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A Wild Ride to Rivian

Ever wanted to hear an interview with a former recruiter at Facebook, Apple and Tesla? How about one that’s currently blazing a trail at EV maker Rivian? Well, it’s your lucky day, because Chad & Cheese sat down with Rameen Fattahi, director, recruiting operations & insights at Rivian while they were all at iCIMS Inspire to hear Rameen’s story. Don’t worry. Along the way, there are stories about Elon and Zuck.rivian


INTRO: Hide your kids. Lock the doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion, and loads of snark. Buckle up, boys and girls. It's time for the Chad and Cheese Podcast.


Joel Cheeseman: Oh, yeah. What's up, everybody? This is Joel Cheeseman recording live from iCIMS Inspire. I am joined, as always, by my co-host, Chad Sowash.

Chad Sowash: What's up?

Joel Cheeseman: And today we are excited to welcome...


Joel Cheeseman: Rameen Fattahi, Director, Recruiting Operations and Insights...

Chad Sowash: That was good.

Joel Cheeseman: At Rivian, a little EV company that we haven't talked about on the podcast, at least.

Chad Sowash: I've been excited to see those out.

Joel Cheeseman: Welcome to the podcast. Now you were at our party in Vegas. Have you recovered, I guess is the first question.


Rameen Fattahi: I refrain from commenting on this question.

Joel Cheeseman: No comment. Okay.


Rameen Fattahi: For my professional career and...

Chad Sowash: That's great.

Joel Cheeseman: That's a good time.

Chad Sowash: That's better than a comment.

Rameen Fattahi: Let's rewind.


Rameen Fattahi: I actually promised myself that, I wanna do what you guys do, which is be authentic and true to the industry so that people can hear somebody say something that means something to them. Not what you want to hear, but just to tell you how it is. And I appreciate what you guys are doing, as in the HR function, the TA space, you're bringing light to, not us being a bunch of hermit crabs behind the scenes, but actually normal, fun, kind, loving people.

Joel Cheeseman: He's softening us up for the hard-hitting questions later.


Joel Cheeseman: Clearly, clearly.


Joel Cheeseman: Clear enough. Rameen, we appreciate that and we appreciate you being a fan of ours.

Rameen Fattahi: So we had a good time is what I'm hearing, yes.

Chad Sowash: Absolutely.

Joel Cheeseman: Now, before the show in our green room, if you will, you were getting really personal about your journey and how you got here, which I think is interesting. Tell us the story about how you got into this profession. 'Cause your resume is outstanding. Now we're talking Tesla, Apple. What else is on there?

Rameen Fattahi: I don't like to name names, but Facebook and Huawei and...


Joel Cheeseman: I don't like to name names, but Facebook is on there.

Chad Sowash: Some of the biggest names in the world.

Joel Cheeseman: A hell of a resume no matter what. So how did you get here?

Rameen Fattahi: It's a long road. I think, let's take it back. Who am I? I'm an Iranian American, born in America. My parents and family and my sister were immigrants from Iran. Father's a doctor. My mom was a teacher. When I grew up, everyone was like, "Rameen, what are you gonna do one day?" 'Cause I saw my dad. I was like, "I'm gonna help people. I'm gonna be a doctor. I'm gonna be a brain surgeon." And that's all fun and games, and the reality is...

Chad Sowash: What did dad do?

Rameen Fattahi: He does veins. He's specialized in veins.

Chad Sowash: In veins?

Rameen Fattahi: Leg veins, straight up. My dad is one of a couple of people in the world...

Chad Sowash: Wow.

Rameen Fattahi: Who just worked on leg veins and loved it.

Joel Cheeseman: Bulging veins, Chad. That's what he specialized in.


Chad Sowash: So we know where to go one day.

Joel Cheeseman: Yes. When...

Rameen Fattahi: Actually, I got the hookup.

Chad Sowash: When Aunt Thelma needs to...


Rameen Fattahi: Oh. But let's bring it back. So, I graduated with wanting to be like my dad. So I did neurobiology, physiology and behavior at UC Davis.

Chad Sowash: Damn.

Rameen Fattahi: I did surgery labs in the last part of school. And it was really exciting, but I also thought it was gross. The excitement of getting there and being like, "I'm gonna work on a live animal and do these procedures and help the research," was exciting. But when you get your hand involved in it, you have to ask yourself, "do I want people to want me to be that person?"


Rameen Fattahi: I don't think so, because I don't know if I love this.


Rameen Fattahi: And you gotta understand when I told you my story, we all come from different cultures and backgrounds. But you have to understand, when I went to my parents and had that family talk, because that's what we do in my culture, my mom cried. My dad was taken aback and then said, "No, I agree." That time when this man was in the people business, when you were promoting a club at 18, I saw just a light in you. When you were in restaurants working in, went from Buster all the way to Manager, I saw a different light in you and you just... I see something about people. So that's where it all started.

Chad Sowash: So dad was into it, really?

Rameen Fattahi: Dad was into it. Mom was like, "what!"

Chad Sowash: So culturally...

Joel Cheeseman: I know I've tried to put my hand in a few places that I didn't want to really go.

Chad Sowash: Yeah, well you got smashed. That's different.

Joel Cheeseman: So I can relate to this.

Chad Sowash: That's different.


Joel Cheeseman: Yeah.

Chad Sowash: So dad was behind it. And that...

Rameen Fattahi: That was that.

Rameen Fattahi: He was in the profession. He was medical doctor and usually you love to see son come up behind you. That is amazing that he just was like, he doubled down and said, "no, I get it."

Chad Sowash: He's just like, "I really believe that at the core, what will make you happy is not this. Thank you for bringing this forward to the family."

Joel Cheeseman: Dad of the year.

Rameen Fattahi: Fuck yeah.

Joel Cheeseman: Dad of the year.

Chad Sowash: Yeah.


Rameen Fattahi: Sorry for my language, but fuck. Yeah.

Chad Sowash: Yeah, me too, oh Yeah.

Rameen Fattahi: Obviously I pride in family. But my sister, who's seven years older than me, she had spent a lifetime to get into Apple. She truly was invested into the recruiting environment and she was a coordinator there. And she was a coordinator for five or six years.

Joel Cheeseman: So you said outside of your mom, so mom wasn't into it. Talk about that.

Rameen Fattahi: You know, mom's real happy now. We're 13 years later...


Rameen Fattahi: She sees the vision, once that vision came through.

Chad Sowash: 13 years later. Yeah.

Rameen Fattahi: And she sees me happy and I'm helping people, but from a different lens. I think that recruiting is one of the greatest experiences. I was on stage today with Laura and what a tremendous experience. I told her backstage, I said, "I can't be you because I love recruiting." I got lucky. Okay. 13 years ago I was gonna open a restaurant. I came out of school and was going to open a restaurant.

Chad Sowash: You were going to open a restaurant?

Rameen Fattahi: Pizza, beer, and burgers. That's it.

Chad Sowash: Too easy.

Rameen Fattahi: 24 beers on tap.

Joel Cheeseman: I'm in.

Rameen Fattahi: I was excited. And I swear the weekend before we signed that lease, it was gonna be 350 a square foot. And I know 'cause that's what I was that far deep.

Chad Sowash: Yeah.

Rameen Fattahi: I got a call from one of my buddies and he said, "Rameen, my family comes from the restaurant world. Don't do it." And he's like, I just... "We struggled. We've gone through a lot of change. You win sometimes, but you lose a lot. And it's seven days a week, 14 to 18 hours a day."

Chad Sowash: Oh God.

Rameen Fattahi: "It's a beast. I don't recommend you do this, but guess what? I'm in an agency. I've been here for 30 days. I'm doing great. And I think your personality would be great for his come recruit. Come recruit, please."

Chad Sowash: Oh, damn. He recruited him out of going into the restaurant and just...


Joel Cheeseman: To be in recruiting.

Chad Sowash: Oh, it's awesome.

Rameen Fattahi: Yeah. He's a good friend of mine to this day.

Chad Sowash: Yeah.

Rameen Fattahi: And I trusted him. I said, "You know what? Why don't I interview?" We started in a company called 314E. It's probably on my resume.

Joel Cheeseman: So timeout, you had, you're ready to sign on the dotted line to open a restaurant...

Rameen Fattahi: Ready to sign on the dotted line with my uncle...

Joel Cheeseman: And your boy said, "Come be a recruiter."

Rameen Fattahi: Yes.

Joel Cheeseman: And you did a 180 and said, "I'm gonna go investigate this."

Rameen Fattahi: That's true.

Joel Cheeseman: Damn. Alright.

Rameen Fattahi: So, you can always open a restaurant, right? You're like, "Let's try something else out, maybe." I really believe in being open to new ideas. I'm told all the time, why don't you push the team in a direction? I'm like, "Let's get there together, I only executive decision one out of maybe 15, 20 things. Why don't we get there all together?" And it helps to build and drive a really healthy team. I wanna share this story because I think there's a lot of people that would appreciate having an authentic look of how did someone develop in 13 years from where I was coming out of school, trying to find my path to 13 years later, leading director of recruiting operations and insights at Rivian. Starting on a team of less than 10 people with no written process. Starting a company of 700 and saying, I'm gonna build an internet, a career site, and an ATS, I'm gonna build an internal mobility referral, everything from scratch. So how that really happened?


Rameen Fattahi: Going all the way back. I was in 314E and I was an agency recruiter, guys, and it was awesome. But I really struggled and I struggled with the fact that in an agency environment, the best interest is what you can do for your company. Not in what you can do for the community and then the candidates you're working for. So I struggled one time, I remember it very vividly. There was a woman, and in recruiting we don't discriminate. We don't ask you personal questions. I do not ask Joel, "What do you do on the weekends?" I don't wanna know. But people elect things all the time. I'm sure you guys see this.

Chad Sowash: Oh God, yeah. Overshare is what we call it.


Rameen Fattahi: And in the spirit of oversharing, I was with a woman who was going through something in her life. She had three kids. She was going through something. She explained her situation to me without me even asking. And I said, "Oh my goodness, I wanna max you out. I wanna take care of you on a human level." But when you're 22 years old and you go tell your vice president in an agency that I wanna go help this person, they're just like, "You know what? That's coming out of your commission." I'm like, "Don't even worry about that." They're like, "Well, that's coming out of the company's commission." That threw me off, boys. That threw me off.

Joel Cheeseman: Yeah. Yeah.

Rameen Fattahi: So my sister, she had been at Apple, actually ended her career last year at Apple. And she was in a coordinator role...

Joel Cheeseman: We're talking Cupertino Apple.

Rameen Fattahi: Cupertino at the main silo. And she basically was like, "Rameen, I've been promoted to a sourcer role. I think you should come over here and interview for a coordinator role."


Rameen Fattahi: And I was like, "You know what... "

Chad Sowash: Yeah. Why not?

Rameen Fattahi: I wanna be in corporate recruiting. There's a different lens of how you interact with people in a corporate environment where it's like, I want it to be equal. We got ranges. You gotta go outside of that range. Why? Define that. Go to your comp team explain to them why you're paying someone more than everybody else on the team destroying the internal equity. So we have some parameters that keep us locked. And got really lucky that my sister was in that role because she helped prepare me for that interview. That's where I wanted to be authentic with people. Like, you can get help out there, whether it's your sister, your friend, like in my story already, we haven't even crossed me being my second role and I've gotten help from two different people.

Joel Cheeseman: And the importance of a network, I mean, granted family...

Rameen Fattahi: Absolutely.

Joel Cheeseman: But until you know people that can help you get that foot in the door.

Rameen Fattahi: Absolutely.

Joel Cheeseman: You've got an uphill battle to get...

Rameen Fattahi: Absolutely.

Joel Cheeseman: Those opportunities.

Rameen Fattahi: And keep your eyes and ears out. People will reach out to you and say, "I got an idea for you and you should hear it." In my case, it helped me and I'm so happy now. So I go join Apple.

Joel Cheeseman: So what years are we talking at Apple?

Rameen Fattahi: Oh. We're in 2023. We're talking about 2010, '11 now, '12 maybe.

Joel Cheeseman: Yeah. So you engaged with Steve Jobs at some point or you saw him somewhere.

Rameen Fattahi: I did not personally engage with Steve Jobs.

Joel Cheeseman: Okay.

Rameen Fattahi: I am not that...


Joel Cheeseman: Did you see him from across the cafeteria?

Rameen Fattahi: I've seen Tim.


Rameen Fattahi: I've later hired someone on my team here at Rivian who, he actually told Steve Jobs without looking up, "No, you can't have my cafeteria table."


Rameen Fattahi: He had no idea to sell a sea shots in the '90s. "No, you can't have my... " The world is small.

Chad Sowash: We know that guy.

Rameen Fattahi: Oh.

Chad Sowash: Oh, we know that guy.

Rameen Fattahi: He's a tremendous name, employee in marketing.


Rameen Fattahi: I'll save him because he deserves his own podcast.


Rameen Fattahi: But gentlemen, I'm now coordinating at Apple. I'm 22, maybe 23 years old.

Joel Cheeseman: Yeah.

Rameen Fattahi: I've got six months of agency recruiting experience. I joined as a coordinator. I got to support multiple functions from technology, mostly IT to marketing and GNA. While doing this, my recruiters that interviewed me said, "Hey, you are a recruiter and I need extra help. I don't have a sourcer on my team. You mind just moonlighting?" And I said, "What an opportunity. Thank you for this opportunity." And so I took that opportunity and without telling my boss.


Rameen Fattahi: I literally would spend my evening sourcing. And when you're in a coordinator role, it's hourly usually it's not exempt, and so I didn't clock any of those or say anything. What ended up happening for me was, it's about six months and 14 people that passed through and got all the way to hire through my sourcing effort, my recruiters went to their leaders and said, "let's bring this guy on the team. Bring this guy and interview him on the team." And it was true, I showed up with 12 senior recruiters that today are my mentors. And without them, again networking again, other people, I don't know if I'd be in front of you today and have the opportunity to speak. And there's this secret trick for a bunch of people that might be new in any new role. Go out of your office or whatever seat you have and don't ask anybody the same question twice and don't ask the same people a second question in the same day. That was my trick.


Rameen Fattahi: I had 12 mentors. I'd walk from one person to the next, ask them a different question and nobody knew I didn't know what I was talking about.


Rameen Fattahi: And I was able to have tremendous output through their brains. And I wanna be honest about it.

Joel Cheeseman: That's some next level shit.

Chad Sowash: It is next level. That's what would piss me off. As a manager, when one, when somebody would come to me and it's just like, I'm like, "Okay, come on. Can you not figure this shit out by now?"


Chad Sowash: "come on, genius."

Rameen Fattahi: So that naturally progressed into, if you have an aspiration and you're willing to go above your role to do it and not say anything about it, not ask for anyone to tell you about it, other people will reward you by talking about your work. And that will help you get to the next level. So in this case, that happened. Next thing I knew, I was sourcing for IT at Apple. I was the youngest member of that workforce. I hate to bring age in here, I hate it, but I was so proud of the work that I was doing. Yeah. It was exciting.

Joel Cheeseman: Was mom on board by now?

Rameen Fattahi: No. Yeah. Mommy, I love you.

Joel Cheeseman: You're at Apple, still Mom isn't on board. Okay.


Rameen Fattahi: I love my mom. I promised an authentic discussion. Yeah.


Joel Cheeseman: Yeah.


Rameen Fattahi: Boys, I'm at Apple sourcing. It's going great. Meeting new business units, meeting new leaders. What I had never imagined was that my boss's boss's boss's boss, who was the VP of all of Apple recruiting, would leave and she would go to another company, at this point, Tesla. She would take my director and he would call me and say, "Ramin, I'd like for you to join this team." And I said, "what?"


Rameen Fattahi: "You know my name?"


Chad Sowash: They're sitting at a Starbucks, early in the morning, "what hard workers do you know that we can take with us? I don't want the skanks, I just want the hard workers."


Joel Cheeseman: How many years at Apple before Tesla?

Rameen Fattahi: Do I have to have two, three drinks before we got into this?


Joel Cheeseman: That is true. That is true. We did lubricate the guests before.

Chad Sowash: Carry on.

Rameen Fattahi: It was after Apple. I promised authentic and indirect. I jumped ship. And let me tell you something. I've told a bunch of people that I've hired. I never thought when I joined Apple, I was ever gonna leave. I had no idea.

Chad Sowash: What'd your sister think? 'Cause she was there.

Rameen Fattahi: My sister told my mom and dad and me...


Rameen Fattahi: Our personality's a little bit different. She's, "I like the stability."

Chad Sowash: Yeah.

Rameen Fattahi: Have you ever met an employee that'll tell you, "I don't want your promotion, 'cause it comes with more scope."?

Chad Sowash: Yes.

Rameen Fattahi: I happen to have one in my family and it's...


Rameen Fattahi: And I love it. I'm like, "You know what? That's super different from me." And we have...

Chad Sowash: Yes. And she's not living to work?

Rameen Fattahi: That's correct.

Chad Sowash: She's working to live, and we're starting to see more of that in our culture.

Rameen Fattahi: Absolutely. And I'm the flip opposite. Right?


Chad Sowash: Yeah. Now me too. I know, I know dude.

Rameen Fattahi: It was exciting. God. Apologies.

Chad Sowash: I'm ashamed of it sometimes.


Joel Cheeseman: These are early days at Tesla.

Rameen Fattahi: Early... You know when? It was Model 3 ramp, the Model 3 was just starting to create a production line.

Chad Sowash: Damn.

Joel Cheeseman: Yeah. You took a big risk in this. Talk about how you felt in doing that and taking the leap and...

Chad Sowash: Wow.

Joel Cheeseman: What was it like? You didn't meet Steve Jobs.


Joel Cheeseman: I assume you met Elon at some point.

Rameen Fattahi: I was excited to join Tesla, but I was afraid to leave what I had had. I never thought of a world where outside of Apple, there was an employment opportunity. I just thought, this is the way that people recruit. This is the way that business operates. And...

Joel Cheeseman: I mean, look, people returned your calls. When Apple calls you, they return the call.

Rameen Fattahi: That's true.

Joel Cheeseman: You're leaving that for, I mean, Tesla's not the worst case scenario for...

Rameen Fattahi: Yeah. Yeah.

Joel Cheeseman: But you did take a risk.

Rameen Fattahi: It was because of leadership. Straight up. When I tell people, and I hire people, I tell them to think about it. And I point blank put myself in the hot seat. I say, "listen, when you get a checklist on what you're looking for, your manager and your leader," I don't like the word manager. "Your leader, the person that inspires you and you're gonna work for, that's really important to you. You need a green check next to that. And that is gonna be the most important thing." Second thing is, "what are you doing? Is the company doing something that makes you super excited?" I chase leaders because through their mentorship and their lenses, I've been able to develop. And if you have a shitty leader, you'll never forget that experience.

Chad Sowash: Okay. Well, yeah. And I almost say that those are the most learning focused experiences because you know what not to fucking do.

Rameen Fattahi: Totally.

Chad Sowash: It's very hard as a leader to know what to do. It is even harder to know what the bad habits are and then you can pinpoint those pretty quickly. Right? You're following good leaders.

Rameen Fattahi: I follow good leaders that inspire you and mentor you, and are willing to develop you and challenge you, not someone that you serve. I'm 25 at this point, 26 maybe. I've joined Tesla first week. Young man, young man, super glamored with Elon. I'm walking down with one of my mentors who had also come from Apple to the team, and we see Elon coming down the hallway. [laughter] Super giddy. He goes, "oh shit." He pushes me into the bathroom. And I said, "what happened, man? You just touched me."

Chad Sowash: There he is. Yeah.

Rameen Fattahi: I was like...

Chad Sowash: "You touched me. And now I didn't see Elon."

Rameen Fattahi: He get to say hi. He goes, "listen, it's an experience going down right now." And Elon's not like every leader. He's, a very strong forward leader. You may come back and he may ask you the golden question of, "what do you do here?" And you come back with, "I'm brand new, I'm learning my roles." And he might just turn around and be like, "you're not meant for this team 'cause your answer wasn't zoomed out enough," because just last week someone closed the door on one of the cars that he came out of and they got fired on the spot because it was a little too hard. He was at that time going through some hardships and you'll see it through his interviews. He says, "I'm really excited about that guy's brain and where he is pushing us." He was living in the factory, sleeping there to show the factory that, "Hey, I'm in this with you." And just tremendous amount of stress with, "is our company gonna make it? Are we gonna follow around on our finances? We don't have enough for payroll." All these crazy things. Being in the spirit of being authentic, I wanted to meet him. I was told not to meet him.

Joel Cheeseman: Yeah. Do you have positive memories of Elon and his management style or?

Chad Sowash: Or just Tesla itself?

Rameen Fattahi: I have positive memories of Tesla for sure.

Joel Cheeseman: Okay.

Rameen Fattahi: The workforce is amazing. These are people who wanna inspire the world. These are trailblazers. They're people that are fighting a hard battle. Whether it's the IT folks trying to figure out how to figure out IT and EV space for the first time. Because, it's different from many of the ice combustion engines that we've been dealing with in the companies.

Chad Sowash: Dude, we experienced ludicrous speed two days ago.

Joel Cheeseman: Ludicrous plus.

Rameen Fattahi: No, it was ludicrous speed.


Chad Sowash: We didn't do plus 'cause it didn't, that would've taken 10 minutes to actually reformulate.

Joel Cheeseman: Yeah. Our lungs would've shot out the back of our bodies.


Chad Sowash: That shit was ridiculous.

Rameen Fattahi: As a person who has both a Tesla and a Rivian truck, they're fast. I traded a Corvette, a Z06 for the Rivian.


Joel Cheeseman: Let's put a pin on the fact that he owns a Tesla and a Rivian.

Chad Sowash: Well he did.

Joel Cheeseman: Pull a pin on that and we'll come back to it.

Chad Sowash: And we saw a Rivian on the road the other day. That's a sexy vehicle.

Chad Sowash: I'm biased. It's so sexy.


Chad Sowash: I got a second one on pre-order. I'm waiting for it.


Rameen Fattahi: I got a second one on pre-order.

Joel Cheeseman: So, you're Tesla and then another opportunity comes along.

Rameen Fattahi: Here's the truth. Three months into Tesla, the first recruiting event, I spearheaded it. It was my idea to have it right in the middle of the factory. I wanted all the tech folks, the software folks to come in...

Chad Sowash: Called a Gigafactory.

Rameen Fattahi: The middle of the factory. I think at that time it was called a Gigafactory. In Fremont, California, we had a recruiting event. It was exciting. But what happened for me was not something I could have ever imagined. It's a blip on my resume. You're really like, "oh, I got such a great CV." Yeah, if I explain the story, not if you just look at it, because there's two short stints on there that need explanation. Tesla, "Rameen, why were you there for three months?" "Oh, sorry about that. This is a really hard point in my life, actually, in my professional career, because I had to tell a mentor that I was gonna follow another mentor who wanted to double my scope." And so it was so...

Chad Sowash: Why is that hard though? Because that explanation for you should be, "look, they have that much trust in me... " Okay, no, I get it. I get it. Yeah, no, it makes sense.

Chad Sowash: The reason why it's so hard is I had committed to Tesla. I had committed to this leader. I was in the mix of projects that I felt like were impactful and important. In hindsight, leaving, they survived, they thrived, they did great. I was one of many, no problem. But at that moment, I really felt like we were doing something, we're on special, and I had an important person in my life say, "I wanna develop in on you." The problem that happened for me was one of my mentors from Apple went to be the head of recruiting at Huawei and gave me a call and said, "would like for you to lead people for the first time." I said, "you know what, Jen, I'm not prepared for that. I am not prepared for that. You should not hire me."

Chad Sowash: I'm gonna say right now to have that kind of like inner scope of understanding. I mean, just like generally, any young man would say, "let's do it."

Joel Cheeseman: Intellectual maturity.

Rameen Fattahi: I don't know if it was intellectual maturity, gentlemen, or the fact that I was afraid to fail the people that would be on the team.

Chad Sowash: Yeah, no, it is. That's the same thing. They're the exact same thing. Because generally, when we're that age, we're thinking more about ourselves than we are the actual team. And I mean, that's how corporate America works. Right?

Rameen Fattahi: Absolutely. Yeah.

Chad Sowash: So yeah, no, that's pretty awesome.

Rameen Fattahi: In my story, I wanna say, bet on yourself, triple down. It's really exciting. So what happens next is I said, yes, it was super uncomfortable for me to say yes. I knew that me saying yes to one leader was me saying goodbye to another. Also, I don't know if you guys know this, but our industry is super tiny. So I move over to Huawei. I couldn't believe that I was reporting to this great person. I told her, "look, if I come there, you're on speed dial," like, "I'm gonna be talking to you every single day for the first few months until I get my feet under me." That was the truth. Eight months into this role. Here's where I get to blip number two on the CV. My leader walks in and goes, "I quit on the spot." I was like, "what?" I was like, "you're my mentor. You're my everything. I followed you. Like, what are you talking about?" She goes, "yeah. So like, in all honesty I think you should quit." I was like, "Oh, no."

Chad Sowash: Could you have told me this before?

Joel Cheeseman: Is this because of the political headwinds of Huawei, or?

Rameen Fattahi: Oh, man. In practice in China, when you're going through a recruiting practice, it's very different from United States. But in China, what we found through our process, because we would hire people in the United States is that when they would be reviewed in China, there'd be a lot of questions about certain aspects of them, their family, who they are. There'd even be call-outs of like, "don't hire this person because they're from this nation." We are in that nation. And we know people from our own nation are shady. Via email, I'm like, "listen, you cannot send that to my inbox. That is not cool. And you need to change this. This is not okay. We don't operate like this."

Chad Sowash: Yes. We know this Chinese family and we think that they are not appropriate to be a part of this family.

Joel Cheeseman: They're a bad seed.

Rameen Fattahi: Yes. So remember, I'm still developing my career. I'm out of my shoes. I didn't even feel comfortable being where I was at, but I was there I was leading, but I wasn't comfortable yet. So long story short, Jen walks away and here's one good thing for the CV because of the brands that I had worked at when I opened myself up to the entire Bay Area. And I fell in love with what Facebook was doing. They had a 25 person software team and they said, "we need to have a 250 person software recruiting team." I said, "are you serious?" I was like, "how many people are here?" And they're like 14,000. I said, "where do you wanna be? Let's call it two years." And they said 37,000. I come from that background. It felt natural to me. As much as maybe I question the product of Facebook, the ads, the data analytics behind it and how that operates and sends you really good stuff to generate more income, pull more cash out of you.

Rameen Fattahi: But as much as I was there, there's a spirit and a life to the benefits. There's a spirit and a life to how Mark Zuckerberg cares about the people that work for him. Point blank, doctors on site, dentists on site, acupuncture on site. I had the best three and a half years. It was so fun. We got to start what felt like a, let's start from scratch. Let's develop this thing in an environment that was pure pipeline driven. So what software engineering recruiting does at Facebook and they just basically go after everyone at the same time. Once you are brought into the interview process, after you are hired your first six to eight weeks, you go through a special engineering onboarding where you select your team. So you go and you get to do a rotation with all available open teams at the whole company. And you end up deciding on who's gonna be your manager and who's gonna be your teammates over six to eight weeks. And I walked through the door and was like, "God, I love this. This is working for the 90%."

Rameen Fattahi: But what about those nitty gritties? What about the compiler engineer? What about the programming language design? What about something that's super niche that when you tell 250 people, go get software engineers and get me the best ones in the world, they're gonna go out to Java, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, all that fun jazz. And so I pitched that we should consider rec-based hiring. And my boss pitched that. And we actually pulled that through. So we started this thing called specialty software recruiting. It was awesome. We worked with just niche roles. Compilers was one of them. And what we did was fill super senior roles or super specialized roles within the software environment. And this is where I was able to flex my client relationships, just that whole piece of it, because I was missing it for the first six, eight months at Facebook. Just, "okay, close candidates, train them for on-site interviews." I can do that every day. But what I really appreciated was the relationship piece and helping drive an organization that says, "I would like to be better," helping them to be better through people. So exciting experiences. This is where the story takes a turn.


Joel Cheeseman: This feels like an after-school special.

Chad Sowash: It's a left turn.

Joel Cheeseman: From the '80s, man. All right. So you're super happy at Facebook and then...

Rameen Fattahi: Ooh. You ready?

Joel Cheeseman: Yeah. [laughter]

Rameen Fattahi: All right. Here we go. So...

Joel Cheeseman: Back from commercial and the cliffhanger.

Rameen Fattahi: Got a call on a Saturday and it was, "hey, I'm no longer on the Facebook team. And I really think you should come join Rivian. That project we worked on, I think you'd be great to come join Rivian." I was like, "what is Rivian?" This is June of 2019. It's embarrassing for me to say it now, but I had no idea. There wasn't all these funding rounds. Amazon had just invested. This wasn't a company that I knew about. And I was in the tech space. I told a buddy, I said, "hey, fuck off. I'm super happy... "

Chad Sowash: How about no?

Rameen Fattahi: I'm all taken care of.

Chad Sowash: How about no?

Rameen Fattahi: Feel like I have...

Chad Sowash: "I don't know if you know or not, but I get massages and shit," right?

Rameen Fattahi: I was like, "I got growth and development here. Bud, it took me three years to get the team and everyone around me in order. You want me to leave that to join this company? I don't know. I started everything from scratch. No." My wife came around the corner and she's super happy. She's like, "did you get a call?" I was just like, "yeah." So she was like, "you got a call?" I was like, "yeah." And she's like, "who was that?" I was like, "it's a company called Rivian. It was a buddy of mine from Facebook and kind of like a job opportunity. Of course, I have an interview." She's like, "well, what is it?" "Get into recruiting at the ground floor and build it from nothing." She's like, "it sounds like you." And I was like, "huh." So she busted out their Instagram and we both looked it through and we were like, "oh my goodness, that's sexy." Not just the products, but the direction of the company. I'm thinking about the world. I'm thinking about how we can make this a better place for others. Those were sentiments I was super excited about.

Rameen Fattahi: And so, yeah, I can't lie. I called him back. I went, I interviewed, and it was the craziest experience joining Rivian to where we are, to where we were. Gentlemen, I joined a 700 person company on a 10 person team and talent acquisition. There was not one written process, nothing, not on a piece of paper, not an intranet. [laughter] I don't know how the career site was held together.

Joel Cheeseman: How much had they raised by this point?

Rameen Fattahi: Gosh, we were still, I believe under a billion.

Chad Sowash: Under a billion.

Joel Cheeseman: Wow, okay.

Chad Sowash: I think we were under a billion.

Joel Cheeseman: A mom and pop at the time.

Chad Sowash: Yeah.

Rameen Fattahi: If you think about how much capital it takes to really redefine...

Chad Sowash: Oh, fuck yeah.

Rameen Fattahi: Automotive, if you look back at our finance, you'll see there was billions, billions, especially we had one of the hottest IPOs. It was really exciting.

Joel Cheeseman: You're at Rivian. You've left the perfect job at Facebook and the employee loving Mark Zuckerberg...

Chad Sowash: They had no processes, no processes.

Rameen Fattahi: When you join a company that's developing and it's scaling, I'll call it...

Joel Cheeseman: How was your exit interview at Facebook?

Rameen Fattahi: Your standard, most standard, absolutely what you would expect of a standard HR interview.

Chad Sowash: You're very Zuckerberg. They had a hoodie on. You've been Zucked.

Joel Cheeseman: You've been Zucked.


Rameen Fattahi: No, not like that. But just like, it's such an operationally driven environment that the HR member that jumped on, they had a script and they just walked through the script and we walked through in and out. Unfortunately for them, I had good experiences. So it wasn't always, I didn't have a bunch of things that I wanted them to fix and evolve.

Joel Cheeseman: Positive experience, new opportunity.

Chad Sowash: So fast forward, no processes at Rivian. You've had around a billion dollars funding. And what did the tech stack look like? I mean...


Joel Cheeseman: And how many hires did you have to make on the team?

Rameen Fattahi: When you say the team, are you talking about funded recruitment...

Joel Cheeseman: So you joined how many people and they had to grow to how many people?

Rameen Fattahi: We joined at 700 people. Today we're floating around 15,000, 16,000 after reductions.

Chad Sowash: Holy shit. I didn't realize you guys were that big.

Rameen Fattahi: Yeah, we're pretty big. And that's only three and a half, a little more than three and a half years ago.

Chad Sowash: Fuck.

Rameen Fattahi: It's crazy. So about the tech stack, I think that where Rivian was at, at the time that I joined, did not allow the team to really utilize that original ATS and the original HRAS to what scale would look like. Because at that point, people were just indexing on speed. I'll be honest with you. The company was indexing on speed. How do we grow as fast as possible?

Chad Sowash: That's a startup mentality.

Rameen Fattahi: And it was exciting. So rewinding just a little bit, when I joined this company, you got to understand it was a little chaotic. I actually was scared a week before I joined. I was told, the head of HR is no longer here. And then I was told that the head of recruiting is no longer here. So I joined and I was in the lobby and the CEO walked up and he's like, "hey, Rameen." I was like, "oh my God, he knows my name." We did an interview together. I was a senior manager. Can you imagine the CEO of a 16,000 person company meeting a senior manager on their first two days?

Joel Cheeseman: And he knew your name.

Rameen Fattahi: He was waiting for me.

Joel Cheeseman: Which speaks volumes to any employee.

Rameen Fattahi: It was tremendous. I feel good about that because he's such a smart guy. Long story short, the team started from what seemed like nothing. In the first meeting with the team, I said, "does anyone have a written process? Anyone got any analytics here?" And this guy in the back goes, "oh, fuck. He's that guy."

Chad Sowash: Yes, I am. Jesus Christ.


Rameen Fattahi: And that's what I said. With love, I said, "guys, I am that guy." And we have the opportunity to aim for world class. There's no such ending. You don't ever get there. You just continue to evolve. But we have the opportunity to build this whole thing from scratch. And guys, we're not gonna take that. That's an exciting thing. So...

Joel Cheeseman: By the way, through this, there's a little thing called the pandemic going on. So talk about hiring during that.

Rameen Fattahi: I remember vividly going to our CPO at the time and saying, "hey, the pandemic is coming. COVID is gonna hit." And she was like, "no way. I'm not sure if we need to rotate towards this." Sure enough, two days later, she calls me and goes, "so we're rotating towards this. This is a big deal. And we need to think about this." The reality is, is that we quickly moved into a remote interviewing environment. We were lucky. At that time, we weren't building vehicles yet. So we got to transcend into the pandemic while we were hyperscaling. I don't know how many people we were, but we were not large. So we developed in the pandemic. You expand with personnel. But that may not be during a pandemic, you're expanding with land and new office space. So it's been a tricky discussion about this whole return to work thing, which a lot of us are hearing today. But it's something that we're using a crawl, walk, run approach with. And we're really being thoughtful.

Joel Cheeseman: I hate to bring...

Rameen Fattahi: Please.

Joel Cheeseman: Elon in the picture. So it's a competitor, Rivian, obviously. And Elon is really vocal about everyone back to the office. We have engineers and we're building cars. Even if you're in accounting, marketing, whatever, everyone's back to the office because our builders are there. What is Rivian's take on the work from home policies and everybody being back?

Rameen Fattahi: There are certain roles where you're gonna have to be on site. Maybe you're on a hardware team. Maybe you're on the product development side, the design side, maybe you're in manufacturing. For all of those roles, we have what we call work arrangements. So we're thinking about the world is, are you on site? Are you flexible to come on site? Are you fully remote? As time is progressing, I'm seeing less full remote roles, more flexible roles where you come in one to three days a week, recommendation, but really you drive it through your leader as to what's appropriate for you and your organization. For instance, let's use talent acquisition. For the most part, recruiters need to have their client meetings. When there's an event, we need to go on site. When you wanna do an intake, go meet your client. You can even interview a candidate on site if you want to, but I wouldn't recommend it for the environment. I'd recommend you bring them in at the offer stage.

Rameen Fattahi: So when you think about this, certain interviews will have to be on site, but they're not the majority. For us, we are not ready and we are not mandating for our entire workforce to come back in site. In fact, it's a heavily debated topic that I'm sure will progress and change over time, but where we're at right now, if I think about myself and my team, I can build your system from my house, my home office. I can build programs, workflows, tackle analytics. So really for me, it's about, are we presenting to somebody that needs me to be in that room? Do I need to go in on site to have a discussion about something that requires us to be on site for it to be faster? Otherwise, for the most part, my role can be done remote. I told my whole team, while we are all named Flex, you have the opportunity to come back in the office. Should you want to? You don't have to.

Joel Cheeseman: Does recruiting against Tesla and maybe even poaching some of their employees, does the argument that, "hey, if you're a Tesla, you're in the office much more regularly than if you would come to Rivian, which were much more flexible." Is that a strategy that you are using? And if so, how effective has it been?

Rameen Fattahi: You know what? I wouldn't say that we're directly thinking about that as a strategy. We're also not directly thinking about poaching from any specific environment. I wanna say this on the record, actually, because maybe people haven't heard this before, but at Rivian, myself included, and Rivian as a whole, we really appreciate Tesla. They trailblazed and created a market. There is enough room for all of us to compete. And even if that doesn't happen, from my CEO down, we are here to create the EV space. And doing that, you have to put a competition in there. And so whether we win or lose, the world wins. So we think of it as a big win. When I think about Tesla and people naturally assume, "oh man, you probably shit on Tesla all the time." I have a Tesla in my VOD, I was telling you. And I love it. In fact, I love my Rivian too.

Rameen Fattahi: And I would say to somebody else, "when you're going to buy a car, and I tell my friends this all the time," this debate happens every single day about EVs and ICE, combustion engines, right? "Should I switch over?" "Oh, I'm scared about range anxiety." "Well, let me ask you this question. Are you gonna drive more than 300 miles a day? If you are not, you're not gonna see a gas station every week like you're seeing with your ICE car. So if you actually couple that over the entire year, the amount of time you spent with your engine, putting gas into it, at a pump, you probably spent more time at that pump than I did plugging my car in when I came home from work, walking into my house, and it automatically starting to charge at midnight."

Rameen Fattahi: That's it. I wake up in the morning, oh wait, I'm trying to go to work. I literally have a little thing. It says, do you want that this time to have the climate at what? I'm like, yes, I do.

Joel Cheeseman: How beneficial is it being an ESG friendly company? Do you find a lot of, I'm sure you're recruiting a lot from Chevy and traditional car companies, but we hear all the time that millennials, Gen Z, they wanna be part of a company that's doing better for the world. Is that a conversation that you have in your interviews?

Rameen Fattahi: Without a doubt. It's almost like an infectious, exciting, addicting thing. You got the personality that wants to be where we're at in Rivian. You got to wanna scale. And going on that journey to scale, you got to wanna build. And that comes with a lot of, as easy as it was for me to earlier in the day to talk about where we've transcended from and where we are now in the speech here in the iCIMS, I didn't get a chance to talk about how hard was that journey in reality. You just get the tidbits. This is what we learned. But to get to a learning, sometimes it takes weeks. Sometimes it takes failing. Sometimes I've literally is, I have no feeling of being macho masculine in this life. At Rivian, before I had my vice president, who is my mentor, and it's just tremendous. I was working for our CPO.

Joel Cheeseman: R2-D2 what?

Rameen Fattahi: I was working for our chief people officer.

Chad Sowash: Not... C-3PO.

Joel Cheeseman: Oh, sorry.

Rameen Fattahi: I was the interim head of talent before I became the director of recruiting ops and insights. And I actually told our chief people officer, I said, "you know what? I really want a strong mentor to be. I wanna work for someone that I wanna become." And unfortunately in this role, you shouldn't have me reporting to you because I'm too far away from what you need and the proficiency, but I wanna work for someone that can help me get there." She doubled down and was like, "Rameen, yeah, I'm in." She came back with my VP. It was tremendous. I have no problem saying that I have made my career following this woman. She's now a friend of mine and a mentor, but I made my career following the head of Apple, the head of Tesla, the head of Rivian. And if there's anything I can do to be more like her, I do. I tell her all the time, I was like, "wait."

Joel Cheeseman: It's very cool. Very cool. So the flip side of the positive, I wanna go to the negative real quick. So Rivian stock year to date is down 20%. You're not alone. It's a problem that a lot of tech companies are facing. How does that play into challenges for recruiting? Is this a conversation? Obviously there's stock options. Talk about the, but the dip in stock price and how that impacts recruiting.

Rameen Fattahi: So I think you remember we IPOed to something like 70 bucks. We went up to 170 within a matter of quickness. And then since then over the last months and year and some change, it fell, I think the landscape behind it fell. The economy changed. We changed from a economy where you can have a unicorn company that the aspirations would just pour them. People would pour money on the aspirations and where it could be.

Chad Sowash: Money on the fire.

Rameen Fattahi: And then we flipped into an economy, it's just finance driven. So we had one of the best IPOs of all time followed by one of the greatest falls. To answer your question about the difficulty of hiring. The reality is, is that everyone sees that. So when you're a tenured senior software engineer, principal, you look at the stock price and let's say you're at a major competitor or a high tech company, look at that and go, "man, I'm kind of worried about that." Yeah. Straight up tell the recruiter, "I'm worried about that." You're also battling in a recruiting market right now, no matter who you are, Rivian or anyone, you're battling the fact that people are reluctant to jump because job security right now means a lot. When you're seeing news every single day or your friend or your family member is telling you, "I was just affected. I was terminated. I was laid off." It creates a sense of fear. It creates a sense of people that have long tenures in companies to say, "you know what? It's safe for me here. I know people here. People know me. Maybe I have longevity." So we are experiencing that.

Rameen Fattahi: The counter and the flip to this, that I tell the recruiters to think about as much as I can is, is that, it's also an opportunity, for that crazy person that still wants to build because we are not fully scaled. We still got to work some work to do. This is an opportunity from a development, a learning ability to hands-on, have a breath. That's there, multiple hats, that's for sure there. Develop your career, that's absolutely there. Okay. If you're so focused on finances, well, maybe this is the bottom. Maybe it's not the bottom. But let's just assume that maybe it could be the bottom or maybe close to the bottom. In that case, if I believe, and which I do, in our long term viability for this company, maybe they have a chance to flip that story to become an opportunity for them, not just from development, but some people cared a lot about finances and that's there too.

Joel Cheeseman: So I'm gonna let you out on this. You presented before us. Thanks for warming the crowd up.

Rameen Fattahi: Warming the crowd up. [laughter]

Speaker 1: We appreciate that. You were really bullish on QR codes, which I think was the only mention of QR codes at the iCIMS Inspire conference. So I'm gonna give you a platform to opine on the values of the QR code.

Rameen Fattahi: I appreciate it. So I was embarrassed and I said it when I called it out because everybody knows what a QR code is, but not everyone really utilizes it. And what I mean by that is let's say you're in a volume oriented environment, like a retail store call it Macy's. What if on every single time you went to go purchase, there was also a little ticker that said, "you wanna apply?"? A QR code? What if it's just said, "one information about what it's like to work here." Another QR code. Well, what if it said, "we have a hiring event or a happy hour, a brand awareness event"? What if it got you to a signup form? Which are so easy. It's nothing. I mean, the only thing that we're paying for these days is if you wanna custom build that QR code to also include your logo. Otherwise you can get a free QR code, almost like the Bitly. You can understand where are people scanning this from and you can push them to YouTube or Vimeo or a landing page or wherever you wanna put it. I mean, it's easy.

Joel Cheeseman: And thanks to the pandemic, people know what it is now.

Rameen Fattahi: Absolutely. And I think that over the next five years, less, I think that more people will be using QR codes here in the States. And what I experienced when I traveled overseas was just QR code everywhere. You can like, you pass a bus stop, there's a QR code. You went to a restaurant, it's a QR code. You want the menu, it's a QR code. You wanna pay, it's a QR code. They are really thinking about using QR codes overseas. And I think that for us, we have more opportunity.

Chad Sowash: Yeah. We've been leaped from the QR code from Europe. Europe uses the QR codes for everything. And it's amazing. Over here, we're still trying to get tapped to pay to work.

Joel Cheeseman: So if I go to a Rivian dealer, which I may do after this interview because I'm inspired to check out Rivian. Will I see QR codes in the showroom asking me about interested in jobs?

Rameen Fattahi: Rivian doesn't have a dealership. We have one or two showrooms at this time where you can just come experience our products, our vehicles. You can experience the environment. You can get a full tour of the vehicle. But unfortunately, we don't have...

Rameen Fattahi: That's what I call overhead and not overhead.

Joel Cheeseman: Well, it's the Tesla model, but more or less for recruiting, you are leveraging QR codes, which is what I was sort of getting at there.

Rameen Fattahi: Absolutely. For us in Rivian, I'm pushing for us to utilize it more. Right now, it's heavily used for events. Heavily used for events. I would like to see it in more spaces like service centers, delivery centers, places where we have high volume manufacturing. People walk up to the manufacturing facility to drop down for a resume.

Joel Cheeseman: Well, what a wild, strange trip this interview has been. Rameen, thank you for joining us. Thank you for your transparency. And wow, I need a nap after that one. Chad, another one is in the can, live from San Diego, iCIMS Inspire. Rameen, for our listeners that wanna know more about you, or maybe wanna think about purchasing a Rivian, where would you send them?

Chad Sowash: Ooh, I'd like that.

Rameen Fattahi: You know what? I don't wanna be a brand ambassador here. I don't wanna get myself into any trouble. But what I would say is, feel free to reach out to me about LinkedIn on any matter. You'd be surprised. I do tend to respond. I really care. And I'm thinking about the community, not just what's going on within Rivian. So don't hesitate.

Joel Cheeseman: That is Rameen Fattahi, everybody. And with that, Chad, another one is in the can. We out.

Outro: Wow. Look at you. You made it through an entire episode of the Chad and Cheese podcast. Or maybe you cheated and fast forwarded to the end. Either way, there's no doubt you wish you had that time back. Valuable time you could have used to buy a nutritious meal at Taco Bell, enjoy a pour of your favorite whiskey, or just watch big booty Latinas and bug fights on TikTok. No, you hung out with these two chuckleheads instead. Now go take a shower and wash off all the guilt. But save some soap, because you'll be back. Like an awful train wreck, you can't look away. And like Chad's favorite Western, you can't quit them either. We out.


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