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Why the CEO of this fast-growing startup hired a head of people as her 15th employee

Carolyn Mooney explains how the hire will help Nextmv minimize people debt, reinforce inclusion in internal systems and make data-driven people decisions.

The Nextmv team. (Courtesy image)
This is a guest post by Carolyn Mooney, the CEO and cofounder of Nextmv.

I spend a lot of time thinking about decisions. At Nextmv, our decision stack helps developers understand, automate, and optimize everything from the simplest to the most complicated operational decisions.

As a founder, operational decisions are often people decisions. And those cannot solely rely on models and algorithms (though they can be data informed!).

An easy decision we made this year was to bring on a head of people, Mary Jantsch, as our 15th employee. Why? We knew we needed someone to:

  • Minimize people debt
  • Reinforce inclusion in internal systems
  • Make data-driven people decisions

To minimize people debt

People debt is like technical debt. Implementing a simple solution now that you know will have to change, instead of the real solution that might take longer. It means you understand the tradeoffs and are OK with the speedier option’s limitations.

We accrue people debt when we say things like, “We don’t have time to run a structured interview process, we needed these hires two weeks ago.” Running a startup is tough. The pressure to move fast can be heavy, and these decisions have long-term consequences.

In comparison to technical debt, people debt is tougher to pay back. It involves people rather than code. And we don’t make tradeoffs with the people at Nextmv.

We’re intentional about how our core values show up in our day-to-day work. As Nextmv grows, we want to make people and org by design rather than by default. Unlike launching a new groundbreaking product or landing a big contract, success in this area is quiet. The absence of problems is the achievement.

To reinforce inclusion in internal systems

We are creating a diverse candidate pipeline at every stage, critically removing bias from our hiring process, and nurturing an inclusive work environment.

As CEO, it is my responsibility to make diversity and inclusion (D&I) a core part of our culture, and to get investors, executives, hiring managers, and the whole company to embrace these values.

It’s important to me that our efforts aren’t just performative. We must truly integrate inclusiveness into our systems — how we hire, how we develop, how we communicate, how we promote, how we compensate, our benefits, our code of conduct.

I am proud of the work we’ve done here so far, but it is important to remain focused as we grow. Combating systemic inequality in tech is a full-time job. It requires focus and cross-team involvement to deliver and reinforce inclusion.

To make data-driven people decisions

We are data driven in all aspects of our business. While people ops inherently includes more qualitative data, here is plenty of quantitative data to complement hunches.

What pieces of data will our head of people work on?

We need to capture candidate demographic data to understand how underrepresented minorities are moving through our interview pipeline. We need to run an employee engagement survey to interpret the varied experiences of working at Nextmv. We need to analyze our time off requests to understand what percentage of our minimum vacation policy is being used. And we need to constantly assess and refine our transparent salary framework.

These areas are crucial for growth and underscore why we hired a head of people vs. bring on a more junior people ops team member at this stage. We wanted someone with experience handling difficult issues that come up in any company, an ability to guide us towards better D&I, and the data chops to keep us honest about our goals and our progress.

Bringing on a head of people means we can build the infrastructure to acquire as little people debt as possible. And with the pace and intensity of a startup, it’s great to have someone around who can help us keep a beat on engagement, culture and fun.

Companies: Nextmv
Series: Builders

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