Welcome to Transform’s Founder Spotlight Series, an exciting journey into the minds of innovative leaders who are disrupting the now and next of work.
In each Q&A-style article, we’ll introduce you to founders like Tigran Sloyan, CEO and Co-Founder of CodeSignal, who are redefining the boundaries of their industries with forward-thinking ideas and transformative approaches.
Tigran Sloyan is the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of CodeSignal, the leading skills platform founded in 2015 that is empowering teams and individuals to discover and develop the skills that will shape the future. Tigran is a recognized voice in the industry—a TED speaker, active Forbes Technology Council member, frequent keynote, and contributor to major publications. He is passionate about the intersections of technology, education, and talent acquisition, and his innovative insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Fast Company, Morning Brew, and more.
Before co-founding CodeSignal, Tigran was part of the technology management team at Google, where he spearheaded initiatives like Google Hangouts for Education and Google Login for sectors like Travel and Publishing. A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he holds degrees in Mathematics, Computer Science, and Economics.
With CodeSignal, you’re not just assessing and building skills; you’re shaping the future. Wherever you are on your skills journey—whether you’re aiming to level up or building the next great team—CodeSignal’s skills assessments and AI-powered learning tools are designed to meet you there and get you where you need to go. Our advanced skills and insights, AI-powered precision, and adaptive experiences empower today’s potential to become tomorrow’s leaders.
Let’s dive into Tigran’s founder story, and learn firsthand about his inspirations, challenges, and breakthroughs that marked his path to success.
The Startup Journey
Q: What gave you the idea to start CodeSignal?
A: During my teen years, I was involved in math competitions called the Olympiads. The thrill of competition fueled my love for learning and I would happily practice for hours. However, when I got to college, convinced that I would become a Mathematics professor, I discovered that traditional learning wasn’t creating the same voracious appetite to learn. I wondered if there was a better way to motivate people to learn and ended up writing my master’s thesis on the idea, ‘What if learning math could be like playing a game?’ That idea blossomed into the earliest version of CodeSignal—an engaging, practice-based platform to develop technical skills and land jobs.
As our product usage grew, I noticed that these highly skilled users were missing out on job opportunities. Hiring companies prioritized the “right” schools and the “best” companies, over actual skills. This realization prompted me to build a platform that allows people to refine their technical skills, gear up for their next role, and demonstrate skill mastery, making hiring more equitable. CodeSignal became a bridge, helping companies discover top-notch candidates based on their actual skills, not just their pedigree.
Q: Who benefits from CodeSignal?
A: CodeSignal benefits individual engineers and engineering teams, hiring teams, businesses that are driving innovation, and the customers they serve.
Q: Why is this so important?
CodeSignal is not only transformative in hiring processes but is also crucial in developing the technical skills of individuals and teams. By providing an environment where candidates can show off their true skills, and current employees can practice and improve, companies can make great hiring decisions and keep pace with technology advancements, building high-performing teams. This approach ensures that businesses are well-equipped both for current challenges and future growth.
Q: What are some examples of companies leveraging CodeSignal?
A: Gusto is a wonderful example of a company leveraging CodeSignal to accurately assess skills and simplify their interviewing process. In 2020, Gusto adopted CodeSignal to replace their previous technical skills assessment and interview vendors, streamlining the overall process without compromising candidate quality.
Since then, Gusto engineers have reduced the amount of time they spend assessing candidate skills by ~850 hours a year—a total of ~2,550 engineering hours saved.
The new process significantly enhances the alignment between the skills and capabilities of engineering interns and Gusto’s business needs, showcasing its impact. This year alone, Gusto improved their offer rate for interns to convert to full-time new grad hires by 30%.
Scaling & Growth
Q: How do you build a strong company culture while scaling the business?
A: Building a strong company culture while scaling hinges on fostering an environment where everyone feels integral to our mission. Beyond perks and comforts; it’s about creating a space where everyone feels they’re part of something meaningful. Where bold ideas, feedback, and even dissent are not just welcomed, but actively sought. Our values aren’t just feel-good fluff; they are the foundation of our decision-making and interactions, ensuring consistency and trust throughout the organization.
Our culture is unique in its embrace of autonomy and open dissent. We empower team members in decision-making and trust they’ll do what’s best for the company, fostering a sense of responsibility and pride. Simultaneously, we encourage open communication and view dissent not as defiance, but as a way to refine ideas and gain confidence. This approach ensures that as we scale, our culture doesn’t dilute but becomes richer, driving innovation, adaptability, and the sustained success of our business.
Q: How do you maintain strong relationships with your investors and optimize their contributions?
A: Maintaining strong relationships with investors is crucial to the success and growth of a business. Our investors are partners in our success. We host regular meetings to discuss the company’s strategy, goals, and initiatives to ensure that the company’s goals align with the expectations of the investors and to tap into their expertise as advisors. We share information that goes beyond standard reporting, offering insights into industry trends, competitive analysis, and plans to ensure that our investors are well-informed.
Team Building & Leadership
Q: What are your strategies for attracting and retaining talent?
A: We cultivate a positive and inclusive workplace culture that values collaboration and innovation. Employees are given the context to understand decisions, the freedom to act independently, and the responsibility to do what’s right–which attracts results-oriented, high-performing talent.
CodeSignal takes a holistic approach to supporting employees, offering dedicated resources to foster their professional development and ongoing education, while also addressing their personal, mental, physical, and financial wellness. Our commitment to maintaining a balanced and progressive workforce is critical in retaining our amazing talent.
Q: What leadership skills do you believe are critical in the current environment?
A: In the current environment, transparent communication is critical. The information and context you can share with employees is extremely valuable and more appreciated than you might think. Leaders are uniquely positioned with access to high-level information and by sharing context openly, they can empower their teams to make better decisions while still letting employees focus on their core work.
Marketing & Branding
Q: How do you differentiate your brand from competitors?
A: We differentiate by focusing on building real connections with our users and their stories. Our brand is all about being genuine, providing tailored experiences, and making a positive impact in the tech world. Our users inspire us every day and we keep that at the forefront of all we do. We’re committed to making tech education accessible to all and removing bias often seen in tech hiring. We want a tech industry where talent and potential matter most, creating a fair and inclusive environment for all.
Challenges & Lessons Learned
Q: Can you share any specific lessons or mistakes you made during the startup journey and how you overcame them?
A: One thing that took some time for me to realize is how difficult communication can be, especially as organizations grow. I believe that what organizations typically lack in their communication is transparency. So from the very beginning, I’ve made it imperative to be very open and transparent about anything going on in the organization. What didn’t occur to me early on is how hard it is to get everyone on the same page.
It’s very human to assume that if something is very clear to you and if you openly share it with others it will become clear to others as well. However, that’s not how human language works.
Human language is what engineers would call a lossy communication medium (as opposed to lossless). You might want to communicate A but by the time you put it into words, it might sound like B, and by the time the person hearing or reading you analyzes your words they might understand C.
This is especially difficult as the organization grows since on top of the lossiness of human language you also introduce broken-telephone effects when team members try to share certain types of information. The most effective ways that I’ve found to fix this is first of all to always write things down and have people review them in addition to communicating verbally. Additionally, spending considerable time on simplifying and streamlining communication to make sure it’s as plain as it can be to avoid any misconceptions.
Q: What advice do you have for other founders?
A: As a leader, we’re uniquely positioned with access to context and information that most keep hidden from their teams. My advice to other founders is to share information transparently with your employees whenever possible. It enables your employees to make informed decisions, move quickly, and drive impact for the business. Transparency also shows team members that you trust them and makes them feel empowered.
Industry and Market Insights
Q: What is one significant trend or prediction that you believe will drive the transformation of work?
A: I’m convinced that artificial intelligence (AI) will be the catalyst for a massive transformation in how we work and learn. Although I believe the advent of these technologies may result in the displacement and automation of job categories, it will also give rise to an abundance of new skills, roles, and industries.
In anticipation of this imminent technological shift, business leaders must be ready to embrace the technological revolution that’s rapidly approaching, by proactively discovering and developing the skills that will shape the future.
Q: What’s next for you and CodeSignal?
A: What’s next for CodeSignal is an exciting journey into the future of skills and talent. We’ve built a groundbreaking Skills Engine powered by advanced AI, and we’re leveraging this technology to provide next-level learning experiences that go beyond traditional methods. Our immediate focus is on launching these experiences and revolutionizing how the world learns. Looking further down the road, our vision is to redefine how individuals and businesses assess skills, moving away from outdated resumes and social profiles and towards a Skills Profile as the new global standard. We’re committed to pioneering this shift and becoming a global leader in solving the Talent Problem. The future holds immense potential, and at CodeSignal, we’re ready to embrace it.
Q: What would you like to say to People leaders who are thinking of using CodeSignal?
A: With CodeSignal, you’re not just assessing and building skills, you’re shaping the future. CodeSignal enables a comprehensive view of your team’s skill set, driving measurable outcomes that enhance team performance. It also allows you to evaluate candidates based on their true abilities, steering clear of the bias commonly associated with traditional resume reviews and inconsistent interviews. Our brand is all about being genuine, providing tailored experiences, and making a positive impact in the tech world. We’re committed to making tech education accessible and to building a tech industry where talent and potential matter most, creating a fair and inclusive environment for all.
On a Personal Note
Q: What is your personal mantra?
A: Whether you think you can or can’t, you are right.