionated or too forceful, probably not the best fit.

Hiring in any field is a challenge. Luckily, being in the education space gives you a bit of a golden halo, and good talent is attracted to that. You just need to know how to find them.

Client News This Week

Our clients are the best! Another great week containing new products, partners, growth and much more!

Path Looks To Combine Commerce And Messaging With TalkTo Acquisition, Release Of New ‘Talk’ App

Skout Launches Fuse, An Ephemeral Messaging App That Makes Group Chats Explode

Startup Gathering Developing-Country Data Finds Bank Partner

Jiff Pivots to Build Consumer Health Data Platforms for Large Employers

Pure Storage Obtains More Than 100 Patents From IBM

Uber and Airbnb’s Incredible Growth In 4 Charts

Mashable - Big Data Is Changing the Game for Recruiters

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Big Data is the future of recruiting. It looks like our prediction is catching on, too. The folks over at Mashable recently reached out to get our take on this "people analytics" approach to talent search, and Riviera co-founder and managing partner Ali Behnam provided insight into what it takes to employ this approach effectively.

(Mashable) - Big Data Is Changing the Game for Recruiters

There is a human-resources future out there — one in which online resume databases, social media profiles, records of employment, and even scanned business cards and job applications come together to identify the best prospect in a crowd.

It is a future driven by big data — a powerful analytical approach that is simultaneously changing the way recruitment happens and re-emphasizing that it is the recruiter, not the talent, who is at the core of the process.

The future of recruiting

"Big data is the future of recruiting, but you can’t just data mine your way to the right candidate," says Ali Behnam, co-founder and managing partner of Riviera Partners. "You need the right tools, the right combination of external and internal variables and — most importantly — the right people who know how to analyze all of it."

Read the full article here...

Meet the Newest Partner - Austin Brizendine

Recently, we inducted four new partners at Riviera, each of whom will be instrumental in the growth of the company and improving our overall recruiting experience. We’ll be sitting down with each of them over the coming weeks to chat with them on the impact of their new roles, and dig into the inner workings of their brains. Next up: Austin Brizendine.

Austin Brizendine

Engineering & Design Driven Goals: A Conversation With Michael Abbott

Many high tech companies have trouble choosing between an emphasis on solid engineering concerns, and ambitious design objectives. Going too far in either direction can unbalance an organization, leading to products that are either stagnant and obscure or buggy and broken. The ideal situation is an environment where neither engineering nor design is neglected as an organization grows.

Michael Abbott recently had an intimate fireside chat with a group of up and coming industry professionals where he discussed some of the pitfalls associated with focusing too much on one set of goals. Abbot is an expert on enterprise infrastructure for high tech companies, who is well known for overseeing the scaling of Twitter’s team from 45 employees to 400 in just two years time.

Abbott was quick to point out that both perspectives are important in the development of a well-rounded company. Engineering will make sure that your product works well, scales, and functions properly. Meanwhile the product design can ensure that what you are building fits a broad need, and will do so in a way that will please the user.

Because both goals are valid, it’s easy for an organization to lose perspective and start going down the rabbit hole one way or another. If a company relies too heavily on its engineers to lead, then they can end up with obscure products that work well, but lack a market fit or fail inspire the user. On the other hand design centric companies are always chasing after the next “shiny new thing” and end up sacrificing functionality and quality in those pursuits.

The way to avoid this is to ensure that engineering understands or is involved product vision, so that they can add their technical input to new ideas and help build a successful product. You also need product design collaborating with engineering to ensure that the final outcome is viable and user friendly.

Finding the perfect balance between engineering and design goals can be difficult for high tech companies. However, both perspectives offer valuable insights, and failing to acknowledge one in favor of the other can lead to your company developing dangerous tunnel vision - this can be avoided by maintaining open communication and having a strong product vision.

Client News This Week

Yet another great week for our clients! We highlight clients who are rising stars, soon to go public, and are taking on additional funding to continue scaling!

Noah Brier and James Gross, Co-founders of Percolate appear in the 21 Riding Stars in Enterprise Technology

Okta Scores $75M In Final Round Of Funding; Hopes To Go Public In A Couple Of Years

Dropbox Buys MobileSpan, A Ticket To Enterprise Security

Family Location App Life360 Adds CTO To Fend Off Apple And Other Rivals

Priceline Is Buying OpenTable For $2.6 Billion

MobileIron Pops 17% In Public Debut

Exabeam Raises $10 Million For Network-Tracking Security Software

HackerRank Brings In $9 Million To Help Companies Land Good Recruits

AlleyWatch - How to Sell Yourself to a Startup

There's a lot to be said for working at a startup. More ownership, a close-knit company culture and the opportunity to get involved in various areas of the business to name few. But if you're transitioning from the corporate world, it's important to be prepared for a big change in the way things are done. It's critical that you not only take time to evaluate the transition, but also know what it takes to be an attractive candidate to this type of company. For an in-depth take, check out this article on AlleyWatch penned by our New York lead Kevin Bijas.

(AlleyWatch) - How to Sell Yourself to a Startup

Working at a startup is very appealing to many people, and it’s not hard to see why. Startups generally offer more responsibility, more opportunity to give input in a variety of areas, and an utter lack of the endless bureaucracy and red tape required to get things done at larger companies – not to mention the close-knit culture and casual dress code.

However, it takes a particular type of person to thrive in this environment, and if you’re transitioning from corporate, it’s time to reset your expectations. You need to know that the job is going to look and feel completely different. You can’t walk in and expect to be in your comfort zone. Before you make the move, it’s important to step back and make a very clear comparison between your current role and the new role.

Sure, startups can seem like a fun idea and look very attractive equity-wise, but it’s critical that you’re passionate about the product or the company. These positions require a ton of hard work, and people can burn out quickly, if they’re not prepared. This and the potential culture shock is why hiring managers at startups specifically look for people with previous startup experience.

Read the full article here...

Entrepreneur - Modern Marketers Need to Speak 'Engineer'

Marketing is not the same old ballgame anymore. The fact is, technology has changed every aspect of the way we do business, from the way we build products to the way we support our customers. There are now new tools for not only getting messaging out, but also measuring if that messaging works and changing it in real-time. Modern marketers need to understand these tools on a deep level in order to be successful. In other words, modern marketers need to speak "engineer." Read more from our own Kevin Buckby, whose article on the topic recently appeared on Entrepreneur.com

(Entrepreneur) Modern Marketers Need to Speak 'Engineer'

Many successful companies today are software companies under the hood. This massive transformation is felt most profoundly in the changing nature of relationships between companies and their customers, and the marketing department is an integral cog in these relationships.

Industry by industry, the decimation of traditional business models by technology-driven competitors gathers momentum. Consider Netflix and Blockbuster, iTunes and Tower Records, or Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It's why AOL paid $315 million for Huffington Post -- essentially a publishing platform for citizen journalists -- whereas Jeff Bezos paid $250 million for the venerable Washington Post and all its Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists and foreign correspondents.

Read the full article here...