Our Quest to Bridge the Diversity Gap
National Science Foundation Grant to Contribute to National Talent Ecosystem in STEM
As a tech recruiting firm in the heart of Silicon Valley, we have a front row view of how skewed the supply and demand are in tech recruiting. Qualified candidates in software engineering or data science can walk away with multiple offers within a few weeks with a compensation package that makes you wonder, “How can the companies ever make progress at this level of talent shortage and cost?" Yet, we also know that this hot talent market is remarkably skewed with gender, racial and socio-economic background. Only twenty-six percent of the software engineering workforce were women in 2018, only 2.2% of first generation graduates major in Computer Science, and only 3.41% of software engineering degrees are awarded to Hispanics, only 1.3% degrees are awarded to people who identify as black or African American. There are slightly more Asian graduates at 8.7%. The data makes you wonder whether we could have a better talent supply if the STEM field could be more inclusive. In the big picture, this talent shortage signifies a warning signal that the effort in innovation and shifting to AI-powered digitization will be limited by a growing shortage of qualified talent.
As a recruiting firm with a strong Data Science and Technology focus, we really wanted to help. Partnering with University of Virginia Economics department, supported by the Convergence Accelerator awards from the National Science Foundation, Riviera is starting the journey of building an AI-powered application that can help people successfully navigate STEM careers with a focus on developing a long term success in tech. This application brings insights backed by Riviera Partners’ success in tech recruiting with thousands of successful placements, across the U.S. over two decades. We’ve captured 18 years of recruiting process data and can identify and illustrate the typical career paths for engineers, tech product managers and designers. The app considers industry trends and reveals a candidate’s likelihood of achieving overall career goals. When released the Riviera app will be free and available to the public.
We believe that anyone can achieve anything if the path and direction are clear. There are large populations in the US that don’t know where and how to start a technology career. There are communities, even in the hotbed of the Bay Area, that don’t have access to the information and network that Silicon Valley employees benefit from naturally. Riviera will work with nonprofit organizations to reach out to these communities to make sure our tool is easy to use and gives them perspectives that are practical, feasible, and that can transform their career trajectory.
We are so excited by this opportunity. We always believe that data science and technology can serve people and make life better for everyone. We believe the tech field can be diverse and bring opportunities to everyone. This is our journey to help.
 Women in Technology, May 2019
 NACE Journal, November 2016
Joining a Sleeper Tech Company
It’s been quite an interesting few weeks. I told friends and colleagues that I was joining Riviera Partners after working in ‘traditional’ tech startups and successful companies. People knew Riviera’s brand and reputation, but I still got a few quizzical looks about the change. I think this is because people think of recruiting firms like I used to - stuffy offices, endless phone calls, internet searches and a stack of resumes that require sifting and sorting.
But, Riviera isn’t a typical retained search firm. It’s a unique group of technology experts who know and work with companies that are disrupting industries and bringing innovative solutions to market. It’s a team of partners who are all connected to wickedly smart engineering and product people, and who know how to build rock star teams. It’s also a technology company - at its core - revolutionizing an industry that is historically stuck in the old school way of doing things. Riviera’s proprietary recruiting platform uses machine learning, a proven methodology, and a vast community of candidates to solve one of the biggest challenges facing any organization: finding and landing the right tech talent.
Traditional placement firms can only scale at the rate that their recruiters’ contact databases grow. Riviera is different. The platform collects and normalizes data from internal and external sources, cataloging numerous interaction points from our near 20 year history. It uses machine learning to match these deep, nuanced candidate profiles to companies, cultures, and open positions to build a list of candidates that fit - better and faster than traditional methods. The data is available to every recruiter and partner in the organization, meaning that everyone enjoys the benefit of their colleagues’ contacts and expertise. Not only that, the platform also provides transparency into the process for Riviera clients, dramatically reducing the headaches involved in hiring. This organization can scale precisely because of its technology.
Add the collective experience of the founders and partners, the company’s deep roots in the tech industry, and the unrelenting focus on delivering the best tech leaders to companies and positions where they can create the most value, and you have a win...a big one. I am humbled to be part of it.
I joined Riviera during the funding process that we announced today. I’ve never been more impressed with the quality of the team, the ethics of the partners, and the vision of the organization. So, when asked about my choice to join a recruiting firm, I simply explain that I’ve joined a tech firm that is disrupting the recruiting industry. Not only do people get it, but they also quickly share in my excitement of the opportunity ahead.
Recruiting as a Career: Speedy Career Progression
If you’ve been following along in our series, you already know the types of backgrounds that make good recruiters, the transferrable skills you can hope to learn in this career, and the various ways you can impact your clients, the company you work for and the job seekers you serve. In fact, pursuing a career as a recruiter (particularly here at Rivi) can be quite impactful on your own path as well; there’s a great opportunity to quickly progress in your career. There are a few ways you can make sure you’re on the path to success.
Nurture your intellectual curiosity
Along with perseverance, intellectual curiosity is huge at Rivi. You don’t need to be a genius (although it helps), but you do need to be able to get smart about things very quickly. You’re exposed to all types of companies and technology, so you need to be able to listen and understand what the important nuggets are--what is it that can be applied to next conversation, in the next six weeks or in the next six months? This is a mix of reading and continued research at academic level, as well as talking to people and really engaging with clients, candidates and teammates. You can’t be scared to ask questions, but you should do as much as possible to answer them on your own. This will lead you to the wisdom you need to succeed.
Focus on the details
Attention to detail is important in most careers; it’s critical here. You need to digest the details and figure out the patterns. Something that happens in one search may happen once, or it may come up again and again; it’s imperative to recognize that. Also, there’s a ton of communication that takes place up to the point to where a match is made, so you need to keep track of who has talked to who and when. Being on top of the communication and the nitty gritty keeps you on the right track.
Be personable, and a bit of a chameleon
This is an interactive career; you’re not going to be chained behind a computer. So you have to personable and willing to meet people. It helps to be a bit of a chameleon who’s comfortable in lots of different environments. Clients are different from candidates, candidates are different than board members. This can be uncomfortable, but each level of that is a level of learning. Through those uncomfortable experiences, you learn something. What you do with that learning from there matters; setting expectations sets you up for success. Understand you’re going to have difficult searches. Know that going in and be comfortable with that. Having a certain level of comfort in uncomfortable situations will help immensely.
Make it a career, not a job
To really push the envelope, you need to make your career your priority. Go wherever, be wherever, roll up your sleeves and get after it. Letting it bleed into your life while still maintaining balance is the key.
Adapt to new technology
The skill set you develop here will always be relevant, but one of the major perks at Rivi is the company’s investment in technology. While you always need to bring a lot of grit to the table, but technology will continue to evolve the role, removing some of the need for repetitive tasks and excruciating attention to detail and aiding the learning curve along the way. The more you can adapt to the tech tools, the the easier it will be to expend less energy on the points above while still excelling at what you do.
Recruiting as a Career: Success at Every Level
If you had asked me 10 years ago what my career plans were, I probably wouldn’t have put recruiting on my list--but there’s no denying now that Rivi had a draw I couldn’t resist. One of the best things about working here is knowing that I can be impactful no matter what my position. Ultimately, being successful at Rivi boils down to a variety of factors, but the amount of time you’ve been here has little to do with it.
Of course, there are the obvious things: being intelligent, organized and hardworking (which are certainly all factors). However, there are some perhaps more specific things that lead to successes around here. Number one is understanding what your clients’ pain points are so you can help solve them. For example, we did a search for a first-time CEO who had built the whole product himself but knew it was growing too fast to manage alone. His pain point was that any attention he dedicated to the search seemed to be at the expense of the day-to-day operations. It was a classic catch-22: it never made sense for him to prioritize the search over the company even though the company could not succeed without the leader we were trying to hire. It’s very human to make rational short-term decisions that are disastrous in the long run. Sure enough, by empathizing with his dilemma, we struck upon common ground, which in turn helped us work out a process for him to quickly evaluate candidates for his absolute must-haves before committing a longer, more in-depth round of interviews.
It’s important to look at Rivi as a different kind of recruiting firm. It’s not just about placement here; it’s about advice and guidance. Our deep knowledge of product and engineering lets us help our clients understand what makes a good leader and what type of experience is actually relevant. Our advantage is that we sell a process as much as we promise a result, which gives us the time to guide our clients to the right candidate rather than just telling them who the right person is. In most cases, what a client sets out to find is not what they end up hiring; not because they settle for less but because through our process, they were able to really hone in on what traits and experience they really need in their new executive. We’re really selling a process rather than selling a placement.
Rivi is still a bit of a startup itself, which means that you not only have unprecedented levels of access to people at the top, but also that there’s a lot more upward mobility based on merit, rather than simply “time served.” In this way, Rivi can be a great place for someone who is just starting out--or pivoting--in his or her career.
Michael Peart is an Associate at Riviera.
Recruiting as a Career: Honing Your Skills
When you first graduate from college, it can be a bit of a challenge to find a job that’s a good fit for your skill and experience level while still providing the opportunity to tackle challenges and gain valuable experience for the future. It’s the classic Catch-22: you need a career that provides a lot of experience, but that doesn’t require much experience.
Recruiting is one of a handful of careers where you can come in on the ground floor and immediately start learning a variety of lasting and useful skills--particularly at Riviera. Plenty of us start out with absolutely zero training in recruiting, but you can still start on your first day and learn everything on the job.
As we’re a data-driven company, you learn very quickly to keep the data healthy and stay extremely organized. At any given time, you’ll be working with 10 clients who each may have 20 candidates they may want to work with, so it’s key to keep track of many moving parts.
Related to that, you’ll get some very well-honed time management skills. You learn to juggle many things (skillfully) at the same time, while being able to prioritize what needs to get done to make sure clients are happy and candidates are moving along in process. Plus, Rivi is very flexible, so getting your work done efficiently allows you to maximize your free time. (Downtime is important, too!)
You also get to take your communication skills and turn that into a job you enjoy--while perfecting those skills. It’s critical that you convey your message with right tone, and get your point across succinctly and clearly. It’s your time to shine when advising clients and candidates, and you have to make sure every word counts.
Then of course there are tons of opportunities to learn all the ins-and-outs of the tech industry (which let’s be honest, is so hot right now). At Rivi, you have the ability to work with a large variety of clients, which gives you access to those touch points to learn about what all the startups are doing and what their goals are. And then you get to help them reach those goals.
Truly, the people here are great. Everyone is very driven and hard-working, and will do anything to get the job done. And at the end of the day, surrounding yourself with that is an invaluable learning experience in and of itself.
Amanda Sarkowsky is an Associate at Riviera supporting the executive search practice.
Recruiting as a Career: The Transferable Skills of Recruiting
As we noted in our previous post on recruiting as a career, there are a variety of backgrounds that apply well to a recruiting role at Rivi. The reverse is also true: The skills you acquire in a role at recruiting are transferable to many other careers as well. These skills run the gamut, from strategic and tactical implementation to execution.
One of the most fundamental skills you learn is time management, which is particularly useful if you’re just starting out in your career. To succeed here, you need to make sure you’re doing right things at right time with right people; you learn to put the effort where it should be, not necessarily where you want it to be. This is critical delivering the best experience to clients and candidates alike. Conversely, if you work at a big company, chances are you’re not expected to deliver on the daily, so it can be easier to get distracted by tasks that may not be of critical importance.
Unsurprisingly for this industry, you do learn how to sell to an extent--but here, it’s more about positioning (which is really more valuable on the whole). You need to think on your feet and be strategic, so you learn to use analogies to position various things with clients and candidates, as well as use examples from tangential industry to explain how a company is doing something. There are very few roles and careers in the business world that do not require you to know how to pitch, whether it’s a point of view, a new idea/initiative, or generally to convince others to support your desired direction.
A recruiting role at Rivi will also teach you the art of professional services, including how to be a good partner to your client and the rest of the recruiting team. We tend to be different from other service placement firms; it’s not every person for themselves. We work with teams, so you learn to work with different personalities and different styles. Additionally, you’re constantly interacting with a bunch of companies and talent, which gives you even more experience across the spectrum of working styles.
Another skill you pick up is the ability to truly influence a business and a person’s career path. By constantly listening and learning, you can influence how a client thinks about a role, or how a person thinks about a company (and the available position)--even how a company goes to market. Similarly, your insight and advice around career management can influence a person’s direction in their career.
An offshoot of that is that you learn what some the best companies in tech do to succeed. This teaches you by observation what a good CEO does; project management, and how it’s done well; and how to be introspective and objective. In the larger scheme of things, being able to ask yourself “Am I really doing this right?”--and answer in the affirmative--leads to your own success.
Sam Wholley is a Partner and leads executive searches at Riviera.
Recruiting as a Career: A Fitting Background
When most people think of recruiting, they think sales. So it’s natural to assume that someone with a sales background would fit right in as a recruiter. While this isn’t patently untrue, the fact is that recruiting at Rivi is about a lot more than selling a job to a person or a person to a candidate. It’s execution, delivery, communication, human interaction, technical expertise--and a whole lot of organization.
In this business, you still have to define requirements, manage scope, have weekly status calls, and juggle multiple clients--all with their different challenges. That may seem daunting, but really it means that people from a variety of backgrounds are able to find a fitting career as a recruiter. At Rivi, we have several former engineers and product developers on our team--as a firm specializing in product and engineering hires, that’s probably no surprise. But walk around our offices, and you’ll also find former communications specialists, hiring managers, IT consultants and, yes, salespeople.
The key is a passion for the job. If you get excited about the chance to meet CEOs and execs of world class companies every few weeks, and the opportunity to help them solve a talent problem, then chances are you’ll fit right into our world of recruiting. Also, if you’ve ever been on the other side of the table--as someone who has worked at or hired for a technology startup--that experience and ability to relate translates into a valuable skill for this career.
This business is fast-paced and changing, helps you stay sharp and learn technology at top levels, and work with coolest companies in the world. And we’re only just beginning. We intend to reinvent the antiquated world of recruiting, just as the world changed for travel agents, and is changing for real estate agents. Anyone who’s excited for this change--and the challenges--will enjoy the ride.
Recruiting As a Career: Being the Brand Ambassador
In many ways, we as recruiters are brand ambassadors for both our clients and the candidates we present to them. This gives us the unique opportunity to represent both sides of the equation. For us, that means being a market knowledge expert and representing our clients with passion and enthusiasm, as well as presenting the unique skills and needs of each candidate.
At Rivi, we have our finger on the pulse of the technology landscape, and it’s up to us to share this market knowledge with the people we work with in order to give them the best insight, service and experience possible. These days, engineers are bombarded by recruiters, so we want to provide extraordinary service, and we really care about building relationships. We strive to learn what motivates a candidate and what’s most important to them, whether it’s holding the number one spot in the engineering org (e.g. a step-up) or perhaps just a shorter commute.
To be a great recruiter you need to understand all the different reasons why this person may switch from job to another, and often it’s even one great company to another. By taking the time to understand people and really getting to know their personal interests and career goals, we can best represent all the things that matter to them to our clients. Each candidate brings something different to a prospective employer--no two people are the same.
With our clients, we have an in-person kickoff and work closely with them throughout the process to get a good grasp of what they care about and truly become a part of their hiring team. This allow us to fully show our enthusiasm for our clients and the passion around their business and product.
We take pride in representing our clients both accurately and positively. This starts with diving into the minds of the founders and leaders of these companies to understand from where their passion for their product stems. We get a complete picture of their vision for the product and company, as well as how they see their employees contributing to that vision. In doing so, we become invested in their vision as well, and we’re able to represent them to candidates with excitement--and complete transparency. This lets us inspire interest and excitement in the people we approach as well.
And the best part? We get to be actively involved in building some of the most innovative and influential technical teams and companies while working with some of the smartest and most passionate people in the industry.
Aaron Ho, Dylan Hanour + Erin Jensen contributed to this piece
Recruiting Relationships: Helping People Reach Their Full Potential
One of the things that’s exciting and rewarding about being a recruiter, is that we can play a significant impact in changing people’s lives. Most of us spend the majority of our working hours at some kind of a job, so the level of job satisfaction has a huge impact on each person’s overall well-being. Even when we may not be involved in the ultimate change of jobs, we can still play a part in how they think about their career development by coaching candidates and helping them think carefully about their next career moves. There’s a bit of an art to the process, and it requires investing time to get to know and genuinely care about people.
As a recruiter, it’s important to ask yourself the following: Why do we reach out to potential candidates, what’s the objective and what do we hope to get out of it? What are the best practices before reaching out? You should always put yourself in your candidate’s shoes. Do your research, figure out what they want and be respectful of that. Think about why a new role might be interesting to them, and why they should invest any of their precious time and effort to look at it. Most importantly, go in thinking: what is the kind of long-term relationship you would like to build with this person? This is a very different mindset from just reaching out to folks on a transactional basis, because they appear to have the requisite requirements of the role and you are under pressure to fill a role.
When I meet with candidates, I like to come prepared, having read all internal notes and any other information I can find. The point is to make the meeting a mutually beneficial one, that is good use of both of our time. Remember that a big reason candidates come to Riviera is for a deep and informed view of the market with unique insights, and a strong eye when it comes to judging talent.
Given that we specialize in VP Engineering and CTO roles, many people who engage with Riviera are looking to move up into leadership roles. To help people in this phase of their career development, it is important to spend time to dig deep into their background, and why they chose this career path. This involves asking the right (and sometimes tough) questions to really figure out their motivations, aspirations and concerns. We can then give an accurate assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. I’m a big believer in giving honest and constructive feedback, and that’s a lot easier to deliver once you’ve established a certain level of rapport and trust. Once we understand their career goals, we can give advice on ways in which he or she might get there. There are times when a candidate gets offered a dream job but hesitates due to family, commute or other personal reasons. We work with them to find creative solutions to these stumbling blocks.
Having insight into people’s career goals also means we can refine our future communication with the right options for them. At Riviera, we work on a ton of diverse roles at any one time, but what we want to avoid is sending candidates random opportunities which don’t match what they want or kill them with deal fatigue. Our goal is to only send each person a carefully curated list of deals.
When you build long term relationships, people end up approaching you for advice. We want all potential candidates to think of Riviera as a great resource and to feel free to approach us for information on the market, a company or compensation-related questions--and many do. Some candidates for example ask us to look at their offer letters from companies that Riviera doesn’t even work with, and we’re happy to do that for them.
There can be an overwhelming array of job choices and information overload out there in the market. We provide the service of filtering through the noise for people, so that they can identify the best opportunities for themselves and reach their full potential.
Cheryl Liew is a Director within Riviera's executive search practice.
Recruiting As a Career: Making an Impact
We’ve been in this game for a while now--more than 20 years--which means we’ve had time to build relationships with some of the best talent around, not to mention garner “get sh*t done” reputation in the tech industry. Thanks to this, recruiters at Rivi have the unique opportunity to network and build relationships with some of the best-in-class talent innovators, game changers and VCs. Ultimately, this means you can make a big impact on clients’ and candidates’ success with a successful placement.
As soon as the investments roll in for a startup, the investors bring in recruiters because, now, the company needs to build the team. Often these hires are mission critical, so if a company doesn’t get it right, they could miss huge market opportunities. They’ll hire recruiters like us, because we’re connected to the individuals they need to build companies. We worked early on with companies like Uber and Dropbox when they had less than 100 people. Our recruiters will work directly with the board and CEO to find execs these startups are looking for. You get to help formulate thoughts on what’s important in the role and who will be the best fit for the organization.
A good placement can be hugely impactful for a company: if they get it wrong, they lose time. They lose time, other people can enter market, and the market opportunity might be missed. Which is why we put so much emphasis on getting matches right at Rivi--if we don’t, the whole investment may tank. Time to market is a critical variable, and we strive to place the right person so companies and candidates can get to where they want to go, and be able to execute on their vision. At the end of the day, startups are talent-driven: people are the fuel that makes them prosperous.
Ali Behnam contributed to this piece.