The changes in today’s markets have led many companies to reassess their financials. OpenComp is interviewing executives from growth companies to understand their reactions to the economic climate and uncover best practices for conserving cash and increasing revenue.
The following is from an interview with Matt Hartley, the co-founder and chief product officer at BreachRX, a startup in the incident readiness and response area. He has roughly 25 years of expertise in a variety of industries, ranging from cyber security to threat intelligence and information operations at companies such as FireEye, the US Air Force and Lockheed Martin.
The conversation has been edited for clarity and concision.
What kind of change are you seeing in the market today?
While there are more candidates available to hire, the amount of open roles has not increased to match that. I’ve seen many companies have to lay-off employees, and a disproportionate number of companies that are hiring for enough open roles to take in those employees.
What changes have you seen being made to engineering headcount plans in light of what's going on with the economy?
BreachRX has extended our hiring plan, stretched our roadmap and leaned into other areas of the business to continue to drive growth. I’d bet that other early stage companies are doing the same. In times like these, leaders need to be cognizant of the fact that you can't drive your people into the ground by understaffing. We're being deliberate about our focus and our roadmap as part of extending our hiring plan.
“We're being deliberate about our focus and our roadmap as part of extending our hiring plan.”
OpenComp’s database shows that machine learning engineers are actually the hardest to recruit. Is this surprising to you?
There is only a certain number of experienced folks available in the talent pool. I would certainly agree that hiring machine learning engineers is very challenging. I would say it's similarly challenging to find security, DevOps, and mobile machine learning engineers. From my experience working in security and privacy security, engineers have always been challenging to find in general.
Besides cash and equity, what are some motivators for engineers?
Most engineers I know enjoy solving challenges, myself included. Part of the job is working through challenges, and figuring out how to build something despite them. I often see engineers accept roles where they can tell that there's a good culture, but where they also have intriguing problems to solve. Whether you're at a large company or a small company, in a senior role or a less senior role, mission matters.
Being in the security and privacy space, it's easier here than at some other companies to have a really strong, exciting mission. For instance, BreachRX’s mission is to help people reduce risks around security and privacy incidents, both of which are very visible and very painful problems for businesses.
When you have such a mission, your engineers are solving technical challenges to help customers with really salient problems. That's exciting. The technical challenge is a major motivator for engineering candidates, and too often overlooked in the hiring process.
“The technical challenge is a major motivator for engineering candidates, and too often overlooked in the hiring process.”
How do you position equity to candidates in your hiring process?
For both hiring and retention, being able to answer people’s questions around equity is extremely important. As a leader, it’s crucial to be well versed in that. We’ve started using a template, which is similar to an offer letter in a slide deck form, to explain the value of equity. We’ve found a lot of success with that.
There are many folks coming out of larger tech companies who had great salaries for a while and were able to conserve some level of cash. Because of this, they’re more willing to lean into equity when taking a startup role. That’s an upside in terms of the current market: the startups that are still hiring have an opportunity to find folks who understand the value of equity, and who will be willing to help you conserve your cash runway.
“For both hiring and retention, being able to answer people’s questions around equity is extremely important.”
What are the top reasons that you're seeing engineers decline offers?
The culture piece is central, both at the company and team level. People don't always recognize that engineers, even though they're technical, are extremely savvy and can see through a hiring process into what the organization is like. A lot of engineers want to learn from and mentor others. I see company and team culture as a foundation to cutting through the salary-equity divide challenge.
“I see company and team culture as a foundation to cutting through the salary-equity divide challenge.”
You can hear the full discussion on our webinar, “Hiring Engineers in a Recession - Headcount Planning Like a Pro.”
Zoë Rose is a Content Marketing Manager at OpenComp and has held roles at Fuel Cycle, CorePower Yoga, and TrueCar. She pens the monthly High Growth Matters Spotlights. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.