Hear from six women leaders at Inflection giving lightning talks — topics that will inspire you to re-think how you lead your teams, manage your career, and more!
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Transcript of Inflection Geek Dinner – Lightning Talks:
Angie Chang: Thank you for joining us tonight. I know there’s a lot of competition for what to do with your evening. It is time for our Inflection Girl Geek Dinner. I’m going to hand it off to our first speaker.
Mikaila Turman: Today, I hope to reach all of you, regardless of what stage of knowing and understanding your core values are. For those of you that said you know your core values, I want to challenge you to really, really, really think about how you would define your core values, if asked. Inflection’s core values of integrity, transparency, and innovation were significant drivers for why I came onboard with the company seven years ago.
Ellen Perelman: One of my favorite values is speed with rigor, which means that we move quickly, but we make sure that as we move and we make decisions, we use data to inform those decisions. In marketing, we rely on data a lot to answer key business questions and help us make decisions and measure our impact of our efforts along the way.
Mahu Sims: So, what a year this has been so far. 2020 has been a year of great challenges, and not to discount all the sad things that have happened so far, there was a lot of positivity. 2020 has made us more creative. I’ve seen people come together more now than ever before. From a year ago to now, my life did a complete 180. I learned a few invaluable lessons. My learnings fell into two general themes. If I, one, leaned into my challenges, and, two, always planned, there was no way I could fail.
Izzy McLean: By definition, it’s the application of new tech, emerging tech to solve regulatory and compliance challenges for businesses. So, I thought it might be a cool topic to chat about today, just so you can keep it top of mind in your own professional pursuits or at your own organizations.
Avanti Ketkar: When we make products, we want to think about our products from our customer’s perspective. We want to familiarize ourselves with the features and flows that are outside of [inaudible] expertise. Overall, just understanding our customers better makes us better engineers.
Mikaila Turman: If you are here networking because you’re looking for a new organization, and you’ve identified your core values, now you can take the next step and see organizations that align with you.
Angie Chang: It’s 6:00, and it is time for our Inflection Girl Geek dinner. Thank you for joining us tonight. I know there’s a lot of competition for what to do with your evening, but I plan to be reading the Twitter later, and seeing what happened. In the meantime, we are continuing with our fine tradition of Girl Geek Dinners for over 12 years in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m based in Berkeley. Sukrutha is in San Francisco, and we’re really happy to be continuing this tradition of bringing women together across companies to hear from other incredible women, talking about what they do best, whether it’s HR, marketing, product management, engineering, you name it.
Angie Chang: So, we have a really great roster for you tonight of some of the amazing women from Inflection. First, I want to talk a little about what we’re working on at Girl Geek X. So, we have a virtual conference coming up. It is going to be March 8th, 2021, and we’ve been doing it for our fourth year now. It’s always been virtual. It’s been a full day of women talking about their new technologies, their leadership skills, and helping shout each other out, sharing what they have learned along the way, so that they can help you advance your career faster. Also, plenty of companies who are hiring also sponsor. So, they can have their speakers and their opportunities showcased to our community of 40,000 women in tech.
Angie Chang: Another thing that we have is podcasts. So, we have a great library of podcasts, which have the best of our Girl Geek dinners. They’re available on any of your podcasting services that you like to use. You can find Girl Geek X there. We have about 20-something podcasts there. You can also check out all of the events that we posted in the recent history. You can find our videos on YouTube. So, if you go to YouTube.com/GirlGeekX, you can find all our videos there, and you’ll also find tonight’s talks there in a few weeks, after we do some production, add some music, make it shorter. Feel free to loop back, and then send those videos to your friends.
Angie Chang: Also, I wanted to talk a little bit about how Inflection is hiring. I’m really excited, because when I saw the job listings, I was like, “Wow, there’s so many engineering, marketing, accounting, different roles in the tech company that they’re hiring for.” A lot of them are remote. So, I’m really excited that you can definitely apply for those jobs from anywhere around the world, and also hopefully share them with your friends, because we know in this pandemic women have been disproportionately affected, and unemployed, and in dire straits. So, please do feel free to share those job listings that are in your Zoom email, and I’m sure in a followup email. You’ll also see those job listings there. So, please feel free to share them with fellow girl geeks and anyone that needs that.
Angie Chang: So, let’s see. What else is there? I think that’s all we have for now. I’m going to hand it off to our first speaker, Mikaila, who is the Vice President of Human Resources at Inflection. She is a very skilled HR professional, who’s been working for over 16 years, and has been at the company for over seven years. She is passionate about cultivating and maintaining the culture, and intently focused on upholding the core values of Inflection, which she’ll be talking about next. So, I wanted to welcome Mikaila. Here we go.
Mikaila Turman: Hello, everyone. Hi. I’m Mikaila. Thanks so much. It’s great to see you and be with all of you tonight. As Angie mentioned, I’m the VP of HR at Inflection for the past two years, and been with the company for seven. Just a little bit about Inflection. In 2006, Inflection was started by two brothers, Brian and Matthew Monahan. They created and rolled out several people data-driven products over their tenure, most notably, Archives.com, which was later sold to Ancestry.com. Over time, other online people search products have emerged, such as PeopleSmart.com, which was a B2C subscription-based service and the bread and butter of our business for several years, and where the concept of GoodHire began.
Mikaila Turman: In 2018, the brothers handed the Inflection reins over to our current CEO, Mike Grossman. Since then, our primary product focus has been on GoodHire.com and our associated APIs. GoodHire is the easiest, most flexible, and most delightful employment background screening experience you can find. Yes, that’s directly from our website. As the VP of HR for Inflection, I’m also a GoodHire customer. In HR, I usually say, “Nothing is ever easy,” but I love GoodHire because it truly makes background checking easy. Currently, GoodHire has assisted about 80,000 organizations with their background checking needs.
Mikaila Turman: As Angie was referring to, open positions, Inflection has open positions in various departments, and we’re diligently focused on having an inclusive workplace and on increasing the diversity of our workforce. To quote our D&I statement, “We believe in empowering everyone to be themselves at work, so we can be better together.” Please check us out, and our open positions out, at Inflection.com or GoodHire.com. We’ve also recently partnered with TheMuse.com as well, if you’re familiar with that. So, you can check us out there, too. Okay. Now moving on to core values.
Angie Chang: Quick question. Is there slides that are supposed to be displayed right now?
Mikaila Turman: Yeah. I’m sharing my screen right now. Hopefully everyone can see that.
Angie Chang: Perfect.
Mikaila Turman: Okay. So, core values is a topic that I am truly passionate about for two main reasons. One, Inflection’s core values of integrity, transparency, and innovation were significant drivers for why I came onboard with the company seven years ago. I got recruited to Inflection by a previous coworker. As I looked at the website … Of course, we all do that. I interviewed with various leaders in the organization. The as-advertised core values were truly apparent in the people that I met with. As I look back now, my previous company had a decent mission statement, but it wasn’t rooted in core values. I would venture to say that the customer is always right was their core values, which does make sense for a staffing company, and you think it’s okay until you’re told you shouldn’t bother recruiting people of color for certain clients, because, well, the customer is always right.
Mikaila Turman: One of my best friends still works there. Data shows that a best friend at work is a shoe in for employee retention. But I’d argue the data and say core values may just be more important. Two, I’ve been in HR now for 16 years, and I’ve, obviously, seen a lot of people come and go in my organizations, and for various reasons. But I believe a person’s decision to stay with a company or leave a company always connects to core values, one way or the other. It’s basically like the Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
Mikaila Turman: Stop for a minute, and think about this. Core values, as I say the words, core values, I know that some of you who are out there immediately said to yourself, “What are my core values?” Some of you said to yourself, “Self, I know my core values. Right?” Some of you said to yourself, “I know my core values. They’re honesty, integrity, grit, work-life balance,” yada, yada, yada. Today, I hope to reach all of you, regardless of what stage of knowing and understanding your core values are. For those of you that said you know your core values, I want to challenge you to really, really, really think about how you would define your core values, if asked, and how those core values shape your life.
Mikaila Turman: During the interview process, I always ask, “What are your core values? Tell me examples of how I would see those core values displayed in your work.” I’m continually surprised how many people, at any level, are thrown off by those questions. The answer lies in you. You know this answer, if you’re willing to dig a little deeper. Let me express what core values mean to me, from an HR leader perspective. In an organization with well defined core values, transparency, integrity, innovation, accountability, those words should be the foundation in which employees perform, work, and behave. In order for that foundation to be solid, organizations should expect employees to uphold those values, and do something about it if they’re not.
Mikaila Turman: So, true confessions here. I’m an HGTV geek. So, the word foundation makes me think about the rare occasion when I actually get to sit down and relish in the joy of watching a house flipping show with a glass of wine. Inevitably, most of the houses with the crumbling foundation are the hardest to fix up. They end up costing a lot more money. Wow! How true is that, also, for an organization with crumbling foundation of core values? Okay. But there is good news. A house with a crumbling foundation can be fixed and repaired, and it ends up beautiful and way more valuable. Same for an organization. Right?
Mikaila Turman: Regarding back to my previous life before HR, I was a personal trainer. So, the term core always makes me think of six pack abs. But we all know now that core is everything under the service, the food we put in our body, the muscles we work, the chemicals interacting internally, all the things that get that external surface of six pack abs, hopefully. When you develop and understand your core values, they should be packed with deeper meaning. So, I define personal core values as the deep rooted beliefs that a person operates from, and are externally obvious. For example, if you asked my coworkers what one of my core values may be, I’m certain that they’d say, “Mikaila has a core value of family first. Her kids and her hubs are her priority. She will adjust everything else in her life to ensure her family comes above all else.”
Mikaila Turman: So, let’s step back to where I started. For those of you that said, “Self, what are my core values,” then think about when you wake up in the morning. What gets you out of bed? What gets you on that first Zoom call of the day? Why do you do those things, even when you don’t want to? Is it because of your core value of responsibility? Is it because of your core value of money? Is it your core value of teamwork? Think about what your family members, best friends, closest colleagues would say about you. Would they say you’re the family glue, the dedicated wife and mother? Would they say you always did the right thing? Would they say you work hard and play harder? What words would they use to describe you? Because those are the obvious core values you exude every day.
Mikaila Turman: For those of you that said, “I know my core values,” again, I challenge you to dig deeper into that, and define them. Actually write a definition. Have you fully considered what those closest to you would say about your core values? So, here’s an example. One of Inflection’s well defined core values, and my personal favorite, is the Golden Rule. We are intensely collaborative and treat one another as we want to be treated ourselves, with respect, civility, and empathy. Know your core values. Take the time to really define them, as if they are as important as updating your Instagram. I mean, your resume. Then use them as your superpower.
Mikaila Turman: If you are here networking because you’re looking for a new organization, and you’ve identified your core values, now you can take the next step and seek organizations that align with you. You can ask questions in your breakout sessions. “What are the core values of your organization? How could I possibly align?” If you are currently in a role at a seemingly good company, and you just can’t figure out why you are not satisfied, look at your company’s core values. Are you and your coworkers living up to them? Do they align with your own? Sometimes employees come to me and they are unhappy, and they can’t put a finger on it, or verbalize their frustration. In those instances, I ask them, “If you are honest with yourself, what is not working for you in this role? Where is the organization not upholding the core values, from your perspective?”
Mikaila Turman: Usually we can turn things around and take some actions to get back to good. But if it’s clear that a person’s core values are not well enough aligned with the organization’s, it doesn’t work, and that’s okay. Because a company has to uphold the core values of the organization, and the individual has to uphold their personal core values, as well. Thank you for joining us tonight. I hope this chat helped you think about your core values and dig deeper, so you can live your best life in your current adventure, or into a new one, maybe even at Inflection. With that, I’ll hand the virtual mic over to my colleague.
Angie Chang: So, our next speaker is Ellen. She is the Chief Marketing Officer at Inflection, and she has over 20 years of experience. She’s worked at large public companies, like Yahoo and Intuit, and also venture backed startups. She has a journalism degree from Northwestern and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Go Bears! Welcome, Ellen.
Ellen Perelman: Thanks. All right. Hopefully everyone can see my screen. Well, it’s great to be with you all tonight. I’m going to talk about marketing and numbers. When I first–wasn’t in marketing, I didn’t really necessarily associate marketing with numbers, but, in fact, I was pleased to discover that there’s a lot of data underlying marketing. In fact, as an organization, one of the things that Mikaila didn’t mention, we are a very data-driven organization. One of my favorite values is speed with rigor, which means that we move quickly, but we make sure that as we move, and we make decisions, we use data to inform those decisions.
Ellen Perelman: In marketing, we rely on data a lot to answer key business questions and help us make decisions, and measure the impact of our efforts along the way. We use data to answer questions such as how much money should we invest in a campaign? How is our website performing? What content should we create? How can we drive more revenue for the business? Today, I’m going to just walk you through a couple of examples of how we do this, some actual case studies, if you will. To set some context, we, as a business, marketing is responsible for driving a lot of leads. Leads is the lifeblood of our organization. Leads are prospective customers.
Ellen Perelman: We drive leads into the business primarily through our website. We use a variety of channels or sources to drive those leads, paid search, organic search, referring websites, partner relationships, et cetera. We drive those leads to our website, and then we work, in marketing, to either convert them to a paying user or to create what’s called an MQL, or a marketing qualified lead, which we pass on to our sales team, and then the sales team works to convert those leads into opportunities, and eventually to close deals and customers. So, that sets the context.
Ellen Perelman: So, next, I’d like to talk to you about paid search. Paid search is a really big channel for us. We spend a lot of money on paid search, but we spend it efficiently, and we are very intentional about how much we spend and where we spend it. So, to just provide some context for folks who may not be familiar with paid search, or how it all works, you probably have encountered paid search ads, if you spend any time on Google. At the top of the page when you do a search, you probably see an ad. I’ve got an example of one of our ads on the left side of the screen. We bid on placements. We have hundreds of keywords we bid against, and then we measure our performance with a few key metrics.
Ellen Perelman: One is impressions. How many times did that ad show up on a search result page? Clicks, how many times did people click on that ad? Those two metrics combine to form something called click through rate, which is our efficiency of converting impressions into clicks. Then CPC are the cost per click. How much do we pay for each of those clicks? That’s certainly important, as we think about how much money should we invest in paid search? Then we drive those clicks over to a landing page on our website, which I have an example on the right. Once the lead gets there, the person gets there, we look at a couple other metrics.
Ellen Perelman: One is the number of visits to the page. The number of visits that convert into a lead, meaning how many people filled out that form and hit the submit button. The conversion rate, which is just the efficiency of us converting visits into leads. Then how much do we pay for that lead? Because that becomes really important. So, let me put it all together. This is a lot of numbers and a lot of data on the page. Just to summarize how we think about this, we’ve got impressions, how many times our ad shows up. How many people clicked on it? How many of those clicks turn into leads? How much do we pay? How much is the applied rate we paid for those leads, based upon how much we paid per click? How effectively those leads convert into customers. In this case, this example here is 20%.
Ellen Perelman: So, from 24,000 clicks, we end up with 375 customers. Well, that’s interesting, but back to the original question, which is how much to invest? Well, in our company, we are very mindful of a 12 month revenue per customer. So, how much money can we expect to generate in revenue for that customer over a 12 month period? That would be an average customer. We operate under the model of we’re willing to spend as much as we can to break even. So, our costs equal our revenue. So, let’s just say, for example, that the cost … The 12 month revenue generated from that customer is $500. So, we’ll spend up to $500 to acquire that customer. That’s not just on media expense. That’s all expenses.
Ellen Perelman: So, there’s a mathematical equation there. The gist of it is that we’ll be willing to spend up to $100 for that lead, all in, to generate that $500 in revenue for that first year. So, with the example I’ve shown up here, we could actually spend more money, because we’re not hitting that break even number yet. The key to this, interestingly enough, if you look at the math, it’s that conversion rate, that 20% conversion rate from a lead to a customer. The better we are at converting that lead into a customer, the more money we can spend.
Ellen Perelman: Let me share with you another example. As I mentioned, once we get that lead to the website, how effectively can we convert that lead into a paying customer? So, what I have up here on the screen are the steps on our website that a prospect would follow, from submitting a lead to selecting a background screening package, to maybe choosing to add on some additional options to that package. So, adding more to the shopping cart, if you will. Eventually, giving us a credit card and purchasing that background check. Now, what I’ve included at the bottom, these are all example numbers. These aren’t real numbers. Let’s assume that 10,000 people made it to that page where they could fill out the lead form.
Ellen Perelman: Let’s say we have tools that allow us to measure this. 50% drop off and never complete that stage. So, that means at the next step there’s only 5,000 visitors that make it to the select package page. Another 50% drop off. So, then 2,500. Another 75% drop off. So, the final page, 625 people make it to the page where they’re going to actually purchase a background check. Then only 15% of those actually end up purchasing. So, starting at 10,000 visits, that means out of every 10,000 visits, with this example, 94 paying customers, or a 1.9% MQL, or marketing qualified lead, to purchase conversion rate.
Ellen Perelman: So, what we’re trying to do every step along the way is to improve the conversion rate. Right here, what I want to show you is we do a lot of AB testing. So, right now, this is actually a live AB test we have in place right now. We’re trying to improve the conversion rate, getting more people to click on this page and move to the next page. This is a select package page. Now, these two pages, the control and test, might look similar to you, but there’s one minor difference, which appears to be minor, but it very likely could be a significant difference. That is on the example on the left, we do not have a description of the value or what the benefit of each package is.
Ellen Perelman: So, allowing people to make a more informed decision as to which package they should purchase. On the right we have descriptors. So, for standard on the left it says one to two business days. For standard on the right it says more comprehensive and up-to-date criminal records, one to two business days. Then how we’re going to measure the effectiveness of this test, again, back to conversion rate, is the percentage who make it to the next page, as well as the percentage who eventually make it to purchase, and the dollars they purchase.
Ellen Perelman: So, just a few key takeaways. Hopefully this came through. Conversion rate is key to everything. Optimizing conversion rate, meaning improving the conversion rate, allows us to drive more revenue and increase our budgets, and drive even more revenue. Small changes can sometimes yield really big payoffs. Thank you.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you so much. That was so insightful. Super helpful for all of us to learn and understand more, at least for me. I feel like I learned something new, and I always learn something new with every single Girl Geek dinner that we have. So, thank you so much for your time. Up next, we have our next speaker, Mahu Sims, who’s the Director of Marketing and Digital Marketing. She’s responsible for managing the marketing deck stack, reporting on marketing performance, launching digital campaigns, and maintaining the GoodHire website. She recently received an MBA from Rutgers and became a mom to a beautiful baby girl. Welcome, Mahu.
Mahu Sims: Hello. Happy to be here. Let me just share my screen. Great. So, I’m going to talk a little bit about the lessons I learned in 2020. First, since this talk is about both my personal and professional experiences, I thought I’d share a little bit more about myself. I’m the director of marketing operations and digital marketing at Inflection, as you heard, as of about a month and a half ago. I’ve been in technical marketing for about six years now. I currently live on the East Coast in New Jersey with my husband, Muta, my four-month-old baby girl, and our three-year-old Goldendoodle. I love hiphop dance, reading, exploring new tech platforms and gadgets. A fun fact about myself is that I made it to a green belt in karate as a child, and I’m looking to get back into it.
Mahu Sims: So, what a year this has been so far. 2020 has been a year of great challenges. Not to discount all the sad things that have happened so far, there was a lot of positivity. 2020 has made us more creative, and I’ve seen people come together more now than ever before. Personally, this year has been the most polarizing year of my life. I’ve faced some of my greatest challenges, and I’ve accomplished some of my biggest goals. Since I often like to learn and draw from the experiences of others, I thought it might be beneficial to share my 2020 story, and what I learned along the way.
Mahu Sims: About a year ago, in October 2019, I’d just landed a new role after working at my first company for about five years. I had finally decided to leave. A week after taking on that new role, we found out that we were pregnant. We were super excited, but I was also really nervous to enter the working world as a pregnant woman. One of my biggest fears going into 2020 was that I didn’t think I would be eligible for a company sponsored maternity leave. Now, that just seems silly. Jumping into 2020, we were hit hard right off the bat with bad news. Our baby girl was diagnosed with club foot. Club foot in itself isn’t that bad, but it could sometimes mean that your baby has larger chromosomal abnormalities, resulting in disorders like Down syndrome. So, we decided to take a test and find out. The whole time we were freaking out. We were relieved to find out that Nala was completely happy. She only had a club foot.
Mahu Sims: The next event in our life was another blow. Around March 3rd, I received a vague but demanding email from our HR team, stating that I needed to be at work the next day, and I could not miss it. For me, this meant one or two things. Either I was getting a promotion, or I was being laid off. It was, obviously, the latter. I was devastated. Being laid off is stressful, but I was also six months pregnant. Even though it wasn’t my fault, I felt like a complete failure. A few minutes later though, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and went out to find a job. I gave myself a pat on the back because I found one in just three weeks. Due to COVID, my offer was converted into a contract offer. So, that didn’t give me the stability that I was looking for, but it was truly a blessing in disguise.
Mahu Sims: The next month my mom tested positive for COVID. Our family was extremely nervous, because we didn’t know much about the virus. We were happy though to find that she began to recover quickly. She ultimately recovered fully a few months later. We were forced to cancel our baby shower. In May, racial injustices against Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery had received national attention. This was tough for me, as a Black woman, but also as a mom-to-be. I was constantly thinking, “How do I explain to my daughter that she should be proud to be Black, but sometimes it was really hard?”
Mahu Sims: In June though, I finally got a win. I graduated from Rutgers Business School with my MBA. A few weeks later, this win was followed by a stressful birthing experience. We weren’t allowed to bring family and friends into the hospital, and we had several complications with delivery. Right on the other side of that stressful situation was a beautiful baby girl, who was happy and healthy. About a month and a half after delivery, I had to take a break from bonding with my baby 24/7 to focus my efforts on finding a full-time job again. In September, I started my role with Inflection, which has proven to be an amazing company. In October, we made another large life decision to finally move out of state to Georgia after debating for several months.
Mahu Sims: So, from a year ago to now, my life did a complete 180, but I learned a few invaluable lessons. My learnings fell into two general themes. If I, one, leaned into my challenges, and, two, always planned, there was no way I could fail. On the professional side, I learned that there were jobs out there, and getting one was possible. I managed to do it twice within just three months. I also learned that in order to get a new job that I loved, I had to own my job search. I had to think about what was most important about the location, the job itself, and the company that I worked for. In terms of location, I calculated that I spent over 2,000 hours commuting in my career so far. These hours were better spent with my daughter and family. So, I preferred working remote.
Mahu Sims: In terms of the job itself, it had to pass a passion and skills test. I was open to new roles, and I didn’t want to rely solely on my current experience. I wanted to find careers that I hadn’t thought about, but where my experience was transferable. So, I wrote down all the things that I’m passionate about and the things that I’m skilled at, and the list aligned to two types of roles: technical marketing and product management. I ended up in technical marketing again, but it was a fun exercise to do. Finally, the company that I worked for needed three things. One, a great product that customers love. Passionate employees that cared about the culture and core values. Finally, a company that cared about diversity and inclusion. I’m happy to say that I’ve found that at Inflection.
Mahu Sims: On a personal note, I learned to talk through tough scenarios. If I had the what-if conversations with my family about the tough birth, or potential defects, it could have reduced our stress in the moment, and we would have been better off for it. Finally, I needed to find ways to give back. With all that was going on in the world, this had become super important to me. So, as you’ve noticed, I’ve had many ups and downs this year. As a person prone to stress and anxiety, I needed to implement what I like to call my CORKSS framework to get through it. C stands for continue to plan. I planned through my job search and pregnancy. The more I planned, the better prepared I was. The more prepared I was, the less anxiety I felt.
Mahu Sims: I own my routine. I was extremely intentional with my time, even when I was unemployed. This meant setting time aside to learn, manage my job search, and even doing things like working out and reading. I remained introspective. I continued to inquire about my stress, asked myself why am I anxious? What can I control? I would try to ignore the things that I couldn’t, and go all in on the things that I could. I kept my physical health in mind. It’s super easy to fall into unhealthy patterns when you’re stressed out. But eating right and exercising actually made me feel better. Since I didn’t like to exercise all that much, I would pair it with something that I love. For example, I fell in love with the Hamilton play over the summer. So, I would watch it every time I worked out, which certainly increased the number of times I exercised.
Mahu Sims: Speaking to everyone. As I mentioned earlier, I love learning from the experiences of others. I joined various personal groups and professional groups, and managed to talk to as many people as I could about what they were going through. Finally, stay positive. It’s definitely harder than it sounds, but I try not to get consumed by the negativity around me. I would take breaks away from my phone to read a book, play a game, or hang out with my family uninterrupted. So, yes. 2020 has been tough so far. But I know that if I lean into my next challenge, plan my way into success, and remember CORKSS when I’m stressed, I’ll come out on the other side of it just fine. I wish the same for you. Thank you.
Angie Chang: Thank you, Mahu. That was so inspiring to hear your story and this transparency that you shared with us. I also remember that you shared your story about getting your job in COVID, which I think is super impressive. We keep hearing in the news how women are disproportionately affected by this crisis, and it’s really great to hear that you were able to get an offer, even though it was [inaudible 00:36:28] contract, but also now that you’ve found this great role at Inflection, which has shown its DEI initiatives. It’s been really inspiring to hear you share that story. So, thank you.
Angie Chang: Our next speaker is Izzy. She is a general counsel at Inflection, where she oversees, or leads, the company’s legal and risk functions. She’s been with Inflection for about five years. Before she was at Inflection, she was an attorney for Hirease, and she also received her journalism degree. I think that’s funny, because I had an English degree. So, a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina and a Juris Doctorate with honors from the University of North Carolina School of Law. Welcome, Izzy.
Izzy McLean: Thanks for that introduction, Angie. I’m Izzy McLean, general counsel at Inflection. Super excited to talk to you all a bit about this concept of regtech and how it is a really ripe area for innovation, maybe in ways you wouldn’t traditionally even expect. I think a lot of us here enjoy problem solving, and doing it in really creative ways. That’s probably a big reason why you all here have connected with Girl Geek X. I think that’s what’s really cool, in my opinion, about regtech. By definition, it’s the application of new tech, emerging tech, to solve regulatory and compliance challenges for businesses. So, I thought it might be a cool topic to chat about today, just so you can keep it top of mind in your own professional pursuits or at your own organizations.
Izzy McLean: What do I really mean by regtech? Generally speaking, regulatory technology is a new area of tech. Usually it’s software-based, but not always. It aims to ease the regulatory and the compliance burdens for businesses that have to juggle a lot of different laws, that are usually in a state of flux, or they’re ever changing. Examples would be tech solutions for companies that have to deal with GDPR compliance or privacy obligations, tools that banks use for know-your-customer or anti-fraud, anti-money laundering requirements. So far, regtech, it’s been associated with the financial services industry, but there is a growing need for regtech solutions to come out into other verticals and into SaaS services for customers.
Izzy McLean: We’re just starting to see the nascent stages of that, especially in the privacy sector where you see more changing laws. A lot of you might have heard about the recent changes with European Union and some of the privacy laws there. So, aside from that, I want to talk about today how we at GoodHire have baked in a regtech solution to our own screening services, and we’ll use a case study to work through that. Suffice it to say that you don’t have to associate regtech with financial services. We’re starting to see it in our other spaces, and I think it’s safe to say that in pretty much every vertical there is a value add for some sort of regtech solution.
Izzy McLean: Aside from the personal benefits of maybe getting your hands dirty and creating new, easier ways for people to follow the law, as they run their business or as they use your services, there are some other benefits to think about with regtech. It might be that your services themselves require the customers have some foundational knowledge about the law. That’s our situation at GoodHire, because we’re very regulated. Background checks are extremely regulated. It’s worth asking, if you have a corporate responsibility in those situations, to guide your customers toward compliant use of your product. That is the tack that we’ve taken at GoodHire.
Izzy McLean: Not only do we want to help customers understand their own legal obligations, so that they can stay safe and solvent, but we also want to make sure that those customers who are using our services follow the law, so that their job applicants receive all the rights they’re entitled to receive under the law. That’s just simply the right thing to do. Then there’s customer peace of mind to consider, as well. A lot of organizations might not have sophisticated legal teams or in-house compliance teams. When they feel that your service or your product, either by the way it’s designed or the features that it includes, if it actually helps them understand their legal obligations and then provides them a way to comply with those obligations, those customers are going to feel safe. They’re going to have peace of mind. They’re more likely to stick with you. They’re less likely to churn. All good benefits to consider.
Izzy McLean: As I mentioned earlier, I thought it might be helpful to use a case study from my experience at GoodHire to talk about how regtech can be added to an already existing SaaS service. So, GoodHire is our employment background screening service, as I mentioned. Customers use us to background check their job applicants before they hire them, or maybe throughout the course of employment. The procurement and the use of background checks is highly regulated under federal law, state law, and local law. Meaning, unfortunately for customers, there are a lot of laws and rules that they have to follow when they use our services. Those rules can differ based on the customer location, the job location, and the candidate, the location of the candidates they screen. It’s very complex.
Izzy McLean: We were finding that a lot of our smaller customers, especially, were having a hard time understanding what the law was. They were having a hard time understanding how to comply. So, that was something that we immediately wanted to improve. We decided to invest into educating our customers, so that we would raise the probability that they would follow the law and compliantly use our services. By doing so, they avoid litigation and fines and enforcement, and also they ensure that their job candidates receive all their rights under the law. Again, super important to us, as a business. We felt it was the right thing to do. So, we decided to research every applicable background check law in the country, at the state, the federal, and the local level, document them, understand them, interpret them, and then bake them into our service using the genius of our engineers.
Izzy McLean: So, on the educational resource side, we built a comprehensive guide that set out each of those laws in every jurisdiction, so that all of our customers can read it and have access to it and understand what the laws are for them, and how to comply as they use the service. Then on the automated solutions side, our engineers created the ability for us to take into account customer location, candidate location, and job location, and figure out, based on those inputs, which of the 180 legal rule sets should apply to that particular candidate, as the customer used the service. So, the research alone was about a six month investment. There was a lot of product and engineering work, as well. We now feel that compliance is a big part of our brand. Recently, I’m pretty sure compliance was rated the number five reason that customers come to GoodHire.
Izzy McLean: So, I think there’s definitely been some meaningful ROI on that one regtech project, that helped formulate that brand for us, of compliance advocacy. It really is the gift that keeps on giving, because it was built in a way that is very scalable and adaptable. So, as the laws change, we can easily just pull the levers and make tweaks internally, and update our system for compliance. I would just ask that you keep regtech in mind as a potential area of employment for yourself. There are companies that specialize in the creation of regtech tools in multiple verticals. So, that’s an option. Also, keeping in mind, if you’re at a business, for new features, or processes even, in the services and the products that you sell. If you think that you’ve identified an area that is a pretty ripe one for opportunity for regtech, go ahead and chat with your product teams. Get buy-in from executives.
Izzy McLean: I think that customer advocacy can create value for your brand, can reduce churn, and improve revenue. So, that’s a talking point you might want to use. Your competitors may already be working on something similar. So, you want to be sure that you’re staying ahead of the curve with regtech solutions. Also, you can manage cost of regtech development internally, if you form tiger teams to do a lot of the upfront research and due diligence in-house. Also, just be sure to think about how you would balance any increased risk that comes with offering a solution for compliance. That’s something that executives are probably going to want you to discuss as you make this pitch. So, those are just a few starting points, of course, but keep regtech in mind as you create and as you go out into the world and do cool, professional stuff. That’s it. Thank you so much.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you. That was awesome. All right. Next up, our next speaker, Avanti, who’s the VP of engineering at Inflection. She oversees data engineering, platform engineering, and customer success engineering teams. So, welcome, Avanti.
Avanti Ketkar: Hi, everyone. So, it’s a pleasure coming back to Girl Geek Dinner. So, today’s topic is more around how we can bring the engineering teams closer to our customers. When we talk about technology teams and engineering projects, we talk about the robust architecture we want to build. What are the different modern technologies and tools we want to explore? [inaudible ] we want to build, how much automation we want to do, and, obviously, the focus is on the quality of the code, the development processes, and generally building high energy, fun culture for the teams.
Avanti Ketkar: There is a very important aspect of building products that is often overlooked by the engineering teams. So, definitely one of the factors that we typically overlook is getting closer to our customer side. Why do we want to do that? Because when we build products, we want to think about our products from our customers’ perspective. We want to familiarize ourselves with the features and flows that are outside of our current expertise. We don’t want to just build to the requirements, but we want to build products that actually delight our customers, that gives them an excellent experience, and the products that want them to keep coming back to our experiences. Overall, just understanding our customers better makes us better engineers.
Avanti Ketkar: So, here at Inflection, we also try to do the same, and to do that, we take several measures. There is a lot of focus on working closely with the customers, not just with the product teams, but also with the engineering teams. Different ways that we can do this is getting involved into the product development side early. By early, it’s not just requiring [inaudible], but even earlier than that. Right? When there is discovery happening, when there is customer calls happening, even when the customer started requesting features and they’re not even prioritized yet. So, as early as possible being part of that whole process, I think, is very important.
Avanti Ketkar: Also, there are customer meetings that happen on different business teams. There are quarterly business reviews. There are sales pitch that happens. Customer success teams always work on retention, have continuous interaction with our customers. So, it’s really good for having those interactions, as well as understanding the customers’ complaints and requests, as we build new products. What do we do specifically to actually address those needs? We have built several different efforts and programs within Inflection, so that the engineers can work more closely with our customers. Right?
Avanti Ketkar: One of the processes we follow is something called agent escalation process. So, we have a big customer support center in Omaha, Nebraska. That is the team that is talking to customers every day. Right? In every capacity. They have emails, and chats, and phone calls happening with our customers. So, whenever our agents come across issues, we have a set of processes called agent escalation process. That directly comes to the engineers, as well as product managers. We can actually look through and understand what are the things that our customers are not happy about? We have a customer-focused on-call program, and I’ll talk about that in a little bit of detail in a bit. We also have quarterly ship-it events. That’s nothing but hack-a-thon, as some places call it.
Avanti Ketkar: These are the events where engineers take several days completely out of their routine work, and focus on fixing things, not only just for customers but different flows, anything that our agents want. In fact, two weeks ago, we had a completely customer-focused hack-a-thon, which was driven by the customer success week. That was a big event. We had a huge success. Many different features that our engineers developed actually made it to production. So, that was a very fun event. We also have a dedicated customer delight team. Even though we have all the engineers working towards the customer’s delight, we still have a team dedicated to that. So, the things that don’t get prioritized to be worked on right away, this team is continuously focusing on improving our customer experience.
Avanti Ketkar: We also have frequent communication with our internal customers, because, as you all know, the engineers don’t just work for external customers. Right? We have several internal tools and platforms and various different things that we cater to. All our customers are internal as well as external. So, one of these programs that I want to dive deeper into is the on-call program. It’s a typical on-call program, in a sense that we do deal with production issues. We do deal with production escalations. We have resolution SLAs that we place. We try to fix things within 24 hours on production if something is broken, 72 hours if something is broken but not as much of a priority. We have several guidelines as to how we fix things.
Avanti Ketkar: In addition to that, what we have done is we have taken this program to the next level. Engineers actually go on-call for an entire week. What that does is that it gives them a complete break from the routine development work. So, they don’t pick up stories. They don’t do the regular scrum work. They don’t have to attend all the meetings. What they focus on in this week is everything that is customer-centric. So, they can plan ahead of time, talk to the sales team, attend some customer meetings, or they can plan ahead, talk to the customer success team, and listen to some calls. They might be having some codes or bug fixes that they have been thinking about for a long time, and that are good for customers. They can take that time and actually work on fixing those things.
Avanti Ketkar: So, this is basically a dedicated customer-focused week that every engineer spends when they are on-call. This program so far has been very useful. This is just one of the examples that we do. We use it [inaudible] our sales, as well as customer success teams, use it. We have access to these various tools that typically engineers won’t use. What we have done is we have opened them up to our engineering teams, as well as product teams. Here is a screenshot, for example. Recently, we launched background checks in Canada. We are going global. One of the features was Canada background checks. So, you can see here, if you go to Gong and search for Canada, the tool actually shows you all the phone calls that use the word Canada.
Avanti Ketkar: So, you can go and read about what the customers are asking for. You can go in there and see if there is any feedback when the feature was launched, or what is the feature that is missing, that maybe we should implement next, and so on and so forth. So, there are several ways you can use this tool, and has been so far proved very successful. This is another tool, another screenshot. This is something we use for our interactions. So, all of our phone, and email, and chat interactions are recorded here. We can just go here. You can see I’ve filtered it with the chat. I can literally see all the chat logs from the customers that are coming to us. This is another way we can go in there when we are on-call. We browse around here, look at features that we are interested in, and learn a lot about our customers.
Avanti Ketkar: While doing that, we have learned several lessons. It doesn’t come naturally for us to think about being closer to the customers. So, it’s definitely a significant amount of work to actually double up this documentation, to double up the processes. This also needs to be a continuous feedback loop, not just from engineering teams, but from customer support agents, our product teams, our QA teams, and we need a continuous feedback loop to keep on improving our programs. This is just from the customer perspective. Right? There are more things that we are learning. Our escalations are getting fixed faster, because the engineers are learning the products and features that they were not familiar with before.
Avanti Ketkar: We are more comfortable with looking at areas that we haven’t worked on before. When we now test a product or a feature, we test it in a better way, because now we know how our customers are going to use it. So, our testing is getting better. In general, it’s making us well rounded engineers. As a result, we definitely have happier customers. So, for us, this has been a great effort and has been a great program that we’ve been running. I will definitely encourage you all to take a look and see how you can embed this philosophy into your product development process. Thank you.
Angie Chang: Thank you, Avanti, for sharing that insightful dashboards about how engineering gets closer to the customer. So, that’s the last talk of tonight. We will be sharing these with you on YouTube. So, feel free to check your inbox. It will come to you, along with the jobs, because Inflection is hiring for many remote roles and entry level roles in Omaha, and also just remotely for wherever you are. So, the roles include things like senior software engineer, help desk analyst, senior product manager, email marketing manager, senior accounts, learning development specialist, and a director of product marketing.
Angie Chang: Now, we are going to be moving on to our networking hour. So, if you are still hanging in there, go grab some water or a snack, and then come back and click on that link in the chat. There’s also a link in your email for the Zoom breakout sessions, where we’ll be putting you in rooms of four to six other girl geeks to chat for 20 minutes. Then we’ll rotate a few times, so you can meet some different groups of people. So, I will see you on the other side. Thanks for coming.
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