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If your roof is leaking or your sink is clogged what do you do? Who would you call? If you don’t know any roofers or plumbers, you might find yourself Googling your problem then crossing your fingers. The problem of finding the right person for the job at hand is one every person faces, and it’s a problem that Thumbtack is solving thanks to technology. On this episode of IT Visionaries, we’re joined by Raghavendra Prabhu, the CTO of Thumbtack, who explains what kind of tech is working behind the scenes to create personalized searches and how innovation at the company could lead to a whole new world of finding the right fit for every job you have.
Best Advice: “A lot of it is not about you doing something, but having the right people to do it and being comfortable with them making their case. I believe a lot in empowerment and letting people run with their ideas.”
- You need hyper-personalized technology to solve the problem of finding someone to hire
- Data is important, but listening to the customers can lead to just as many insights
- When you encourage innovation, don’t limit participation just to engineers. Support every employee who wants to try something new
Working as a hybrid CTO/CIO
Raghavendra says that his role at Thumbtack is a hybrid between CIO and CTO — he leads the engineering team and is responsible for certain IT-related things. At Thumbtack, they are trying to solve for a very basic need: how to hire. In order to solve for that, technology is necessary and that’s where Raghavendra helps guide the ship. The team is currently focused on building the best possible search tool to help customers find the right person to do the jobs they need to get done. But, ultimately the goal will be to create a fuller experience for the customer that will take them from searching, to booking, to completing the transaction.
“I think it’s more frequent to have the CIO role merged into the CTO role because tech is just a key part of the company.”
“Technology and search play such a key role in making fine-grain matches happen….The technology we’re working on is focused on trying to get you the right person for your job in your area, who can do the job that you want at the right price that you want. And that’s so personalized.”
“One of our hardest technical challenges is making our platform work across these range of use cases which are very different.”
Learning from past experiences
Throughout every experience, and when looking at other successful companies, you learn things that can help you along your own path. However, Raghavendra says that there is no secret to success and no magic formula to follow. Even after his experiences working at Microsoft and Google, he didn’t walk away with any miraculous knowledge that would ensure success.
“The one thing I figured out is that we have to chart our own path to success.”
As Thumbtack continues to grow, Raghavendra and the rest of the leadership team is encouraging everyone at the company to plan and evolve and do things that will help them make a better product for the customer. Raghavendra says that they use an enormous amount of data to learn as much as they can and create new, better products that their customers will use to make their lives easier. But data isn’t the only way they go about achieving growth. In fact, Raghavendra says that an old-school skill is extremely important to gain insights into where the company should move next: listening to those who use your products.
There are many innovations that come out of listening to customers, but just as many come from the internal staff, which is given time and space to create on their own. They are coming up with ideas and testing new technology such as machine learning and image recognition with the goal of creating something that will impact the company and its users down the road. There are many tools that the Thumbtack team uses to create, and sometimes they build systems and tools internally to test all the ideas they are hoping to eventually implement.
“We have an idea of loops through which we try to funnel feedback to our teams. But sometimes it’s just so powerful connecting with pros directly in our community.”
“We’ve done a lot of experiments on a pretty significant scale of tens of billions of users, lots of activity happening. So when we roll out a change, we roll it out as an experiment, see how it works, and then if it works well, you want to roll it out broadly.”