These 8 Local Companies Just Made Huge Hires

Eight newly-hired tech leaders talk to Built In about why they decided to join their new companies and explain their plans for the future.
Written by Michael Hines
April 20, 2022Updated: August 11, 2022

What does it say about a company when it’s able to hire a seasoned leader to head up a department or entire organization during the Great Resignation? Well, for starters, their talent acquisition team deserves a raise. 

Seriously, though, hiring right now is incredibly difficult, especially in tech, and companies that beat out the competition and welcome new leaders have done so because they offer more than just competitive perks and pay packages.

Case in point: Saigin Govender, the new CTO at Block Renovation. Govender’s resume includes high-level leadership roles at Meta, Tumblr and Amazon. To say he could have landed at any company is an understatement, but Govender chose Block in part because it offered him the ability to follow his passions.

“Learning and creating are my two passions, and each of my career decisions were guided by where the opportunity to learn and create were highest,” Govender said.

It’s a job seekers market out there right now, and sometimes the best indication of whether a company is a good fit is the level of talent it’s able to attract. Continue reading to learn more about why Govender decided to join Block along with what brought several additional tech leaders into their new roles.

 

GlossGenius team members outside at a ski lodge
GlossGenius

 

Christopher Cunningham
CTO • GlossGenius

 

Christopher Cunningham was previously at Lyft and Soundcloud before joining GlossGenius as CTO, a company that develops point-of-sale and business management systems for beauty salons and spas. Cunningham said that what attracted him to GlossGenius is similar to what brought him to his previous companies: the ability to work on products that delight users.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What position are you stepping into? What’s your professional background? Why were you brought on to lead this team?

I was obsessed with the possibility of mobile experiences in the pre-iPhone era and co-founded two mobile startups where I experienced the highs and lows of early stage companies. It taught me so much about building brands and products and navigating the challenge of scaling effectively. Since 2011, my focus has been leading and scaling engineering teams in high-growth environments, which includes more than four years at Lyft. It’s been a thrilling journey, as I’ve worked with and learned from some incredibly talented teams. It’s important to me to work on products that delight users, and I’m fortunate to have that experience here. 

GlossGenius has built an amazing brand and a sticky product that empowers customers to transform and grow their businesses. We’re creating a gateway for entrepreneurship that’s similar to my prior experience at Lyft where we used tech to create economic empowerment. While we already serve tens of thousands of paying customers, it’s just the beginning. We have huge growth opportunities ahead. My role is to build on the great engineering culture that already exists and to scale and level up the team.

It’s important to me to work on products that delight users, and I’m fortunate to have that experience here.”

 

Beyond onboarding and getting up to speed on the internal workings of your new team, what’s your first order of business in your new role?

As the center of business owner’s lives and the platform they rely on during every single minute of their day, we have many interesting challenges to solve! One of my top priorities is hiring so that we can scale our team to tackle them all. We have interesting technical questions to answer about the future of our back-end architecture; good work to do on monitoring and reliability of our systems; and many opportunities to level up our processes around designing, planning, testing and deploying new features. 

On the product side, we have a long list of features to deliver, including point of sale workflow features such as deposits, additional payment options and web presence customization. Our customers want to be a part of this community we’re building, and we get a lot of feedback from them that they are so grateful when we deliver new tools that make their lives easier. This motivates us all to ship great work and to ship it frequently.

 

 

Pravjit Tiwana
Chief Technology Officer • Gemini

 

Pravjit Tiwana is the new CTO at cryptocurrency exchange Gemini, and his remit is nothing short of helping usher in the future of the internet and finance. More specifically, Tiwana told Built In that his goal is to ensure Gemini builds products that capture all of the opportunities offered by some of the buzziest and most-promising tech trends at the moment: Web3, the Metaverse and decentralized finance.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I lead the engineering, product, machine learning and information security teams at Gemini. My vision is to build innovative products that harness the opportunities of Web3, the Metaverse and decentralized finance. My core focus has been transforming and growing billion-dollar product portfolios and leading multi-disciplinary and globally distributed world-class organizations. My last role was as the GM for edge services at Amazon Web Services. I have always been drawn to opportunities that allow me to solve customer-centric and complex technical challenges at scale while driving innovation that makes an impact, and the mission of Gemini aligns with my passion.

I feel reinvigorated to work with a dedicated team and build a decentralized and open financial system based on the blockchain, and I believe in Gemini’s co-founders’ vision for the company. They have given me a platform to build high-scale distributed systems as well as the opportunity to scale architectures, products, processes and my team.

They have given me the opportunity to scale architectures, products, processes and my team.”

 

What’s your first order of business in your new role?

While we are still in the early days of Web3, decentralized finance and the Metaverse, Gemini is a pioneer in these spaces and will help our customers transition to a digital and decentralized future. To ensure Gemini continues to be an innovative leader in this space, I’m focused on continuing to build products that are simple, secure, scalable and delight the customer. The core mission of crypto and Web3 companies is no different from those in other industries in the sense that we have to be customer-obsessed and build products that empower our users and enhance their lives. 

We also have a relentless focus on making Gemini products operationally indistinguishable from perfect. I have always believed that all successful products have a strong foundation in service fundamentals of security, availability and performance. These service fundamentals require an intense focus on operational health, processes and rigor. Being operationally aware from the get go during product development enables us to become more effective in creating high-performance and scalable software.

 

 

Two Smartly team members sitting on a couch sharing ideas pointing to post it notes on the wall behind them
Smartly.io

 

Lyle Underkoffler
Chief Marketing Officer • Smartly

 

Lyle Underkoffler is the new CMO at social advertising automation platform Smartly.io. Underkoffler may be new, but he told Built In that he has already started working on new products to extend Smartly’s reach to TikTok and YouTube.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m fortunate to have recently joined Smartly.io as CMO. It’s an incredible opportunity to help build the brand, drive profitable growth and ultimately make our customers happy. We have experienced phenomenal top and bottom-line success and I am excited to help translate this into a long-term advantage. My goals include elevating lead measures like NPS and repeatable processes to improve customer acquisition and retention while also focusing on positioning ourselves in the crowded adtech market through a go-to-market strategy reflecting the DNA of our brand.

Smartly.io’s culture also drew me in, and I hope to continue learning from and contributing to it. Prior to joining I had the privilege of leading digital marketing and e-commerce teams at Samsung, Disney and Philips. These positions aided my belief in being customer-obsessed and creating high-quality experiences. I also worked at hyper-growth companies like IAC, where I learned the value of delivering with speed and focusing on product-led innovation. Outside of work, I am the proud father of four kids. Health is important to me and I am an avid runner and actively practice veganism.

I’m super excited about extending our advertising cloud to both TikTok and YouTube.”

 

What's your first order of business in your new role?

Since joining I have focused on our new product launches. I’m super excited about extending our advertising cloud to both TikTok and YouTube with an end-to-end solution covering creative, media and intelligence. It has been amazing to partner with both platforms and we have learned a tremendous amount during alpha and beta. 

There are some really interesting innovations we are working on related to creative, specifically how to deliver engaging experiences across the consumer journey via contextual targeting. Think mapping top to bottom of the funnel with storytelling and media. We know consumers are cross-channel and are building SaaS solutions that help advertisers automate on-brand on-channel ads that scale. These are very complex solutions and we have relied on our amazing customers to help build them out.

 

 

Steve Jacobs
Chief Product Officer • Jabra Hearing

 

Like many new executive hires, one of Steve Jacobs’ goals is to help grow his new company’s business. However, unlike many other tech execs, Jacobs isn’t working at a company that sells software or tech services but at Lively, which develops hearing aids that can be adjusted via an app. Lively’s new CPO told Built In how his previous experience as a CPO, CEO and founder has equipped him for his latest challenge.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I joined Lively as chief product officer and am responsible for product, product marketing and analytics. Lively has a really interesting product opportunity because our offering to customers is a seamless combination of hardware, software and people who combine to help our customers hear and connect with their world better. We sell hearing aids that are tuned remotely by remote hearing-care professionals aided by an app that also supports and guides users on their journey to improve their hearing.

Since joining Lively, I've expanded our product offerings and doubled headcount on the product team.

 

What’s your first order of business in your new role?

My first focus is identifying key initiatives for 2022 that lean into Lively’s unique strengths to grow the business, engage customers to help them reach their hearing goals and find efficiencies to allow our care model to continue to scale. These areas of focus are a great fit for my experience in growth, engagement and efficiency drivers. 

As CPO of Gilt, our personalization efforts to a 10 percent  incremental revenue as measured by a long running a/b test. My experience in engaging customers to drive behavior change comes from having been CEO and cofounder of Bright Parenting — now Maven Clinic — whose mission was to guide parents on their journey to becoming even better parents. Since joining Lively, I’ve expanded our product offerings, doubled headcount on the product team and led efforts to explore new channel opportunities for the business to fuel future growth.

 

 

Haven Technology team members at a trade show
Haven Technologies

 

Brandy Thomas
Head of Solutions Consulting • Haven Technologies

 

Brandy Thomas recently joined Haven Technologies as the head of solutions consulting. Haven Technologies’ SaaS platform offers an end-to-end solution for selling life, annuity and disability insurance. The insurance industry isn’t exactly known for being tech forward, and Thomas said one of her first goals is to ensure her team can clearly communicate their tech and services to customers.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I am the head of solutions consulting at Haven Technologies and I enjoy the “messy middle.” I have experience working with insurers in underwriting, operations, distribution and in solving complex business problems with innovative technology. Having worked in a variety of functions, I’ve come to believe that having the right technology in place is key to making insurance more accessible, affordable and available. 

I emphasize “right” as too often technology just tinkers around the edges. That’s why I joined Haven Technologies, where I have the opportunity to work with both industry practitioners and technologists. Together, we are creating services and solutions that actually provide value to insurers by solving real business problems, whether that’s more affordably migrating legacy policies, getting better insight into customer data or more efficiently launching new products. My team is responsible for being the “boots on the ground” and working with new clients to understand what their business challenges are and how our cloud-native SaaS platform can provide relief. 

We want to clearly articulate what our technology does and how it creates value in an inclusive way.”

 

What’s your first order of business, and can you describe your leadership style and how you hope to apply this in your new role?

I’m not one to get hung up on titles, but if I had to put a name to my leadership style it would be “challenge-driven leader.” That term derives from a Strategy+Business article about assembling teams that are excited and energized about solving problems. I’m excited to join a culture where work can actually get done. We’ve busted down unnecessary processes and bureaucracies in the name of making life better for our customers and their clients. Another way we’re making life better for our customers and their clients is by bringing clarity to this complex space. 

We want to clearly articulate what our technology does and how it creates value in an inclusive way. We could — and in my opinion do — have the best technology available, but if people don’t understand it then it’s not helpful. This can be difficult for industry insiders who are steeped in insurance, so a big part of my focus is challenging the team to figure out how to best tell the Haven Technologies story in a way that resonates with everyone.

 

 

Saigin Govender

 

Block Renovation is tackling a massive challenge: injecting tech into the home renovation industry to enable homeowners to more easily redesign their kitchens and bathrooms. Its new CTO, Saigin Govender, is up for the challenge. Govender knows a thing or two about greenfield projects and shared both his experience — including what brought him to Block — and leadership style with Built In.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I’m thrilled to join Block as CTO, supporting its product management, product design, user research and engineering functions. Prior to Block, I was leading product for Meta’s AI research division, CPO/CTO at Tumblr, and on one of the small teams that launched Amazon’s Alexa. My background is varied, but learning and creating are my two passions, and each of my career decisions were guided by where the opportunity to learn and create were highest. Block is certainly no exception. I get to learn and problem-solve in an incredibly complex and interesting industry and create innovative software and beautiful physical spaces alongside an exceptional team.

So much of the traditional homeowner and contractor renovation experience is broken, and technology is at the crux of making the renovation experience much easier for homeowners and contractors alike. As I ease into my role, my focus is ensuring we have the organizational and technical foundations for rapid scale and continued investment in step-function innovation.

My focus is ensuring we have the organizational and technical foundations for rapid scale step-function innovation.

 

How would you describe your leadership style, and how do you hope to apply this in your new role?

My leadership style has been shaped by the various places I’ve worked and is anchored on three principles. First, user centricity. I place the user at the center of my decision-making and try to ensure we’re solving real user problems at all times. I believe that only companies that solve real user problems can persist over the long-term. This is precisely why I was drawn to Block. The user problem around renovations is so abundantly clear. When thinking about the user, I try to always hold a long-term view. This way we end up creating cars, not faster horses. 

Second, I believe in rigor. Rigor ensures that early forming ideas are objectively good ones, feasible and well-executed. Rigor is especially important at Block, where homeowners count on us to make their high-stakes renovations as smooth, cost-effective and hiccup-free as possible. Lastly, empathy is core to how I lead. I value the relationships I have with my team and colleagues; I genuinely want to spend time with them, see and help them grow, and feel empowered. 

 

 

Stephen Kane
Head of Product Marketing • Atom Finance

 

Atom Finance is a fintech company whose goal is to democratize access to institutional-quality investment resources, and it recently hired Stephen Kane as head of product marketing in pursuit of that goal. Kane said his top goal is to build Atom’s ideal customer profiles and flesh out the company’s product-market fit, and he detailed some of the steps he’s taking to do both.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am stepping in to lead both our product and growth marketing functions. Atom Finance has done such an incredible job simplifying institutional-quality investment data and research and making it accessible by building a modern investment intelligence app for consumers. We know we can extend this critical mission even further by partnering with retail trading apps, neo banks and brokers, and publishers. I was brought on to help lead our go-to-market efforts for this new B2B strategy.

My background is deep in product marketing, human-centered design thinking and investments with narrow stints in brand, data analytics and customer success. Prior to Atom, I worked for Vanguard for 13 years serving retail investors and financial advisors and also helped write, craft and film a product marketing online training course with CXL.

A good detective follows the evidence, and a good marketer follows the research.”

 

What’s your first order of business in your new role?

My chief goal is to keep inching us toward architecting our ideal customer profiles and expounding on our product market fit. I am particularly excited about a new process we’re running to uncover the pain points of our customers and validate product concepts in the backlog of our product roadmap.

Our approach fundamentally blends all functions at Atom to do this well across product, business development, engineering and creative, but marketing uniquely sits at the center! It involves sprints of activities from market research to competitive analysis and partner interviews. A good detective follows the evidence, and a good marketer follows the research. We’re learning a ton about the dynamic market we’re in and it’s been such an exciting challenge to dive head first into.

 

 

Figma team members posing for a group photo in the office
Figma

 

Shaunt Voskanian
Chief Revenue Officer • Figma

 

Shaunt Voskanian has just joined collaborative design platform Figma as chief revenue officer, bringing with him sales and leadership experience from Oracle, Google and Datadog. Since coming aboard, Voskanian has reorganized Figma’s sales, account management and revenue operations and created an SDR function. Here’s how those moves have impacted the company.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I recently joined Figma as Chief Revenue Officer after spending the previous four years as SVP of global sales for Datadog. Prior to that, I held sales and sales leadership roles at Oracle Marketing Cloud, Google, Citrix and Experian. At Figma, I’m responsible for all of sales, account management and revenue operations. Previously, these functions existed under one umbrella, along with marketing and customer support. By splitting them, we saw an opportunity to scale faster and create more focus on execution and customer experience.

I really believe that everything starts with our customers. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about their journey and where we can make improvements to support it. I’m also very consciously thinking about what it means to be in sales at Figma. We want this to be a place where people can be themselves, have fun, learn a ton and grow professionally. A lot of this is already happening! We’ve always had a high-attainment team and have promoted internally at an impressive clip. By recently introducing a new SMB segment and an SDR function, we’ve also made it even easier for new sellers to join the company and accelerate their careers.

We want this to be a place where people can be themselves, have fun, learn a ton and grow professionally.”

 

How would you describe your leadership style, and how do you hope to apply this in your new role?

I tend to be a very hands-on leader because it’s very hard to do this job without living in the details. I try to spend as much time as possible with my team, at all levels, to understand what they’re going through and what’s working and what’s not. From there, it’s all about empathy, transparency and kindness. 

We want to communicate consistently and thoroughly, both the good and the bad. Perfection is impossible and I don’t think anyone expects it, but we prioritize creating an environment where all voices are heard and everyone is treated with trust and respect. Everything we do as a leadership team comes back to this.

 

 

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