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EP 26: Anit Arora, Talent Acquisition Lead (Engineering) at LiveRamp

Podcast Transcript

James Mackey  0:00  
Hi, and welcome to Talent Acquisition Trends and Strategy. Today we're joined by Anit Arora. Anit, welcome to the show!

Anit Arora  0:18  
Thanks, James. Thanks for having me.

James Mackey  0:20  
Thank you for being here. And before we jump into it today, would you mind sharing with everybody a little bit about yourself? 

Anit Arora  0:27  
My name is Anit Arora. I live in Phoenix, Arizona right now. If you look at the weather, it is pretty hot. So 100 degrees, average temperatures. But as I said earlier, I used to live in the DC metro area. So I started my US-based career, I would say, in the DC metro area. 

Going back, I came here for my master's degree, did my masters in Missouri, got hired by a company based in Virginia, and I started working in the Reston area where you are right now, started supporting federal DoD contractors that for almost four and a half years, then moved here in Phoenix, Arizona.

I've been doing tech recruiting for almost 15 years, all my career, I would say. Just to go a little even back in history, I did my computer science degree to be a programmer, software engineer. But I was like, Java programming got boring. I'm like, Nah, I would like to talk to people more. So moved into recruiting. And since then, I've been just doing tech engineering, and product. This is my passion and what I've been doing. And I'm looking forward to you know, what's next for me?

James Mackey  1:48  
That's great. You know, it's funny that you were talking about you actually used to work in Reston, which is right where I am. And it turns out that we went to the same doctor.

Anit Arora  1:58  
Yes, I know.

James Mackey  2:01  
That's funny. I know exactly where you are. And my mom actually has a condo right next to that building, like walking distance, you can practically hold your breath.

Anit Arora  2:11  
Yeah, and you know what I miss because I used to live in Fairfax? To drive and I forgot that road. It's like a one-by-one lane used to I used to take

James Mackey  2:23  
Rest of the parkway from.

Anit Arora  2:25  
I don't think they've expanded to now, like a two-lane two-by-two. But I remember back then it was one by one. It was like a scenic, you know, literally like million dollar homes. It was like going through every single day back and forth. I'm like, okay, one day maybe? Yeah.

James Mackey  2:43  
Yeah, it's a nice area, for sure. Well, look, anyways, I want to talk to you about tech recruiting. I know right now, you're primarily focused on engineering recruitment at LiveRamp, I would love to just get your thoughts on what you're seeing on the market. If you could kind of walk us through, what you were maybe seeing, actually in 2021, and how that kind of progressed and what you're seeing right now in the market, for companies that are looking to expand engineering teams and recruit engineering talent.

Anit Arora  3:11  
Sure. You know, a lot has changed in the last two years, especially after COVID or the pandemic, a lot of companies had to change not just their business models, but also, I think, recruiting models. What I have seen working for product and engineering companies, it's like, they're open, they're not bounded by location. Now, they have opened, they're literally not just borders in the country, but outside also. 

So I worked for companies and last for four or five years, which we're doing dedicated North America, US-based recruiting, and then started doing even near the shore which is Canada and Mexico. So it's kind of nearshoring. Because offshoring was already happening, but they thought, well, they want to keep people in the same time zone, you know, for productivity and collaboration and all that. That affected what I thought like recruiting also, because then they were going out for recruiting sometimes, you know, like, near shore. 

But, as a company LiveRamp actually grew because of the pandemic. We were hovering around four to 500 people pre-COVID era, we are around 1400 People now. So it doesn't last two to three years. We grew by two and a half times, you know, overall, and as a company, it helped us because if you go to, you will see that with a data center company. So a lot to do with the privacy of data, and data disparity. And the biggest thing is identity. 

So we are recognized as one of the leaders when it comes to identity resolution and identity management, especially in the retail and advertising industries. And that actually helped us to grow like now, connecting back to why we grew more during the COVID era than before. You know, COVID came, and we all started staying back home. So instead of going to a restaurant or even grocery pickup, we were ordering online. So if you think about it, so much data started flowing to companies, like Instacart came out of COVID. Who knew or who thought like, Okay, we'll be going, putting online grocery orders through Walmart, and ongoing doing a curbside pickup. That's how, and that helped us connecting to LiveRamp because so much data started flowing. 

We became more relevant in the industry because companies kept coming to us in terms of identity disparity, privacy, and all that. So I think the model is going to keep evolving based on the worldwide conditions, you know, what's happening in the industry and all that.

James Mackey  6:28  
For sure. So specifically for LiveRamp, the strategy shifted from just hiring in the US market to offshoring to nearshoring, Mexico, Canada. It sounds like that was part of the structure's early days.

Anit Arora  6:43  
We do some offshoring support from outside. But the company I worked for before LiveRamp, they were doing a lot of nearshoring and even offshoring. Yeah.

James Mackey  6:57  
So in light of some of the tech layoffs that are occurring right now, are you seeing the labor market get any looser for engineering talent? Are you seeing increases in response rates? Or has it pretty much held consistent with how it was a couple of quarters ago?

Anit Arora  7:11  
I think it's both ways. A, Yes, we're getting responses, especially from those candidates who are getting affected. But then we also saw slowdown responses, because they don't want to make a move, now. They're cautious. So I think it's kind of balancing out what I have noted, we were pulling data recently like, Okay, our response rate is actually not that high. It used to be, but I think it's more likely this cautiousness in the market. 

James Mackey  7:48  
Wow. So you think you had a higher response rate last year? 

Anit Arora  7:54  
Yes. Well, one of our sourcing leads shared this just yesterday, I haven't looked at the data yet. But they said, their response rate as a team has gone down in the last quarter or so.

James Mackey  8:08  
Well, that reminds me. I mean, I remember in the early days of the pandemic, a lot of people if they were employed at a stable company, they were just like, nope, not going. And there was, I think, part of like the, you know, great resignation, if you will, was that pent up demand for that people had to switch jobs that maybe they didn't want to do and 2020? Right?

Anit Arora  8:29  
Correct. Yeah, I think you're right. Maybe we all went through that cycle. So psychologically, you know, they're like, Well, do I really have to go again, you know, through this element, similar situation. So I don't know. We are seeing responses from really motivated candidates. And when I talk to them, like, Okay, why are you looking? Oh, I think we don't have much funding left, or we're getting some headwinds, you know, like from the management. So that's like, okay, so looks like, you know, what's going to happen next quarter. That's where you're proactively looking.

James Mackey  9:10  
Yeah, I could see that too, right? You're probably seeing an increase of people that maybe are open to having a conversation but aren't really serious yet. Right? Like they're more so just building the connections and just kind of waiting for this thing out to see what happens.

Anit Arora  9:31  
Yes, it is happening often now. In my opinion. I remember making offers to say four or five candidates a month more than 50 or 60%, would say yes, sometimes 80% of them. But now it's less than 50%. They want to take more time. They want to review more offers. And maybe it goes back to the cautiousness you know, they don't want to sign an offer letter maybe until they are really convinced.

James Mackey  10:02  
Wow. So that's interesting. And, you know, it makes sense to me. Just to kind of share with you what's going on in my space. So, again, RPO. So tech companies borrow recruiters from us, right? And we do, you know, 40%, engineering product, 40%, revenue, 20% GNA. So, the whole gamut. Pretty much everything for startups and growth-stage companies. And we've actually been growing throughout this whole thing. Like, our revenue is higher than it's really ever been before, and we had our best lead month in June. 

What's interesting is that a lot of companies in our industry are going through layoffs. They're shrinking. So it's not consistent across the entire industry. And maybe that has to do with customer segments. You know, and then there's a lot of different factors beyond. For instance, if a company's you know, we're about 35, people all in, all right, if a company has hundreds of employees, they might be more of like, more impacted by macroeconomic shifts, because they're more of like the market leader, potentially, right. Like, if you have hundreds of people out there, you might be more impacted by macro, potentially. And then maybe some competitors, if they're working with smaller stage seed series, A, they might be more negatively impacted. 

So maybe we're just at that sweet spot where we're kind of on the upswing. And, you know, we're not quite big enough to be impacted by the overall economy. But we have great customers that are in the growth stage. So we're not just working with startups, I don't know what it is. But obviously, I would love to pat myself on the back and say, It's our strategy and our, our demand tactics. And of course, like, our strategies, and our people do help, but I also think, there's a little bit more to it than that. And I think what you're saying makes a lot of sense, right? 

I believe a lot of companies are thinking, okay, when the market shifts, it's going to shift back into an employer market and recruiting is going to be easier. But the reality is that this is what I always say it's like, okay, first off, top talent is always gonna have the most options in any market conditions. So, I mean, you have to approach talent acquisition from that perspective, and not see it as this like a transactional light switch. I don't think a lot of companies get that. And then I also think, even if they hypothetically pull it off, as soon as the market comes back, those people are gonna leave. If you're underpaying, you can't take shortcuts, and you can't underpay the best people because they're gonna find something else. Right?

Anit Arora  12:33  
Yeah. And I think it's a great way of keeping those candidates, individuals, and eventually the engineering and tech teams competitive. Because if they're going for the best talent, in my opinion, they're going to come out with the best product in the market.

James Mackey  12:52  
Yes, I think so. I think it's whether you're a services company or a product company, people are the primary driver of value, right? Like people have to create the products. So that's where it all starts. But yeah, I mean, it's like, okay, even if talent is becoming a little bit more available, the tech industry is still huge. a tonne of people are employed by tech. So I mean, these layoffs are still a very, very small percentage of the overall market. 

And then two is recruiters are getting more conversations where people are kind of just putting their feelers out there, people are more cautious. So that kind of, as you said, might be counterbalancing the fact that there might be a little bit more talent available in the market. Not to mention that people are, you know, a lot of these big tech companies are cutting recruiting teams. And then they like, oh,  we cut but we're not yet in a recession. And we still have to hire.

Anit Arora  13:44  
Yes, right. Luckily, LiveRamp as a company, we have not. It's business as usual here. Every other month, we're doing the town halls, the leadership is giving us like, what's next, like forward-looking, you know, all that. So, I feel like we are in a good spot, again, can't predict what's going to happen in the next two quarters, you know, like recession or no recession, every time I open up news of anything, that's the only thing they're talking about. So,

James Mackey  14:24  
At this point, I just tried to stay away from headlines, honestly. I mean, I lose focus on what we can control nowadays. It's so easy to get overwhelmed. Because, every time we check our phone, it's this huge catastrophe. And so it's balancing, obviously, being aware of what's going on around us, but we also have to take care of ourselves, right? To focus on what we can control.

Anit Arora  14:50  
Data overload or information overload. 

James Mackey  14:53  
I mean, at some point you really just have to make a decision for yourself on how much time you really want to focus on it and everything else. I think the best leadership teams, they're doing a good job kind of staying the course as much as they can, right? I mean, I guess profitability, to some extent, determines if they need to make drastic changes, but our path to profitability, at least. But yeah, I think that the best leaders are kind of helping their team not get overwhelmed, particularly the executive team, set the agenda for continued growth, right, and just help their companies kind of stay on track.

Because obviously, the more intact, the organization is coming out of a correction, the better position, they're going to be able to thrive and write that whole next growth wave. Versus companies that cut really, really deep because they have to, because they're so unprofitable, they're gonna be less well positioned to take advantage of the full growth wave coming out of a correction.

Anit Arora  15:48  
Right. And I think that's where we think as a company, and to your point, James, like that constant communication from the leadership to the rest of the company. Just today, we had our total rewards town hall and were talking about how to do more for our employees than talking about Okay, did you check the news? You know, what's going on outside? No, I mean, we, I think the leadership is like, well, we're on track, we're gonna keep doing what we're doing. Would be good. You know, and I think leadership, things like we are positioning ourselves to be more competitive.

James Mackey  16:33  
Yeah, for sure. I mean, that's the way that I'm looking at it, too. Now's the time to double down. I mean, I'm getting more aggressive with our revenue strategy, I'm not getting more conservative, I see an opportunity, because I see other players on the market, like, getting more of a conservative posture. And so I'm like, This is our chance. If we want to be the category leader, we need to make moves like a category leader is going to make. And that's kind of been our philosophy. 

I think a lot of people didn't anticipate the things that you're saying, like, yeah, candidates are more cautious, right, a lot more people are just taking time, right? You're not talking to qualified candidates, from the perspective, they're not qualified as in they're not looking right now. Right. So they might be a good fit, but they're not ready to move forward. So all those kinds of factors start to play into the fact that it's still a tight labor market. And we still are seeing strong job gains across the board and the economy.

Anit Arora  17:37  
Yeah, I think there's like a shift, you know, like, one side is losing. Another side is absorbing also.

And as a recruiter, for me, the good sign is okay, my calendar is booked with leads with candidates I have to speak with. That's a good sign for me, for my team, for the company, because we are busy hiring, so, for me, it's like it's very busy, then do nothing. Because I haven't started doing or thinking about anything else then. 

James Mackey  18:19  
So, I wanted to talk also a little bit about D&I and what you're seeing as effective strategy and tactics, to achieve D&I goals, right. And maybe if you could fill it in, just kind of sharing a little bit about what LiveRamp is doing. To help achieve D& I goals and outcomes?

Anit Arora  18:46  
Well, yeah. I have personally been involved with D&I for the last six, or seven years. I gave a reference before I came to LiveRamp. I was with Choice Hotels, a pretty big group now, they actually recently acquired Radisson America's. So they were really passionate about their D&I program, and I got an opportunity to actually start my own ERG group there, I got funding and all that. It was a good way of getting face time with the CEO of the company also, you know because I found, like, the CEO of Choice Hotels was really passionate about getting involved and doing that, self-checking, like, Okay, what is really going on.

All that helped us to not just do outreach, but bring people, especially in tech. Tech is, I think, one of the sectors which is always going to be facing this challenge, you know, with the representation and all that. But, outreach going out, and then it's more of an awareness. I know, we always look for the qualification on paper, but hiring the right person, the right candidate for the team is sometimes more than that. So for that, you know, like companies investing in that area of D&I not just like having ERG groups, but bringing value to the company.

So now coming to LiveRamp, is actually one of those companies, which has invested a lot, I would say. It's one of those companies I've worked so far, which actually really cares, it's not just a paper-pushing thing, but real effort and all that. And regular involvement. Because sometimes, you know, in attack, it's always like, oh, did we interview a candidate? It's not just that, but also Did we try our best to bring them on board?  So it could be like a woman or minority or raised and all that. And also, not just that hiring, like, bring them on the team. But also looking from the other side, which is, let's say, a woman candidate, when they interview with a company like ours, they also want to see if we have a woman in the hiring panel, or at a leadership position. So that's where, as a company, things have done a lot. 

And personally speaking, I try to take time from our leadership, like, okay, could you just spend 30 minutes with this candidate, and just have a conversation to make them feel comfortable. And another thing the culture at LiveRamp is very, pretty much flat. I can go to my CTO and have a conversation with them. And the culture here is, they will take time out. So, that actually makes it easy for us, especially from a recruiting standpoint, to hire people. Like, I can go to a candidate, I'm like, Okay, you have these questions, you have these concerns, let me find someone in the leadership, I want to talk to them for 30 or 45 minutes, and I'll go set up a zoom session between them and on top of that, our leaders are really accommodative. They sometimes even move things around, to talk to a candidate, to make them feel comfortable.

James Mackey  23:09  
For sure. And I think one of the things that really stood out to me, what you said is, there has to be ideally representation within the interviewing panel. So people want to know that it's an inclusive culture, right? And, I mean, the interview panels are a great way to achieve that. 

And then also on careers pages, putting out video content, particularly from employees that work on the teams that you're hiring for at scale so that people can get a sense for the diversity that you have on the team too, which is going to influence kind of, you know, okay, does this organization kind of have a balanced perspective? And do they have different perspectives coming to the table, which is incredibly valuable, right, like, that's one of the biggest value adds of working with multiple multicultural teams, internationally and having diverse groups of people work within a team is that people can come from different perspectives and bring original ideas and creativity, that maybe is not going to be as strong if there are the diversity pieces missing.

Anit Arora  24:14  
Absolutely. And there are so many studies being done where they say, like, diversity brings more value to a team, to the company in the long run. So, I think LiveRamp is not just a believer in that, but also like a doer, you know. So I feel like there's a lot of effort being done with a lot of people here in this area. 

James Mackey  24:42  
Yeah, I hear you. And a question for you about the ERG that you were part of, Choice Hotels. I've heard a lot of mixed reviews. I've heard your ERG stories where it goes incredibly well. And then others were maybe not so much.

So I'm curious to know, were there any lessons learned getting the ERG off the ground of, okay, these are the things that we kind of have to check off to ensure that this is going, we're gonna be able to get the value from this that we want to? And then I guess after that it would be good to know, were you able to implement change within the organization based on what you were talking about?

Anit Arora  25:19  
Yeah, that's a great question, James. I feel like having an erg group, and then the catalysts to that to bring a change, in my opinion, is recruiting. Because yes, you have an erg in the company. But ultimately, what we need to do is have more representation, more people or communities coming, working for the company. In my opinion, ERG needs to work with recruiting closely, to make that happen. I mean, ERG is gonna go and have quarterly or semi-annually events, you know, like, let's have fun together. But there has to be action and then outcome, you know, having that erg group. 

But going back to Choice. When I started, although there was a lot of support given by the ERG, leaders, even the CEO, either side, you know, getting FaceTime, and then giving the CEO a big picture. So that helped to kick off the group. But then eventually, it also helped in going out and talking to people and bringing to the company. At Choice Hotels, I was mostly involved with the tech here in Phoenix. So helped to do outreaches but we had a program at ASU, you know, through that, Arizona State University, just like we were going out and like, Okay, well, we're not just a tech company, but we are also, you know, like, doing a lot of other things. And as you said, they want to see similar faces, kind of, to feel comfortable. 

James Mackey  27:14  
For sure. And I think one of the differentiators, too, is what you just mentioned, about the CEO directly getting involved. You need executive-level buy-in to make it work, right?

I love the concept of you can't scale relationships. And executives have to get in there and have real conversations, and you can't just look at a survey. You got it, you got to get in there and get a pulse on the organization. I think that should be one of the biggest fears of CEOs as they scale. Like, am I going to lose my pulse? If you're not asking that question? I feel like you're just setting yourself up for disaster.

Anit Arora  27:56  
Yeah, yeah. And also, to know, like, okay, leadership really serious about this thing, you know, or, I mean, granted, we all get funding for running a group. But at the end of the day, if there are outcomes, there are results. Let's have the other side, also, you know, and it goes to the ERG groups. Also, if the leadership is very much involved, then those ERG leaders need to be showing the outcome, the results, you know, that we are doing the work, and it helps with really good branding also.

James Mackey  28:43  
For sure, I mean, particularly in tech people want, generally speaking, want to work for progressive companies, companies that share similar values when it comes to people. And people's rights, in these types of things. So I agree, it's something that a lot of top talents are looking for, as well. So it's good from every perspective, right? It works out. 

One of the pieces of advice I've gotten from a few CPOs is: The time to start is always, now. The earlier you start, the better, because if you can build a small, diverse group, then when it comes to referrals, representation, and being seen as an inclusive culture, it's a lot easier to make that happen from the start versus if you get to, you know, 300 employees, 500 employees, 1000. And then it's like, Alright, let's start working on D&I. 

It can be a lot more difficult sometimes to really shift the tide when you're already at a late stage of growth versus if it's part of your core fabric and culture and values from the jump. It's something I actually had not thought about before. And I remember the first time I heard that I was like That makes so much sense, right?

Anit Arora  30:01  
Yes. I think it's like if you're starting a company, you know, day one goal or vision, you know, like, okay, how can I bring the worst team? Alright, how can I bring diversity from day one? You know? Because eventually, you want to have productivity, for-profit business, you know, so. So it adds to the value? 

James Mackey  30:30  
For sure. Well, look, this has been a tonne of fun, and we're gonna have to sign off here. We're coming up on time. But I just want to say, thank you so much for joining us today. And we'd love to have you on the show again.

Anit Arora  30:44  
Soon. Thanks for having me, James. 

James Mackey  30:47  
And by the way, if people want to find you online, what's the best way to connect with you?

Anit Arora  30:53  
I'm on LinkedIn. You can just put my name in the search. And you'll find me there.

James Mackey  31:01  
Okay. Well, for everybody else tuning in. Thank you so much for joining us, and we'll see you next time. All right. Thank you. 

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