Kofi Darku: 00:00 Your work world is changing and we're giving you the tools that will help you succeed. This is the Skill Up Build Up podcast, powered by the Morales Group, where we are leading talent to thrive.
Kofi Darku: 00:17 Today we have Aman Brar, CEO of Canvas and we're going to learn about Canvas and talk about how he's helping in the war for talent.
Aman Brar: 00:24 Glad to be here.
Kofi Darku: 00:25 Welcome, welcome, welcome. Can you please tell us about yourself and how Canvas was created?
Aman Brar: 00:30 Sure. Um, so, uh, definitely consider myself a hoosier. Grew up here in Indiana and uh, was always, um, uh, just found an affinity for technology. So I really didn't know what else I was going to do in my career but always kind of knew it was going to be technology centric. I think my parents took the few ducats that they had and I was fortunate to get a computer really early in my life and I think, you know, certainly had a, um, made an impact on me, and so I remember being at Wabash College in Indiana, I say liberal arts people say, Hey, what are you going to be doing after college? And I'm like I don't know, but I think I'm going go to Silicon Valley, but it's about as much as baked, have a plan as I had and I found my way there. Um, so I learned a lot, um, getting my teeth kicked in in the technology space. Um, and long story short, I ended up back in Indiana, um, uh, got to be a part of the growing technology story. I was previously the president of a company called Apparatus, that kind of growth story is very relevant to Canvas, so kind of two things, one is I kind of experienced the power of text when I was, uh, on the Cha-Cha team back in the day working for Scott Jones. That was kind of my first reentry into technology here in Indiana. Then a joined up with the team over at Apparatus, we went through a pretty amazing growth journey, um, and as part of that journey, talent acquisition was just the thing that we were always focused on to fuel our growth. So we just started seeing that while the way that we work has really evolved, right? So we've, we've moved from the written documents to, to email and digital documents, we moved from phone calls to things like Slack and Gmail. Um, but why was it that we hadn't done nothing had really changed with the talent acquisition process, right? So, you know, a first phone call gets placed about 140 years ago and we've been beating that drum as, as recruiters for a really, really long time without really kind of rethinking what's happening as well as thinking about how many trillions of phone calls there's been between the candidate and a company and I'll know data has been captured, right?
Aman Brar: 02:28 So, so we just started seeing all these shifts in the way people communicate and why isn't that shift also taking place with talent acquisition. So we had this idea for asynchronous tech space interviewing that was kind of the original one liner to Canvas so...
Kofi Darku: 02:42 Asynchronous text based interviewing...
Aman Brar: 02:44 That was the one liner for, for Canvas. I had a little note in my Apple notes APP. That's, that's what Canvas, that was the little seed that became Canvas. So after we, uh, were sold Apparatus, had a great exit, integrated the team, I was fortunate to, to reassemble that rock band. We launched Canvas last year, so we're about 15 months old now and it's been really incredible, incredible journey for us. So we help companies screen, engage, manage logistics, etc. Primarily through text messaging with really beautiful software. Um, I think what I really love about it is this will speak to something, you know, Kofi, I know it's near and dear to your heart, is there's a part about it that's democratizing opportunity. It's really fun, right? So the fact that there's not everybody's walking around with a Mac Book Pro ready to get online on a super fast computer with a great broadband connection to go find their next opportunity. And the fact that, you know, the first person hired through Canvas was a 55 year old welder from a rural part of the country who literally wrote to the company that he was thankful that he didn't have to go to the library to access his next opportunity, right? And so, um, I think just the power of the fact that you're not having to download an application that all the beautiful software sits with the recruiter and the candidate just simply texts and there's kind of a beauty to it. There's a, there's kind of a driving this democratic force of, of finding opportunity for people. And that's been really, really fun for us.
Adam Scholtes: 04:17 So you might've hit on it right there with the 55 year old welder as the first person to be hired through Canvas, but on this show, Kofi and I's motto is, you know, we lead talent to thrive. So can you, can you dig a little deeper into how Canvas helps do that?
Aman Brar: 04:32 So you know I think, the way I kind of look at it is there is no best first step the company can take, in this very tight labor market, right? Speed really matters. So if your first step is to reach out over text, you're going to get a very high response rate. You're going to be able to start a relationship with that candidate on their terms. You're not asking them to go find a silent corner for a prescheduled 20 minute call, but you can start that relationship, allow you to get a feel for that candidate, but also the candidate to understand some things about the company and kind of earn your way to the right to have a phone call or the right to have an interview or invite them in. So one analogy I use, you think about the dating world. Imagine if with Match or Bumble, the fIrst step was to schedule the phone screen, but it's, it's crazy. Like that's nuts. We would never do that, right? But that's what we do in talent acquisition, right? Um, and so you, I think there's something about this building this journey together where the conversatIon starts in a chat modality, right? Or text modality, then moves through, you know, whether it's a phone call or an onsite interview and then those things, right? And so if that process is good enough for finding your potential next spouse, it's probably not a bad entry point for communicating between the candidate and a company.
Adam Scholtes: 05:49 That's good.
Aman Brar: 05:50 Um, so that, that's, you know, so I think what happens is at that first interview you had, you've a chance to get to know this person, right? And there is a little bit of context that you're getting that you didn't have yesterday in kind of a pre Canvas world.
Kofi Darku: 06:05 Yeah, we, you're touching on a lot of things that are critical to what we tend to focus on in this podcast and I don't think we take enough time to talk about, especially as you're talking about in this labor market, how speed matters. There is some critical strategies that companies need to use or they're gonna miss out, which to me, I liken to war. You will lose this battle or this eventual war if you don't start to implement some of the, some of these strategies. I'm curious about what you see or what issues you saw in terms of talent acquisition that held companies back. Like what were they doing that was preventing them to connect with talent there after?
Aman Brar: 06:53 So I think that the old process of thinking about a phone call as the first step, you know I, I look, our company is supporting and enabling recruiters, but, but you know, this part might sound a little harsh, which is talent was being overlooked because recruiters were somehow convinced that they have magical ears so that they can hear someone's voice and have a conversation and decide whether they're going to do impressive things at your company or not. And it's patently false. There's nothing about that that's scientific or makes any sense. And so one of the insights and kind of leading up to canvas, look, we build software to empower super recruiters right so like that is our market, but we want, we want to empower intelligent decision making. And so, uh, we would have cases of, you know, examples like we might say, hey, how are things going with Sally? You know, a candidate that was when she was in the pipeline, oh well look, you know, we have a call with her, didn't go so well, so we're not moving forward and well, why aren't we moving forward? You know, the call didn't go so well, but what does that mean that the call didn't go well? So if you look at Sally's credentials and a resume and it's like, oh man, Sally sure does seem like, you know, she could be a great fit.
Aman Brar: 08:05 So then you veto the recruiter. You bring in Sally. Sure, she's awkward, she's introverted, but so are a lot of engineers, right? It's okay. So are just a lot of people. Well you end up giving sally a chance and then six months later she's leading tabletop gaming night for the company and she's a big part of our culture. We just kept doing this over and over again and you'll still hear this. You'll just hear recruiters say things like, oh, I know, you know, when I hear their voice and I have a few minutes with them, I just know, how do you know? What do you know? What is this magical ear that you have that where you had a quick phone call and had determined the destiny for this person at your company, right? And I think that's, that's really, that is a baseline assumption that we're just calling into question, right? And, and that we really need to rethink, uh, you know, how do we build tools and support recruiters to do better than just magic ears. And so that's kind of a little bit of the insights and our journey to get there. Have we all heard that, right? Had a call, uh, you know I know.
Adam Scholtes: 09:08 I was going to say, I've done it. I mean, I remember interviewing at an old, a previous role in another company and I looked at, we were going around the round table and I said, ah, you know, I'm going to vote no on this particular candidate because I just didn't like the interview. And we still ended up hiring him. One of the best hires we had that class. And I was like, he didn't report to me, but he was on my team. I helped build...
Aman Brar: 09:29 Like there's so many things that have an influence on your feelings around that conversation, you know? And it could be something as subtle as, you know, candidate A made a reference to football and candidate B didn't, but does that have anything to do with you create a little bit of a connection would that, does that have anything to do with their ability to be successful in your culture and your company? And I think that's some of what we're trying to to make, move the needle on.
Adam Scholtes: 09:55 What, what do you see in trends? What trends do you see in the future that are kind of coming down the pipeline within, in the realm of sourcing talent?
Aman Brar: 10:03 Yeah. So I think some of the trends are a little bit misguided, you know, so I think there's probably a little bit too much of an emphasis on, on, on bots at this point in time. I think bots will play, machine learning will play a really, really big role in recruitment, but it will be in conjunction with the human right? I think that we're very far away from just removing the kind of human element from, from the equation.
Adam Scholtes: 10:28 Well and that, sorry to interrupt you, but that kind of goes right to the point, right? You're trying to get to know the candidate and it's not fitting, but if we have bots doing it...
Aman Brar: 10:37 Yeah, so, you know, there's some more objectivity and those things, but I think it's probably going to be the combination of the two that, that gets you the best of the best result. So, uh, you'll lots of trends in diversity and inclusion. So Canvas, for example, you can click one button and de-identify the chat transcript and the resume. So you don't know if it's Aman Brar's resume or Amy Brown's or uh, you know, Ahmed Borghoff's, you know you have no idea. And so that's a really helpful way to give people an opportunity to get on base. Right? You know, send that payload over to the manager and they get to make a decision based off a conversation and, and, um, a resume. So you're going to see, I think lots of really impressive software that can help with diversity inclusion. And I think the shift is going to be, you know and Canvas has helped start to shift along with other companies, is really positioning the recruiter, you know, more like a marketer, right? Versus an individual one to one salesperson, right? So, you know, how do I orchestrate and manage a conversation with 100 candidates today versus the old world of oh I got for phone screens scheduled today, right? So I think that that shift is going to take. It's a similar shift happened in the world of digital marketing. Right? And so I think, you know, this next generation of recruiters will probably operate more like symphony conductors, then they will individual instrument players. And I think that that, that shifts happened in marketing and we're starting to see that wave in recruitment now. So.
Kofi Darku: 12:03 Well, for those of you that are keeping score out there, you did hear Aman mention that he attended Wabash College. So grateful to have another little giant on the show today. But I don't want to take too much time. Adam has some great questions. So just jump in with these fun questions here.
Adam Scholtes: 12:20 So I'm, I'm always curious about routine. I'm a routine guy. What's. What's your morning routine? You get up, what time do you get up and what are the first few things you do every morning that sets you on a good course for the day?
Aman Brar: 12:32 Yeah. As routines and all, right, as we have children and other things all lead up to. I used to be a very early riser. I get out of the house really early. I mean I like to just be out, but I get up like this morning I'm up at five. First thing I do is I just read about the world. I mean a real. I read a lot of, of kind of news and and across, you know, politics, culture, pop culture, technology. I mean I just, I, I'll probably spend an hour every morning literally just reading about that stuff and then because what I'm trying to do is I love, I love being home when my kid wakes up because he's hysterical in the morning like they're just funny, right? The craziest stuff they say it comes out in the morning and so I just, I can't, I love, even if it's just for that 10 minutes, is to hear whatever goofy, nonsensical thing that's going to come out of my kids' mouth, you know, that morning a joke once I should have just started a, a twitter handle with just the first sentence my son says everyday because there's just some wild, just some wild stuff in there, right? And so I love just kind of buying time to be there for that part of the day. And then, you know, really, uh, usually have a lot of breakfast meetings. I find, you know, this day and age, it's really hard to get away for lunch because it's just a two hour block in the middle of the day. so, so If I'm going to connect, you know, with folks that oftentimes we'll do over coffee or breakfast in the morning and then really head into the office for just a big, big chunk of the day. So, um, you know, kind of start with learning about the world if we don't understand the world, we don't know how technology plays a role in it or we don't know if, uh, if the problem we're solving is relevant, so, uh, that's how I start every morning and really how I end every night so I can get into my bubble of Canvas for the next big chunk of the day, come home, see the family, and then in the, the evening kind of recap it about what's happening in the world so...
Kofi Darku: 14:14 You have a, a unique track and that I know that a lot of people as in their childhood realized a, I want to do something in the tech world when I grow up, um, but I do find it extremely interesting that you knew and you kind of played that track out in terms of having a tech centric career. Did you have any mentors or what mentors do you have in your life that you feel have the greatest impact on you?
Aman Brar: 14:42 Yeah, you know, um, specifically when I was in college I got to intern for a guy named Brett Flinch in, out in Denver. Um, and what's interesting about this is, you know, ended up being on his team. I got, it was like my first foray was in telecom and got to work on some neat projects for him in the summer and Brett and I just really hit it off and he really pushed me, you know, and, and, and I think understood me, you know, he came from a humble background in North Carolina and I came from a humble background and Indiana and I think there was a little bit of a, of a bond there. And what's amazing about this relationship here we are 20 some years later and we're great friends. He's still a mentor. He was the first investor in California in Canvas. So, you know, just, it's really been a relationship that's, that, you know, I've always kind of had that one phone call, but I can put in to talk through and saw the variety of things with Brett. But one of the things I would say is, you know, growing up, so if you, if you wind back the clock, like I wouldn't say I have like technology mentors, um, but you know, I, I would say like, uh, I learned a lot from what we would now call, like the geeky kids that were doing early stuff with computers. And I also knew that I wasn't the smartest one in the bunch. Like I just knew that I remember being taken my first computer science class and doing okay, but I recognized that I was not going to be the best developer in the world. Like real quickly. I mean if I, if my room of 20, if there's 10 people in the class and I'm not the top one or two, it's a good sign that I'm not going to be the best in the world at development. and so I, I really, that also had an impact on me. So I started going, okay, you know, I'm not quite cut like these other kids that I grew up with where we kind of self selected into, you know, like we had to build a board game for history class once a social studies and we decided to write a software program. Now I didn't write a line of code in this thing, but I named it and I had the idea for what the game was going to be, and so I found that I was surrounding myself with really technical experts that there are early signs of that in my life. And then I probably was able to pull on that thread. But just, you know, like I look back when I'm like hanging out with this motley crew of geeks I hung out with, you know, it was really, that also impacted me getting early mentorship and technology. Um, you know, really helped me. And uh, you know, I think just by education, like what place that really pushed you to understand the world, you know, I think had a really, really big impact me. And it's been fun to see all those different threads in my life kind of come together.
Adam Scholtes: 17:10 So you mentioned part of your morning routines is getting up and reading about the world. What's, what's a book you're reading right now or in the last month or so that you've read?
Aman Brar: 17:18 I just finished Benjamin Franklin's autobiography or biography, which was the, which was really, really good. Yeah. I heard of, um, so that, that's the part of the most recent book that I finished. The other one that had a really I really loved that I read prior to that one was a book called Sapiens, which I say everyone should read this book. It's fantastic. Really kind of just really unbelievably succinctly and colorfully kind of walks through the advance of kind of human civilization. Right. And it's really an incredible read. And then my wife gets on me because I, I don't read enough fiction anymore, but I. But I. But I did read Ready Player One recently, which I thought was a fantastic book as well, which I, which I'd highly recommend.
Adam Scholtes: 18:03 Ready Player One, I'm writing all these down, this is what I do.
Kofi Darku: 18:07 Write faster. Well, Aman, it's been a pleasure having you on the Skill Up Build Up podcast. Thank you for helping us see how you've been playing a role in the war for talent and how you're focused on talent acquisition.
Aman Brar: 18:21 Yeah, real, real happy to be here. Thanks for the great conversation.
Adam Scholtes: 18:24 Great conversation with Aman there, Kofi. I think what I really pulled out of there today was his correlation to the kind of the dating world where your first interaction with somebody was, you know, in person or over the phone and then how that correlates to the hr world where our first interaction is typically via the phone or in person and I think, I think Canvas is really doing some good things that's going to change the, the hr recruiting world.
Kofi Darku: 18:50 Yeah. He really emphasized that in this tight labor market. Speed really matters, and Canvas is definitely addressing that and I really loved the concept of democratizing opportunity. Canvas has really helped me with that. Please stay engaged with this conversation at skillupbuildup.com.