Doubling Down on Technology Leadership. Doubling Down on New York

The engineering, product and design leaders we work with are changing the world, one line of code at time.

Though the tech industry started in the Bay Area, it has created job and economic growth across the nation and the world.  It’s no surprise that the same entrepreneurial spirit that created Silicon Valley is behind the wave of digital transformation powering today’s most successful companies on both coasts.  Startups built on technology are being created every day in cities where tech talent, venture funding and ideas are prevalent. And, right now some of the industry’s most exciting growth is in New York.

Last fall, Amazon announced that it will add a second headquarters with 25,000 new jobs in the city.  Google is expanding its Hudson Square Campus and will double its staff there by 2022. New York is a hub for startups due to abundant venture funding and availability of top talent. Not only is New York home to important global companies, it is also home to over 7,000 startups in the consumer web, health tech, B2B, and fintech. In fact, New York-based startups raised more than $25 billion from venture capital firms last year.  

In recent years, we’ve built a vibrant technology recruiting practice in New York, placing critical leadership at companies such as Cadre, Oscar, Rent the Runway, Warby Parker, BlueVoyant, Citizen, Earnest Research, and theSkimm.  Today, we’re doubling our commitment to the market with the acquisition of Bamboo Talent, a highly specialized, talented team of recruiting professionals who are deeply embedded in New York’s technology community.

Founded in 2014, Bamboo has brought tech leadership to growing companies like ActionIQ, Beeswax, Bread Finance, Cadre, ClassPass, Datadog, Etsy, Frame.io, Glossier, Goldman Sachs, MongoDB, Namely, The New York Times, and TrialSpark. Our combined relationships with CEOs, CTOs, founders, venture capitalists and talent partners will accelerate our ability to match stand-out talent to top opportunities in New York.

We are very excited to welcome Will Potter, Glenn Murphy and Jon Peters to the Riviera family.  We look forward to placing more leaders that power the growth of technology on the East Coast, just as we have done out West. It’s an exciting time in tech, and we are just getting started.

Will Hunsinger is CEO of Riviera Partners

How Machine Learning Will Shape the Future of Hiring

Machine learning is streamlining many industries, from e-commerce to healthcare to finance and social media. The hiring industry is no different, and while technological leaps are hard, progress is already in place to make hiring more efficient and cost effective. Our own VP of Data Science and Analytics, Tammy Wang, penned a post on machine learning in hiring - read on to find out what the future looks like and what one thing she says absolutely cannot be replaced by machines.

(Medium) How Machine Learning Will Shape the Future of Hiring

We are living in an amazing era when cars come to you whenever and wherever you need at the cost of a cup of coffee; when groceries and meals are delivered to the front door. Yet, when it comes to looking for a job, a thing that consumes a big portion of time in our lives and composes part of our identities, we are still experiencing the long, slow, confusing process that has been around for decades. Traditional hiring methods are outdated, ineffective, lack transparency and impact the efficiencies in hiring that ultimately affect the progress of everyone’s professional lives.

With the advancement of computing technology and decades of data accumulation, it’s now time for the hiring industry to follow the footsteps of many businesses and industries where technology and science have already had a dramatic impact — like e-commerce, healthcare, finance and social media.

In hiring the most difficult problem to solve is to predict the “fit” between the company looking to make a hire and the potential candidate. In other words, to create a perfect (or at minimum very strong) match. The challenge then becomes how to train learning algorithms in this exceedingly complex space, and while it might seem impossible to pinpoint the right person to a specific job, it’s actually a great efficiency gain to even just narrow down the candidate discovery range.

Why Hiring is So Complicated

Existing machine learning platforms have gotten incredibly adept at making highly targeted product recommendations for people as there are well-developed applications to capture the relatively static features of products, such as genres of books or movies, color, and shape of products. There is also a large volume of past purchasing or browsing behavior to build each individual’s taste and preferences. In hiring, that same type of matching algorithm is much more complex when the goal is to match a human to a group of humans, both of which have an infinite depth of preferences and hidden decision factors.

A job candidate is a complicated person and hard to describe in the “feature” space like a physical product, while the hiring end is even more complex because it not only factors in the human element but also group dynamics and each candidate has to “fit in” both technically and culturally.

The second complexity is the dynamic nature of the candidates and jobs. Both ends of the matching equation are constantly evolving as people develop skills and experiences, and companies or businesses evolve as markets change.

It’s also worth noting that people don’t hop around that frequently in the full-time job space (compared to the data that’s readily available around purchasing activities, for example), further limiting the amount of data available to advance machine learning. Job hunting or hiring domain data is not only sparse but also highly fragmented. People often search for jobs in one spot, submit resumes from another channel, and the interaction data are largely kept in the hiring companies, not available for a platform to process the end-to-end funnel to build good learning algorithms.

Hiring Now and in the Future

In the hiring space, technological leaps are hard, but signs of progress are already in place. Much of this progress is due to the ability of learning algorithms to spot patterns in data. Systems can scan through a big collection of candidates and use predictive signals to identify those who are relevant. For example, it had been observed that people’s career movements are very rhythmic: as if there are intrinsic leitmotifs in each of us or reiterative behaviors that can be identified. Some people tend to hop around, while some like to stick to the same place. These patterns can inform recruiters around the timing of the candidates, and only propose opportunities to those who are ready. This modeling approach yields better candidate experience and recruiting efficiency. Moreover, advancements in natural language processing technology provide a powerful collection of tools to help companies map candidate experience in skills, specialties and leadership domains so the right candidates can be identified with confidence and precision, reducing both costs and resources in the hiring process.

Since the subject of the recruiting market is human, machine learning has the potential to generate negative impact: it could repeat, or even amplify, the human bias in the process, such as gender or age discrimination. These concerns are valid because machines learn from behavior data and try to imitate the practice, however, we remain optimistic that with data, machine learning is also good at parsing out conditional probability, like bias. With well-structured learning algorithms, not only can the biases can be detected, the process can also be adjusted to an unbiased and more accurate decision support tool.

If we look toward even just five years from now, we’ll experience big improvements when companies and potential candidates reach out to each other mediated by AI or Augmented Intelligence. We anticipate a “human in the loop” recruiting technology will shorten the time to close a position. We also see the interaction between those hiring and job candidates will be supplemented by natural language bots that can service the candidates or companies 24/7, and in the most insightful ways. For example, machine learning can help candidates parse out differences among large ranges of potential jobs and project the outcome of a particular choice. This type of transparency, especially around information organized to help people, will help the candidate make more rational decisions and thus build happier work environments.

If we look ahead 10 years, jobs and the job market might have a very different meaning to people. Job candidates and companies seeking to hire will be able to relate to each other in a smooth and intuitive way. People will be able to find the “best” job to accommodate personal lifestyles, passions, and motivations.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence hold the keys to streamlining many industries, not just hiring, by automatically mining massive data sets, making predictive inferences of behavior, and predictions around relationships. And while all of this is truly life changing, there is one key thread that ties it all together that absolutely cannot be pulled from the cloth — the human element. Especially in recruiting, no matter what stage of development these technologies reach the human element will remain essential. Humans will always be responsible for understanding emotion, applying intuition and common sense, and making ethical judgments — qualities that machines will never have. Conversely, machines are capable of computations at a speed and scale the human brain will never be able to perform, which is why the idea of man plus machine is truly how the magic happens, as each side brings something to the table the other will never be able to master. When man and machine intelligence come together, that’s when machine learning has the power to shape the future of how we hire and how we work.

Our Talent Platform: The RiviApps Suite

In case you missed it: We believe that full-stack business is the future of recruiting. That’s why we’ve been hard at work creating a tech platform that serves all three spokes in the recruiting wheel--recruiters, companies and talent. The RiviApps suite is a unique and cohesive system that engages all three parties while providing real-time transparency into the recruiting process, thus reducing friction and increasing efficiency. Tying all of these things together provides a true end-to-end experience that benefits everyone.

For one, companies can interact with the recruiter in real-time as the hiring process moves forward. They can also check in on the status of the hiring process at any time and will get the same metrics view of project performance as the recruiter. This transparency into every point in the funnel allows companies and recruiters to monitor progress together and address challenges accordingly, thereby making the entire process more efficient. Additionally, they’ll be able to evaluate candidates based on different criteria and be able to assess potential matches by changing the weighting of various priorities. Ultimately, companies can also choose the level of recruiter help desired, which lets them operate within varying pricing parameters.

On the talent side, people are going to find the recruiting process much less time-consuming. They won’t be constantly contacted by recruiters; rather, they’ll be served only relevant deals, which will get better over time as the app learns their preferences. They can also choose their level of engagement with both companies and recruiters--they have the option to interact directly with companies if desired. Recruiters will act more as career advisors, as the majority of matching (and “pitching”) will be handled by the technology. Plus, the platform will play host to a community of like-minded individuals, as well as valuable resources for both active and passive candidates, such as advice on resume building, how to conduct yourself in an interview and what types of roles make the most sense based on a desired career path.

With RiviApps suite, the recruiter role is vastly different than what we’ve become used to in the traditional approach. There’s always going to be a human element in decision making, but we think recruiter focus should be on the relationship, engagement and negotiating side of equation. We want recruiters to be able to spend more time on these high-value elements, versus time-sucking tasks like scheduling meetings and sifting through profiles trying to find people--technology can handle those things just fine. Now, recruiters can spend their time meeting with people and developing relationships, which allows them to assess intangible factors that enable better company/talent matches. Their role in this “new world order” is much more about consulting. That’s a critical part of the process that only a human can do, and there’s no reason for it to change.

We’re using the machine to augment and amplify what the recruiter does best. A human can only match across maybe a dozen or so jobs; with a machine, it's infinite. And technology can take in more variables to optimize matches based on preferences. Additionally, tech provides blanket of transparency across all three parties that helps them all make better decisions faster. It’s a true human + machine approach: The human element improves machine, and vice versa. That’s the differentiation between Rivi and the rest.

Closing the App Gap: Rivi's Talent Platform

We’ve taken many steps our quest to make recruiting a full-stack business. We built Sutro, our in-house data aggregation platform; hired a team of developers and others dedicated to technology; and released a beta of Snap, our app designed to give companies full transparency into the hiring process. But we’re not done yet. Next on the horizon: an app designed to give talent more control in the job marketplace. This third app will complete the initial suite of apps comprising RiviApps.

In order to offer a true end-to-end experience, we need to serve all three spokes in the hiring wheel: the recruiters, companies and candidates. Our latest app will bring the RiviApps suite full circle, offering a way for engineering talent--both active and passive--to access a rich library of information designed to help them find and secure their ideal position, as well as assist them in managing their careers more broadly.

At its core, the new talent app will offer all the essential information around potential engineering opportunities in the marketplace. This includes information such as profiles and culture of the company, the problem that is being addressed, what the role entails, the investors in the company, and much more.

A significant benefit for the candidate with this new app will be increased transparency and greater control. For example, talent can see in real-time what's going on with an opportunity, as well as what the perception is in marketplace from other candidates who are exploring the same or similar opportunities. With this new app, people won’t be reliant on the recruiter to match them; instead, they will interact with the recruiter and the technology to tailor matches. And as they interact with the system, it will learn about preferences and factor those desires into the matching process.

Over time, the app will provide experiences beyond the basic act of seeking a new role. Participants in the app will be able to engage with other people on the platform. These interactions could result in a variety of mentoring, networking and knowledge building opportunities within the engineering community. It’s a little bit of a Quora for talent, so they can ask the questions and receive answers from other experienced professionals, but it’s more heavily focused on career development and management. Our recruiters will have a role in this community as well, providing advice on topics such as resume building and how to conduct yourself in an interview. This network of experts will be carefully curated, so that those using the app know that they’re going to get quality information.

Additionally, our full suite of apps allows people to choose the level of engagement they want from the recruiter, and we will tailor the experience based on the desires of the participants. This could include direct interaction between the candidate and the company, with the recruiter acting more as a career advisor.

With the talent app, we’re building toward the future by creating a full recruiting platform. Once this is in place, the entire system becomes more collaborative, efficient and transparent.

Introducing Snap: A Rivi App Designed for Companies

“How should things change?”  “What can we be doing differently?”  “How do we really deliver the best service and experience to our customers?”

These are the types of questions we have been asking ourselves over the past year or so while we’ve been focused on building out our internal application, Sutro. The discussions around these questions have also led us to embark on a path that we believe is unique in the agency recruiting business. We first looked externally and studied available tools in the market; we then looked internally and scrutinized our own recruiting methodologies and outcomes; and these exercises made it clear how to push ahead. We have decided that “breaking things” is the only way that we’re ever really going to change not only what and how we do things, but hopefully, fundamentally change the client and candidate experience in recruiting.

To change how recruiting and hiring are done, we’ve been building out both the tech and the associated team, including a Partner dedicated to technology and a VP of Engineering. They’ve been hard at work developing technology for Sutro, and now we’re going after the real differentiator--one that’s designed to create the smoothest, most efficient and most transparent experience for recruiters, companies and prospective candidates alike. This latest release is Snap, a client-facing app that provides a real-time view into the hiring process.

One thing that is lacking in the recruiting process, especially when it involves agency recruiters, is transparency. However, transparency is key to making the hiring process work because it allows us to pinpoint and address the issues which hinder progression or, worse yet, not putting the best candidate in the seat. In this industry, the hiring process is typically black box with a lot of  smoke and mirrors, but we’re committed to being open and transparent, and providing the best possible service to our customers, on both sides of the deal.

Snap provides a transparent view into a company’s individual project and benchmarks progress against comparable projects. Using the app, companies can interact with the recruiter in real-time as the hiring process moves forward. They can also check in on the status of the hiring process at any time, and will get the same metrics view of project performance as the recruiter. This transparency into every point in the funnel allows companies and recruiters to monitor progress together and address challenges accordingly, thereby making the entire process more efficient.

Many search firms wouldn’t release something like this because it goes against the nature of all recruiters. And in fact, no one else is providing visible metrics and benchmarks - or allowing companies to interact in this manner at all.

Additionally, Snap will allow companies to collaborate with both internal and external parties as part of the process. Hiring teams can interact on multiple levels, capturing feedback, controlling and planning the process, and sharing information across the decision makers, as desired. Soon, companies will even be able to directly schedule candidate interviews via the Rivi App Suite.

Finding the best match between company and employee is the goal, and its often a challenging journey.  We believe increased transparency and interaction on all levels will not only reduce the challenge but also provide long term benefits to all parties.

Snap is currently available in beta to our clients. Want to try it out? Click here to get in touch with Rivi.

Rivi's Third Wave of Tech Hires

The Push to Expand: Growing the Team

In our quest to build our technology platform to its fullest potential, Rivi started to build a complete in-house development team, including a VP of Engineering and a Partner dedicated to tech. The first two waves of hires were able to bring the development of Sutro in-house, but we quickly realized we wanted to create more than just a tool for recruiters. We wanted to expand in order to provide the end-to-end experience of a true full-stack business, which in our case, includes apps for clients and candidates as well as recruiters. For this, there was a renewed push to hire and grow the team.

Majed drew on his network and connection to bring in Ruby Wang, who was the first addition focused totally on data science and algorithms. She’s currently working on the Rivi API and the matching analysis for our matching algorithm.  With the success of our initial efforts around matching, we wanted to bring in additional talent to move this effort further on an accelerating pace. Says Ruby about coming to Rivi: “It’s so exciting to build products from scratch with a team of talented engineers and make a big impact on the product.” When she’s not getting all mathematical, Ruby indulges in her Netflix addiction.

Next was Merve Kovan-Bakan, who previously worked at Webkite on their Facebook app, and spent some time working with our partners at Women Who Code. She’s currently working on allowing data and gesture within the apps, building out the API and making sure everything is cohesive. Says Merve about coming to Rivi: “I immediately felt like I fit, both in terms of what I get to work on and the people I get to work with.” In her downtime, Merve is exploring California by camping and hiking her way around the state. If you run into her, ask her to break out into a Turkish folk dance--we hear she knows her steps.

We also brought on Latif Sebbane, who has been helping Rivi develop Snap, our client app that’s currently in beta. He has been committed to ensuring the app is completely transparent for users on both sides.​ Latif comes to us from Netpulse where he was responsible for building the Netpulse administration application. Says Latif about coming to Rivi: “The team and the tools we get to use are truly ahead of the curve.” He’s obsessed with cupcakes, and you can find him playing or watching soccer in his downtime.

We also moved Eugene Chinveeraphan up through the ranks. Eugene started at Rivi five years ago as an intern, then became a recruiter. Now, he’s on the tech team doing data reporting and analysis. His efforts on aggregating information available on the web and from paid databases, and incorporating that info into the RiviApps has been critical to our tech development.

All told, we’re running strong with a team of 10 tech experts--and we’re not slowing down. You can expect Rivi to continue the hiring and doing it in our signature creative style.

 

Want to join the Rivi Team? Check out our open roles:

Ruby on Rails Developer

Front End/UX Developer

Rivi's Second Wave of Tech Hires

In the push for full-stack recruiting, we recognized the need to build our technology platform in-house, and for that, we needed an internal development team--the RATs. Like many companies, our first few hires were opportunistic. But as you start to build out a team, the time comes to be strategic. Rivi VP of Engineering Majed Itani took the recruiting reins himself and brought in a couple of individuals who were critical to developing Sutro and adding more apps to our ecosystem.

Fittingly, both of Majed’s first two hires came from open-source CRM companies--his own stomping grounds. First up was David Tam, a software developer who ran into Majed at a career fair two weeks before he graduated. David is currently working on the infrastructure of our platform and other back-end functionality that gives us the ability to build out multiple apps. He's developing what our users will see and experience in both the present and future. Says David about coming to Rivi: “I was pitched on the idea of taking recruiting to the next level using technology and it just made sense. It also seemed like something that nobody else has done well yet.”

Next, Majed won over Peter Deng, another software developer who worked on his own start-up before joining the team at Rivi. Peter is focused on front end development, working on the UI design of our apps and helping implement cohesive branding and usability. Says Peter about working for Rivi: “I was in the process of recruiting and the experience was less than enjoyable. I wanted to scratch my own itch.”

When they’re not coding up a storm, Peter is spinning electronic music on his turntables, while David might be falling asleep on public transit--though he’d prefer to be working on his car or going for a run. Peter also loves to travel, but never plays the part of the tourist.

The culmination of a great team under great leadership with a clear goal makes for amazing progress on projects large and small. We’ve always had our eye on the big prize, so the next step was to expand the team even more in order to bring our tech to the next level.

 

Rivi’s First Wave of Tech Hires

In order to bring our tech platform, Sutro, to market--the “market” being our own team of recruiters--we relied on third-party resources in the form of our friends at eAlchemy. But,as our vision of the platform expanded, we quickly realized the need to bring development in-house, which meant hiring our own internal team of engineers. Enter the RATs--our Rivi Apps Team.

While we knew we needed a leader in the form of a VPE, we also realized that Rivi would be a more viable option for someone great if we already had a few people in place. And so our first few hires were opportunistic, brought on to help our outside consultants.

First up was Arvind Rao, a data scientist with a knack for algorithms who came to Rivi from ark.com. He immediately jumped in on the matching algorithm originally developed by eAlchemy, and transition ownership in-house. Recently, Arvind has been focusing on both scoring and matching, including extending out matching to the management and executive level. His main goal of late has been fine-tuning and revising the algorithms based on ever changing data inputs, and we’re seeing plenty of headway in that regard.

Our second hire, Nick James, is a full-stack software engineer. At the time, we hired him to work on our client app Snap, but he ended up getting sucked into other projects, and like the great team player that he is, he willingly accepted the new challenges. Nick has been critical contributor to a lot of backend and database work related to Sutro and other Rivi Apps. Due to the growth in the business, he became the lead engineer to release feature/functionality and enhancements to Sutro. Now, Nick is focused almost entirely on Snap, but like the rest of the RATs, he plugs in when needed and has been working across all the existing apps.

Says Nick about coming to Rivi: “I felt like there was a very rare opportunity to make a real impact inside of a well-established company and industry full of good people--who would pass that up? Not me!”

Outside the office, both Nick and Arvind are avid runners. Nick’s also known for hopping on his bike to explore new brunch spots and find the best cup of coffee in the Bay. Arvind spends his time exploring the City and its greater environs.

Ultimately, we’ll have a small dev team dedicated to each of the apps we’re working on, but for now, we’re grateful to have a flexible group of core developers who are helping us take our technology to the next level. Check back here to meet more of them in the coming weeks.

Partner Sandy Ma, Driving Rivi Technology Since 2010

In our quest to drive the recruiting industry forward, we realized we needed to develop a suite of applications, starting with our recruiter app Sutro. And to accomplish that, we needed to hire an excellent in-house development team. None of this would have been possible without Sandy Ma, Rivi’s Partner dedicated to technology. She has been at the forefront of the effort to get the company to a more tech-based solution, and has been critical to helping Rivi evolve.

“Since the day Sandy got here five years ago, she has been looking for ways to taking the company out of the dark ages,” says Rivi Managing Partner Ali Behnam. Sandy is nothing if not tenacious, and she has a reputation around the office for getting stuff done--regardless of resources. Even early on, when there were far fewer resources, Sandy drove things as a solo act, pushing projects through to completion. She has now has evolved into a critical member of the technology team, and was able to transition flawlessly into operating within the team dynamic. She’s able to take the deep domain expertise of Riviera and translate it into a strategy for the dev team.

As soon as the importance of Sutro was recognized, we knew we needed a major influence and Sandy has been it--she has been overseeing the project from day one. She first managed a third-party development team and is now working with the internal team to create tools and systems that help our recruiters, as well as our customers, work more efficiently. They’re working tirelessly on furthering the development of Rivi Apps, a suite of tools that are trying to capture as much data as possible during the recruiting process.

Says Sandy: “Historically, during the recruiting process it’s very easy to have conversations and lose those conversations over time, and then have to start over during each search. We’re trying to capture each conversation, so that people can reuse the information and collaborate more efficiently and effectively.”

Building the Rivi Apps Team

To date, we have heavily utilized third party consulting and contract resources in our efforts around data analytics and matching algorithms  We’ve always had strong recruiters at Riviera, and the technology tools we’ve been building have been largely in support of that core user base.  However, as part of our ongoing effort to build out a broad technology platform to extend to our client and candidate customers, we realized that we needed to build out our own in-house development team--one that could bring stronger, more dedicated core technology expertise to  our existing domain expertise. And thus came the beginning of our efforts to grow the Rivi Apps Team, otherwise known as RATs.

Although the algorithms originally developed by eAlchemy got us off to a great start, we wanted to expand what we were doing and go much deeper, including extending the suite applications to the other two key constituencies in the marketplace. The only way to get to the next level was to bring on team members to continue building what we had started as well as aid in the effort to broaden the role of technology in the overall service delivery model we are pursuing.

Our initial efforts on this front were very similar to many of our emerging growth clients. On an opportunistic basis, we hired a few people to augment the efforts of our outside consultants with the goal of slowly beginning the process of moving overall product development in-house. In this manner, we added our first couple of RATs, who were instrumental in furthering our initial efforts on Sutro 4.0, and helped start the thinking on an extension of the app suite. They continue to be key contributors to the growing team of RATs scurrying around Riviera these days.

While we were making good, consistent progress with the hybrid approach to development, we had a strong desire--and a growing confidence level--to accelerate more aggressively. Since we advise companies and clients on this dynamic on a daily basis, we decided to take some of our own advice and seek out a leader for the team.

Through the course of efforts we conduct for clients on an everyday basis, we were fortunate to meet Majed Itani. In an initial discussion with one of our co-founders Ali, it became very apparent to both sides that there was a strong alignment on the opportunity for change in the talent acquisition market. Majed also recognized that strategic advantage that Riviera brought to the pursuit of the opportunity given the significant amount of domain expertise within the organization. He brings significant experience to this role, not the least of which revolves around building teams, which we would be doing from nearly scratch, as well as relevant expertise from his domain expertise in the CRM world.

Says Majed: "Recruiters have traditionally been very good about sifting through the top layer of engineers to find talent, but by adding tech we are empowering them to find the diamonds in the rough. Beyond that, we are enabling them to establish long lasting relationships with people who are still early in their careers, but who will one day be the leaders of the industry."

With Majed on board, we quickly shifted to priority #1: building out the team. As we advise our clients, we used a variety of sources for this effort. We utilized personal networks, we utilized Riviera networks, including on ongoing partnership with organizations such as Women Who Code, and we focused on building a team--fit is critical. We also were very open to what individuals brought to the table in terms of advancing our effort. We bet on people and bet on potential, and the results have truly surpassed our expectations.

Now we’re running strong with a team of 10 people, with plans to add more--all totally dedicated to building out our technology. We are already working on Sutro 5.0, and Snap, our client application, is now in beta release. And we have begun the planning process around an app for candidates that our engineers themselves would want to use.