Below is an article originally written by Kristy Esparza at PowerToFly Partner Relativity, and published on July 1, 2020. Go to Relativity's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Raise your hand if you ended up in e-discovery by happenstance.
The truth is, most of us didn't go to school with big plans to join this incredibly niche industry—especially those in the supporting branches of e-discovery, like marketers, HR folks, and software developers. A lot of us just sort of … fell into it.
Faizan Rahman, a software engineer at Relativity, knows this story all too well. As Relativity's very first apprentice, Faizan went from accountant to front-end developer in a single year. His total career transformation was quick—and anything but easy.
Faizan is one of the many faces behind our software, so we thought we'd try something new today and give him the spotlight on the blog. Read on to learn more about his career swap—and why the challenging journey was worth the reward.
Finding His Passion
In 2013, Faizan graduated from the University of Illinois-Chicago with a bachelor's in accounting. After taking a few years to travel and work abroad, he came back home in 2017 ready to start his career. But accounting just didn't have that ooh-la-la allure anymore.
"I knew some friends who were in accounting work, but they were not happy with it," he says. "So, I decided to do something else. If it's for my entire career, I have to do something I enjoy."
So, Faizan did what anyone looking for a job does. He Googled.
He dived into the depths of the internet looking for a new career that he could feel passionate about and commit to long term. In his searches, the same two words kept popping up: web developer.
"Every website showed the trend that web development is the future and in high demand," says Faizan. "But I didn't know if I'd be able to do it because I didn't have a computer science or web development background."
Faizan isn't the first to want to break into software development from a non-traditional background. In fact, the industry is absolutely booming, and there are a ton of online resources to help prospective programmers gain exposure to the field. Faizan enrolled in some basic online courses, including self-led sites like Udacity, Udemy, and freeCodeCamp, and discovered that coding gave him that rush of excitement he had hoped for.
It was definitely something he wanted to pursue, but he knew he'd need some help.
"In order to do this professionally, I knew I would need a structured program where I could actually learn and create projects. That's when I decided to go to a [coding] boot camp."
The boot camp in question was called Coding Dojo, an immersive, full-time program that promises to teach students full-stack engineering in just 14 weeks.
Faizan was up for the challenge—and in for quite the ride.
Entering the Dojo
Faizan's time at boot camp was intense, to say the least. Technically, Coding Dojo's 14-week program is in session Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Realistically, the days can be much longer, with some spanning into the late evening hours.
For Faizan's part, he'd consistently put in 12-hour days, then follow that up with weekend work to finish assignments and polish the skills he had learned the week prior.
"I knew that it would be very difficult, but I was mentally prepared before I went to the boot camp," he says. "[Coding Dojo] openly and clearly says to everyone who's a potential student that this is not a joke. It's going to be the most difficult thing you've ever been through, and it's not for everyone. It's only for people who are willing to put themselves into it and accept the challenge."
At the end of the 14 weeks, he and eight of his colleagues graduated and, after a two-week break for winter holidays, they entered a week of career readiness training—including an open house with Relativity about a brand-new apprenticeship program.
That's where it all came together for Faizan. He applied for the gig and in June 2019, started as Relativity's first-ever apprentice.
Learning & Doing All at Once
Life as an apprentice was a little calmer than life at Coding Dojo, but it wasn't any less challenging, says Faizan. He learned quickly that being an apprentice doesn't mean you're handed throwaway tasks or busy work. He was in the thick of it almost immediately.
One of his teammates, a senior staff engineer in the core UI team named Adam Sorna, pulled double duty as Faizan's official mentor.
"The mentorship program was one of the coolest things that ever happened in my life because I was not very experienced, and I was nervous because I had never worked at a software company and never designed software for production. Having a mentor was very good for me," Faizan says. "It was something I had hoped for, and I was really happy because any time I had a question, I had someone to ask that question to. My mentor is very senior and knows about the product deeply and is just a very good guy and wanted to teach me a lot. I was fortunate to have him."
From Apprentice to Employee
Faizan made it through 10 weeks as an apprentice before being offered a full-time position on the team—an offer he accepted with open arms, in part because of the challenging work. But mostly, because of the team and culture.
"I feel I'm accepted very well at Relativity. The culture of our team, as well as Relativity in general, is extremely nice. People are accepting of the fact that we make mistakes, and everyone is accepting of feedback and ready to make changes based on feedback," he says. "The culture was the most important point for me in choosing my offer after the apprenticeship."
Today, Faizan is working on one of our most important initiatives: the new Aero UI. It wasn't something he envisioned when he started, but he's happy to roll with the punches.
"My [initial] intention was to find a job as a backend developer, but because of Aero, we needed more people working on UI/UX side of things. It's not what I was planning, but I feel really lucky to work on it."
When he looks back at his life before the apprenticeship program and his life today, Faizan says he has no regrets.
"Relativity had the chance to look at me for 10 weeks as an apprentice and I had a chance to look at Relativity. And I think it worked out pretty well for both of us."
Kristy Esparza is a member of the marketing team at Relativity, specializing in content creation.
Below is an article originally written by Adrienne Teeley at Built In Chicago, and published on December 19, 2019. This article is about PowerToFly Partner Relativity. Go to Relativity's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Katie Connor stepped into a client meeting with a hunch.
The senior account executive at Relativity was at a large company's legal department to give a demonstration of one of Relativity's products, Legal Hold, which automates the legal hold process for users. She'd spent a good bit of time with this client getting to know their business needs and current roadblocks and, in addition to Legal Hold, suggested the full stack of RelativityOne's products, which could drastically improve the legal department's workflow and provide more accurate data than what they were currently using.
Shortly after the meeting concluded, the client responded that they still wanted to buy Legal Hold — in addition to the entire RelativityOne full stack of products.
Connor didn't rely on sales tricks to get the upsell: She was able to draw on the knowledge she'd gained from months of close communication with the client in order to accurately assess the organization's pain points, then offer solutions that would truly benefit them.
This a-ha moment for a Relativity client wasn't the first (or the last time) this has happened. Connor and her fellow team members are a part of the fastest-growing area of go-to-market focus at Relativity — and they're still growing and hiring. Together, they've been working on developing new, direct commercial relationships with the largest companies in the world. So, being able to master Relativity's sales cycle and advise clients throughout all steps of the process, has been vital to getting clients what they need.
Where some might see obstacles in the process, Relativity's sales team sees benefits.
Senior Account Executive
"Within the next few years, I'm planning to bring in some top new corporations and work even closer with our development partner community and clients. I'm also excited to learn from all the new talent joining Relativity from other top companies across all of our departments."
Senior Account Executive
"We are all able to reach out to each other for ideas and support when needed, which is one of the things I really like about Relativity's culture. We are invested in each other's success as well as our own."
Senior Account Executive
"It's exciting to bring in people from a number of different backgrounds and have all of us learn how to work together to best serve our customers."
No such thing as a 'typical client'
In order to get a full picture of what products would work best for their clients, account executives at Relativity set up discovery meetings, demonstrate the software and talk candidly about the path to implementation.
"Relativity's sale cycle is very detailed-oriented. We look at our clients as partners and really work to understand their needs, wish lists and expectations," Connor said.
The relationship between clients and account executives must be so collaborative in part because the client-type varies widely, said Ryan Edwards, a senior account executive at Relativity. Therefore, the work the software can assist with can be applied to many different industries.
"I'm working with interesting people at small and large, global corporations across manufacturing, biotech, pharma, banking and energy," Edwards said. "I could have had a demo with a financial services and insurance company in New York yesterday, a pitch to an energy company in Houston today and a discovery call with a software company in San Francisco tomorrow."
What does the client care about?
Once a potential client is in talks with Relativity, the first task at hand is to analyze the current solutions they use. From there, the account executives will lay out a roadmap for how RelativityOne products can tackle once-daunting tasks.
"We understand there is a different blueprint for every customer," Connor said. "We're strategic to our approach in selling RelativityOne, and we integrate the solution with the needs of the customer."
Edwards and Connor agreed that due to the diversity in the types of companies that reps work with, being able to solve pain points keeps sales interesting at all stages of the process.
"What's exciting for me is the opportunity to learn what people care about, and how RelativityOne can be meaningful on a personal level," Edwards said. "Will it give the client more time outside of work to spend with their family? Will it help them to level-up their skills and prepare for their next role?"
Letting the numbers speak
After this point, the client generally knows what the product can do — but what they don't know is how it can work for them specifically.
"During the consideration process, the customer will want to test the software, speak with our product, solutions and security teams, and have more detailed conversations around on-boarding and support," Connor said. "I do find clients spending quite a bit of time evaluating RelativityOne and its capabilities."
With any addition to a company's workflow, the decision to buy new software and change up operations isn't one any company makes lightly.
"One of the best things I have found to show customers during this stage is the large, robust community of Relativity users and experts that are out there in the world," said Todd Tucker, a senior account executive at Relativity. "It's the biggest advantage of going with a market leader and is a real strength to our customers."
By the time the client signs a contract, an account executive could have already worked with them for several months, becoming a resource and a support system. "In many cases, if not all, you become a trusted advisor to clients," Edwards said. "I believe the innovations that Relativity drives into the e-discovery industry really matter, and I feel that by selling RelativityOne, I can have a real impact on my corporate clients."
After the sale
When Connor left that meeting having just sold the RelativityOne full stack to her clients, it was a personal win, but it was also a win for her client — and their clients as well. With their new software, the time they'd save on combing through documents would be a fraction of what they were used to.
The results speak for themselves: According to Relativity, one of its clients used its software to pinpoint a single Chinese character within hundreds of thousands of WeChat messages, unraveling a two-year embezzlement scheme in a matter of days. Another client, facing growing data volumes, used Relativity to cut processing time by 50 percent. If these figures seem borderline absurd, consider that some of these companies need to sort through literally millions of documents at a time.
In some ways, that's another area where RelativityOne is doing the heavy lifting and allowing account executives to get back to what really matters: forming connections and building a network of support that the client will always have access to.Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Photography by Allison Williams. Ryan Edwards' photo provided by Relativity.
Below is an article originally written by Alton Zenon III at Built In Chicago, and published on September 10, 2019. This part of the article is about PowerToFly Partner Relativity. Go to Relativity's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
When do you know that you've found your calling? For Relativity's Senior Application Administrator Mary Tagler, it was when she realized she not only loved the work, but was also good at it.
While not every technologist's path to finding their dream career is linear, many experience an epiphany when they find a company and role they're passionate about. We spoke with three women in Chicago about how they found their way to tech — and when they knew it was exactly where they should be.
What started out as lending a hand in a short-term project turned into a brand new career for Senior Application Administrator Mary Tagler at e-discovery company Relativity. She found her lane after leaving life in the finance world — a jump she said was possible only due to the opportunity present within the tech industry.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in tech?
I didn't pursue a career in tech so much as it was a happy accident. After spending the first part of my career as a financial planner, I moved away from the client-side of the business and helped lead the effort to enhance the firm's technology platform. When we implemented Salesforce, we needed someone to manage the instance — I stepped up, thinking it would be temporary. I quickly realized I not only loved the work, but I was also good at it. Not having a traditional tech background did make me feel like an imposter at first, but those feelings eventually faded.
Building things is the most enjoyable part of my job.
What do you love most about your tech career, and what aspects of your job really make you light up?
I love the flexibility a career in tech has afforded me. I can work across virtually any industry, which allowed me to jump from financial services to legal tech — there aren't a lot of professions that allow for that. That flexibility also allows me to collaborate with others across industries, time zones and continents, whether it be problem-solving, troubleshooting or mentoring.
Building things is the most enjoyable part of my job. I love the challenge of designing a solution that solves a problem or creates efficiency, whether that be a business case or personal project.
Below is an article originally written by Alton Zenon III at Built In Chicago, and published on June 3, 2019. This article is about PowerToFly Partner Relativity. Go to Relativity's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Without the combined efforts of its product and user experience teams, products would be inefficient, unusable or both. And in the legal world, no one can afford to have a product fail or be overly cumbersome. Relativity understands this idea well, and the teams behind the e-discovery platform it's developing are striving to evolve the company's product, how customers interact with it, and how they advance their own professional skills.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRIS MURPHY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRIS MURPHY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRIS MURPHY
EMPLOYEES: 925, around 775 locally
WHAT THEY DO: Relativity provides and maintains a cloud-based solution for storing and analyzing the large volumes of data generated during the discovery processes of litigation, internal investigations and compliance projects.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Chicago
PHILANTHROPIC ARM: Relativity Gives is devoted to giving back to the Chicago community. It donates tens of thousands of dollars to schools each year and offers staff many opportunities to volunteer.
CULTURE IS KEY: From a number of highly varied community resource groups and a dedication to philanthropy to providing opportunities for staff to have some fun, Relativity is adamant about organically strengthening and widening its cultural arms.
Chris Brown, Chief Product Officer
Chris is responsible for charting the company's overall product vision, strategy and roadmap. He also leads the product and user experience teams, in coordination with the tech division, as they work to reach those future-state destinations.
NO BACKPEDALING: Chris is an outdoor athlete and enjoys snowboarding and biking. He plans to stage his own Tour De Iowa and bike across the state over the summer.
How does Relativity's product fit into the ever-changing tech landscape of today?
Relativity sits at the nexus of the major technology transformations of our time: AI, mobility, IoT, security and the public cloud. As every organization goes through their own transformations in these areas, we are working to build a cloud platform to support them. That amounts to a few key areas for us: improving our user experience, providing the most comprehensive end-to-end e-discovery solution, and increasing our platform extensibility to solve other unstructured data challenges beyond e-discovery.
We use key results across each of our areas that align up to our product strategy and company goals.
How do you facilitate cross-team collaboration to help different teams work towards shared goals?
It starts with building the DNA of great sprint teams, complete with a strong, embedded triad of product, engineering and UX leaders working together. We use key results across each of our areas that align up to our product strategy and company goals and have a mix of ceremonies to keep folks informed and involved in debates around shifting priorities.
Brian Hunt, Director of User Experience
In his role, Brian is always thinking of the user and is in charge of leading the vision and strategy behind optimizing their experiences in using Relativity's products.
A TRAVELING ARTIST: Brian has been writing, recording and performing music with a group of his friends since he was in the 5th grade. He has gone on many U.S. and European tours with a band, and traveling with bandmates taught him a lot about facing challenges and celebrating wins as part of a team.
What are some of the challenges your team is presently working to solve?
We're working to reduce redundant code and unnecessary variations and inconsistencies in the UI. We're employing a design system to provide an easy way to build features utilizing reusable components. Once adopted, our user experience will have a uniform, consistent and improved look and feel.
What's a major project you will be working on in the coming months?
Defining the next generation interface for Relativity. We are looking to bring fast, meaningful improvements to the platform while also mapping out an entirely new user experience for our customers.
Cherry Mangat, Senior Product Manager
Cherry is the product lead for the company's case strategy product line, for which she gives customers tools that allow them to organize important details about their cases.
STORY TIME: Cherry loves storytelling and has practiced it in many ways: via blogging, authoring a book and performing stand-up comedy. She said the idea of combining numerous elements to make a compelling narrative translates to managing a product.
How do you work to keep yourself sharp and in-the-know regarding tech and industry trends?
One of the easiest ways is the internal weekly digest that highlights what's happening in our industry. I joined Women In Product, which is great for networking and learning more about product management and tech. I recently took a training workshop on how Google runs its design sprints, which was insightful and fun.
What tools does your team currently use, and how do they enable your team to work efficiently and successfully?
We use JIRA for tracking development work, Aha! for roadmaps, Salesforce for customer feedback, Tableau for metrics, Asana for task management, Slack for chat and many other tools. It can be a little overwhelming initially to use so many tools, but over time I've come to value the integrations between many of them. They help us collaborate and prioritize the most important work, then align it to our top-level business goals and track the outcomes.
Alex Moy, Director of Product Management
Alex works with product managers, designers and engineers to help give life to Relativity's products, with RelativityOne being the center of attention these days.
CARVING OUT LEADERS: Weather permitting, Alex loves to hit the slopes on his snowboard. The sport demands concentration under pressure, courage and becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable — traits he has taken to his role as a leader and ones he encourages his team members to employ in their own work.
What are some non-technical skills you look for in new hires?
I look for candidates that are naturally user- and value-centric in their thinking. I search for candidates that have T-shape skills when it comes to business, design and technical acumen, as well as individuals with outstanding communication and influence skills. I look for values that I believe are key to the best product managers: courageous with a growth mindset, perseverant attitude in the face of challenges, and putting the team first. And I look for candidates who lead with a servant-leader approach.
Every team member has $3,000 to invest in their professional development each year.
What types of professional or career development resources are available at your company?
Full-time team members have $3,000 to invest in their professional development each year. Last year, we coordinated to level up our product management skills as a team. We all bought copies of Marty Cagan's "INSPIRED: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love" and had a weekly book club to discuss our learnings, thoughts, and actions together. Then, the team capped off that learning by going to one of Marty Cagan's workshops together. It was a great experience to learn with and from each other.