Amit Jnagal is the CEO of Infrrd.ai, an award-winning Artificial Intelligence software firm in San Jose. We reached out to learn what had inspired Amit to start the business and what trends he predicted for the future of the industry. In addition, we asked his take on diversity in business as well as what he looked for in prospective candidates.
Here’s what he had to tell us.
What inspired Infrrd.ai?
It’ll be ten years next month that I started Infrrd
. The same age as my son, who inspired it.
Well, I’d wanted to start a venture of my own since I graduated and spent the next 12 years working for two large organizations. These experiences led to work with some exceptionally talented people. So, being a forward-thinker, I made a mental list of their names and resolved to have them work for me once my own venture took off.
I was cruising with a high-flying career when our first child was born. It was then I realized if I was ever going to start something of my own, the time was now. So, I quit my corporate job when my son was 10 days old and got to work. I’ve been an entrepreneur ever since and was successful in getting most people on my mental list to join me - some agreed in a second, some took a couple of years of convincing, a few took more than five years, and there are a few people that I am still working on.
While I’ve had my share of failed ventures, this is my success and it’s taken a decade to get here.
How have trends in the industry affected your business and what do you see in the future of say, the next one to five years?
In my more than two decades of experience, I have witnessed two revolutions which have fundamentally changed the way the world works. The first was the advent of the internet and the second was smart phones.
We are at the beginning of another such revolution in AI
. It amazes me still, the things we can do for our clients using AI for automation. The demand means jobs, yet at the same time, there are a few which will cease to exist, which I wrote about earlier this year.
My son, now 10-years old wants to be a pilot when he grows up. But I suspect that will be one of the jobs which ceases to exist by the time he enters the workforce. AI is here. And over the next one to five years, it’s important for businesses to know how to redesign their business around it. In order to thrive, they’ll want to be AI enabled.
What are your recommendations for building a team within a startup?
Where do I start? Well, I have plenty of recommendations of how to NOT to build a team within a startup. But when you’re first scaling your business, there are different phases as you start up. As you grow, you’ll need people with different specializations.
During the first few years, you’ll need people who are generalists - folks who are happy to do whatever needs to be done to move the company forward. Sales on Monday, Customer Support Management on Thursday, and throughout the week continuing to build the product. People who thrive on ever-changing responsibilities would do well in the beginning of a startup. In fact, it’s impossible to get off the ground without them.
But if they do their job right and you start to grow, a time will come when you will need specialists that can create a system for each part of the organization and scale it. This is when you start hiring separate VP of Sales, VP of Customer Success, VP of Marketing, and fine tune your leadership within your data professionals team; let them build their teams. People who get the startup started and those who scale it have very different skills and styles of working. It is important to get the right people at the right time.
What are some things to consider both as a business and a candidate in regard to diversity?
Here’s an answer that you might not expect.
You need to consider nothing when it comes to diversity; rather you need to 'un-consider' stuff that might cloud your judgement.
With experience, everyone starts collecting heuristics that prejudice how they look at people. More often than not, this prejudice blocks you from hiring people by 'considering' heuristics that are irrelevant. Learn to evaluate people for what they bring to the table rather than their demography.
I was surprised when we won the diversity award for 2018. I had never looked at my team using a demography lens to figure out what kind of people to hire. To our mind, as long as you have the right skill and experience to do the work, you’ll get a shot at proving yourself at Infrrd.
What are companies like yours looking for in a candidate hire?
We go through a ton of profiles before we make an offer to someone. What we look for in a candidate varies by experience.
At the entry level, we look for people who have shown some spark and done something that most other people have not - creating new algorithms, getting certified in some technology, presented paper at conferences or technical events, etc.
For mid-level hires, our primary concern besides skill is whether this person exhibits our values and if he or she will gel with our team. High performers are great. But make sure they’re a good fit with the rest of your team. Remember when I said I knew how NOT to build a team? We’ve had our fair share of people and teams who just didn’t click and it was detrimental to business.
At a senior level, we look for good experience, shared values and an ability to lead people. A good leader can get outstanding results from any team. That is what makes an awesome leadership hire for us.
If you’d like to learn more and are interested in working with AI. Check out our current vacancies
or contact one of our expert consultants to learn more.
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