For our latest fireside chat, we sat down with our VP of People, Riffat Jaffer. Riffat has been working within the Talent Acquisition and Human Resources space for over 15 years, partnering cross-functionally to build teams in startups, pre-IPO, and public companies. She has a passion for talent and recruiting, and the process of building inclusive environments within her organizations. We were lucky enough to bring Riffat on board in March 2021, she has since been invaluable in building the workforce and culture of the company.
What brought you to Robust Intelligence?
I joined Robust Intelligence (RI) when the company was ~10 people. I was impressed with the leadership team, their big ambitious vision for eliminating risk from AI, and the confidence they had in how they would make their vision a reality. They recognized that their vision needed an experienced People leader that could help attract and hire the brightest employees and also help shape the culture of the company. This has been validated by the fact that as of today our valuation and headcount have grown fivefold. The energy and culture of the company continue to be infectious, fast-paced, and – most importantly – high-performing! I have found a unique sense of passion and love-what-you-do attitude with the people here at Robust Intelligence, partially driven by the impactful mission that grounds the company. It makes it a pleasure to work here and with this group.
“I felt immediately that this was the kind of environment that I could be trusted and respected in, and I would be able to bring my most authentic self to work.”
What made you interested in working for a machine learning/artificial intelligence company?
The machine learning and artificial intelligence space has been a fascinating area for quite some time now. I’ve been especially intrigued by the concept of developing intelligence that thinks and works like humans, all while training models to identify patterns and automate decisions with minimal human intervention.
I first worked at an AI start-up about 5 years ago. We analyzed satellite imagery using computer vision models. When I first learned about RI’s product, I knew that a company that was building a product that tested the AI models for accuracy and aspired to secure AI had to be a winner.
What past work experiences impacted your career? How did your background prepare you for working at Robust Intelligence?
I have had a long career in Recruiting and HR and have enjoyed working at bigger companies like Google, founding and running my own staffing firm, and working at several start-ups (Pure Storage, Orbital Insight). I enjoy working, growing, and learning in most work environments but have realized that what I enjoy most is building and growing teams from scratch - start-ups have become a passion.
I have always been in jobs that are people-centered and can’t imagine a role for myself that does not have contact with or impact on people, directly. Having been the first talent acquisition person at a few start-ups now, I have found that the real rewarding factor of the job is the journey it takes you on – the people and the relationships that you make along the way are what have been the most special and lasting elements of my career.
The core driver for the work I do is my fascination with people. I have always been curious about why and how people decide to join a profession, make the career choices and transitions they do, and the ways in which people dedicate themselves to their work. Looking back, I stumbled into my first tech recruiting job by total chance. Today, I am immensely passionate about hiring and employee experience, all thanks to what now seems like a coincidence.
RI has been the smallest and earliest stage start-up I have had the opportunity to join, which has been a blessing because it has allowed me to help build and grow the company from the ground up.
What’s a day in the life as a VP of People for Robust Intelligence look like?
What I really personally care about is building diverse and talented teams that share the same mission and vision for making AI safer, while having fun creating strong and groundbreaking products. I try to make sure that all our employees feel supported, successful and happy in their roles and work.
To that end, my day is focused on talent acquisition – making sure we interview and hire the best and the brightest, onboard the new hires to make sure they are set up for success, and then make sure that they are set up to have the most rewarding employee experience through a culture of growth, learning, and development. My day also encompasses strategic planning sessions with the leadership team to ensure that we have the right systems, processes, and people in place to meet our long-term goals.
What would you say to anyone interested in working at RI? What sorts of qualities do you look for in candidates?
Right now, we are a small (hovering around 50 people today) but fast-growing company – and if you join, you will have a very real chance at helping shape the company and working with some of one of the most impressive teams there is. My belief is that the brightest people need the vision, the strategic direction, right ambitious leadership, and culture to succeed. RI has exactly that.
When I’m interviewing a candidate, there are a few things I look for…
- Does the candidate have the skills and competencies that are needed to get the job done?
- Do they have the grit, passion, and drive to survive and be successful in a fast-paced start-up environment?
- Is the candidate passionate about the work? Eliminating risk from AI should be something that they feel passionately about. Do their values align with our mission and culture? Will they add to our evolving culture?
If you are interested in getting to know more about my experience working at Robust Intelligence and hearing more about our job opportunities, reach out to me (email@example.com) or the team (firstname.lastname@example.org).