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 Mary Rechtoris, Senior Producer at PowerToFly Partner Relativity, and published on March 31, 2020. Go to Relativity's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
At Relativity, we've celebrated Women's History Month in a variety of ways. At the intersection of the legal and technology industries, it's critical for us to recognize the contribution of female peers who bring innovation and insight to our professional space and our world.
In early March, our community resource group, Relativity Women of the Workplace (RelWoW), hosted a fireside chat with our CEO Mike Gamson. The conversation, in large part, focused on allyship. Mike shared Relativity's plans to squash gender norms that are restrictive for both women and men. Read the article here to learn about Mike's path toward allyship—from where he started to what he is doing today.
We also had the opportunity to share the experience of another Relativian: Aidana Om. In this video, she shares how she is helping break down the gender norms that persist in her home country.
Taking the Path Less Traveled
Aidana grew up in Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian country nestled in the middle of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. She came to Chicago for school in 2012, although her path deviated from what she had planned.
"I didn't end up finishing college," she said. "I wanted to get hands-on experience in the tech industry. I wanted to build and build fast."
Aidana joined Relativity's dev ops team in 2017. She manages internal technology applications that employees use throughout the company. In her work here, Aidana values the support she receives from her manager and the ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
"I have a chance to be with my kids and my husband; we love going biking around Chicago," said Aidana. "I get to host different events with the Kyrgyzstan tech community in Chicago through Muras Club."
Building the Kyrgyz Tech Community in Chicago
Muras Club's mission is to connect, grow, and impact like-minded and highly skilled Kyrgyz IT professionals based in the Chicago area. According to Aidana, the Kyrgyzstan tech industry lags behind the US. Many are unaware of the vast opportunities the global tech industry offers. Muras Club aims to increase knowledge sharing about IT opportunities and build a network in Chicago.
The club convenes on the weekends in Des Plaines. Members' professional roles vary from quality assurance engineers to mobile developers to system engineers. Despite their different niches, they rally together to develop start-ups and learn about the latest and greatest in tech.
In March, Muras Club hosted a tech breakfast geared toward women. It was an opportunity of particular interest for Aidana.
"In my country, we don't have too many people in the tech industry," she said. "We have a stereotype that tech jobs are only for men and women should stay home. I want to change that."
Enacting Change through the Web
Aidana strives to disprove that stereotype. She is reaching women and girls around the globe through her social media. With upwards of 54,500 Instagram followers, Aidana has built a community all over the world. She shares videos on technology, cloud computing, and coding, among a myriad of other topics.
Although Aidana self-describes as a quiet person, she is using her platform to broadcast her message to women and girls who may not know they can pursue careers in technology.
"I want people to know—especially women from my home country—that the world needs IT professionals," she said. "We have a lot of smart women and girls in Kyrgyzstan. I want to inspire them to unlock their potential."
Mary Rechtoris is a senior producer on the Brand team, Relativity's in-house creative team, where she works closely with the multimedia team and the larger marketing department to develop and socialize new ways to tell stories.
Below is part of an article originally written by Janey Zitomer at Built In Chicago, and published on April 9, 2020. 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.
SENIOR DATA SCIENTIST
BurWei looks forward to a future where companies build AI models that understand and respond to user trust. That way, systems would take better cues from their surroundings as users become increasingly comfortable with the technology. Relativity leverages machine learning and visualizations to help users identify key issues during litigation, internal investigations and compliance projects.
What AI trends within your industry are you watching at the moment?
At Relativity, we organize large bodies of text for legal applications. So, I follow innovations that require less and less human effort to classify, cluster and structure large text corpuses.
In particular, innovations on transfer learning for text data are reaching maturity. In 2019, AI researchers and engineers developed a rich ecosystem of pre-built models appropriate for transfer learning on text. At a high level, this technology transfers salient information from prior data, so that new models can be built more efficiently. For our clients, this means coding fewer documents to discover new insights.
Recent advances in machine translation are also impressive. While the challenge of building AI that understands hundreds of languages remains great, I'm keeping an eye on creative methods such as cross-lingual transfer. It can be used to build multi-lingual systems without incurring the cost of a dataset in every language.
We are actively researching multi-lingual transfer learning architectures.
How is your team applying these trends in their work or leveraging AI in the products they're building?
We are actively researching multi-lingual transfer learning architectures. In addition to the efficiency gains, we anticipate that these architectures will provide a foundation for building new product features such as document segmentation and providing explanations for model predictions.
What's one trend you're watching that other people in the industry aren't talking about?
I'm excited for creative AI and UX researchers to design systems where people can express how much trust they have in an AI system and receive insights appropriate to that level of trust. Whether it's a self-driving car or a volunteer-built encyclopedia, a new technology always takes time to mature. Stakeholders are correct to be wary at first.
However, as an AI system evolves and "learns," it would be exciting to give users more control over how the technology and its insights are phased in. Building AI that understands and responds to user trust could help us build systems that are more accurate and less biased.
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.