Category: Talent and Culture

Why Qohash CEO Jean Le Bouthillier Embraces Conflict To Build Trust

This post is by Jessica Galang from Georgian

For Jean Le Bouthillier, CEO of enterprise data security company Qohash, failure to protect the sensitive data of his customers isn’t an option. 

It’s a mindset Jean learned through his 15-year career in the Canadian military, and one of many values he’s learned and applied to running his startup. While Qohash’s company values include resilience, accountability, and the pursuit of excellence, he says embracing conflict is one of the most important to help Qohash meet its mission.

“Embracing conflict is about rapidly getting to the truth,” says Jean. “If we’re in a team and we have a critical mission and we don’t have a lot of time, the only way we’ll get to a workable plan and the truth is to embrace conflict.” 

It’s a value that he’s instilled in the company and one that he’s coached his teams to espouse. We talked to Jean about how embracing conflict makes his business better and got a first-hand account from Heather Ryan, Qohash’s Director of Product Marketing, who explained how she grew into a better leader for it. 

Why conflict is healthy 

Embracing conflict isn’t like a boxing match, explains Jean. It’s understanding that everyone on the team is on the same mission, and disagreeing in a calm, polite and ego-less way. 

While Heather was used to reporting to the CEO by the time she joined Qohash in July 2021, she admits it was refreshing to be pushed to be even more assertive. “Jean would be more upset if (Read more...)

Top Tips for Mentoring and Developing Teams

This post is by David Gipstein from Georgian

This article was originally published on Georgian’s Growth Network, a private community designed to help Georgian companies scale their businesses through peer-peer collaboration and knowledge transfer. All employees from Georgian companies are invited to join the Growth Network here.

During my career, I’ve had several strong mentors, managers and coaches who have challenged me and helped me grow, both personally and professionally. On the flip side, I have been in the manager seat for almost 30 years (currently, I’m the Vice-President of Information Technology at Tracelink). I’ve also been a volunteer softball coach for more than 10 years and participated in a highly rewarding mentorship program called American Corporate Partners that helps military veterans transition to their next careers.

Being on both sides of the mentoring/managing/coaching relationship has taught me some important lessons about developing teams, and I’m pleased to share some tips with my peers in the Georgian community.

I think of these tips as sort of a continuum, beginning with the talent acquisition process and rippling through the talent development lifecycle:

Phase 1: Acquire

Find out what makes someone tick

During the talent acquisition phase, it’s critical to understand what motivates each individual who may join your team. I take the time to personally interview all finalists for all positions. When I’m talking to candidates, I want to understand what they’re passionate about, what drives them and what ignites a spark. You can tell when someone lights up because they’re talking about something truly meaningful. (Read more...)

CoLab Day 2021: Build Networks Early and Invest in Good Tech for a Strong DIBE Hiring Strategy

This post is by Georgian Team from Georgian

One of the most important tenets of building your startup is hiring the best talent — and, to get the best, it’s important to reach people of all races, genders, abilities, sexual orientations and backgrounds. So how do you ensure that you’re building a pipeline of diverse candidates? 

That’s the question tackled during a panel on diversity, belonging, equity and inclusion at CoLab Day, a half-day event that covered a wide gamut of startup-growth-related questions, such as go-to-market, fundraising and AI opportunities. 

Moderated by Kathryn Christie, Georgian’s Head of People, CoLab Day’s DIBE panel featured Derrick Raphael, Director at Antler and CEO at ICON Talent Partners; Deanna Swanson, VP of People Operations at Total Expert; and Dean Delpeache, Director of Talent & Diversity at Fiix Software, Professor of Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging & Equity at George Brown College and Director at Strasity.

The panel covered three main pillars throughout the hiring process: sourcing and raising awareness among candidates, ensuring the screening and selection process is free of bias and creating a fair decision-making process. Read on for some key takeaways. 

Be Intentional at the Top of the Hiring Funnel

Before beginning the hiring process, be intentional about the fact that you want to have a diverse pipeline in the first place, and let your recruiting team know this is the goal. It’s easy to go to your network as a first source, says one speaker, but these sources can often be homogenous. 

To overcome this, (Read more...)

How Ketos CEO Meena Sankaran built a culture of trust among employees

This post is by Jessica Galang from Georgian

As a solo CEO and founder of KETOS, which builds a water intelligence platform, Meena Sankaran found out early that founders must set the tone for the company culture as they’re building the business. 

“Everyone around you is feeding off of that energy,” says the San Francisco-based CEO. “As a founder, it’s important that you remember that you are that central glue of that network.”

With the mindset that the founder is the “glue” of the company, Meena has built a team that can stick together in the best and worst of times. From attracting top-tier talent to her startup, to making tough decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic, she credits her consistent communication to employees and transparency as one of the ingredients to building a tight-knit team that can withstand the ebbs and flows of a startup.

The result is a culture that can attract strong talent and motivate those employees to grow within the company. As a result, KETOS has an attrition rate of 0.1% as employees feel more connected to the company mission, says Meena.

“It’s very important how you process things, how you react to things, how you make decisions and how your energy permeates. And that’s something that is very easy to forget.”

We spoke to Meena about how she’s hired people committed to her company mission and building a self-sustaining culture from zero to 60 employees.

Attitude is key 

Especially in the early stages of a startup, it’s important to celebrate the work of (Read more...)

Agile AI at Georgian – Part 3: Experimentation and Effort Allocation

This post is by Jason Brenier from Georgian

Welcome back to Agile AI at Georgian, where I share lessons learned about how to adapt agile methodologies for AI products. In previous installments, we’ve talked about finding your project’s North Star and motivating your team. Today, I want to talk about one of the areas that often trips up teams when trying to do agile for AI: experimentation and effort allocation.

AI product development is very close to academic research in many ways. This means that you will be overseeing experiments, kind of like a principal investigator. The process will be iterative, fraught with failure — and extremely rewarding! So how do you take such an uncertain process and make it work with agile?

Get your hands dirty

With so many different AI frameworks on the market, it can be tempting to embrace off-the-shelf algorithms and packages. But it’s important to make sure your initial experiments are involved enough that you really get into the data yourself as well. This will pay dividends by giving your team a deeper understanding of the problem space, better hypotheses and the ability to make more accurate estimations.

At Georgian, we often try first to develop a high quality, domain-tuned model. In this phase, we focus first on getting high precision results for a subset of the problem and don’t shy away from manual, technically simple solutions like using regular expressions or rules based on lists of words. We can then use that performance as a baseline when we work on scaling up (Read more...)

Agile AI at Georgian – Part 2: Nurturing your AI Team

This post is by Jason Brenier from Georgian

Welcome back to Agile AI at Georgian, where we share lessons learned about how to adapt agile methodologies for AI products. Both in Georgian’s in-house product development work and through working side-by-side with dozens of data science teams at our portfolio companies, we’ve iterated, experimented and refined our processes. 

In our last installment, we discussed the importance of setting a North Star — a purpose for your project that you can rally your team around. Today, I want to talk more specifically about the team itself as building and nurturing your team in the optimal way takes special attention to the specific needs of AI products.

Getting the right skills on your team

Skills are important on any team, but in AI, a diversity of backgrounds is important as well. It’s great to have team members who are newer to AI, but you’ll want to make sure you have a few key bases covered with more seasoned folks. Your product management team, in particular, should seek to develop some foundational skills relevant to ML, model QA, and deployment — these things will affect timelines and product functionality. 

It’s important to note that as AI has matured, the need for roles beyond data scientists has become apparent. While it’s important to be able to design new models and test novel ideas, production thinkers can help you move beyond prototypes. You’ll need ML engineers and someone who can bring that production mindset, and someone who can think about compliance and governance (Read more...)

CoLab’s Hybrid Workplaces Event Emphasizes Importance of Employee Choices, Engagement

This post is by Jessica Galang from Georgian

Balancing the productivity lessons learned during COVID-19 lockdowns, and being intentional about culture, will be critical to an environment that combines in-person and remote work.

Those are just a few insights from Georgian’s recent CoLab Connect event on building high-performing teams in a hybrid environment. Hosted by Georgian’s Head of People, Kathryn Christie, the conversation featured Jennifer Cristobal, VP of People and Culture at RiskIQ, Sue DiPoce, Chief People Officer at FreshBooks, and David Hassell, CEO of 15Five. 

We rounded up some things we learned from the event from the panellists. 

The changing role of offices

For Jennifer, adopting a hybrid work environment means keeping the best of the virtual setting— like the digital tools that have helped the company remain productive during the pandemic—while re-evaluating what an office space means.

Employees have been effective doing tasks at home, so Jennifer says RiskIQ has changed its mindset to think about office spaces as a resource for collaboration and casual interaction. 

“That has helped us think about how we can use that to our advantage rather than an expectation,” says Jennifer. “We want to make sure that we’re setting up our offices that are catered around that space and interaction with folks, and we’re really guiding our managers and helping them think through how they can use that office space for that kind of work.”

Sue echoes this sentiment in situations where companies have offices across the world. FreshBooks, which is headquartered in Toronto and has offices in five countries, says (Read more...)

In a Hybrid Work Environment, Communication and Empathy Key to Retaining Talent

This post is by Jessica Galang from Georgian

As COVID-19 vaccinations ramp up, many companies are thinking about what their post-pandemic workplace looks like. There are questions around balancing the flexibility of remote work, and encouraging the camaraderie of working face to face — and these decisions can define a company’s workforce. According to one study of 1,022 U.S. professionals, nearly 30% would consider leaving their jobs if they couldn’t continue working remotely. A hybrid work model could be important to maintaining a sense of balance and retaining talent. 

On June 23, Georgian is hosting a panel for CoLab companies on building high-performing teams in a hybrid environment. Hosted by Kathryn Christie, Georgian’s Head of People, the conversation will feature Jennifer Christobal, VP of People and Culture at RiskIQ, Sue DiPoce, Chief People Officer at FreshBooks, and David Hassell, CEO of 15Five. 

To provide a preview of what to expect from the event, we asked Hassell what’s top of mind for him as companies reassess their culture and work-from-home policies. 

“I’ve talked to so many HR leaders who have decided that the format of the office, pre-pandemic, no longer works,” Hassell says. 

Communicate with employees

As companies shift to a hybrid environment, Hassell says companies need to be intentional about how and why they’re adopting certain practices so that they can better communicate those decisions to employees. 

“You have to know what you’re trying to do,” Hassell says. “Having intentionality and clarity as to what your plans are and communicating them in advance is really important.”

Those decisions (Read more...)

Episode 135: Attracting Top Technical Talent with Kathryn Christie

This post is by David Poole from Georgian

Who is more prepared going into an interview, the candidate or the interviewer? Tech jobs are in huge demand, so as the interviewer you need to understand what you are looking for. How does your company compare to other companies the candidate may be looking at? Are you focused only on the skills needed right now, or are you focused on what you will need as your company grows? Hiring the right technical candidate for your company couldn’t be more challenging than it is today.

Kathryn Christie is our guest on this episode of the Georgian Impact Podcast. She is the Head of People at Georgian, and will help you to understand what it takes to determine who’s right for your company, and how to get them to yes.

You’ll Hear About:

The post Episode 135: Attracting Top Technical Talent with Kathryn Christie appeared first on Georgian.

Episode 134: Getting Conversational AI Right at Microsoft

This post is by David Poole from Georgian

When AI needs a personality, you need a team of creatives to work hand-in-hand with the technical folks. Deborah Harrison, our guest on this episode of the Georgian Impact Podcast, is one of those creatives. She talks about how she and her team developed Cortana, Microsoft’s conversational assistant.

You’ll Hear About:

  • Deborah’s role as Senior Content Experience Manager and what her Content Intelligence Team works on at Microsoft.
  • Deborah’s work at the author of Cortana’s dialogue.
  • The evolution of Cortana’s team into a diverse group.
  • How previous Microsoft conversational “helpers” influenced Cortana.
  • The importance of asking, instead of anticipating in early stages in order to build trust.
  • The need to create conversations that challenge assumptions and biases, to avoid insular conversations.

The post Episode 134: Getting Conversational AI Right at Microsoft appeared first on Georgian.