This interview with Shathiya Rengalwar, Head of Talent Acquisition at Panther, explores handling current risk aversion in the hiring market, optimizing the candidate offer process, and preparing for upcoming pay transparency legislation.
This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and concision.
You started your career as an engineer. What caused you to pivot from engineering to recruiting?
I was born and raised in India, and started my career in software engineering. After moving to the US and having my daughter, I realized that it was the perfect opportunity to try something new. Recruiting caught my interest, helping people find the right role can sometimes be part of fundamentally changing their life for the better. Personally, I find the ability to change lives the most rewarding part of being in the talent world. It has helped me build deep connections, and long-term relationships over the years, which I value the most and I feel deeply connected and rooted to that.
How has the current economic downturn impacted hiring?
The great news is that Panther is still hiring, and we’re growing across the board – product, engineering, sales, marketing, etc. Hiring for tech has been an ongoing challenge irrespective of the market condition. But the market conditions have changed rapidly both from the Great Resignation and layoffs and concerns over inflated startup valuations. During the Great Resignation, it's been reported that 57% of employees quit their jobs. Somewhere between Q1 and Q2 of this year, everything changed as we started to see increasing uncertainty in the overall market. The news of layoffs in the tech space has led to increased risk aversion from candidates around start-ups generally. We are seeing the market shift impact hiring.
Lately, candidates are weighing the upside and potential risk of joining a startup more than ever. Whether they’re the sole breadwinner for their family or they’re content in their current role, they may be less likely to join a start-up or even explore a new role given the market uncertainties at play.
What are you doing at Panther to remedy the risk aversion a lot of job seekers currently have about joining a startup?
Hiring the right talent is the secret behind our success so far and will continue to shape our future as a business. We try to get an understanding very early on in the process for a candidate’s risk tolerance levels and why they’re talking to us. As part of our sourcing strategy, we also look for people with prior startup experience as oftentimes these folks are more likely to understand the builder mentality and the hustle and grind it takes to be part of a startup.
That’s not to say we don’t talk to candidates from larger companies, but just going by the data, oftentimes what happens is that the candidate is excited about the idea of joining a startup, but when push comes to shove and if that person is leaving a certain set of benefits or RSUs, it can be very difficult as we’re weighing real money versus future opportunities. Having these deeper conversations early on helps, and also keeping a lookout for obvious concerns like if they’re very focused on cash instead of equity. No one joins a startup to maximize cash compensation; we joined for the excitement of building a new business and for the chance to go big on equity when we exit.
Lastly, if candidates are interviewing with the FAANG companies, which again, nothing against them, but it means that eventually we’ll end up in a situation where they’re comparing apples to oranges at the offer stage and it almost never works out. Throughout the hiring process, we constantly suss out the candidate’s risk tolerance, key motivators, why are they excited about Panther, and what are they looking for in their next opportunity. At a startup, while equity is a huge component, there are also the growth opportunities, the ownership, and the ability for your work to have visible impact on the business outcome.These are critical pieces that you don’t necessarily get at a bigger company. It’s not just about filling head counts, our team is focused on Panther’s long term vision and helps create strategic solutions to attract top talent.
How are you thinking about career pathing given that Panther is a Series B company that doubled in size in the past year?
I think growth and career opportunities are a huge part of the rationale for a candidate to join a startup. At Panther, we’re still at an early stage and employees very much have the ability to make a visible impact on the business – whether it's a new product feature or a sale made, the entire company gets insights into the impact of the individual contributors. We really live and breathe by our values – be an owner, move fast, and take care of the team. Part of this is providing consistent feedback loops, and there are a lot of organic growth opportunities for employees here. There have been multiple examples of our employees advancing quickly or moving to different roles based on their interests. I want to share my own story here. I started as the Head of Talent and when there was a need for a HRBP to support our R&D team, I embraced the opportunity to help build my skill set within the broader People spectrum. The leadership team was very supportive of this and I continue to grow and learn each day outside of my core function.
Employee satisfaction and engagement is crucial for our success, and studies show time and again that people will consider leaving if the role no longer aligns with their values or career aspirations. Manager enablement is a huge investment for us because it directly ties into our employee happiness, engagement, and wellbeing. We also work with external partners to formally train our people managers. An employee’s direct manager is most familiar with their strengths and weaknesses, as well as what it would take to advance their career. We recently rolled out the process for internal transfers and it starts with a proactive approach of posting every open role on the internal job board so our employees are able to identify opportunities to grow and thrive. We truly want our Pantherinos to succeed.
How do you optimize the offer process?
You should be closing candidates at every stage of the process. This begins with the initial call, and you want to make sure you’re strengthening the relationship each step of the way. A candidate not only looks at the cash component of the offer, but there are other pieces, like culture,team fit, and career opportunities which play a critical role when they are making the final decision. I’m a strong believer that the interview process is a reflection of the company culture. Providing a stellar and inclusive experience to every single candidate irrespective of the outcome is the core DNA of our TA model at Panther.
Tactically, we use OpenComp, so we have the right data and pay ranges on both the cash and equity front. After the offer is approved internally, we do an offer presentation for every single candidate. Our recruiters spend time putting together a presentation that not only covers the numbers, but also provides context on why we are offering them the role. Simply put, sharing “this is why we’re impressed and excited about you.” The hiring manager is also present on the call to share their excitement and to talk about the role, responsibilities, growth potential and also their first big milestone within the first 30 to 60 days. Then the recruiter walks them through the benefits that we offer. We also offer a bit of equity education and coaching on ISOs versus RSUs, depending on the candidate’s knowledge. We share the total offer package, the cash component, the stock options along with other relevant info like the vesting period, strike price, and the preferred price. We also model out equity for our candidates and table multiple scenarios that detail the value of their offer over four years under different potential exit valuations for Panther. We send the deck over to the candidate and let them sit with it as they make their decision.
At the end of the day, hiring needs to be a win-win. Candidates should have all of the resources they need to make a decision they won’t regret later. As much as we are excited about a candidate, we expect them to be equally excited when joining our team. The excitement clearly plays a critical role in their quality of work and engagement as an employee.
California has joined CO, WA, and NY in implementing pay transparency legislation. How are you thinking about upcoming requirements like pay ranges in job postings and DEI reporting?
We’re really excited about the pay transparency movement because it ensures clarity and equity at each step of the employee lifecycle. At Panther, we don’t ask about a candidate’s salary history. We use data from OpenComp to ensure that we pay a standard percentile of the San Francisco market – that’s our compensation strategy and what candidates get offered. It doesn’t matter where they live (Panther doesn’t adjust salary based on location) or what they were making prior, so I don’t really see our philosophy changing, but our process will comply with these requirements.
I’m working with our compensation analyst and VP of People, as well as our legal team, to ensure verbiage is signed off on before we post on the job openings. We plan on putting together additional resources to help guide candidates on how to understand the pay ranges listed and will also do additional work defining our job levels. Right now we have some postings that might point back to multiple levels – for instance, we have a backend engineer role posted, but we are open to filling that headcount with a senior or staff level engineer. We may also have one posting that might have room for multiple headcounts, which in that case, the salary range is pretty wide open. I'm starting to have conversations with department leaders on how we’ll identify the level early on so that we are able to share appropriate ranges. There is a huge opportunity for us to train our managers to explain the factors that go into setting pay and why employees land where they do in a pay range.
Panther Labs was founded by a team of veteran security practitioners who faced the challenges of security operations at scale and set out to build a platform to solve them. The result was Panther, a refreshingly practical platform for threat detection and response powered by a highly scalable security data lake and detection-as-code. Panther gives security teams the power to detect any breach, anywhere and is trusted by customers like Snowflake, Dropbox, Zapier, and more.
Lexie Sirak is a Senior Campaigns Coordinator at OpenComp and previously worked at JPMorgan Chase & Co. She pens the monthly High Growth Matters Spotlights. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.