Symphony Talent CEO, Roopesh Nair


Roopesh Nair is president and CEO at Symphony Talent, the recent acquirer of SmashFly, which listeners will remember from the podcast. Well, we thought it was a good time to bring Nair on the show and chat about a few things, like the history of Symphony, the 'why' behind the SmashFly deal, thoughts on the hottest recruitment tech and what the future holds.

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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 snark buckle up boys and girls its time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel:

Yeah. Welcome to the Chad and Cheese podcast on your co-host, Joel Cheesman.

Chad:

And I am Chad Sowash.

Joel:

And today we have the pleasure of being joined. By cosmetic royalty, RuPaul Nair aire to the fortune of hair removal. Rupaul, welcome to the show.

Chad:

No, no, no, no. His name's Roopesh number one. And the last name I believe is Nair. Is that how you say it? Roopesh?

Roopesh:

Almost there. Roopesh Nair is how you say it.

Joel:

Well I fucked that up. Roopesh the head man in charge over at Symphony Talent. Let me do this again. Roopesh welcome to the show. Good to have you join us today. Chad and I are milking a hangover from the Superbowl, so don't talk too loud if you, uh, if you can help.

Roopesh:

Thank you Joe and Chad, really happy to be on the show. It's one of my favorites. So thank you for having me.

Joel:

Way to suck up early on and I love it. That's always a plus. That's pretty smart.

Chad:

That's what a smart CEO does, right?

Joel:

That's right.

Chad:

So right out of the gate I mean, what brought you to this? What brought you to this industry?

Roopesh:

Oh, that's a great question. So four and a half years ago, I didn't know anything about talent acquisition or for that matter recruitment, marketing or anything we do here at Symphony and Smash. Like today I had an experience, I had all my experience before that I had about 15 years in consumer marketing and technology. And then I got a call from the board was now the board of Symphony Talent. And basically they talked to me about an opportunity to really transform an, which kind of is going through a similar price formation as consumer marketing and technology went through you know, about a decade ago. And I just got excited about it. I, I, the way I told my friends, I said, Hey, you know, today I help companies sell detergent and shoes and tomorrow I'm going to help companies sell jobs and life. So that's basically what got me excited and, and it's just been an awesome journey. As you guys can see.

Joel:

You choose wisely. You choose wisely going to Symphony Talent. I know we want to talk about the acquisition of SmashFly, but for those listeners out there that don't know what you guys do, give them, give them the pitch.

Roopesh:

Yeah, so simple words. Pretty much what I said before, we kind of find the, in the, in the business of redefining how employers connect with talent and they are bringing in all the, all the new innovative thinking on how, how the connection happens between, between people and then bringing in, bringing it into the world of a career marketing and talent acquisition. So that's what we have been doing for the last five years and, and before and, but it's SmashFly coming in. That's become even more interesting for us overall as a combined company.

Chad:

Before we get into the, the SmashFly Joel just wants to go straight for the stuff, right. I want to hear a little history about, you know, what pieces parts came together to create symphony because I mean there were all these different pieces and it was an amalgamation of, for a while it seemed to just like craziness. It was, yeah. Agency's technology background check. Tell us, tell us a little bit about that.

Roopesh:

Yup, yup, yup. And that's basically, you know, fortunately what got me my job, you know, because there was a history which led to me coming in. As you guys might know, Symphony Technology Group acquired a few companies specifically starting with First Advantage. And then Findly, which was which was early, early CRM in the, in early 2010. So I would, I would, I would say .

Chad:

Jason Kerr days.

Roopesh:

Yup. Yup. And then basically from there they recognized quickly that, you know, frustrated vantage was a transactional background check business. So they basically, they peel that out of the business and took all the other pieces, skill assessments, the ATS bought at that time and CRM and kind of merge it together and brought Hodes in at that point. And this was all before my time but obviously you guys, some of you guys know the history, the acquisition didn't really go as well as planned. And then, and especially, you know, kind of coming in thinking about cultural combination of agency and bringing in technology. And agency together was not as simple as it was initially perceived.

Roopesh:

And, and that's what led, frankly to me getting my job about five years ago because that's exactly what we did in previous organization. At Sapient, we brought technology and creative agency into one single play in the consumer world. And basically over the last I think five years, what you've done is exactly that. Chad and Joel, we basically kind of a broad Hodes as you guys you know, know that really well. It's, it's been around for, I would say about 40 years now as that employer brand agency kind of transforming itself over the years, but at the same time kind of having strong relationship with some plans and bringing some awesome creative and strategic capabilities into the table. But then, then we rewrote all the platforms involved between skill assessments, do basically the CRM to carry your website to programmatic media and bringing all those things together into one single platform.

Roopesh:

We call this experience cloud. And the idea was that, you know, we wanted to focus on kind of really transforming the experience for, for both the candidates, employees and, and the employers. And that's what we did. We kind of rewrote everything in, in modern technology. We brought in a lot of the ideas around how do we use creative and content in the context of the technology to drive personalization, drive that seamless candidate engagement. And, and that led to where we, we were early this year I'm gonna say like early last year when he had a strong set of set technology suite. And we also had a, had an awesome, awesome creative capability and a bunch of clients who were super

excited about what we were doing with them together. So that's the story to tell the SmashFly time

Chad:

When it comes to all of those technologies. Because I mean, First Advantage had an applicant tracking system, background check. I mean there was a ton of stuff there. Findly obviously was an entirely different segment of technologies, and then Hodes who did have some tech but they really weren't tech. I mean being able to merge them all together into one and then also all the technical debt that had to be paid. Did you just start over from ground zero and use the data because you're talking about being able to build new technologies. That's really hard to do off the back of some of the old tech that you guys were inheriting.

Roopesh:

Again, a very good question. So the first thing we did is basically invest in what we call this on data, which was kind of that one single data platform which connected all these solutions together. And that gave us the early wins so that we can kind of, you know, sell these pieces. Obviously background check, as I mentioned, was completely taken out of the equation. We didn't, we didn't bring that into this technology, right? So that was, that was First Advantage. And you guys, you guys had a podcast about how First Advantage had a great exit. So that was, that was a completely separate business. But everything else, we, we first connected the data into it started that work in 2015 and to your point, we looked at it and said the tech debt was too much to pay. So we kind of read out everything starting 2015, we basically took all the, all the knowledge all the lesson learned from all of these platforms, but rebuilt the, the front end and the backend in, in the modern mean stack as a, as we call it.

Roopesh:

And then, and then upgraded pretty much as of 20, late 2018, we had upgraded all the clients into that one single platform, which we call it as experience cloud. So I mean, that's why, you know, some of you are saying, Hey, you know, you know, we have not been that active in the market talking about symphony specifically because we basically were focused a lot more on ensuring that we have an awesome set of stable, awesome clients who are really happy with what we have done with the integrated platform. And that was the journey til 2019 sorry, 2018. And then we were ready to kind of look at the future with everything else we had.

Joel:

So that probably brings you into the SmashFly acquisition. As part of your 2019 initiatives, what was the catalyst of that? What was some of the pieces they brought to the table that you didn't have? And were there some complimentary technologies?

Roopesh:

Yeah, exactly. So that, that story of kind of thinking about SmashFly or frankly, initially it was, we were looking at growth from an organic perspective or an organic perspective. And we debated that a lot and we decided to look at both and to invest in invest in both. But as we looked at the market and we ended up finding Spanish Flay, the felt like smashed way, had so many complimentary capabilities, which we didn't have. And also from a client based perspective, as you bring the claim base, both the companies together created a, you know, organization which, which is very difficult to be matched in the, in the modern recruitment marketing platforms industry. Right. So specifically talking about areas which smashed lay was really strong in. If you think about the deck to the smash SmashFly had in, in the recruitment marketing space, just purely as we think about the CRM, the depths the SmashFly has and had is unmatchable you know, frankly by anyone in the industry right now.