Be an expert of your product and the field your product is focused in.
Be unique in the solution you are building.
Protect your IP!
Build a strong, supportive team of people who compliment your background and experience.
Build a work environment that’s diverse and inclusive for all.
As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Black Men In Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rhett Lindsey, the former Facebook and Tinder employee making waves in Silicon Valley by launching Siimee, a new recruiting platform that connects job seekers and employers by focusing on who people are, not what they are in order to fix our current systems for hiring and overhaul conventional recruitment methodologies. As a gay Black man working in HR & Recruiting at Facebook & Tinder, Rhett saw firsthand how the current hiring system focus on quotas and targets is dehumanizing, transactional, ineffective, and costly.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you for having me be part of this conversation. I truly value this platform and the impact it’s made on the world by providing insight into diverse perspectives. What brought me to this specific career path was two things: 1.) I’ve always cared about helping people. And 2.) I became frustrated with the broken process surrounding the recruiting industry and the struggles job seekers faced when trying to get their foot in the door for opportunities. As someone who was once an employee to tech giants, I came to a realization that I was contributing to the growing problem due to my position requiring me to execute certain recruiting processes that I deemed questionable and problematic. As a result, I decided to resign from my six-figure salaried position at Facebook and create a startup that aimed to combat the challenges many face in recruitment and job searching.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
Outside of gaining the trending “QuaranTEN pounds,” the most interesting thing that’s happened to me since I began my company would have to be building it during a global pandemic. At a time when everyone’s normal quality of life is completely uprooted, and daily anxiety becomes a common acquaintance; I knew I had some obstacles stacked against me. The upside to this situation was that it provided me convenience to accomplish more. It allowed me to bring on people to join my team, who normally would not have had the bandwidth to contribute to the infrastructure buildout the way envisioned. The time of quarantine also allowed me to spend more quality time with my husband Michael.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made when first starting out was spending money to have business cards printed, only to change the entire design and logo of my company soon after lol. Talk about a waste of money. The lesson learned was to slow down! Make sure you’re solid in your brand identity before you rush to investing in marketing material.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Initially, one of the hardest things for me was committing to the decision to resign from my six-figured salaried position at Facebook. Given the climate of a global pandemic at the time, and the state of our country socially, politically, and economically; I questioned if the timing was right. I was doing well in my position and was comfortable with the idea of job security, steady income, stock options, and top-tier health insurance for my husband and me. The idea of leaving that all behind was extremely intimidating and risky. I had a moment of weakness where I told my husband that I would look for another full-time job because I wasn’t comfortable with not contributing to the income, we grew accustomed to me bringing in. I found the drive to continue forward on building my company because he reassured me that he had my back and that great things are born from great sacrifices. Having that type of support and reassurance from a loved one is priceless. I am extremely fortunate to have a husband and partner that supports me through and through. I find great strength in that.
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?
My mother, hands down. A true woman of character and strength. My mother raised my sister and I as a single parent and made sure to put our needs above her own more times than not. That in itself is such a selfless act. She was proactive in my life, invested in my future, and made sure to expose me to other cultures and experiences outside of our neighborhood surroundings. Her level of commitment in making sure I didn’t steer down the wrong path, required great sacrifices on her part. She instilled me to never be complacent in life. To always strive for more, and in my journey; treat others the way you want to be treated…even if they don’t pay you the same courtesy. My mother and I have a great relationship to this day.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Absolutely. “When you are connected to your purpose, comfort is no longer important.”- Richard Lawson. Richard is a key figure in my life whom I have great admiration and respect for. He’s a friend, mentor, and constant supporter. Richard was aware that I made the decision at the time to resign from my position at Facebook. He knew that I initially struggled with the idea of leaving my salary and the idea of that security behind. He texted me one day and said those powerful words to me. It was at that moment that I learned and accepted that I was on the path and purpose destined for me. Every experience and situation in my life has led me to this point. That idea of being uncomfortable symbolized the action of me literally stepping out of my “comfort zone.” He taught me to not relish in being comfortable. When you’re comfortable, there’s no friction. Without friction, things cannot move and or change. My purpose is to create the change that I want to see. That requires moments of being uncomfortable. I embrace that now.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
This is an important topic to unbox that requires greater conversation and I’m more than happy to contribute to that. In my opinion, what transpired the summer of 2020 specifically with George Floyd and Brianna Taylor, was a horrific reminder and uncovering of deep racial, social, and economic issues that’s been happening in our country for hundreds of years. My grandmother Barbara Pace Hunt was the lead plaintiff in the Hunt v. Arnold case to desegregate Georgia State University. In 1959, the Hunt v. Arnold court decision was the first federal victory the NAACP won against segregation in higher education in the state of Georgia. It eventually led to the desegregation of universities and public colleges in Georgia and Mississippi. However, as a kid, I can remember her telling me the horrific stories about that time and how the KKK would come to her house in the middle of the night, break her windows, and burn a cross in her front yard to spark fear. All because she was a black, young woman trying to enter a public college to expand her knowledge and further her career, hoping to provide a better life for her daughters. With weekly death threats, safety became a concern for her, so she sent her two young daughters to live with relatives during that time. This level of racism and harassment is not new to minorities. Especially minorities that identify as black and/or African American. Suffering from racial injustice and brutality is ingrained in us. It’s a pain and a sense of social awareness that we live with every single day. The only difference is that now, it’s easier to display this illness of racism to the world due to accessible recording devices and social media. This crisis evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now because there comes a point in time when enough is enough. Innocent killings, unarmed killings, police brutality, and racial profiling are unacceptable. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg as it relates to the racial dive in our country. Now we are seeing innocent people of Asian descent being attacked and brutalized on a daily basis. For absolutely no reason. Injustice and racism on any level is unacceptable. My hope is that we can all come together one day, undivided and stand for change. Stand for equality. It’s time to reverse the racism that’s been conditioned in our country.
This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
It’s important for a business and or organization to have a diverse and inclusive executive team because you need those diverse perspectives to influence conversation and productivity. This will hopefully spark the type of cultural collaboration that contributes to the growth of your team, the scalability of your product, and higher retention of your employees. There’s nothing more uncomfortable to me in business than to see an executive leadership team of all white people advocate that they are for DE&I hiring; when in fact, that type of initiative is nowhere to be reflected at the top of their executive leadership. Any executive team that consists of just one specific race and or gender, is problematic to me.
Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in more broad terms. It’s hard to be satisfied with the status quo regarding Black Men in Tech leadership. What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
The first thing would be to not tokenize Black Men in Tech, or any person that’s a minority for that matter. We are NOT rare unicorns, we are NOT diversity quotas, and we are NOT diversity hires. We are people. See us as equals, treat us as equals. We are a “cultural add” to your organization…NOT a “cultural fit.” I can recall numerous times where I witnessed my white colleagues in recruiting, celebrating the hire of a black engineer, male or female. They would literally open bottles of wine and toast each other for landing the offer accept from the candidate. However, they never had this same type of energy for hires of other demographic backgrounds. I found that to be extremely odd. The recruitment industry majority led by white professionals. Because of the lack of diversity and inclusion in recruiting, this type of “celebration” that some recruiting departments do, comes off as being proud to have won the competitive bidding war against other companies on the prized “Black Buck.” STOP IT.
We’d now love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?
Fyindr Inc. is a technology solutions company that connects individuals by focusing on who people are, not what they are. We are accomplishing this approach though our first product: Siimee™ [see,me] — A recruiting app that directly connects job seekers and employers by creating a 1-to-1 matching experience, highlighting users’ backgrounds and interests to opportunities, while eliminating early biases that historically occur in the recruiting process.
The industry’s current system for recruiting and hiring is broken…There is a disconnect between Employers & Job Seekers. We aim to correct that by addressing Bias, Diversity Tokenism, Ghosting, and Unsolicited Outreach.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
For one, we are a Diverse/Inclusive Leadership Team. I truly believe that that’s important and fundamental in influencing the scalability of a company. And that stands out because it’s extremely rare to see in companies, let alone tech companies. We are also making job searching for job seekers convenient, accessible and less stressful. Gone are the days of applying to endless job positions just to receive an automated rejection email 3 months later.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
In the spare time that I have, I am helping my husband Michael create a non-profit that’s geared towards empowering At-risk LGBT youth to learn about cinematography, gain hands-on experience, and explore the foundation of filmmaking as young filmmakers themselves. This non-profit my husband is creating and that I’ll be involved in, will help young people discover their artistic voice, focus on their vision as storytellers, and share their story in a way that’s fulfilling and true to them.
What would you advise to another tech leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?
My advice would be to evaluate the experiences of your customers first. Then, reevaluate the quality of your product and or service. Have you recognized a certain trend that has led to a standstill? How’s your competition doing? Once you uncover these areas, rely on your team and counterparts to help you readjust your scope of business.
Do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?
Don’t micro-manage. Set realistic stretch goals and build trust with your sales team. Celebrate the micro-wins while also motivating them for macro-wins.
In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?
Well people resonate with stories and products that they can relate to. Invest in a good marketing strategy. Make sure your message and products translate well to your target market, audience, and or demographic in a way that’s authentic, reliable, and unique..
Based on your experience, can you share 3 or 4 strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?
- Be urgent and intentional in your responses to your customers.
- Allow your customers the option to leave feedback.
- Make it accessible for your customers to get in contact with your company and or customer support team if needed.
As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?
Customer retention is extremely valuable. Having a loyal customer base can be reflective of several positive traits your company and or product is accomplishing and or exceeding. Having a feedback option for your customers to utilize is a good way to examine areas of improvement and areas of quality. The customer’s perspective is more valuable than your ego. That’s good advice to always remember.
Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful tech company? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Be an expert of your product and the field your product is focused in.
- Be unique in the solution you are building.
- Protect your IP!
- Build a strong, supportive team of people who compliment your background and experience.
- Build a work environment that’s diverse and inclusive for all.
Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂
There’s so much uncertainty in the world right now. So much so that it’s caused additional stress and anxiety for people. I believe our mental health is fundamental to living a quality life. I would love to inspire a movement where we dedicate a specific day in the year to offer free access to counselors, mental health professionals, and psychologists. No insurance needed. No pay-out-of-pocket necessary. To partner with an organization like BetterHelp to pull off a movement like this would be amazing!
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
If there was one person in the world that I would have the absolute honor to connect with, it will have to be Oprah Winfrey. For me, Oprah represents possibility. The possibility to inspire. The possibility to spark change. The possibility to achieve your dreams. She is my example of hard work and self-determination. I also admire her philanthropy work with how she gives back to communities, and her genuine spirit/outlook on life. Back in 2011, I had the privilege of being invited to the last season of The Oprah Winfrey show by her producers as a result of a letter I wrote to them. My mother and sister were dedicated viewers of her show, so the producers allowed them both to attend the taping with me. Although I did not have the opportunity to meet Oprah while at the taping; my mother, sister, and I were invited to her stage to hype up the audience right before Oprah made her entrance. Standing up there with the two most important women in my life, side by side, looking out into that audience, is a moment in my life that I will cherish forever. I would love to personally thank Oprah for providing that opportunity for me.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!
Thank you for the opportunity to share my story and perspective on several important topics of discussion. This has been such a rewarding experience for me.