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Hosts Stacey Harris and John Sumser discuss important news and topics in recruiting and HR technology. Listen live every Thursday or catch up on full episodes with transcriptions here.

HR Tech Weekly

Episode: 285
Air Date: September 24, 2020





Important: Our transcripts at HRExaminer are AI-powered (and fairly accurate) but there are still instances where the robots get confused (or extremely confused) and make errors. Please expect some inaccuracies as you read through the text of this conversation and let us know if you find something wrong and we’ll get it fixed right away. Thank you for your understanding.

SPEAKERS: Stacey Harris and John Sumser


John Sumser: Good morning and welcome to HR Tech Weekly, One Step Closer with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. Hi, Stacey, how are you?


[00:00:22] Stacey Harris: Morning, John. I am doing well. I am home still like everybody else here in North Carolina, it’s a little bit of rainy weather and I’ve got neighbors who’ve decided to redo their yard next door. So, hopefully we don’t get interrupted, but if you hear a little grumbling or growling in my background, that’s what it’s from, machinery in my yard.


How about you? Are you guys getting some clear air finally in the Bay area? Are you guys starting to actually feel like it’s a little bit more normal at the moment?


[00:00:48] Or, how are things go on on your end?


[00:00:50] John Sumser: Well, yeah, we’re headed back to a time when it’s just pandemic, social collapse, and economic failure, you know, so back to normal is exactly what it’s like. Except if you are out in a place where you don’t have filtered air, your eyes burn all the time. It’s like, you know, if I would invest in Visine stock, I would totally invest in Visine stock.


[00:01:14] Stacey Harris: It’s a very good call for anybody.

[00:01:16] How long do they anticipate that it’s going to be like that for you guys, I mean, did they have any timeline or is it just an, you know, until the wildfires are under control? Cause I mean, this stuff hangs around for a little while, even after that. Right.


[00:01:27] John Sumser: Yeah, I haven’t heard any great predictions. There isn’t much science to predicting air quality after wildfires and traditionally the wildfire seasons starts about now.


[00:01:40] So. And things burn through November to the rain starts and it’s not November yet. And so there’s no telling how this is going to go, but, but people here are bracing for more fire.


[00:01:55] Stacey Harris: Okay. Well, well, we’ll be thinking about just then get that your way and there won’t be traveling this year, so there won’t be any of the hurry packing to get home as you’ve had to do in past years from HR Tech, because.


[00:02:07] We’ll both be doing HR Technology conference virtually from our home offices, but it’s still being held the last week in October where we’re both doing keynotes at it. So a little different cycle this year, but still a lot of the same stuff too. So hopefully it’ll be a little bit easier for you at least.


[00:02:23] John Sumser: Yeah. We’ve got some sort of little HR Technology powerhouse thing going on here. You can get previews of all the good juicy stuff. I just listened to again every week.


[00:02:34] Stacey Harris: Yes, we have, we have been discussing some of the things that we’re going to be putting down in key themes, because both of us are working on our papers right now.


[00:02:40] And it’s really hard not to sort of talk about that stuff when you’re working on it. So if we might cover a couple of things today that are in our reports and our will be hot off the press news here in the next couple of weeks. So very good point for everybody. If they want to take some time to listen to us and get some of the early insights.


[00:02:55] You’re writing, I’m writing, we’re both burning the midnight oil. So you might, both of us might be a little bit of slap happy over the next couple of weeks. You’re working right now on what using HR really is, is deciding is the most important thing in their world at this point. I mean, that’s a lot of the conversation you’ve been having around artificial intelligence and how it’s going to be thinking a little bit about future, right?


[00:03:17] John Sumser: Well, so let’s take that apart a little bit of the time. I am putting a great deal of effort and it may be the most exciting project I’ve ever worked on in building complex ethics advisory boards for companies. And I’ve got a couple of these projects running and the idea is to introduce. The voices of people who are not usually heard into the design and administration processes for companies that offer AI in our space.


[00:03:50] What turns out that’s a safety issue, right? If you peel back all of the stuff about AI, what it really boils down to is a safety issue. Does the technology increase or decrease the level of hassle that people feel. Because that’s safety. And when I go and look at what’s happened to HR this year, the transformation is pretty intense and it’s been pretty quick and not all of the historical practitioners understand this yet, but HR is primary.


[00:04:23] Focus has become safety and right after safety it’s become health. And, you know, since the late nineties, we haven’t really, I had a big emphasis on safety and health in HR because the work mostly service, white collar businesses, and you don’t have the, if you go to work, you might come home without one of your arms kind of problem that we had with everybody working in factories.


[00:04:50] When everybody worked in factories, everybody, it was at his first job was health and safety. It was easier because you can’t have a workplace that isn’t safe and healthy. And we lost sight of that in the information revolution. So this year was the rude awakening are people that these fundamental things, health and safety come before.


[00:05:09] Everything else. You can’t pay people to do work. If they go to work and they get dead from it, or they get injured from it. And with the pandemic, the workplace has become a highly risky place for people to go. That’s why we’re at home. We’re working at home because it’s safer. So safety has become a primary concern, even though it wasn’t a year ago.


[00:05:35] Stacey Harris: And I think unpacking this a little bit, there’s a couple of really good examples of what’s happened here. I mean, there’s no doubt that, you know, the Midwest or meat packing plants that we saw, you know, sort of go through the rapid awareness of how quickly coronavirus was passing throughout those environments, just because of the ventilation and the work conditions and those type of things.


[00:05:53] It was interesting. There was a report that was just put out about how, when that first sort of happened, they, the CDC sends in their crack team to figure out how best to address an environment where you’ve got a hotbed of possible passing of germs and issues with that could be a pandemic like environment.


[00:06:10] And what happened in that is because we’re dealing a little bit with politics and we’re dealing a little bit with what is the new role of work versus government and regulations? The regulations that came down after that, finding after many of those meat packs went through the process of doing an evaluation, we’re kind of lighthearted.


[00:06:26] And I think you and I had talked about it. The city says that you might, or you should be able to do this, what you left. And there was many stories about how the HR professionals were very frustrated because they didn’t have clear guidelines about how to keep their employees safe, left them responsible at the end of the day for making those decisions and how they should make them inside those organizations.


[00:06:45] So I think to your point, some of this. That this has now been raised. We much more heightened environment is also because government regulation have also been a little bit different in this environment, too. And if they’re not going to set standards, HR has to then be the place where a lot of those conversations take place and they have to have the tools to make those decisions.


[00:07:07] It’s really scary in that environment. And there’s a little bit, a lot of conversations about that, so, yeah. Yeah, no, I think we’re talking about it more than we ever have.


[00:07:13] John Sumser: Wow. Well, I hadn’t thought of that before. Are you hearing people talk about this? What you said was the government’s application of its responsibilities for setting standards for health and safety means that the workload of HR went up and I think,


[00:07:30] Stacey Harris: Oh, without a doubt, I’ve heard it.


[00:07:31] Yeah.


[00:07:32] John Sumser: Wow, because I bet a year ago you would have heard the government’s regulations for health and safety cause all of the work in HR. Wouldn’t it?


[00:07:43] Right? So what a weird thing, they cause all the work, no matter what.


[00:07:49] Stacey Harris: That’s our finding for today, everybody we’re done. You can go home, right?


[00:07:53] John Sumser: Yeah, well, that’s the end of the show. Yeah. We just figured out that government is the self-licking ice cream cone.


[00:07:59] Stacey Harris: Yeah.


[00:08:02] But no, I think his idea of health and safety has obviously were Ted because of the pandemic, but it has also created an opportunity for HR to reassess what their role is in this space.


[00:08:15] It’s not just compliance. It’s a decision maker, right. Especially as we get more data available in this environment.


[00:08:22] John Sumser: Right. Well, you know it always was. I think that’s another one of those things. HR always was a decision maker, but they sort of blame it on compliance. And what we’re seeing now is that you can’t escape the responsibility of accountability that comes from the position of being an HR.


[00:08:41] Whether or not the CEO recognizes it, whether or not the organization loves the people in HR. HR is a primary decision maker in how work gets done. And that’s emphasized by the last six months worth of crazy scrambling that everybody’s had to do to make things happen.


[00:09:01] Stacey Harris: Yeah.


[00:09:01] And one of the other areas in this, we were talking about.


[00:09:03] It’s not just sort of how the decisions get made, but the tools you need to do the job. Right? So we had a conversation last week about whether or not HR technology budgets were going to be going up. And you said they were going to be going up. I said, no, not from what I’m seeing in my data, but then we’ll start to have a conversation about what we meant by HR technology.


[00:09:23] And my research unit, oftentimes tracks, I would say generally what we would consider traditional HR technology, HR applications. You know, the software that we all use and leverage to track data and share data and do reporting and do our compliance, tracking, learning, and development recruiting. You were talking about something a little different.


[00:09:43] Maybe talk a little bit about that. John. You’re talking about all this other things now, as part of this health and safety conversation.


[00:09:49] John Sumser: Yeah. Well, whose responsibility do you suppose contact racing is? Right? That’s kind of where you get to the question of who’s responsible for the person at the front door of the office building who does the health and screening check.


[00:10:02] This is HR’s job. This is HR job ensuring that the company is safe. And that means that there is a host. Of everything, everything from hand sanitizer stations to on the wall, monitors that watch the distance between people to robots that clean the bathroom, there’s health and safety standards that are necessary to make the company work in this.


[00:10:31] There’s some facilities execution. Of that stuff, but in general, the work and the data and the standards belong to HR. Who else? Yeah. HR budgets are exploding with new touchless time clocks and monitoring devices and contact tracing tools. A lot of which are pieces of hardware.


[00:10:55] Stacey Harris: Yeah.


[00:10:56] John Sumser: And we haven’t really seen the hardware part of the HR technology market emerge as a chunk in a long time, but technology isn’t just software and what’s going to happen with all of these systems is they’re going to provide data that needs to be assessed. And the companies that have invested in network mapping products. Are going to excel in all of the big legacy enterprise software firms like Workday, Oracle, SAP, even ultimate software, though.


[00:11:31] It’d be interesting to see how Kronos is handling are, are missing the boat because HR technology today is not what HR technology was a year ago. The priorities have shifted in a very, very dramatic way. So that first you make the hardware investment, which is. Everything you need to monitor the workplace to make sure that it’s safe and everything that you need them through the remote network that makes sure that people are safe.


[00:11:59] The next layer is the data that you use analyze the data that’s produced by making everything safe, which you utilized to make the place better, safer, and healthier. Right? So there’s this kind of Maslow’s hierarchy. First it’s safety, then it’s health, then it’s development. And I think there’s a kind of a hard, 180 degree turn that HR has to make the technology market is going to have to shift with that.


[00:12:28] So we’ll get to the other things, but they all have to have health and safety as the foundation of the entire HR execution.


[00:12:39] Stacey Harris: Well, and I think the other thing you’re saying, and this has been something that I think that HR has been able and HR software and applications have been able to sort of dance around for awhile is that all of these devices, all of this hardware is going to be in the work environment.


[00:12:53] It’s going to be in a different way, connected to our work than anything we’ve had previously. It’s going to be capturing data. It’s going to be capturing processes. It’s going to be capturing activity because all that’s necessary from a safety perspective. And then we’re going to have the ability to connect that data in a way we haven’t previously.


[00:13:11] So there will be not only monitoring, which is creepy oftentimes from an HR perspective, but. Assessing, which is really the power of what we oftentimes think of as internet of things. What else? I remember when I first started adding internet of things to the survey, everybody kind of looked at me and said, Oh, that’s not really a thing in HR.


[00:13:29] We don’t, we don’t do that. And I’m like, well, it’s, it is where the future’s headed.


[00:13:36] Right. And so. This is I think the next generation of what we’re talking about, but what we’re going to see is a dip in traditional HR technology spend. While we start to figure out what this new architecture looks like, build out of a mixture of hardware and softwares and internet of thing, connectors that all connect to this.


[00:13:57] It’s very similar to what we saw in the manufacturing market just 10, 15 years ago as they started entering this space.


[00:14:04] John Sumser: Yeah. So it was very much. The HR budgets will go up. Yes. HR expenditure on enterprise related tools is going to go down. And that sounds like a paradox, but that, but that’s what the shift actually looks is HR spending goes up, but the money is being spent on different things.


[00:14:25] Just like, you know, It would be a little bit sloppy is like HR just bought a boat and now the car is not going to be maintained quite as well because we’re spending all the time on the boat and maintaining the boat.


[00:14:38] Stacey Harris: Yeah. Yeah. And so I think what’s happening also is that we’re seeing, I mean, some of the, that this week, we may want to touch base on a little bit before we wrap up today, you know, really I think are in some reaction to this, we’re seeing many of the vendors pick up new products, I think to try and address this right organizations like Paylocity is picked up a new video.


[00:14:59] Communications tool. And as launching new sort of two way video communications and their environment, we’re seeing organizations like outmatch recruitment picking up there, a product called launch pad in this space. There’s a lot of new investments in the HR technology space, around areas of where it connect to this kind of conversation.


[00:15:20] Like, the yellow announcement that we didn’t get a chance to talk a lot about, but it’s about four different companies, all sort of connecting together. With this idea of sort of getting more data into the conversation. I think we’ll be seeing, um, a nod to this and different ways, depending on how these vendors decide to address it.


[00:15:37] John Sumser: Right, right. What’s really interesting. I want to tell you about a company who didn’t make our list. Let me see here real quickly. There is an MIT based company. I don’t have the name MIT based company that is trying to create a market for spontaneous video, because, because one of the primary problems that we’re having from a productivity perspective is video communications of the fact that they are so cumbersome.


[00:16:07] Right. Eight hour, eight hours of zoom meetings a day is a great way to produce an unhappy workforce and get nothing done.


[00:16:19] And what happens when you do that? This is what humanizes finding in the days before COVID every worker had on average 2.9, large connections people, they talk to an hour or more a week and had 40 or so second order connections or people you talk to 15 minutes a week or less since COVID. And because of video communication structures, the changes.


[00:16:45] Now people have six or seven. Very close relationships and only 15 network relationships. And that fall off in the larger network and the focus. This is exactly what it feels like. We’re doing all of these zoom meetings, right. That you’ve posted it to a lot of people and you don’t ever get to see the people on the edges.


[00:17:05] And it turns out that organizations work based on the people on the edges. So you’re going to see, see significant failure in. Companies that just rely on zoom to duplicate some of the processes because it’s not all of work. All of work is all of those little relationships that we don’t know how to have right now.


[00:17:27] Stacey Harris: Yeah.


[00:17:28] John Sumser: And so there is software emerging that’s trying to make those little relationships easier to happen and edit is a. You might imagine that a really great HR initiative would be to you have people who don’t know each other very well. Our, we talked to two people that you don’t know very well, who are one step removed from you and your network.


[00:17:52] Try to keep those informal networks up and running.


[00:17:55] Stacey Harris: Well, and we’re not even, we’re not just seeing this from some Paylocity with their technology. And like you said, humanized, these are HR specific companies. You know, Microsoft big event happened just a week or so ago and their whole sort of focus it, you know, outside of some of the stuff they’re doing with, you know, sort of the cloud and that world.


[00:18:12] But the, the sort of an application perspective was Microsoft teams. And it was interesting, you know, as you read through all the notes about what they were sort of proposing and what they’re going to be launching and Microsoft teams is, you know, and they’ve ramped up earlier than they had originally said. So, coming out in October, in many cases, some of these things are.


[00:18:29] They’re doing things like putting in a tools to allow virtual commutes because we, the loss that time commuting may have been a headache, but it also was time to prepare for work and sort of bring ourselves down from work. In some cases, those of us who’ve worked at home for a long time, understand sort of how to do that.


[00:18:46] There’s sort of a, a routine you build out, but a lot of people who haven’t don’t understand how to. Do that. And they’re finding that that’s causing issues with productivity. They’re adding in the ability. I think, you know, you and I talked about this last week, they’re adding in the ability. I’m not sure how this will to create what they’re calling together or mode in their environment that launched in the next few weeks, which is basically everybody can see everybody like you’re in the same room and sort of this little weird.
[00:19:12] Visual of sort of, you know, teams, not sure how that, you know, is going to go over, feels a little creepy to see my head sort of popped onto a chip virtual team, but you know, the idea of virtual environments, right? They’re also creating the ability to, if you’re going to do those kinds of environments, that you can kind of move around in space.


[00:19:29] You showed me this technology last week. I hadn’t seen it yet. It looks like teams is pulling it out where you can sort of be behind your camera in front of your camera. Small on your screen, big on your screen while you’re doing, you know, sort of your zoom environment. All of that I think is similarly to what you’re talking about.


[00:19:44] Right. Which is this idea that if I change the dynamics of this sort of virtual communication in a way that feels more human, like I’ll get a better outcome. Is that kind of what you’re talking about? Or do you think it goes beyond that to actually the time and where, and when you make the connections.


[00:20:02] John Sumser: So, there’s a couple of pieces there that I want to tug on for a second. I gave a talk to a large group of Indian HR professionals. One o’clock on Monday night is that where we are right now with video is where we were with PCs in 1980. That if you want to have a vibrant career, whatever, I’m sure you’re disciplined.


[00:20:27] You need to deliver the best video of anybody around you and people who pay attention to that and start delivering high quality video and start working on maintaining the quality of their video production are going to have better careers and people who don’t. So that’s the first day we’re headed in we’re just at the beginning of the video era.


[00:20:48] And it is going to be the dominant reason that people we’ll get ahead. In the next five years, it’s going to be a star wishing to see what people do and it’s going to happen very quickly. So this time, next year, we’ll be talking about production techniques that we don’t even understand yet. And everybody will be talking about now, the teams thing.


[00:21:10] You know, it’s Microsoft. So I always assume that is going to be a year behind or two years behind. Like you can’t use the latest video technology of Microsoft teams. Yeah. But there’s another thing about Microsoft. That’s really important to understand it’s bad for part time workers and it’s bad for contingent workers and it is bad for anybody.


[00:21:32] Who’s a good worker because Microsoft teams assumes that everybody who uses it is full time. And it doesn’t have, right. So if you are in a Microsoft team setting and you’re a part time employee, or you’re a consultant to the organization or something like that, there’s this sea of stuff that goes on that doesn’t include you.


[00:21:54] And so, so the consequences of having Microsoft teams. Is that you make the people on the edges of your organization feel like they’re not part of the organization, then that’s broken. That’s not a solution state. There’s a lot of adoption of Microsoft teams, but it’s like, I think I’ve told you by Winnebago.


[00:22:16] I knowledge that we are wandering around the world with a big old, straight out of breaking bad and we’re getting so used to it that we think it’s good living. And the truth is if you go search the internet and find stock video about people having meetings. You’ll cry at the level of communication that we know.


[00:22:40] And so teams is like the Winnebago, right? It’s got holes in it. The windows are busted out, but you know, but it gets us around and we get fond of it because human beings are good at adapting the crabbing circumstances, but it’s not worth the way we used to be able to do it. It doesn’t produce value in the same way with the same sustainability and.


[00:23:03] I have significant doubts about whether or not Microsoft is capable of really understanding what’s required.


[00:23:11] Stacey Harris: Well,


[00:23:11] John Sumser: It’s a technical company, not a human company.


[00:23:14] Stacey Harris: And I’ll give you, I’ll give you some of that. I mean, but I will say that I was highly,


[00:23:18] John Sumser: [laughing]


[00:23:19] Stacey Harris: [laughing] The curmudgeonly side is coming out, I get it. And I truly understand because there are a lot of things that I get frustrated with on teams. I mean, we use it, but I think, and, and I know a lot of teams who use Google and it depends on sort of where you’re, where you’ve got all your products and stuff, but I was surprised by one, by how quickly they are jumping on this.


[00:23:39] And I do think they are trying to address your concern about the gig worker, the, the, the, the people outside of your community. I don’t think they’re doing a good job of it, but they know it’s a problem, which is, I think is the first step, right? When any challenge in your life. But yeah, I mean, I think it’s hard to discount teams as a, as well. It’s just doesn’t work the way we want it to work, because it is the tool that. So many organizations are shifting to, for their communication platform, whether it works well or not. So if that becomes the primary tool, you’re expected to communicate with, if the Winnebago’s what you’ve got to drive around, and maybe we might want to fix it up a little bit, you know, curtains, some windows that would help a little bit.


[00:24:20] So, just my two cents on that one.


[00:24:24] John Sumser: [laughing] We can take a long time to just run with that. That’s great. That’s great. I think. I think you don’t buy crumby tires for your car. You buy good tires for your car. But you can, you can buy crappy tires and you can patch them up. They’re way more expensive than good tires.


[00:24:46] Stacey Harris: They are?


[00:24:46] John Sumser: That’s the really interesting thing is the cheap stuff is more expensive than expensive stuff.


[00:24:54] Stacey Harris: Yeah. And we shuldn’t


[00:24:55] John Sumser: And it’s true here and it’s true everywhere.


[00:24:56] Stacey Harris: It is. It is. And we should know that the gig and freelance and contract community is probably only going to get larger versus smaller in the market. Although we did see a drop off a little bit as organizations cuts and budgets in area, but there is people should be watching. The U S labor department has recently put out on Tuesday that it would soon propose a rule that would make it easier to classify workers as independent contractors, reducing some of the.


[00:25:22] Regulations and compliance requirements are out. That’s something to keep an eye on. Now they are not staying there. You’re going to override regulations, right? The state level, such as California, which has much stricter regulations, but I think it will lead to, again, working with more confusion in the market.


[00:25:37] But we’re going to see an uptick in this space, probably in the next several years. As people start to sort of figure out how they can go back to work, but in an environment that’s maybe freelance and gig as that’s the only option that might be available.
[00:25:50] John Sumser: This is going to be really interesting. I don’t think that the government will maintain that point of view for very long, because.


[00:25:59] The government runs on payroll taxes. The entire cash flow of the government depends on people being classified as employees and paying their payroll taxes through their employee players on a regular basis. And if you open the aperture to say, Not as many people are going to be declared employees. What you do is hurt the cash flow of the treasury.


[00:26:24] And if you heard the password of the treasury, then the government can perform essential functions. And so this is a flash point. It just hasn’t emerged as one yet.


[00:26:34] Stacey Harris: True. But I think this con this is, this will be a flash point that will really make some, some very things very clear. Is there a government run by people who are, um, making most of their money from large businesses who are basically lobbying them to have more business friendly roles, or are they in business to ensure that we have enough finances to support the country?


[00:26:58] Right. I mean, this is, this is a real complex, you know, it’s not a political issue here. This is a dynamic of, you know, if I am more sort of focused on, on what the big business needs, because that is who I feel my constituent is versus what the community needs that will change that dynamic. Right. And, and I think we’ve been very heavily focused on big business the last several years.


[00:27:21] So yeah, I get what you’re saying, but I also,


[00:27:24] John Sumser: I might spin that slightly differently and say, Is the job of a politician to take as much money as they can, or is the job of a politician to effectively administer the infrastructure in the society. And if big business is the government’s primary client and the people who live in the country are not the government’s primary client, we’re in for some trouble, we were in for some real trouble.


[00:27:55] Stacey Harris: It is the constant Seesaw we are on, um, in, in our, in our environment in some cases. But there is, I think from an HR perspective, a lot of. This is going to have an impact, not just on the regulations and what you can do, what you can’t do. It’s going to have an impact on the systems for providing those services because they’re oftentimes the ones that organizations hold sort of accountable to making sure that they can track all the regulations and compliance requirements.


[00:28:20] So if we’re now held accountable to 50 different state compliance regulations around contingent labor laws, that will have a huge impact on the fact that you do need a software to track that because it’s very hard to do that individually. Right. So, yeah.
[00:28:34] John Sumser: That’s right. That’s right. What an the exciting time to be in and around HR Technology. Things are changing and things are changing fast.


[00:28:43] So, tune in next week. When we’ll talk some more about this. Thanks. Thanks Stacey, this is,


[00:28:51] Stacey Harris: Yeah, next week maybe we’ll, we’ll get to some of the other, uh, we haven’t talked about where investments are going and we’re seeing a lot of investments going learning development. So maybe next week we’ll do that.
[00:28:59] John Sumser: Yep. That’d be a great conversation.


[00:29:01] I am evolving the view that there are not really very many skills and that’s at odds with much of the current development to refine the details about millions and millions of skills. And, so there’s some interesting work going on there that we can talk about next week. Anyhow, thanks for doing this Stacey.


[00:29:22] It’s always a treat. And thanks everybody for listening in. You’ve been listening to HR Tech Weekly with Stacey Harris and John Sumser. And we’ll see you back here next week. Bye bye.


[00:29:33] Stacey Harris: Thanks everyone. Bye!

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