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Relativity LLC

"LinkedIn alum Mike Gamson named CEO at Relativity"

Below is an article originally written by John Pletz, Senior Reporter at Crain's Chicago Business, and published on June 26, 2019. This article is about PowerToFly Partner Relativity. Go to Relativity's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.

Two big questions in Chicago tech just got answered: What's Mike Gamson, one of the city's most seasoned executives and investors, going to do next? What's ahead for Relativity, one of the city's most closely watched, high-growth companies?

Gamson, who left a top job at LinkedIn earlier this year, takes over as CEO of Relativity from founder Andrew Sieja, who will become executive chairman July 1.

Relativity, a maker of document-management software that's used by nearly all the 200 largest law firms in the country, has quietly grown to 1,000 employees. It has one of the largest engineering teams in Chicago and is seen as one of a handful of potential long-term winners and IPO prospects.

The move at Relativity defies an oft-cited weakness of a Chicago tech scene that's still looking to catch up to more established players such as Seattle, Boston and Austin, Texas. Chicago has a limited pool of experienced tech executives who've "seen the movie before" and can step in and guide a promising company to bigger and better things. Gamson, who joined LinkedIn in 2007 but was based in Chicago, certainly qualifies. He oversaw a sales force that grew from a handful of people to more than 5,000 employees in 36 cities around the world, generating more than $6 billion in revenue.

Gamson and Sieja are both humble but successful members of the Chicago tech community who have kept relatively low public profiles. Sieja, a self-taught coder, started a software company, then called kCura, in 2006. "I'll still come to work every day," the 42-year-old says.

Gamson, who joined Relativity's board two years ago, says, "This is Andrew's company. I've been fortunate to have worked inside a company (LinkedIn) where a founder transitioned to executive chairman from CEO and it played out to great success."

Relativity was largely under the radar until four years ago, when Iconiq Capital invested $125 million. The San Francisco-based fund, whose investors include Mark Zuckerberg and Sam Zell, is known as patient capital. But the investment immediately set off chatter about whether Sieja's company was potential IPO material.

Hiring Gamson will only amplify the speculation, although Caroline Xie, a vice president at Iconiq, says, "We spend almost no time talking about exits with our portfolio company partners (including Relativity), and while we know it is important to some investors, we have taken a slightly different view and find it sometimes can conflict with building durable businesses and making decisions for the long term."

Chicago has had few tech IPOs recently, and certainly none of them exploded to the scale of LinkedIn, a social media platform for professional networking and a recruiting tool for companies. It went public in 2011 with a valuation of $4.5 billion and sold to Microsoft five years later for $26 billion when it had more than 10,000 employees.

Gamson easily could have remained in the background as a tech investor after riding the LinkedIn wave from startup to IPO and through the Microsoft acquisition. But the 45-year-old Highland Park native has made it a personal goal to help boost the size and reputation of Chicago's tech community. One way to do that is to build a multibillion-dollar flagship tech company.

The only thing Gamson will say is, "We want to be an enduring company in the constellation of tech companies that matter on a global scale that solve big problems . . . building world-class technology that's interesting to work on."

Sieja also ducks the IPO question. "We're all thinking about the long game."

PIECES FALL IN PLACE

For the past couple of years, Sieja has been assembling an experienced senior management team, the kind that would be needed to both build a much bigger company and win investor confidence. Among the hires are Keith Carlson, chief technology officer, who was a top executive at Amazon Web Services, and Amanda Fennell, chief security officer, who worked at Zurich Insurance, Dell and Symantec.

Sieja, who frequently mapped out the future of his company years in advance and has the sketches to prove it, says he met Gamson by chance a few years ago after an introduction by a mutual friend. Without it, "I don't know if I would have made the decision to do this," he said. "It was a great opportunity."

He says he asked himself, "Am I really the right guy to lead the company indefinitely? I could probably muscle my way through it, but the company is way better served with an experienced, super-competent and charismatic leader."

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, who has invested in Chicago startups with Gamson, calls him "one of the most naturally gifted leaders I've ever worked with. He's always dreamt of being a CEO at some point. Coupled with his personal mission to accelerate the success of Chicago's startup ecosystem, this next play couldn't be a better fit."

Gamson became one of Chicago's most active startup investors over the past several years, largely out of public view. He declines to say how many companies he backed but says he has wound down most of his board commitments to focus on Relativity.

HOW BIG CAN IT GET?

Under Sieja, Relativity has made its mark by having one of the largest technology teams in Chicago. Whether it can become a juggernaut remains to be seen.

Sieja declines to disclose the company's revenue, but it's believed to be in the low nine figures.

Relativity counts nearly all of the 200 largest U.S. law firms as users, as well as big consulting firms, which means it's connected in some way to three-fourths of the 100 largest publicly traded companies.

Sieja says Relativity could triple the size of the business by continuing a move to cloud-based subscription software, getting a bigger share of industry spending on electronic discovery. It also aims to grow beyond the legal business.

Relativity is not only moving from customers' own computer servers to the cloud—it has evolved from pure data intake to more sophisticated analytics fueled by artificial intelligence.

It developed a new product called Trace to spot and prevent problems. Relativity's core product generally has been used to investigate misconduct after the fact. Sieja and Gamson also see opportunities in compliance and surveillance, which can take Relativity beyond law into other industries, such as trading and banking.

Gamson, who is soft-spoken but relentlessly upbeat, doesn't hesitate to sketch a bold vision for the company. "Relativity's mission, to organize data and discover the truth so that others can act on it, is something that the world needs right now."

Sort of the way Chicago needs a breakout tech success.

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The Best High-Paying Remote Jobs

5 full-time work-from-home roles that pay seriously well

We—we being the internet in general, as well as PowerToFly specifically—often talk about remote work as this glorious thing: you can find professional fulfillment, friendly co-workers, and career growth potential from the comfort of your own home. All while collecting a check!

But where should you look if you want that check to be as big as possible?

Start with this guide to the best high-paying remote jobs. These career choices (and the example companies hiring for them) don't skimp out on paying remote workers well, and you'll still get all the work-from-home flexibility you're looking for. I've linked to specific job posts for each category below, but also look through the 300+ remote jobs on PowerToFly's always-updated remote job board for more.

As you apply and interview, keep these work-from-home interview questions in mind. If you find yourself with a salary offer that's good, but not quite as good as it could be, reference these salary negotiation tips for remote workers to advocate for what you deserve. And when you get the job with a great salary, make sure your home office is set up for success. And then send me a note to tell me how you're doing!

1. Senior Software Engineer

Business woman using laptop

Who It's Good For: Anyone who's a pro in programming languages (Java, Javascript, C++, Python, and SQL, to start, among others) and knows how to drive the development of products. If you like complex engineering challenges, have experience working with different systems and products, and have the discipline to program without a PM physically hovering over you (Slack hovering's allowed, though), this is for you.

Sound Like You? Check Out: Sr. Principal Software Engineer at Dell, Senior Front End Software Engineer at Plectica, Senior Software Engineer at CloudBees

Why You Can Do It Remotely: Like most heads-down-and-create work, developing software and programming are best done with minimal distractions. You'll collaborate with your team for check-ins and bug fixes, but you'll be able to focus on your project work from a home office.

Average Annual Salary: $131,875

2. User Experience Researcher Manager

Young adult woman working with laptop at mobile app

Who It's Good For: Proven researchers who know how to understand the behaviors and motivations of customers through feedback and observation, who have experience synthesizing insights into a brand story, and who have managed teams.

Sound Like You? Check Out: Senior Research Operations Program Manager at Zapier.

Why You Can Do It Remotely: As UX researcher Lindsey Redinger explains in her helpful Medium post, remote research allows companies to reach users all over the world, not just within driving distance to their headquarters, and can be cheaper for companies and easier for participants.

Average Annual Salary: $105,810

3. Senior Product Designer

Female graphic designer smiling at desk in office

Who It's Good For: Creatives with technical chops who like the challenges of evolving and improving the production of current products, leading designers, and collaborating with other parts of the business.

Sound Like You? Check Out: Senior Product Designer at SeatGeek.

Why You Can Do It Remotely: While design teams definitely need to share lots of feedback, there's technology out there to make that easy. The Help Scout design team has shared their favorite tools and tricks to collaborate remotely, which includes recording daily videos of new designs to explain features and ideas in a way a photo file just can't express. (They're also hiring! Check out open Help Scout jobs here).

Average Annual Salary: $107,555

4. Senior Security Analyst

Developing Concentrated programmer reading computer codes Development Website design and coding technologies.

Who It's Good For: Thoughtful, vigilant thinkers who enjoy identifying and fixing gaps in a company's security posture, including through ethnical hacking (hacking a company's system before outsiders can, and addressing the weak points found) and incident response (containing the negative effects of a system breach or attack).

Sound Like You? Check Out: Data Protection Security Analyst at Deloitte.

Why You Can Do It Remotely: Not all security analyst positions are remote-friendly; sometimes they require working with very sensitive data that can be compromised if taken off-site or accessed from a VPN. But with the right data processing policies—like using a privacy filter over your laptop, only using secured wifi, and encrypting your data, all suggested by WebARX security's all-remote team—remote work as a security analyst is definitely possible.

Average Annual Salary: $108,463

5. Technical Project Manager

A strong wifi connection makes for a strong relationship

Who It's Good For: Tech-friendly jack-of-all-trades with a sweet spot for spreadsheets and other organization tools.

Sound Like You? Check Out: Technical Project Manager at Avaaz.

Why You Can Do It Remotely: Project management can sometimes be like herding cats, but you don't need to be in the same room as your feline team members in order to direct them around. With collaborative software (and a highly organized home office, like PM pro Patrice Embry recommends), you can PM the most complicated of projects from wherever you're located.

Average Annual Salary: $95,129

Other Industries

Other high-paying remote-friendly jobs include certain roles in healthcare (like nurse practitioners and psychologists, who can check in with patients via video conferencing and phone calls), app developers for both iOS and Android products, actuaries and tax accountants, and data scientists.

And remember that even jobs that don't seem remote-friendly at first, could possibly be done from home or on the road. If you find a well-paying, exciting job that doesn't offer remote work immediately, it might be worth negotiating a more flexible schedule with a 1-2 day work-from-home option. Both you and the company can see what remote work actually looks like in action, and if it goes well, you can make a pitch to transition to remote work full time.

Other resources you may want to check out in your quest for meaningful, well-paid remote work:

6 Programs You Should Download Right Now if You Work Remotely

Productivity Tips for Remote Workers

Home Office Design Tips for Remote Workers

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Today we celebrate our partnership with Braintree! Check out this video to see highlights from our recent networking event.

If you missed the event, fear not! Stay connected by following Braintree on PowerToFly and email us at Hi@PowerToFly.com for future events near you.

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