This is a great opportunity to show others — especially those who are vulnerable to the coronavirus — that we care about them. Calling, emailing, and getting groceries makes others feel loved and it is wonderful to spread that.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Noah Waisberg.
Prior to founding Kira Systems, Noah practiced at the law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges in New York, where he focused on private equity, M&A, and securities. Noah is an expert on contract analysis, legal technology, and artificial intelligence; has spoken at conferences including SXSW Interactive, ILTACON, and ReInvent Law; and was named 2016 ILTA Innovative Thought Leader of the Year. He is also the author of Robbie the Robot Learns to Read, the world’s first ever children’s book on machine learning. Noah holds a J.D. from the NYU School of Law, an A.M. from Brown University, and a B.A. with honours from McGill University.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Iwas a lawyer at Weil, Gotshal & Manges in New York. I saw junior lawyers across law firms spending tons of time doing work they hated and weren’t great at and at a huge expense.I thought this was an opportunity and got together with my co-founder, Dr. Alexander Hudek, to help lawyers do contract review (a big time suck) more efficiently. We spent years building our custom machine learning algorithms to work well at this task, and — eventually — got our software to work well. Now, our software is used by a healthy majority of the world’s biggest and best professional service firms and a number of big companies. As a company, we bootstrapped from the two of us to over one hundred Kirans, raised a $50M minority round of funding from Insight back in 2018, and have continued to grow. There are now over 200 of us on a mission to enlighten the world’s enterprises by enabling them to truly know what’s in their contracts and documents.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
They Call Me Coach by John Wooden. The core message of the book is that the purpose of life is to be the best version of yourself. The way to achieve this is by pushing for your best achievement in individual moments. Basically, leave it all on the field and repeat. The book articulates and builds a structure for things I already believed in.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Sometimes, things need to get bad in order to make real improvement. In the words of Jim Collins’ Good to Great, “Good is the enemy of great.” When things are good, we don’t do the hard things needed to get to great.
- In general, storms pass; things get better.
- There can be great opportunity in dramatic change.
- This is a great opportunity to show others — especially those who are vulnerable to the coronavirus — that we care about them. Calling, emailing, and getting groceries makes others feel loved and it is wonderful to spread that.
- This is a time we are likely to remember for a long time, in the same way as we remember past blackouts, ice storms and other calamities. I have some wonderful memories from those times, and hope some of the nice things that I’ve experienced in recent weeks will also remain seared in my mind.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Communicate the facts: monitor the spread of COVID-19 and update employees on important changes in the regions your company operates in (via email, weekly meetings, and an #emergency Slack channel).
- Provide resources: draft a master list of resources that employees can access to take care of their health and wellness. Our People team developed a list of free resources offered by gyms, mental health enthusiasts, as well as a reminder on how to access the Employee Assistance Program.
- Check-in: regular meetings with your team, friends, and family will be vital to supporting each other.
- Be flexible: we’ve asked employees to be flexible with the hours they work, and to take extra vacation time if they need it. We’ve also asked everyone in the company to be flexible and patient since childcare facilities have closed, and parents are working at home with their children. We record meetings and take notes so parents who are unable to attend can catch up later.
- Keep spirits high: as the world slows down around us, everyone is more on edge and more anxious. We try to inject fun as much as we can by organizing virtual mixers and coffees, posting photos of life working from home, or of funny Zoom hijinks. We will also give prizes at our next all-hands meetings for the top three Zoom backgrounds.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
It’s important to break up themonotony of being isolated in your own home to exercise your mind and body, as well as stay connected to colleagues and family. We’ve put together a #healthandwellness Slack channel for our employees to reference during this time. Not only are we seeing many team members post what has been working for them, but our People team continues to update a master document with resources, tips and tricks, apps and technology that can support us during this time.
Also, sharing ideas with either colleagues, family members or friends on what you’ve been doing to support your wellbeing during this not only keeps communication lines open, but offers up ideas for others to try as well.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing that you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming” — John Wooden.
I worked at a law firm for four years; it was a great job but — at a point — I stopped feeling as challenged. I felt the need to challenge myself more — I feel that people grow faster when they are challenged, and I knew I wasn’t pushing it as hard as I could so I quit. Then I planned, traveled, and eventually co-founded Kira Systems. With my co-founder, we spent years working on the software and now Kira is used by leading professional service firms, Fortune 100 corporations, and financial services customers around the world.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂
To really listen to others for the purpose of understanding, including — especially — when you vehemently disagree with them. By assuming that others are likely good people who feel the way they do for a sensible reason, you are more likely to get to a good outcome.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
You can follow me on Twitter at @nwaisb.