CTO Sessions: Loren Larsen, HireVue, Inc.

What is one unique initiative that you've employed over the last 12 months that you're really proud of? "...the work we have done at HireVue to define our Ethical AI Principles is really important."

Name: Loren Larsen

Company: HireVue, Inc.

Job title: Chief Technology Officer

Date started current role: November 2013

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

As Chief Technology Officer, Loren Larsen is responsible for guiding HireVue's product direction through the product management, user experience, and engineering teams. Larsen is an award-winning technology veteran with more than 20 years of engineering and research experience. Prior to joining HireVue, Larsen led the development of innovative mobile device applications and video relay services for the deaf as director of Engineering and Mobile Products at Sorenson Communications.


What was your first job? If I remember correctly, the first time I really made my own money was selling a spelling quiz program I wrote for the Atari 800 when I was in 6th grade...but mowing lawns ended up paying a lot better. It wasn't a very good program.

Did you always want to work in IT? I remember at some point wanting to be a fireman, then a magician, but when my 5th grade teacher taught us to program I was pretty hooked.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I did a Master's in Computer Science and was working on a Ph.D. before somehow a summer job at IBM turned into a permanent one and I never went back. I've never felt the need to get certifications.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. The path has been pretty linear. I started as a developer, before becoming team lead, then Director of Engineering, VP, and finally CTO. I have tended to switch areas of specialty fairly often. I started out building network equipment, which was different from my PhD research, then moved to online video delivery. Finally, I moved into HR Technology which has let me use my video knowledge with AI and machine learning...which is what I really planned to do in grad school but the AI Winter was in full force back then. So linear, but also circular.

What type of CTO are you? I'm primarily responsible for everything related to the product/service that HireVue delivers to our external customers. I do our own internal IT and Information Security so all our internal people are also my customers, but the bulk of my time is spent on product. We have tried to build a team of highly capable leaders who are able to "act like owners" and know what needs to be done to make their teams successful and we've tried to cascade the ownership idea through everything we do. So basically I don't have to do very much.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? It really has nothing to do with HireVue, but our ability to combine massive amounts of data and analyse it quickly has the ability to completely change our health and environment as a society. For example, ability to know almost instantly what putting something into your body does to one's health in both the short-term and long-term will change our world and I think that is incredibly exciting.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? I think many people are feeling like Blockchain is overhyped. It's not that it's not a great technology, but as far as I can tell it's just not that useful or efficient for most of the things I've seen people attempt to apply it to (which is everything). There are some interesting uses around payments, logistics, healthcare that I think are exciting.

What is one unique initiative that you've employed over the last 12 months that you're really proud of? It's not particularly technical, but I think that the work we have done at HireVue to define our Ethical AI Principles is really important. It's an effort to communicate the importance of the data we hold and hiring decisions we facilitate and how important that is done with care. It seems we may have been the first to define that in HR Technology.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? HireVue is new enough that we've been pretty all digital since the beginning, but virtually all of our customers are going through this. One of the key themes we hear is how do you create a great hiring experience for your candidates and keep a personal touch while making it efficient. Most of our customers are dealing with massive hiring volume and digital transformation has made it so easy to apply to jobs now it's even easier for great candidates to get lost and that's where we come in.

What is the biggest issue that you're helping customers with at the moment? I don't know if it's just our customers or the market in general but our customers are doing massive hiring and have large numbers of candidates applying for the available jobs. We are helping them figure out how to give each candidate a chance to shine and have a fair shot at the job they want. The volumes we are seeing are pushing our business to the next level.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? I think about this from a customer lens. We struggle to find the balance between what customers really need and what they will need in the future and acute sources of pain that need to be salved now. So we balance our roadmap and resources between strictly tactical projects and long-term strategic goals and try to keep those roughly equally balanced. We find that's the best way to remain responsive but continue to innovate and be thinking ahead of the market.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? I think one of the biggest challenges sometimes is holding back from using technology for the sake of technology when there is no clear customer win. Sometimes you need to try out new ideas for the sake of pushing yourself and your team, but not to excess.

What makes an effective tech strategy? I think there are five types of questions we need to be answering when coming up with a strategy. 1) What do our customers need to be successful? 2) What does our business need to be successful? 3) What impact does delivering this have on the world and our customer, 4) Are we using the latest technologies and is it feasible/can the risks be mitigated, 5) Do we have the resources/time to pull it off?

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? CTO can mean a lot of different things so it's hard to say, but what I think is true of all of them is that there are no technical decisions that do not impact people and the business. So I think the best CTOs will have a balanced knowledge of people, business and technology and be able to communicate how those are balanced. I think that's true if you lead a large internal IT team or build products for external customers.

What has been your greatest career achievement? I'm probably the most proud of the kind of company HireVue has become, and my technology organisation in particular. We built a great way to work and mostly are able to walk our talk.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Invested in Apple at $1/share back in 1998 when a friend of mine bought a Mac and I thought he was crazy. They were goners. I learned a lot from the experience about what can happen even when it seems like there is no chance.

What are you reading now? Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss and Why we Sleep by Matthew Walker.

Most people don't know that I… My favorite band of all time is a British band called The The.

In my spare time, I like to…Do a long trail run in the mountains of Utah.

Ask me to do anything but… Please not golf. I respect the game, but it's too hard to enjoy and play casually and I don't need more obsessions in my life.

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