A conversation with Ryan Tseng, Co-Founder and CEO
Below is an article originally written by PowerToFly Partner Shield AI, and published on November 27, 2018. Go to Shield AI's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE FORMATION OF SHIELD AI & THE MISSION. HOW DID TRUST FACTOR INTO THE UNDERLYING IDEA OF CREATING THE COMPANY?
Trust was a huge component of what inspired Brandon to want to start Shield AI. His experiences in the military and his experiences deploying and seeing people in harm's way. For me, as an entrepreneur, trust was important in the context of being able to trust your teammates. When we started, on the first day, we talked for eight hours about the mission of the company and the values we wanted to set.
The mission and values were centrally important, and among that list of values, the first one was trust. I don't think there is anything more important to the functioning of a company than trust. If trust is absent, you will never achieve your mission.
Honesty and integrity are table stakes. At Shield AI, we ask that teammates be willing to put the people around them first. As an organization, trust is about being a company that puts customers and stakeholders first, asking what we can do better to meet their needs more effectively and focusing on how we can make them proud. So, at the beginning, we thought that if we could build an organization where honesty and integrity were central and infused into every decision we made, where there was a culture of putting your teammates first, and where there was a culture of focusing on how to make customers proud, then we could have a solid foundation of trust.
DID YOU THINK IT WOULD BE HARD TO DO?
I didn't know if we would be able to do it, but I knew through my prior experiences that it was something I cared a lot about. I had witnessed environments where there was not a lot of trust and I saw how detrimental it was. I knew it would be challenging because I believe so many teams and companies have trust-related challenges.
HOW DOES SHIELD AI WORK TO CREATE A CULTURE OF TRUST?
There's a process for it and it starts with just having clarity about what our values are. Because trust sits at the top of our values, it has a large impact. It permeates all of our processes. We consider trust in the way that we hire, in the way that we conduct our performance reviews, in the way that we interact with investors, and in the way that we serve our customers.
In additional to building the values into our processes, I would say that a lot of people on the team are very deliberate in talking about trust and values frequently. For instance, our current priorities are product, execution, and teammates. That's not an accident -- the idea of putting teammates first is a pillar of trust and it is something that I and others on the team prioritize all the time.
HOW HAVE YOUR PREVIOUS EXPERIENCES IN LOWER-TRUST TEAMS INFORMED HOW YOU THINK ABOUT CREATING TRUST AT SHIELD AI?
It is common for organizations to include concepts of trust, honesty and integrity in their values, but have cultures that fall short in the embrace of those values. The biggest gap are the leaders -- leaders who do not make it a priority to build a culture of trust. Leaders who watch things happen and do not say anything when they should. Among the most important aspects of building a culture of trust is getting the leaders invested in the importance of continuously emphasizing and embodying trust and talking about why it matters.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE RESPONSIBILITY OF CREATING TRUST IN A PRODUCT SUCH AS NOVA IN THE CONTEXT OF PROTECTING LIVES?
I think it's the most important aspect of the product. Whether or not somebody chooses to use it is based entirely on whether or not they trust it. Without the foundation of trust, Nova would not be something that our customers would choose to use when people's lives are on the line. Just as trust is fundamentally essential for a high-functioning team or fundamentally essential for an organization's success, trust is fundamentally essential for a product to be useful to people.
IF CUSTOMERS WERE TALKING ABOUT SHIELD AI AND TRUST, WHAT WOULD YOU WANT THEM TO SAY? HOW WOULD YOU WANT THEM TO THINK OF THE ORGANIZATION?
I would want them to know that we genuinely care about our mission and making them proud. If every conversation at Shield AI were recorded, no matter who was at the table, and played back for our customers, it is my hope that our customers would conclude, "I'm proud to work with these people, they stand up for my interest."
Below is an article originally written by Connie Sun, an Autonomy Engineer at PowerToFly Partner Shield AI, and published on July 3, 2018. Go to Shield AI's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
In the small hours of a recent Monday morning, I found myself up at 13000 ft, trudging through a snow chute on the way to Mt. Whitney with two colleagues and absolutely zero mountaineering experience.
As I labored clumsily through the snow with my crampons and ice ax, I wondered just for a moment why on earth would I challenge this icy slope when I could be lounging back in sunny San Diego? The answer, of course, was simple: the people of Shield AI.
The greatest thing about working at Shield AI is being surrounded by teammates who are passionate about so many different things. Their zest for life is tangible and infectious. (Almost) inevitably, I find myself doing things well outside my comfort zone, be it practicing self-arrest on a mountain or braving a hip hop class with my two left feet.
Though our interests vary, the one theme I find across our team is dedication to craft and the pursuit of excellence. Everyone here — from hardware to software, to business and operations — is driven to be great at what they do.
Working at Shield AI is like going through constant metamorphosis. It's not forced upon you. Rather, the people around you motivate you with their work ethic and excellence. You just can't help but feel inspired to want to be part of that greatness. You push yourself to climb higher because the person next to you is going just as hard and you don't want to let your teammates down. Together we take the next step and the next one, even — and perhaps especially — when it's uncomfortable and it'd be a whole lot easier to stop than to keep going.
At the core of innovation is the willingness to embrace change, to put in the hard work, and, most importantly, to never stop. At Shield AI, the people around you are with you on this journey to grow and be great. In and out of the office, we're a team that inspires one another. And when we reach the summit, we ask — what's next?