HackerRank CEO, Vivek R


Nothing quite compares to U, and nothing compares to tech recruiting. To say it's a competitive landscape is a major understatement, and HackerRank is doing all they can to make the process as efficient as possible. To learn more about what's going on, the boys interviewed HackerRank CEO Vivek Ravisankar. Dude's smart, and surprisingly hilarious.

Enjoy this Talroo Exclusive.

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Intro: Hide your kids, lock the doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snot. Bottle up, boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel: Bow-wow-wow-yippee-yo-yippe-yay.

Chad: Here it is.

Joel: Welcome to the Chad and Cheese podcast. This is Joel Cheeseman, your cohost.

Chad: And this is Chad Sowash. Welcome.

Joel: Welcome. On today's show, we have the long line of people smarter than us gets longer and longer. We have co-founder and CEO of HackerRank, Vivek Ravisankar, I probably said that incorrectly, with us today. Vivek, how you doing man?

Vivek: I'm good, how's it going?

Joel: How badly did I butcher your last name?

Vivek: Yeah, I think you should have probably said, "Vivek R." I think that might've been better.

Joel: How about Vivek Ravi?

Vivek: Yeah.

Joel: Oh, well anyway, Vivek, from now on, for those who don't know, and the list is probably small, but for those who don't know, give us just a brief intro of you and a maybe slightly longer rendition of what HackerRank does.

Vivek: Yeah, sure. I'm the Vivek Ravisankar. Like how you guys say?

Joel: I was super close.

Vivek: Yeah, absolutely. I wish I could take that back.

Joel: Asshole.

Vivek: I'm one of the founders and CEO of HackerRank, I was a developer prior to this at Amazon. I used to do a lot of technical interviews, which is where I found there was a lot of inefficiencies in the way that we do our recruiting process. Started the company, this is our seventh year, maybe sixth year, after we went live. Seventh year, totally, since we launched HackerRank. We have about 1,500 customers using the product, assessed over 6 million developers, 250 people. London, Bangalore, Mountain View, and growing quickly. And here I am in a podcast, which hopefully you guys have promised that it will increase our revenue, so I will be tracking that.

Joel: And for listeners out there, Vivek has a team of about 30 PR people supporting his podcast interview and he actually has a scouting report on the Chad and Cheese podcast, which basically says, "these guys are assholes. Watch your back." Basically.

Vivek: Just a correction. I just hired one person today, so it's 31.

Joel: So it's 31, nice. touche.

Chad: As he sipped his tea, somebody actually dabs his lip. So let's jump right into it: HackerRank. We've talked about it on a podcast for a while now and I think it's amazingly smart for all companies who touch the technical side of the house. You have 1,500 companies global, is that global? What percentage of that is here domestic in the U.S.?

Vivek: Yeah, 1,500 is global. I would say about 70-ish percent is in North America. The remaining is in India and Asia Pacific.

Chad: Okay, so now the 6 million developers, which is a shit ton of people, can you give us kind of the same breakdown of the 6 million. How much from here domestically versus India, et cetera?

Vivek: Yeah, so that one is a slightly different combination. It's about 40% to 45% is in India, while 30% is in North America, and the remaining is in India. Why you would've guessed the population of these countries are higher and the population of developers in India is definitely more than U.S.

Joel: Yeah. Curious about your take on the world, cause you have a really unique view on the world from where you sit. What is the economy like in terms of technical talent? Where's the growth? Where is there a huge need? Just sort of give us your state of the union in regards to a tech talent around the world.

Vivek: Yeah, absolutely. So I think there are two big shifts that are happening in the market. One is every company's becoming a software company. It's no longer a retail store. The first thing that you're going to look to figure out if you're going to buy or not is download the app and see if the product is available in that store versus going. So it's no longer retail, it's tech. It's no longer financial services or banks. I've had people switch banks because their app was buggy. I mean, you would never have this reason 10 years back. So it's no longer financial services, it's also tech.

Vivek: On your cars, people ask about, "Hey, when is autopilot going come or does this have a Apple play?" Those things become important criteria now, just not there 10 years back. So it's no longer automotive, but it's also tech. So there's a giant change that's actually happening in the world. And by the way, like only 3% of companies are classified according to the SIC codes as tech companies. The remaining 97% are in all of these different industries that I mentioned, but pretty much everything is a tech company. So that's a gigantic shift in terms of the number of companies who are looking to hire developers, and they come in and transform themselves.

Vivek: That's on the demand, and if you look at supply, which is the developers themselves, it's just getting easier for you to learn how to code and build things. One is internet is ubiquitous. You could just say, get a Mac and connect to the wifi and that's it. You could now go ahead and start to learn how to code. There are not many boot camps that have actually come up in the last few years which teach you how to code, and people are starting to realize that developer, a Javas developer is more lucrative, so more and more people are studying computer science in your college.

Vivek: And what this has led to is over 70% of the developers who call themselves developers right now are self-taught, which means your resumes are not going to look really pretty. It's not going to look how I went to this prettier school, I did X school and I got four GPA. It's just going to say, "Hey, I did a bunch of these projects and I learned on my own." So these two are giant shifts. If you just think about it from a supply and demand perspective, supply meaning the developers and demand being the companies. There's just a huge number of companies that can hire developers and the configuration of the composition of the supplier, the developers have also completely changed to being self-taught and learn-on-your-own. So, how do you match the two? And that's kind of what we do.

Joel: So that being said, what are the different ways you actually work with companies with HackerRank? I would assume testing. Is there training? What's kind of like the portfolio that companies are getting into to try to help pretty much fill that skill gap?

Vivek: Yeah, that's a good question. I think the way we have fundamentally changed, and we operate a lot in the recruiting space and there's definitely an opportunity for us to operate in branding, employment branding, and attracting talent. As well as, once that employee joins the company, how do you up skill this person to continue to learn more and more skills? So there's definitely opportunity for us to expand across the board. But right now our major focus is just on recruiting. And the fundamental shifts that we've been able to make is people used to look at resumes as your first level of screen. So, that used to be the first step by default. Okay, you apply to a job. I'm going to look at a resume, I'm going to do some keywords, and if those keywords match with the job description, and if I know the school, and you have good GPA, I'm going to pass it on to the hiring manager to conduct further interviews. So then the hiring manager has his or her own biases, and it's just like a long denominator process.

Vivek: We just cut off the entire idea of resume screening right at the start. So, a majority of our customers don't even look at resumes, they actually create a coding challenge or a real world challenge that is relevant to the role that you're looking to hire for. So if you're a full stack engineer, I'm going to create a full stack engineer code challenge. If you're hiring a data scientist, I'm going to create a data science coding challenge and so on.

Vivek: And now as a developer, my first step is for me to showcase my skills. How good am I each of these different roles? And then you get a scorecard and these are the skills that you're looking for, these are the candidates trends and this that these are the areas the person needs to get better or you can continue to interview or prove more into the process, and that eliminates so much bias, and that actually sort of expands your talent pool much beyond what you originally thought, where it was a, super constrained view of the world. So that's like a big, big shift, which is kind of like the reason why we are growing in companies that are adopting us pretty fast.

Joel: Okay. So identification is really your big key right now, is being able to identify individuals who actually meet the skill sets, companies need to be able to code in their organization. The hardest part, I think right now is that it's almost like many companies are robbing from Peter to pay Paul just because there's not enough talent there in the first place. How much time is it going to take for you guys to get into the upscaling or the teaching of coding?

Vivek: Yeah. So there are two parts here. One is, is there a talent shortage? And the second one, is what do we need to do to up skill people once you joined the company and how do you get better at it?

Joel: Yeah. Well, what's your runway in to be able to get there? Is really my question.

Vivek: I actually don't think there's talent shortage and I know it's like a controversial opinion about this. And I think talent shortage is a myth. So we actually did a recent blog post, which got covered by a bunch of publications like CNBC and others; we had over a million students attempt our assessments and challenges over the last year, across different colleges, across the globe, we assessed all of these different students across different dimensions. What skills do they have? What are they good at? What schools are good and what kinds of skills? And you'd be surprised. And one of the most interesting stats that we found when we were doing this research is the Ivy league schools, and the top 10 schools done by U.S. News or some publication, if you put those two together, only 9% of CS students graduate from that list, and all you and if you sought the schools based on skills, okay, this is not sorted based on Ivy league or your, Whatever, how many patents you submitted, by like just on raw industry skills that you need, which is kind of like what we assessed.

Vivek: It was exactly one Ivy league school that was in our top five, but it's unfortunate that every company, or like most companies, are just focusing on these 9% or these 10% of the student population and just completely missing out on the 90%. And by definition, Ivy league schools are one of our ex-top five. And even if you don't seem open, your numbers are super aggressive, okay fine. Let's say it's not 9%, let's say it's 20% like double it, or slightly bit more than double, you're still missing out on 80% of talented people. And this is just in the university section. Now, if you start to expand this across the horizon, across professionals and others, so by definition, you're missing out on all these great talented people because the fundamental unit of how you approach recruiting is based on resumes and profiles. So I actually think the talent shortage is a myth, and the more you're willing to open up your aperture to identifying candidates beyond the top 10, top 20, and the companies that you look at, the more success that you're going to have, and that's what we are enabling.

Chad: It's commercial time. Talroo is focused on predicting, optimizing, and delivering talent directly to your email or ATS.

Joel: So, it's totally data-driven talent attraction, which means the Talroo platform enables recruiters to reach the right talent at the right time and at the right price.

Chad: Guess what the best part is?

Joel: Let me take a shot here. You only pay for the candidates Talroo delivers.

Chad: Holy shit. Okay, so you've heard this before. So, if you're out there listening in podcast land and you are attracting the wrong candidates, and we know you are, or you feel like you're in a recruiting hamster wheel and there's just nowhere to go, right? You can go to Talroo.com/attract. Again, that's Talroo.com/attract, and learn how Talroo can get you better candidates for less cash.

Joel: Or, just go to ChadCheese.com and click on the Talroo logo. I'm all about the simple.

Chad: You are a simple man.

Chad: It's show time.

Joel: So you guys put out a blog post fairly recently about the best colleges for tech talent. Tell us about some of the other alternatives to Ivy league schools, and I also think, it sounds like you have a fairly strong opinion in regards to how important a degree is anyway. It's more about things you've done, your portfolio. Talk about that crossover between the college education, where to get a degree, versus do you really need one.

Vivek: Yeah, that's a good question. I think there are two parts to it. One is do you need a degree for for you to get a job? And second, does college education actually correlate to industry, to success in professional? I think the rate at which technology improvements are happening is such a rapid pace that I feel university, the curriculum, the things that they actually teach, is still 10 years behind. There's a new JavaScript framework that gets launched, I don't know, every six months or every year, there's a new language that people just stop to work on.

Vivek: Now, Go is the most hard language and everybody's trying to be backing services on Go, and I don't think universities are teaching Go, they're still stuck in trying to teach people how to do C, C plus plus, which is good. But you've not progressed further. So, there's that one big dissonance between what you get taught in schools versus what the industry or the companies are looking for. And which sort of makes of, by definition, the college degree not super valuable, except for the brand and pedigree that the university has been able to accumulate over the last few years. More like decades, not few years.

Vivek: And the second part about it is, if you think about it, if you want to hire right there a musician and, if you take any other profession, or if you want to hire somebody for your restaurant, you don't have to get a resume. You don't say, "okay, you are a good cook." I mean, like what else would you see on a resume if you want to get hired in a restaurant. But the first thing that you say is, "show me if you're a good cook or not." Or for any of the profession, if you want to hire somebody for content, or PR or just writing, I'm going to say, "Hey, show me your write examples." But unfortunately, and this is the biggest irony for developers, which you would assume that it's the most technical of professions across any other fields. It's still stuck on resumes, so you have to be able to showcase your skills, which is far, far more valuable than saying, "Hey, I have a four year college degree."

Vivek: If I had to guess, right? I think, well firstly, the importance of college degrees is starting to go down every year. I don't know if you saw the news, maybe six months back or nine months back, Apple and Google have dropped all college requirements on their website, on their career space. So you no longer need to have a college degree. So, and by the way, that will just trigger the rest of the company and the rest of the industry to fall as well. So, the requirement of college degrees starting to drop year over year, coupled with the fact that you can learn what industry wants online versus going to school, so I think the next 15 to 20 years, I think there'll be a very small percentage will actually want to study computer science in college. And I mean less than 20% of what is happening right now.

Chad: What it sounds like, and we know