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HRx Radio – Executive Conversations: On Friday mornings, John Sumser interviews key executives from around the industry. The conversation covers what makes the executive tick and what makes their company great.

HRx Radio – Executive Conversations

Guest: Eyal Grayevsky, CEO and co-founder, Mya Systems
Episode: 370
Air Date: June 19, 2020




Important: Our transcripts at HRExaminer are AI-powered (and fairly accurate) but there are still instances where the robots get confused and make errors. Please expect some inaccuracies as you read through the text of this conversation. Thank you for your understanding.

Full Transcript with timecode
John Sumser: [00:00:00] Good morning and welcome to HR Examiner’s Executive Conversations. I’m your host, John Sumser and today we’re going to be talking with Eyal Grayevsky who is founder, CEO, chief bottle washer over at Mya. So , Eyal, how are you?

[00:00:29] Eyal Grayevsky: [00:00:29] I’m doing good. Thanks, John. How are you doing?

[00:00:31] John Sumser: [00:00:31] I’m doing great. So Mya’s quite a big deal. Why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us how you got to the point that Mya became a thing.

[00:00:39] Eyal Grayevsky: [00:00:39] Yeah. So, you know, CEO and cofounder of Mya, my name’s Eyal Grayevsky. And how did I get here? Well, you know, it started with a long history in the family in recruiting and staffing. My dad actually started a staffing business about 40 years ago and I got a unique opportunity growing up to be closely involved with that business and just learn a ton about the traditional staffing model.

[00:01:01] I worked there for several years growing up and, you know, really got this exposure into the recruitment process. And some of the inefficiencies, my dad’s company was also one of the early adopters of technology. So I really started to see how technology could be leveraged to drive efficiency and how organizations targeted, engaged, and converted talent.

[00:01:24] And then later after I got my college degree from university of Colorado in finance, I actually went to, I moved to San Francisco to start searching for a finance role and was really frustrated by that process. It kind of brought things full circle for me, the job seeker experience, applying to jobs, not hearing back often falling into that black hole.

[00:01:44] And it really inspired me to build my first business. So this was back in 2011, early 2012. When I started first job. So that was really my foray into entrepreneurship in the space. And we built and operated a marketplace, focusing on early career talent and that further strengthened my learnings and expertise in the industry and understanding of some of the pitfalls.

[00:02:07] And you know, what we saw was people didn’t hear back and recruiters spent so much time on repetitive work and how manual the process was, particularly at the top of funnel that inspired us to build Mya, which I’m excited to talk about today.
[00:02:21] John Sumser: [00:02:21] That’s great. So what is Mya do?

[00:02:22] Eyal Grayevsky: [00:02:22] So Mya is a recruitment automation platform powered by conversational AI.
[00:02:29] So what we’re doing is we’re leveraging natural language processing and machine learning techniques to automate communication and outreach with job candidates across the entire recruiting process. So there’s many different ways in which you can use this technology to drive
efficiencies and a better experience.

[00:02:45] Throughout every phase of recruiting. And so we’re, you know, we’re performing a variety of tasks for hiring teams. We’re automating workflows and really driving conversion and engagement through the funnel and it’s happening Omni channel. So through SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook, web chat, really creating this frictionless experience.

[00:03:06] And then we’re adding other layers of technology to help connect the right candidates to the right jobs, to help with calendaring and really just building that end to end stack, to drive automation for our clients. And it’s integrated. We work with over 460 brands today, both staffing and corporate.

[00:03:24] We’ve been fortunate to bring on a funding from creating investors. So continuing to invest in, in the future and excited to talk about some of those things today.

[00:03:33] John Sumser: [00:03:33] Fantastic. So there’s a lot of different ways to interpret some of the things that you’ve said. So conversational AI ranges from the dreamy concept of AI that actually understands the interaction that you’re in has flexibility at its edges to conversation that’s really sort of a verbal decision tree, where does Mya fit into that spectrum of things?

[00:03:58] Eyal Grayevsky: [00:03:58] Well, we built from the early stages of the business we invested heavily in developing an experience that is rich and open-ended to drive engagement, but also to really be able to extract the right level of insight from the user. We found that if you constrain the users response to yes or no, or multiple choice. You’re not really able to glean a lot from that dialogue.

[00:04:24] And we found it really important early on. It was designed principle and how we built the system. And so we’ve invested very heavily in that we built a world class team with experience in building natural language systems. And develop an experience that understands language and throughout the conversations that we deploy by can understand hundreds of different intents of the user and extract dozens of entities, to be able to really understand the meaning and intent of the user and be able to respond with the right answer and guide the conversation based on that response.

[00:04:57] So we do think of conversational AI is as much a science as an art. And understanding how you phrase a question might influence the way that the user may engage and respond and really building an experience around that. Also understanding how, if you don’t understand, should you deal with that? You know, in terms of building mechanisms to ensure a positive experience, because it is a learning process, you know, as you collect data, we’ve engaged with tens of millions of people.

[00:05:28] So, you know, as you continue to build that data set, your system gets better and better. You learn more about the edge cases. You learn more about the variations in how candidates respond and behave. So over time it gets better, John.

[00:05:41] John Sumser: [00:05:41] Yeah. So help me, and I think you’ll be a good person to ask this question. You use the word, understanding a lot in your description of what Mya does, but the truth is, it doesn’t understand anything. Right?
[00:05:54] It converts text into a math formula. It does about stuff with the that’s, where everyone comes out with results, never strong correlations, and that behaves like understanding, but it isn’t understanding. And so, help me explore some of that edge of things right? Because it’s a convenience,
it’s an affordance that over promises what’s possible.

[00:06:21] Eyal Grayevsky: [00:06:21] Yeah. Well, it’s a goal oriented system, so you’re engaging a candidate who has a specific motivation to get a job. And what we’re doing is in that goal oriented conversation. We’re learning how to interpret what the user is saying so that we can guide them through that process and extract the right information to be able to deliver and convert them into the right opportunity.

[00:06:46] You know, today, if you think about that experience before you’re able to apply this conversational approach. They apply, they don’t hear back. You know, if you’re able to engage and guide them through the process, that’s a far superior experience. And so, you don’t need to achieve human level intelligence to deliver huge amounts of value to both the candidate and the employer. But what we are doing is achieving a very robust and rich experience to deliver on high engagement, high satisfaction, high conversion throughout that process. So I think the terminology is really semantics, you know, understanding interpretation.

[00:07:29] We’re really good at taking a user message and interpreting and understanding what that user’s intent is so that we can guide them through that experience.

[00:07:41] John Sumser: [00:07:41] Okay. We could run down that rabbit hole for a very long time. What do you see changing in the recruiting market?
[00:07:47] You’re right at the edge of the recruiting market. What’s going on?

[00:07:52] Eyal Grayevsky: [00:07:52] Oh man. So much, obviously right now, there’s a big shift in the market. But over the last few years, we’ve seen a proliferation of AI based solutions. I think that’s been one of the big trends, you know, over, uh, at least in recent times. So systems, like we talked about you that engage and communicate with candidates matching technologies that are getting better, that allow recruiters to quickly identify the right candidate or candidates to the right jobs.

[00:08:19] Workflow automation systems, predictive analytics and big data. You know, how do you inform better process and decision making candidate, relationship management? I mean, there’s just this awesome proliferation of new tools. There’s also been trends towards consolidation, which has been interesting, you know, larger players.

[00:08:37] Wanting to incorporate more of that technology and become more competitive and provide more horizontal solutions that cater to a broader range of use cases. We’re seeing bigger investments towards digital transformation. So organizations are catching on and have an increased appetite to automate and transform their processes.

[00:08:57] And all of this is really pushed the bar up in terms of the value that organizations demand. It’s really pushing us all to push the envelope in terms of how we build our products and go to market and sift through that noise. So, you know, it’s, it’s been interesting. It’s been exciting to be a part of and yeah, I think it’s presented a lot of great opportunities.

[00:09:17] John Sumser: [00:09:17] So lots of new technology, do you think it’s being broadly adopted? I wonder sometimes.

[00:09:24] Eyal Grayevsky: [00:09:24] You know, it’s a progression, right? It’s an evolution starts with early adopters. Obviously every doc or type of technology goes through different phases of adoption and evolution, conversational AI. We were a big part of creating that category. And, you know, we went from just a few companies and eager to jump in and take a bat and be the front runners.

[00:09:42] And now, you know, we’re in a market where I think the latest stats were like 30 or 40% of organizations are actually either looking. At this technology or already adopting it. So, you know, we’re starting to get into that phase where people are following those early users. So yeah, I mean, it’s still relatively early days, depending on what technology and what space we’re talking about, but absolutely seeing increased adoption over the last few years of technology and investment towards innovation and transformation.
[00:10:10] That’s an absolute trend we’re seeing.

[00:10:12] John Sumser: [00:10:12] So what’s the pandemic doing to this? Is it making it better or making it worse? Is it slowing things down or speeding things up?

[00:10:22] Eyal Grayevsky: [00:10:22] You know, in the early innings of this pandemic, obviously organizations were in shock. I mean, if the bottom fell out on the economy and for the right reason, companies are trying to figure out how to adjust and what to do and scrambling, but I think we’re starting to get into the phase where.

[00:10:38] There’s a little bit more clarity, obviously still a huge amount of uncertainty, but we did see things bottom out. We’ll, we’ll talk about that and start the recovery process. So I have seen organizations really shift to the mindset of what’s the right strategy here and are there ways that we can improve the efficiency of what we’re doing?

[00:10:58] And I do very much the trend, an increasing trend towards looking at, you know, AI. An automation solution. And I anticipate that to accelerate. In the coming months and years because of this crisis, you know, you’re seeing organizations in the mindset of being leaner and more agile looking for ways to be more elastic in how they can respond.

[00:11:22] You know, as the economy recovers, you need to rebuild to the extent that there are adjustments. So absolutely think that it’s kind of pushing the market. Think more proactively about how to be better, more efficient, and that will play into accelerated adoption of technology. I firmly believe that.

[00:11:42] John Sumser: [00:11:42] That’s wild.

[00:11:43] You know, that’s not quite the market that I’m seeing. That’s a remarkably optimistic view of the market. For the most part, you know, I was talking with ADP yesterday and ADP has moved 60,000 people from their offices to remote work.

[00:11:59] And there are concerns have very little to do with recruiting, really that like everybody who’s done that they now have an entire league ofpeople who would have hiring managers who are now in charge of managing remote workforces without any experience. And the hiring needs are extremely moderated by the fact that the very nature of work has changed in a lot of places.

[00:12:24] So, so how does Mya respond to all of that sort of stuff? Because you know, the premise I think is that machine learning means something, but machine learning depends on historical data and Covid’s disrupting historical data. So I guess this falls into what are some of the challenges that you see as a result of COVID?

[00:12:43] Eyal Grayevsky: [00:12:43] Yeah, and obviously, you know, as I shared, as we go through the motions in this crisis, and, you know, a lot of organizations are being impacted very negatively and it takes time also there’s different industries, right. And there’s different markets. So it really
depends on what part of the overall ecosystem we’re discussing some organizations that have to scale others that.

[00:13:06] Have been impacted more significantly and that’s the broader market. Right? So something that we’re seeing also is, you know, there’s organizations that recruiting is their business. So staffing is a big part of our target market and customer base and those organizations. Absolutely our focused on recruitment and recruitment being just a very fundamental part of how they operate in their business.

[00:13:29] So again, in the early days of this and through the recovery, absolutely organizations were seeing retrench and focus on some cases in survival mode, others looking at how to adjust their team and plan and be more efficient as a business overall. But I do think that coming out of this. There will be an increased appetite to leverage technology as organizations start to really focus on rebuilding.

[00:13:54] John Sumser: [00:13:54] So where do you think that starts? What’s your crystal ball here? Are we starting to rebuild? Are we just waiting for the next lock down to happen?

[00:14:03] Eyal Grayevsky: [00:14:03] Oh, man. If we look at what’s transpired over the last three months, there was a significant pullback and jobs obviously, and new starts and hours worked. Now. It started with the lower wage. We, when we segment it, we saw jobs that paid less than $30 an hour were impacted first. And now we’re seeing professional domain that $30 plus starting to decrease.

[00:14:26] But it’s interesting to see. When you compare it, you know, I always look at prior recessions when I try to understand how does the economy rebound. And obviously this crisis is so different than any crisis that we’ve at least experienced in our lifetimes, but it has been fascinating when looking at the data that it was just this incredibly acute and extreme drop in increase in unemployment and jobs lost.

[00:14:53] And then about six weeks in, we started to see the bottom. And then if you look at the graphs, all of a sudden, we’re starting to see a little bit of a rebound likely because the economy started opening up and kind of the early phases of recovery. But I think when looking into the future cope, it’s not going away anytime soon, right.

[00:15:13] Until we have a solution. And my anticipation is, even though we saw this initial rebound, there will be ripple, there will be ripples and it will take time. There’s also of course, the risk of a second wave. And you look at prior epidemics, you know, in the fall there was. It’s resurgent. So I do think, you know, I am inherently optimistic as a person, but I do think that we’ll probably respond more quickly than we did in the first wave.

[00:15:40] So I’m hopeful that as a country and globally people will respond and we’ll, we’ll be able to keep the impact down in the case that happens. But, you know, I do think that we’re going to start, you know, we’re entering this kind of recovery and whether there’s kind of a V-shape or U shape or Nike swoop.

[00:15:58] You know, it’s just hard to tell at this stage, but I am optimistic that as the economy opens that jobs will come back online.

[00:16:06] John Sumser: [00:16:06] I wish I thought you were right, but there are not just valleys smooth as possibilities. There’s also the pit bottom. It does stay there for awhile. Possibility. That seems more likely to be because all of the economics.

[00:16:21] Forces are now being politically manipulated. The question is no, they have any ways of doing that left. Now that the interest rate is negative and the treasury is actually buying commercial bonds as a way of proping the market up. I’m not sure that this is sustainable in the way that you think so it’s Juneteenth and I still don’t know what the appropriate greeting is for Juneteenth. Happy Juneteenth, I suppose. There’s a lot of heaviness and unrest in the country. What do you doing about that? How are you thinking about that?

[00:16:54] Eyal Grayevsky: [00:16:54] Yeah. Um, you know, today obviously being Juneteenth marks an important milestone and ending of slavery in this country. And, you know, we decided to observe that as a company holiday. So the team’s taken the day off to focus on these issues.
[00:17:10] You know, I think it’s important to note that while slavery was technically abolished the unequal treatment and oppression of black lives continued, and it still exists in many forms today. So we’ve been creating an open discussion as a company as to how we can really help drive the change that’s needed.

[00:17:27] We think it’s so important that, you know, as a leader, speak up on these issues and create a safe space for the team to be able to share their thoughts and open discussion around these issues. And, you know, One thing that we’ve done is we put together a plan as to how we, as an organization are going to not only speak about these issues and continue to educate ourselves, listen, learn, reflect, but also ask.

[00:17:50] I think action is so critical to help drive real sustained change both individually and as a company. So, you know, we put together a plan and it’s been incredible to see how the world has responded to the racially charged violence and especially in recent times, but this has been a longstanding issue.

[00:18:07] So as an organization, we took the ants and opened the discussion. It’s been also incredible to get input from the team, not only in terms of how we can address these issues as a product, but as a company and apply a bigger focus and emphasis on things like diversity initiatives on ways to kind of really open up the discussion and create that safe space as a team and as a culture and on a personal level, you know, spending a lot of time.

[00:18:31] Educating myself on these issues. You know, I’m blessed in many ways. And I can’t say I know what it’s like to experience the world as someone who is in a position of disadvantage and don’t spend a lot of time looking for ways how I can personally contribute towards this movement.

[00:18:46] John Sumser: [00:18:46] So there’s an interesting thing for me this is about structural racism. And so for me, what structural racism means is that I would say white person of privilege. My behavior isn’t inherently racist. Not because there’s something fundamentally wrong with me, but because I live in a structure that it was very hard to change is inherently. I asked in my favor now, the way that that happens, if I’m not intentional about my racism.

[00:19:17] So what that means is that the processes that I’m involved in support sustain structural racism. And so Mya automates those processes. Then my question for you is, do you have like an ethics advisory board or some oversight operation that looks at the things that as. People of privilege. We may not be able to see the consequences of our work.

[00:19:42] How do you critique the design so that you don’t perpetuate the problem?

[00:19:46] Eyal Grayevsky: [00:19:46] Yeah. At first, to start, you know, I wholeheartedly agree that the systemic issue and bias is not only prevalent in the recruiting process, but in all stages of life. And you know, our mission from day one was to create a far more efficient and equitable job market for all.

[00:20:03] So from the early days, we’ve placed a strong emphasis on how we design our product to. Create a level playing field. So not only having teams that focus specifically on that and building diversity into those teams, but also in how we design the product and how we test against that and track and measure and iterate against that.

[00:20:24] So, absolutely, you know, we have the right oversight in place. And, you know, when you think about our approach, we’re really focused on creating a more objective. You know, if Mya in the screening process is all around being prescriptive and objective and conscious about the types of questions that are being asked and how those decisions are ultimately informed, not made by our system, but informed, improve that top of funnel experience and reduce spice in that top of funnel experience. You know, when you’re making rapid decisions at a human there’s, that inherent bias. So how do you just focus on the objective criteria that tells you whether or not an individual.

[00:21:06] Is qualified to engage in the next step of the process, rather than making a rapid fire decision that may be influenced by their name or the color of their skin or their socioeconomic background or what school they went to. So those things are extracted. And so by being more prescriptive, And conscious and how you’re screening candidates, you’re inherently able to reduce that bias.

[00:21:31] And then, you know, and then you need to be able to track and measure that because the questions that you’re asking could introduce bias. So something that we’re very focused on as a company, and we need to continue to invest towards and continue to look at ways to create an impact.

[00:21:46] John Sumser: [00:21:46] So we should have a much longer conversation on the following topic.

[00:21:52] I believe that everything that you guys do, this is true, sort of across the board of the bias reduction initiatives in HR, it’s focused on inhibiting the bias of an individual decision maker. Right? Let’s make sure we constrain the possibility for bias for individual decision makers. I wonder that actually does anything at all move systemic bias into the trashcan, right?

[00:22:21] Because I’d say that individuals may not operate with all of the freedom that they say they do inside of the system. And so how one engineers bias reduction at the system level. It’s an interesting question that we should really dig into.
[00:22:36] Eyal Grayevsky: [00:22:36] Absolutely.

[00:22:37] John Sumser: [00:22:37] So how’s Mya supporting its customers as we navigate this incredible transition?

[00:22:43] Eyal Grayevsky: [00:22:43] Yeah, you know, we’ve got two camps of customers right now, we work in many of these high volume industries. So call centers, distribution centers, delivery, supply chain production. Healthcare is a big segment of arts. You know, we brought on in many of the largest healthcare systems and healthcare staffing businesses.

[00:23:02] IT staffing, you know, there’s organizations that we work with that need to scale right now to apply and serve the kind of new economy, this world, where we’re at home and ordering things online and needing delivery. Food and goods delivered to us. So, you know, with those customers that are more in the essential and infrastructure side of the house, you know, ensuring that we’re able to help them scale and engage candidate and drive hires very quickly in an urgent fashion.

[00:23:30] So very focused on supporting those customers. And then for those that have been negatively impacted. Just being flexible and supportive and checking in and looking for ways that we can repurpose and help them engage and provide the optimal messaging to maybe applicants that applied that jobs have been paused for, or, you know, to build pools for future hiring or, you know, in some cases we have a customer that has redeployed their workers that did one thing to another job category.

[00:23:58] So, helping them with that process where Mya can really play a key role. But yeah, just being flexible, supportive, and just making sure that we’re demonstrating understanding of their situation and doing our best to be a good partner.

[00:24:11] John Sumser: [00:24:11] Fantastic. It’s been a great conversation Eyal. I want to thank you for taking the time to do it. Please reintroduce yourself and tell people how to get a hold of you.

[00:24:20] Eyal Grayevsky: [00:24:20] Yeah again, my name is Eyal Grayevsky CEO and co-founder Mya systems. If anybody wants to chat or learn more about Mya or just discuss the current state of the world, I love to hop on a call or a zoom. Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. There’s only one of me. Or, my email is, Appreciate you having me on the podcast, John.

[00:24:42] John Sumser: [00:24:42] Thanks. Thanks. It’s been a great conversation. You’ve been listening to HR Examiner’s Executive Conversations, and we’ve been talking with Eyal Grayevsky who is CEO and co-founder of Mya Systems. We’ll talk to you next week. Thanks for showing up.

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