Focus on the big decisions. I have a limited amount of time and energy, and I need each of these resources to be used for solving the most impactful issues facing our company. As of late, I’ve been hyperfocused on our Series B fundraise. We decided to take the atypical route of avoiding venture capital. It certainly wasn’t the easy way, but it’ll give us the freedom to grow what we need and want. Now, a lot has been going on at Jane.ai while I’ve been out fundraising, but a good leader needs to know where their priorities lay, and to trust their team to get the job done.
As a part of my series about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Karandish, the CEO and cofounder of Jane.ai. Jane.ai is an enterprise artificial intelligence platform designed to help you do your best work.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was always creating things, even as a kid. In high school, I started learning how to code and began tinkering with a couple of different web-based ideas. By the time I graduated from college, I’d tried six different web-based businesses with varying levels of success.
I see what I’m doing now as the culmination of a lot of different aspects of previous companies I’ve been involved with: design, team building, online marketing, AI and chatbots.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
One of the fascinating things about what I do is that I get to think a lot about the nature of work. We talk about work all the time, but what is work, really?
In its simplest form, work is a combination of people, tasks and resources to achieve a common goal. This leads to another question: why do we work? We can work to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. We can work to afford the comforts of our modern society. We can work to express ourselves.
But I think there’s a deeper meaning to work. When we do our best work, we experience great joy because it’s what we were designed to do. When we do our best work, we make a better society.
After just a few short months on the market, Jane is answering thousands of questions every month. Each of these questions represents a time when a person was formerly encumbered from achieving their goals, but is now enabled to do their best work. To witness how we’re not only changing work, but shaping the future of work, is truly awe-inspiring.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We get up every morning thinking about how we can help companies do their best work — both for their teams and customers. One of the areas we’ve identified is building out deep, threaded and empathetic conversations. When you think about tasks like onboarding a new team member, or applying for a mortgage online, there are a set of steps you go through to make that work. While we’ve supported some baseline conversational features for the past year, our goal is to open up the dialogue so that anyone — no advanced degree required — can easily create an intuitive conversational flow within Jane.ai.
Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
I think people are happiest at work when they are doing what they’re good at, what they love and what the company needs. If you aren’t good at it, you wash out. If you don’t love it, you burn out. If the company doesn’t need it, you won’t get hired.
However, you can have a great team member working within their sweet spot — and suddenly things go sideways. They get inundated with pointless meetings. They can’t find the information they need internally. They face red tape left and right. These are the silent killers, the carbon monoxide of the modern organization.
That’s why we built Jane.ai. If we can make all your company’s intelligence instantly accessible, we can help you do your best work. We want to be that source of empowerment in the workplace.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?
Team member satisfaction and customer satisfaction are inextricably linked. More and more organizational studies are showing a direct link between employee satisfaction and engagement, and customer satisfaction.
For example, the Harvard Business Review argues that employee satisfaction results primarily from high-quality support services and policies that enable employees to deliver results to customers. Additionally, the Workplace Research Foundation found that increasing employee engagement programs increased profit per employee by $2400 per year.
Products don’t buy other products — people buy products from other people, and ensuring that the people working with your customers are engaged is going to benefit the bottom line.
So, simply put: it’s hard to be productive (long term) if your team is unhappy. It’s hard to be profitable if you are unproductive. And if you are both unhappy and unproductive, your health suffers along the way. Each of these realities are intricately connected.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
Slippers are the new suit. People need to feel comfortable at work, as if the office were an extension of their home — which is why we’ve instituted a slipper policy at Jane.ai. Every new hire gets a slipper stipend they can use to best express their own style of comfort. So, whether it’s classic flannel-lined or novelty duck feet, everyone feels at home here.
Treat people like adults. Treat your team with respect, and don’t micromanage. We offer unlimited PTO. And you know what? No one abuses the policy. Rather, people work really, really hard, and then they have the opportunity to take care of themselves.
Have a social mission. Companies with social missions beyond shareholder returns will do better at attracting talent. At Jane.ai, we volunteer with Create a Loop — a sister nonprofit that teaches kids how to code. They’re learning invaluable tools that are going to give them a leg up on their futures. They work out of the Jane.ai offices on Saturday mornings, and it’s such a pleasure to see them in action.
Foster transparency. Transparency is like honesty on steroids. If everyone understands where they stand, the entire company will know where it’s headed.
Give and receive feedback, even when it hurts. I recently received some feedback on areas where I could improve as a leader. It was hard to hear at the time, but I appreciated my colleague’s candor, and did my best to seize an opportunity for growth.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?
First, I would urge more Americans to create and work in startups. The more people are exposed to startups, the greater appreciation we’ll have for the vital role startups play in our society. I’d actually argue that the startup culture and American culture are, in many ways, one in the same — they share an exciting trailblazing spirit you’ve got to experience firsthand to fully grasp.
Secondly, know thyself — i.e., test thy personality. A lot of people are in the wrong role or the wrong profession because they haven’t gone through a process of introspection to understand the types of roles and professions they’d be best at or happiest in. I think personality testing should be implemented in high school to set teens on their most successful tracks. When people are doing what they were born to do, they’re better fulfilled and they produce truly inspired work.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
1. Focus on the big decisions. I have a limited amount of time and energy, and I need each of these resources to be used for solving the most impactful issues facing our company. As of late, I’ve been hyperfocused on our Series B fundraise. We decided to take the atypical route of avoiding venture capital. It certainly wasn’t the easy way, but it’ll give us the freedom to grow what we need and want. Now, a lot has been going on at Jane.ai while I’ve been out fundraising, but a good leader needs to know where their priorities lay, and to trust their team to get the job done.
2. Hire amazing people. If you look at the quality of the team we’ve assembled, I’d put them up against any startup of our size. Where we’re outgunned on budget, we more than make up for it in our ingenuity and grit.
3. Set the pace for work and rest. Work very hard, but take a 24-hour work sabbath once a week. I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: email is the gateway drug of work. It’s good — and ultimately productive to unplug and skip email for a day to recharge.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
That’s an easy one. I’ll be forever grateful to James MacDonald. Without his guidance at Washington University in St. Louis, I would’ve likely gone down a very different path. Specifically, he was able to help me stay in school when I nearly had to drop out because my family couldn’t afford tuition.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’m grateful for my success, and I recognize that many people don’t have access to the same opportunities that helped me along the way. Our partnership with Create a Loop supports the next generation of AI developers by teaching kids to code — regardless of where they live, who their parents are or how much money they have.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they are getting.”This is one of those quotes I’ve revisited often in my entrepreneurial journey. Specifically, many times when we’ve run into organizational output issues, there were organizational design issues at stake. Get the right design and structure in place, and the results will look very different.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We live in a time where people are flirting with two ideas: a shorter term revival of socialism and a longer term idea of what a post-scarcity society could look like. It’s worth debating how our current flavor of capitalism needs reform (and it does!). It’s also worth considering what the future looks like when many of today’s jobs will have an automation component to them.
But I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that there is dignity in work. I believe that we were designed to work. I believe that most people — deep down — want to do meaningful work. Maybe not in their current field, maybe not for their current manager. But everyone wants to work to put their own dent in the universe.
Some people need to pick a new job or even a new career. But a lot of people just need to be unencumbered from the things that make their otherwise fulfilling career a pain. Said another way, if we can take the mundanity out of work, we can focus on that sweet spot of where everyone wants to be.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.