Leaders in Lending
Leaders in Lending

Episode 52 · 5 months ago

Cultivating Operations and Culture in a Digital-First Environment with Anna Counselman

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Anna Counselman views operations through the lens of the customer – that is, understanding the customers’ pain points and ensuring solutions make it onto the product and engineering roadmap.

It’s all about uncovering how to make your product or service better by rallying the relevant teams—product, engineering, and ML—around the single goal of empathizing with the user and solving their problems.

As the Co-founder and Head of People & Operations at Upstart, Anna Counselman knows this process intimately. She shares how Upstart approaches product development and navigates the new era of hybrid work.

We discuss:

  • Anna’s journey to Upstart
  • The importance of understanding the customer problem in creating cohesive product and operations teams
  • Innovative approaches to hybrid work
  • Key lessons learned from Google

To hear more from Leaders in Lending, check us out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on our website.

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Leaders in Lending on your favorite podcast player.

And then we came across this somewhat jarring statistic, which is that for every document, every additional document, we asked for, you saw about a fifteen percent drop off. You are listening to leaders and lending from upstart, a podcast dedicated to helping consumer lenders grow their programs and improve their product offerings. Each week here, decision makers in the finance industry offer insights into the future of the lending industry, Best Practices around digital transformation and more. Let's Gett into the show. Welcome to leaders and lending. I'm your host, Jeff Keltner. This week's episode features my conversation with in a councilman, the cofounder and head of operations at upstart. So I've known Anna for a while. I really want to have an on because and it was part of the team that the left Google to found upstart and I think really brings a lot of insight both from her experience managing very large consumer support and operations on Gmail, for instance, at Google, and the lessons they learned and applied to running operations here at upstart, in particular her belief that, as opposed to building support around a fixed product, there's a given take between operations, support and the product and engineering process. That's kind of helps you actually optimize the product, not just build support around it, and that's kind of deeply embedded and the upstart culture and is also kind of serves as our howd of people in culture and so that we dive a little bit into the way of start is moving towards a digital first workplace and the structuring of the company around vertical working teams. It's a, I think, a really interesting and innovative approach to kind of breaking up a big company too smaller units without actually becoming a business unit gem type culture. So a lot of interesting topics, a lot of things I think you can take away about how I'm start is leading the way and is applying lessons from the technology world into the financial services sector. So please enjoy this conversation with an accouncilman. Anna, thanks so much for making the time to join us today on the podcast. Thank you so much for having me. I'm looking for this conversation, but I you know, I started asking everybody at the beginning of the podcast to kind of you know, I don't think any of US grow up dreaming of being in the finance industry, you know, Dr Lawyer, astronaut, whatever it might be. What was the path that led you to coming into the financial services industry? And then a little bit about, you know, what it is you do here. It upstart. Yeah, thank you so much. So actually, interestingly, I studied finance and Entrepreneurship and college. So in a way I'm like exactly applying my major. We're supposed to be start up is like exactly, you know, exactly according to plan. But of course it wasn't a straight line and by any means so. I've always worked on operation. So I started my career actually in industrial operations, working for a company called McMaster car, like shaving seconds off of the assembly line and like trying to figure out logistics and things like this, and then I kept trying to do these like cultural initiatives there, and let's just say, they were not met with a whole lot of enthusiasm in an industrial supply setting. So when Google hit thee in two thousand and seven as the best place to work and I read about their like approach, which at the time was completely revolutionary, nobody fed their employees, nobody was that transparent, nobody was doing all the things like I've got to just find a job there. So I found some role. I was an operations manager who was managing like managers and people underneath them and all the stuff, and I found a job that said that. So I was like, Oh, I'll apply to that job and halfway through my interviews they were like, you know, this isn't a management role. I was like, Oh, okay, that's fine, but honestly, if they had told me to like sort paper clips, I would have taken the job anyway. So, anyway, that's how I got to Google and then I spent five years there managing various operations teams, probably most notably the Gmail operations team, as they skilled substantially at that time. And that's how I met Dave and Dave and I got to work on a couple of really hard google wide problems. That's how I got to know him, and so when he started to think about upstart and this idea of there's got to be a better way to...

...give people access to credit than's being done today, before that I was like I'm going to retire from Google. I love this place. I've never lived I'm never leaving here. And sort of after those conversations. I was like okay, I can't not do this so quick Google and have been here ever since and it's coming up on ten years, which is so crazy, which you of course no, because you've also been here since like the first week. Yeah, this may not air until our ten anniversary or something like that. Right, best to yeah, it's crazy. Yeah, and so sorry. My role here is just I'm responsible for our people in operations functions and then, of course miscellaneous. Found her stuff, miscellaneous found you what we can dive into Miscellaneou founder stuff. But yeah, what does operations mean at UPSTIR? I feel like you know, there's the finance company version of operation. I don't think they call it operations at most banks are crediting as. There's the tech version of operations, which I feel like is like the redheaded step child that nobody wants to do or like. How do you think about the role of operations out up started, what you guys are really focused on achieving? Yeah, so it would say the way that we thought about modeling our operations team is very much in like the tech version of operations. So kind of the way I think operations works at some of the like more established financial institutions, as you have products and then you have a support team and they do customer service around like this fixed product that's over here, the way that it's done in a tech company. So, as an example, when I was managing the Gmail operations team, Gmail was scaling from a hundred and fifty to four hundred and fifty million users and we had a team of twelve to support them. So when you do operations like that, it's of course, not customer service. You can't call me and ask me a question about how to log into your Gmail. It's really all about trying to understand where the customer pain points and try to make sure that they those the solutions of those pain points make it onto the product and engineering road map alongside all of the, you know, big features that the engineers are dreaming APP and so when we started upstart, that was very much the model I had in mind. So, you know, particularly in the early, early days, like we did everything in house, we processed like every single document by hand and then we sat in the same room as engineers and, like side by side, would build this product and figure out how to how to make it better, make the features better, etc. So obviously the team is much bigger now. We're not all in the same room with engineers, but that ethos of like the job of operate like really, there should be no customer service because all customer issues can and should be fixed in the product. That's the starting point. Now, of course you know that doesn't doesn't work a hundred percent of the time. But really, this idea of how do you obviously you have to serve your customers, but how do you use those opportunities to really understand how to make your product better and then get your engineering teams to think creatively about how to solve those problems? Is really how we think about operations. What operations? I got to say I think you're giving all the operation staff PTSD, thinking about a thirty million to one. If I did my math right on the Gmail ratio, it's thirty million customers to one support for that, doesn't it doesn't seem like a good ratio. Yeah, but if you do it right, if you have the right if you have the right online content, if you do the right Google had another advantage which we don't unfortunately have at upstart, which is they just have this fanatical group of super users that just like love the products and want to be on Google groups like talking about how to prove them someone. We couldn't quite port that over there's not as many fanatical users of upstart and to support customers. So we have to do that work directly. So what are examples of operation, like the things your operations team would do that you ended up working with products to in some way automate or scale in a different way than by human bidies? That I take your answer to mean something like we want to scale the operation staff slower than scale the business like we should be, you know, causing their staff fewer and fewer people per whatever unit of output might be over time by bringing things into product. What are examples of things that have you partnered with product to take from the kind of human approach to the, you know, more in the product approach? Yeah, well, probably the most like...

...notable and illustrative example of this is when we started doing loans, we would verify every document that you submitted and because we use alternative data, was actually more documents than you would in it with a traditional lender. So in addition to your driver's license and your pay stuff, we were also ask you to like email us your diploma copy and like yeah, different things, and sort of the one of improving that customer experience was, okay, customers are sending us a wrong document. Can you get more precise about the document you ask for? So when I need to verify an income, if you know, for some people that might mean a pay stuff, for another person it might mean tax document. So let's get really precise in the product on what is needed. So cut there's less back and forth. Then we kind of iterated on that front for a little bit and then we came across this somewhat jarring statistic, which is that for every document, every additional document we asked for, you saw about a fifteen percent drop off, which, of course makes sense and we like to think it first principles at upstart. So we were like, okay, hold on, like if you start with a blank sheet of paper, what's the right way for this to work? And so then we got on this journey of like well, realistically, the starting point should be the customers should provide no additional information. You should be able to verify everything on the back end. So it took us a couple of years to get there, but what we ended up doing is integrating with a whole bunch of third party services, building a bunch of ML models to to predict risk around the verification, continuing to we build some other like secret custom stuff ourselves in the process, like we bought data, build our own databases, found a way to verify employment by email, like all kinds of things and sort of it was probably a couple of year journey of like working really closely with operations and product but now we're you know, seventy percent of the loans that we originate are fully automated, which means you just fill out the form and then we do everything on the back end and then it's thank you, you know, the money will being your break account the next day. Now, of course, we have to do that journey again with our auto product it as we will out new products. We're going to have to continue to iterate, but that's probably the most illustative example of like really working side by side and figuring something out. There's two really interesting elements of that story I want to dig into because I think they're, you know, lessons people need to figure out how to apply their business. And one is the data that you started with the idea that the operations team was really looking at the core, at a deep set of analytics around the dropoff by document request, which I bet is a tosic that many peop will haven't actually looked at. So I want to digging that one first. And segments you can start thinking about. Uten too is this sense of iteration, and you talked about having like hey, you uploaded the wrong document information in the product first before you got to wait. Why Are we asking you to upload a document? So it seems like there's both a deep looking at data to help inform the direction you're going and then a, I think, first principles, but paired with rapid iteration through like hey, we're going to do something and we're learn something new and we're going to like do something else, approach that, I think, is quite different than what often an operation seemed todge, was just kind of scale the support that's being provided. So can you talk about how you think about providing the infrastructure and approach to making data the center of that and then how iteration and there and that way kind of leads the path to where you're getting? Yeah, I think theres are great questions and what I would say is there's a couple of components. They are. So on the data side, what I learned at Google is it's not even just about the data. It's about getting product engineering and ML to care about the problem and the user. There's this famous quote that we used to refer to, which was Henry Ford, and it was if I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said it faster Horseh so in the case with these documents and and other things, I think what we were doing, and I'm few you going back many years now, is we were we were analyzing the data that was at our fingertips, which was use of the number of documents. This is how much delay there is because of documents. And it wasn't actually the operations team that figured out the connection with the fifteen percent drop off. It was that we made our machine learning team really care about this problem and as they obviously...

...have much better capability and much better visability into the fine grain data and they were the ones who uncovered that statistic. And like the magic was in the sort of human version of the story. And then the ML the application that said generally, as a rule you should have a practice of measuring everything you can in your product, both on the operation side and on the product side, and at upstart we have a value around being one of our values is make clever use of numbers. So we're probably on the extreme end of whenever we're trying to understand a problem, we try to get very, very precise about the numbers, like which exact number am I trying to influence? Is it the speed to funding? Is it the dropoff? Is it the conversion, like, what is it? So we just have a habit of spending a lot of time on understanding the problem in the metric you're trying to move. So our systems are fairly well set up for that. But that said, all of that work doesn't need to happen in operations. You do have to have like an analytically minded, business savvy operations team to drive the conversation. But I think the magic is in the kind of the flywheel of product, engineering, machine learning operations all working together to find these opportunities. How do you so you then know you got me a third area, which is like how do you make that magic happen? Like how do you get a machine learning or an engineering or a product team to really care about an operations team experience, and I think that's not only just at an emotional level but at a career and, like you know, I feel like so many product teams are incentive a ship shiny new object and not to solve back end problems. And so how do you actually get a team to care about solving these kinds of problems? Feels like a nontrivial challenge for, more so, most organizations. I would say. One one fine point there is our operational improvements are almost never about operational efficiency, meaning and what meaning like the efficiency of the operations team. So we don't start with the okay, we're processing these applications, how do we do that faster? And we have obviously, like done some improvements to our own internal tools, but that's like a good idea but not a great idea. The great ideas like how do I make this process better for the user, like the end user, and the sort of by product of that as it makes life and operations easier also, but that's not the starting point. And actually, particularly at up start, it's quite easy to get people to care about the end user because we tend to attract a more kind of mission oriented crowd. That kind of intuitively gets that, like access to credit, as access to opportunity. So I think it's a minor point but a really important one. Getting somebody to care about the efficiency of like someone going through a manual process is one thing, but getting someone to care about, you know, the success of their product, like the ability of users to get access to it. Like you can have the best loan in the world if people can't get through your process, it doesn't really matter, right. So I think that's that's a really important component of it. And then the other important component. I mean early days it was really easy to build relationships between the different functions as we're all like in the same shoe box of a room. So it's like hey, product, what do you think about this? I have this problem. As you scale, that gets a little bit harder to do, of course, but I think being intentional about building relationships between those teams. So, for example, we have like a slack channel with product and engineering and now not everybody in operations, sorry, is able to post it that product. There's like a smaller group that is kind of live talking on that. We have product like operations verticals that work with the different product teams. When we go to launch new products so they can be part of the up let, the conversation and the design and like really thinking hard about the user experience from day one, so that those relationships are there. We do hackathons, but once a year, so during those times it's an opportunity for teams to come together. So I think you have to in order to have a true like tech quality operations team. You have to burst the like bubble around engineering and product but like not so...

...much that it becomes disruptive for them. So you have to find a way to build those relationships and make those conversations happen. I want to ask you one more question this space and I do want to get onto the the HR part of what you doc I think that's an interesting part of the story. But as the group has grown in operations, you talked without the tension between not not everybody can like call the product manager, but at the same time I think you you want to continue to encourage people to feel like I kind of reminder the old toyta management system for our toy to productions is where anybody could pull the chain is to the ruction. Even a even a first year credit analyst doesn't have a lot of experience can say hey, this process is broken, we need to fix it. How do you encourage a culture where that's true, where I feel like it's often intimidating, particularly a larger organization that's been around for a while ago, Hey, these guys know what they're doing. I must just be crazy to think this is wrong. I'm not going to raise my hand because they're going to it, going to show that I don't understand the problem well. Is opposed to saying hamming to raise my hands. I think there's a better way to do it. How do you keep that as a company grows, that kind of, you know, incentive and willingness of even junior employees were on the front lines to raise those issues so you can can try and resolve them or make make the product better. Yeah, I think that's a great question and there's no perfect answer. And one thing we tend to do, and it was funny because I was I was having this conversation with someone yesterday and they were like, I just had the same conversation with Jeff. So I think you have this conversation also, which is when New People Start, we have this like the phrase I use is don't be afraid to call my baby ugly everything and up start as a work in progress. And, by the way, what you have right now is the value of fresh perspective and in a little while that's going to wear off and you're not going to see all the things that we should be doing better, different etc. So we definitely try to build that into our kind of onboarding process and the conversations that you know, managers are have having when people start. And the other component of it is like, of course you have to do stuff, like you have to actually do something with the feedback and then you have to celebrate it when it happens. So that's how you kind of encourage that that again, fly wheel effect of people seeing their words and we definitely try to celebrate, you know, when there's like really good breakthroughs between like on the product and engineering side that really impact our users. We celebrated at Tgif we post about it in the KUDO's channel, and we try to really reward people for for doing this kind of work, recognize and reward for for that kind of behavior. So I forgot. We did. We did forget my second original point, which is it this kind of value of iterating through changes, you know, kind of like, do you view that as a weakness? Because there's a perspective I could take which is like hey, you had to iterate through because you didn't spend enough time figuring out the right answer up front and now you screwed it up and so you fixed it ten times this because you just like you know, it's like my kidderings Manwork, and I got to fix it ten times. It's like you were supposed to get it right first time, big guy. Do you view it that way, or is the iteration from point a through a bunch of series too point see, more of a feature than a bug? I'd say absolutely more a feature than a bug. In fact, sort of back to this values, like our first value is like make every second count, and we really try to be a default go versus default weight company, and what we find is you are going to learn more when you get the product out in front of users then you will in any kind of whiteboarding session where you're trying to so of course you're in a financial services industry, there's a lot of regulations, you're a bank partner platform, so of course you can't be irresponsible about these things, but this idea of like launch an iterate. Just because it doesn't work yet doesn't mean it work. That's very much part of the kind of upstart culture and experience and I think when we turn to a tour will probably talk more about how I think there's a the advantage that startups have is being able to move quickly and iterate. And like now the name of the game is like how do you do that as a bigger company? But so far speed is like definitely a feature and definitely something that we work really hard to protect and encourage, and it feels like you also then have to build your systems to to iterate rapidly, to say hey, we're not right...

...going to do a five year release cycle or a three year release cycle. We're going to figure out. You've got to be ready for hey, we're going to figure stuff out along the way, and then we got to be ready to like adopt those learnings in a pretty rapid fashion. Yeah, and I think we're in a like daily release psychle now right, like maybe getting to let a couple couple times a day, like that, times a day sometimes, if you can do that. So it's yeah, but that's the kind of the other flu side of that is are you? Are you engineering the systems, both processes and technically, for like adapting to learnings on the fly. Right. So let's switch hats a little bit, because you run the operations, you know show here, but also think Dave sometimes calls you the heart and soul the company. You run the kind of people operations where, you know Paul and Dave to default more on the purely analytical and maybe forget some of the you know, it's not as natural to them to go into the people's side of the equation where. I think that's kind of where where we rely on you a lot. You know, talk to me a little bit about why. I guess the most obvious question for some one of people's like, Hey, we went to pandemic and went to pure remote work. We were a pretty in person and culture pre pandemic. Where are you landing on what the future of that kind of dynamic looks like in terms of where and how people will be coming into an office in the future? Yeah, it's a great question. In Gosh, what a what a difference a couple of years makes on that front. But yeah, so upstart approach to back to office. Is this model that we sort of invented, which is called digital first, and the idea is you can live or work anywhere in the United States. However, we want you to have in person collaboration with your teammates. So on a cadence of about once per month, more for some teams less for for others, you're encouraged to come to one of our three offices and have do in person collaboration stuff and we pay for all of your expenses to do that. So it's really kind of open ended, and the idea there was to really maximize for two things. One is flexibility. It became very, very obvious at what people really want from this, like at home remote experience, is flexibility. It's not necessarily that people only want to work out of their bedroom, but this idea of like driving to the office and spending three hours in traffic like that died somewhere during one of the variances, I feel like, around Delta Ish. I feel like that idea kind of kind of died. However, in office collaboration is so important for so many reasons, like the kind of relationships that you can build, facetoface, the kind of problem solving you can do like the serendipitous interactions, like all that. That stuff is really, really, really important to the underlying fabric of how a company works and we didn't want to lose that and we felt like people actually didn't really want to lose that. So this model we landed is really aspiring to solve for the best of both worlds. You have all the flexibility. However, you also have these in person interactions and some of them will be highly scripted, so they'll be, you know, traditional off sites where you know you have a deck and you you're trying to solve the problem, and some of them are going to be like you're just in the office, like working near Your Co workers and you all go out to dinner that evening or something like this. It's going to be kind of a variety of different models, but our hope, as you know, this allows us to recruit the best talent from anywhere and our priors the best talent is going to have a choice. But at the same time, protect we think like a couple of days in the office, done right, can get you most of the benefit that you get from an in office experience without dealing with kind of all the other constraints so that's our digital first approach. That's the digital first approach. I want to ask you two things about that. I mean it's a I think it's pretty early days. Like the the continue wave of variant seems to have held off the actual implementational that. We recently did have the exact staff on site for an in person day or two, which was like it didn't feel so good, so good to be back, and I was coming profit of a conference where I saw a bunch of bankers in person who went man, this is people like it's you forget how much you miss it. But how do you think about what changes in the dynamic the way people communicate? You know so much of what happens in office is like...

...water cooler and informal channels of communication, and obviously that that breaks down if you're there a couple days a month. You you don't have those anymore. How are you thinking about how you try and build the right pathways and communication styles or protocols or, you know, habits for people when they're trying to maintain a culture over remote working environment? Yeah, I think it's a great question and I don't have a perfect answer for it. Our hope is that what happens is you build these relationships and kind of these deeper and personal in our actions. They tend to be a combination of work and funds. So you're like kind of trying to accelerate both like the trust aspect and the collaboration aspect. And then when your remote, we of course use like all the Google collaboration tools, all of that. You know. We use zoom, of course. You know, just like everyone else, we are a very heavy slack culture, which I have found does a pretty good job getting pretty close to water cooler conversation because it somehow it just drops the overhead of like an email like feels like such a formal interaction versus to fire off a slack as a lot easier. So we use that really extensively and kind of early in the pandemic we were doing a lot of like, you know, in person virtual events and happy hours, and we of course have our standing company Tgif meeting where we all get together and and kind of answer questions and give updates. So so there are a few touch points. I've to say it feels to me like people have such fatigue over zoom events that like that trend it's going to be like, people are just not going to want to drink wine over zoom with each other for that much longer. They're going to prefer to do that in person. But those are a few of the the irons we have in the fire. And what's been kind of remarkable to me is when we went into the pandemic upstart was maybe four hundred people and now we're like northe off fifteen hundred or so. And during that time so vast majority of people, you know, haven't haven't worked together in an office yet are like culture. Ample results, which is the way that we measure engagements, have just gone up and out during this time. So somehow, between the slacks and the meetings in person, it's working and people, people are holding those relationship together. But I'm really, really excited to see, as these on Syes happen, how much stronger we become as a company. And lastly, just leaving aside the kind of digital nature in the shifting concept of work, I mean going from four hundred or you know when I join, for to what is the company's size now? It's like one thousand fifteen hundreds. Of last public notice it oneous five hundred issh it. So I want to ask you make any nown public announcements? Yeah, let's not make any the announcements, but yeah, that's a massive rate of growth. Mean, four hundred or something like one five hundred during the last two years of the pandemic is kind of a crazy rate of growth. What are lessons learned or things you've found to help maintain a culture as you grow through? I mean whether you're in person or digital, it's still like a massive amount of growth and you have the opportunity for the culture to really shift you and I'm curious what you found is effective ways to kind of manage through that transition and that growth. It's this kind of astounding thing when you think about how many new people all have joined the company the last two years. Yeah, so I get this question in interviews a lot and the biggest thing I point to is our values. I know it sounds so right, but you were there when we were like twenty four people. I made everybody sit in a room and like talk about who we are and who are we not. Who are we the right fit forward, who are we not? And we revisited those values like every couple of years since then and they've largely remained unchanged and we word Smith like every word of those things were very precision oriented culture right, and so I think what's been really helpful is to try to attract people for whom those values kind of naturally resonate. So, you know, every second counts. Like we look for people who want to be in a fast paced environment, who want to grow. Like, if worklife balance is really important to you, if you want to have a job versus a career upsets, probably not...

...the right place for you, because we're really fast paced. It's always up into the right however, if you want to learn, grow, have an impact for probably, you know, a better fit. Not to say we don't have like worklife balance. I think we actually do a pretty good job on that, but that shouldn't be the primary motivation here. We actually we have a value around be smart, but know that you might be wrong, and that was a nod to there are a lot of brilliant jerks and Silicon Valley and we're not trying to hire them here. You know, we want people that are going to learned from each other, grow, etcetera. So I won't go through the whole list, but we were extremely precise and how to define like who is upstart the right culture for and then when we interview screen people, we really try to bring in people that are going to thrive here and be really transparent about who we are and who are not. So I think that's been a really important continuum because we've had to steal so rapidly. Know, there was a day where Dave Paul and I interviewed like every single hire. Like those days are long gone. So I think the continuity and the cultural threat has been a lot about getting kind of likeminded people to work on these problems. And then we try to be really transparent as a company. Like back before we were a public company, we do this every Friday meeting where we were, you know, teams present on various school launches and things, but then the founders host to Qa and you can ask us any question on any topic. I found that to be a really healthy practice at Google. We back before were public, we used to actually do monthly presentations of like all of the numbers we presented to the board, would present to the whole company and like answer all the questions about the good, bad and the ugly, like all the things we can't do that anymore as a public company, but we do do that meeting right after we do our earnings announcement in the window that we have. And I think, like people think that Google culture is about like the puppies and the Yummy food and the whatever, but it's actually to me it wasn't about that. It was about making sure that like, everyone at Google connected with their mission and was like going in the same direction, excited to find problems that they wanted to fix, had like took on ownership for the kind of company they tried to build, and I think those things have kind of been really nicely important to upstart where it's very you know, you get like minded people who really believe in this mission, who have a certain cadence of work, and it just kind of continues to scale nicely that way. I think that concept of like hiring to maintain the cult I don't this maybe the wrong way to describe it, but that the way you maintain the cultures, hiring the people who who agree with the approach, I think is a really fasciname was opposed to trying to like teach everybody a different way of thinking or approaching things. That's a fasten well, and something we say to people when they join is like culture. One of the things that I think is really important is to have an ownership culture. So if you see something you don't like it up start, like you will fix it. And this concept of like cultures and something that's manufactured by your HR team and actually, as founders, you can't like wish a culture upout an organization. Like the culture is your people, and those people are either like uplifting your culture or they're not. And, by the way, inertia is going to pull you in the other direction. So, like, as you get bigger, naturally you're going to get slower. You need people inside your organization to like kick and scream when that happens and force change. And I get to be on the receiving end of some of that kicking and screaming and like I love it. I really, really appreciate it, because that's how you kind of perpetuate the culture that you aspire to have. So might ask you one more question. I know if you're prepared for but you know, I feel like I'm started. Imported a lot of practices from Google. Actually think that in many ways, Google is the cultural grandfather or godfather of mini Silicon Valley companies that, more than most of the ore other large set, kind of is that kind of exported their cultural practices in DNA, even the words things like perf for performance reviews and okay, oursman, I feel like they're kind of the one whose cultural practices have been most widely adopted, and obviously with a lot of ex Google and our founding team. That's true here too. So I when I ask you the inverse, which is like, are there things you consciously wanted to not bring or lessons to learn...

...and the negative from the experience as a google? Not that I want to bash Google, but like things you said, hey, here's something that we saw that we feel like we can do better in the context of upstarters, were building from scratch again, versus the things you just brought over because they were working well. Yeah, I think it's a great question, and I would say the biggest element like that was speed. So a lot of US early, early upstarters, which just like good number, including yourself, experience Google at their like really cast fast execution phase, but started to see some of the problems that come from scale, and I think we were really deliberate about like actively watching out for that and like building a company that was going to somehow like resist getting slower as they got bigger and in the early days, what that meant is like making sure your decisionmaking is fast, not having like committees that slow things down, not feeling like you have to have the perfect answer, kind of like all those things. Right now we're trying to hack like, okay, what can we do differently now as we scale during this next phase? And our kind of a little creative solution here, which I didn't see it Google, is we broke up the company into round tennis vertical teams, and they're interesting because they're not all product verticals. They're basically a summary of our like important priorities as a company. So some of them are verticals like auto or personal loans, and some of them are operational scalability or learning advantage. They're just kind of company priorities of teams that work together and the ideas. Can you basically create many small startups with an upstart that can operate almost independently with their own leadership team, their own resources, their own road maps and like, can we keep sprinting at the speed of a start up as we operate this bigger public company, and that was probably in a lot of ways informed by some of our PTSC around experiencing Google so fast and then feeling it kind of start to slow down as it got to scale. Well, as I remember it too, part of this came, I think, can joined with the experience of the on sites and the three days a month, because it's kind of like you don't need just a functional team in the office, because most of our teams are cross functional and you the Right Cross functional people there at the same time to get this and so we go went well, it's like it's like a vertical team that's doing stuff and we kind of like said, hey, maybe we should think about organizing more consciously around those projects that have legal and compliance and growth and product and engineering and sales and and but they're working on the same problem and that's I think it's also much like the digital first initiation. Up Or is quite different than, I think, how most companies were organized, in a pretty different approach, but put a quite interesting one. Yeah, we have the staying at upstart, where statements like we can't do this because nobody else does it this way, or we have to do it this way because everybody else does it that way. Aren't good answers to any questions that up start you should really start with like if I had a white cheat of paper, how would I do it? And so some of these this digital first meets vertical teams is really are like first principles approach to scaling upstart for the next you know, five to ten years, three to five years, I don't know, five to ten, it seems like a really long time. Let's call it three to five. Only been ten off to bring you back in three to five and see how vertical teams and digital first is going to feels like they're both pretty early in their life cycle, but but pretty bold departures from what I think the common wisdom in, you know, either financial services or technology is about about how you organized companies or how you kind of I think. I think coming into the digital like I did three days a week or remote, there's not this kind of interesting different structure. So I'll be very curious to see how they play out. Optimistic, consciously optimistic and you know, will be a work in progress. So you can call this baby ugly and well, it'll like rapidly. You don't get better. Yeah, right, and we'll record a new podcast and tell people where it goes exactly. Yeah, and I have the same three closing questions I ask everybody in the podcast. So I'm going to throw a match you now and just get your quick takes. One, what is the best piece of rear advice you've ever gotten?...

You've had some great mentors. I know many of them, so I'm really curious what you're going to answer with here. The one I like most is use ever every opportunity to prove how good you are, no matter how small. Can you give me an example of how what that means to you? Yeah, I mean one example is so, when I was at Google, I raised my hand for project I had no business raising my hand for, which was managing basically creating a system from managing outages, which was like a big, big problem there and plot out back in the day Google. I remember this. Yeah, and so it's kind of a long story of how I got to own this problem for Google. But what it practically meant is for two years I was on call for any product that broke down a google ever and I would be like the one in the early days. I was be the one to like handwrite the email, like okay, we're having an out of. Here's what's going on. But through those emails, like a lot of people got to know me. We ended up building a really cool product. That's how I met Dave and you know, that was the only interaction those people ever had with me. Like I never met the you know, our VP of engineering, but he would see Anna one gate at the time, not Nanna councilman, you know, answering these out of emails and like he started he to form an opinion about who I am and, you know what I needed to switch teams. He was helpful or whatnot. So you never know, like who's watching what you're doing and what next opportunities kind of come from the work that you're doing. But if you just you use every opportunity to do the very best that you can. I believe in careers, but stuff will happen and sound like the other half of that is to raise your hands a little more off raising terms before you ready is number two. That's good. I got like those are kind of together. Yeah, I got that from Sheryl Samberg when she before she was like Sheryl Samberg, which she was just the manager a Google and it's a really great one. Raise your hand before you ready. I like are my second question. What's the best piece of device about consumer banking or consumer lending? You've gone figure out WHO's not going to pay you back and don't lend to them. It sounds pretty simple. It's very simple, but it's hard to do. But if you do that, like everything else, gets better, raids for everybody else get better. You know, I know we haven't seen like a ton of time like making the perfect recovery process, like just figure out who's not going to pay you back. Yeah, I think it's a underinvested in area and lending, if that can be believed, because it's it feels like the crux of it, but I feel like the whole company's been built around that. It's a crux of it. But yet like, how many companies are really edit iterating at the or innovating at the underwriting step? Yeah, but not as many as you think. Yeah, I think that's that's true. And lastly, what's one bold prediction for the future? You give me a pewter day, but I would say in ten years every financial institution is going to use machine learning in AI and they're underwriting is just going to be the only way to do it, the one that makes the most sense, the one that results in the best outcomes for consumers, and we're just getting started on that journey. We are just getting start to think it's a great place and the conversation and thanks for taking the time and joining us today. Of course, thanks for having me. Upstart partners with banks and credit unions to help grow their consumer loan portfolios and deliver a modern, all digital lending experience. As the average consumer becomes more digitally savvy, it only makes sense that their bank does too. UPSTARTS AI landing platform uses sophisticated machine learning models to more accurately identify risk and approve more applicants than traditional credit models. With fraud rates near zero, upstarts all digital experience reduces manual processing for banks and offers a simple and convenient experience for consumers. Whether you're looking to grow and enhance your existing personal and auto lenning programs or you're just getting started, upstart can help. Upstart offers an into in solution that can help you find more credit worthy borrowers within your risk profile, with all digital underwriting onboarding loan, closing and servicing. It's all possible with upstart in your corner. Learn more about...

...finding new borrowers, enhancing your credit decisioning process and growing your business by visiting UPSTARTCOM Ford Banks. That's upstartcom forward banks. You've been listening to leaders and lending from upstart. Make sure you never miss an episode. Subscribe to leaders and lending in your favorite podcast player using apple podcast. Leave as a quick rating by tapping the number of stars you think the show deserves. Thanks for listening. Let's for next time. The views and opinions expressed by the host and guests on the leaders and lending podcast are their own and their participation in this podcast does not imply an endorsement of such views by their organization or themselves. The content provided is for informational purposes only and the discussion between the host and guests should not be taken as financial advice by companies or individuals.

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