We sat down with Jessica Popp, Ada's CTO, to learn more about her journey to Ada and the ingredients that make someone a great leader.
Q&A With Ruby White: Ada’s VP of People
It’s no secret around here that a strong internal culture — based on values that align our people on how we build product, communicate, and solve problems — is vital to how our brand is perceived as a whole and how well we serve our customers. Innovation, collaboration, and empathy start on the inside and shine through.
To get recognized by some of the world’s most notable workplace awards tells us we’re on the right track. In 2022, we made the list of Great Place To Work®’s Best Workplaces™ and Best Workplaces™ in Technology. LinkedIn named us one of their Top Startups in Canada and SME recognized us as one of Canada’s Top Small and Medium Employers. And we made Deloitte’s prestigious Technology Fast 50 list, ranking Canada’s fastest growing technology, media, and telecommunications companies.
But there’s always room to grow and improve, so we put a seasoned talent leader and DEI expert at the helm. Ruby White, Ada’s VP of People, brings over two decades of talent to the team, having worked with brands like Wyze, Eagleview, and Napster. Drawn to Ada’s underlying mission and beliefs, Ruby is leveraging her vast experience and knowledge to continue growing diverse, high-performing teams.
“Culture is ultimately the environment that we all create together,” Ruby says. “It is not something that is decided upon only by leadership as it really is the spirit of an organization. It is a mix of our values, traditions, behaviors, and attitudes that not only drive how things happen here, but also why.”
We sat down with the mom of two to learn more about her, the professional experiences that’s shaped her career, and why Ada is a perfect fit.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? What led you to a career in HR?
My career aspirations have definitely evolved over time. I am a huge animal lover and believe that it is our responsibility to take care of them and their environments as best as we can, so my first thought was to be a veterinarian. As I got a bit older, I realized that that profession also had the responsibility for managing end of life care and that was more than I could emotionally handle.
Very early on in my career, I worked at a couple large multinational companies, and because I was in the People function I had access into career pathing across the companies. I was completely fascinated by this and spent my downtime researching different positions, the paths that people took to get to where they were, and making the connection between person, role, and impact. I was not only able to use this information to be a better partner to the business, but it also allowed me to be very intentional around my own journey.
People functions are one of the few that have the ability to impact across the organization and must do so with a great level of care and accountability for both the people and the business. Getting it right is such a complex, deep and everchanging challenge that I knew it would be one that would allow (and force) me to always improve and grow.
Tell us a bit more about yourself, your past professional experiences, and what brought you to Ada.
I am first and foremost a mom and wife. I have two beautiful kiddos, Lexi and Remy, a super supportive husband, Derek, and a few fur babies as well.
Lexi has had the greatest influence on my career path and growth. With her birth, I felt a very real responsibility to ensure that not only did I set an example for her, but I also had a deepened responsibility to all underrepresented minorities in ensuring that workplaces were proactively inclusive and focused on merit. She is the reason why I am where and who I am today.
At the start of my professional career I worked for very large multinational companies, like Comcast and Weyerhaeuser. Those companies gave me a great opportunity to learn parts of my function in a very scaled environment. I then went into smaller technology organizations, starting with RealNetworks. After a few years there, a joint venture between RealNetworks and Viacom, known as Rhapsody America, spun off and I joined to help build out its HR function. Through a series of acquisitions and global expansion Rhapsody eventually rebranded as the iconic Napster logo. In my seven years there, my charter was to grow and globalize the business and eventually we created consumer and employer presences across Europe and South America.
Next, I went over to EagleView soon after its acquisition by Vista Equity Partners. My objectives over my four years at EagleView were to build a bridge across two recently merged companies, globalize the unified company, expand its headcount by roughly 3x to 1,200+, and build a scalable human capital infrastructure.
Most recently, I was the CHRO at Wyze, and there my goals were to build out HR and get the company to public company readiness. This entailed creating a global leveling and career competency framework system to support employee development, deepen employee impact and organizational transparency. Additionally, my charter included defining our employee value proposition, reinvigorating our employment brand, and developing key performance benchmarks to support data driven decision processes.
There are a few reasons why I made the decision to join Ada:
The mission and deep why — to deepen customers’ relationships with their customers while applying the most innovative technology to protect some of the most precious resources for all (time and money).
My belief that Ada will truly become a generational company and dramatically change the way the world manages customer interactions.
Even though the company is only six years old, because of Mike and David’s leadership, Ada is very mature in regards to its identity and values. The purpose of Ada is clear as is the seriousness to which it takes its responsibility for its customers, employees, shareholders and the larger communities it operates in.
I love to build, and the charter for my role is all about building things the right way with commitment to integrity and scalability.
Why are company values important? How does every employee living these values translate to company success?
Generally, company values should articulate what the company stands for and define its operating principles. When done right, values should help guide employees in decision making, goal setting, and in interacting with others internally and externally. In order to be effective, values need to be a “lived in” experience and not just be words on a screen or piece of paper. They have to be intentionally thought of when making decisions, when evaluating potential employees, and when defining what success looks like.
At Ada, our values are very clear and we frequently refer to them to help guide our decisions and hold us accountable. Employees living our values together allow us to row in the same direction and give us a common language to center on.
As the VP of People at Ada, my ultimate goal is to create an inclusive environment where employees can do the best work of their lives. In order for that to happen, part of my responsibilities are to ensure that we are holding ourselves accountable to our values and desired culture. A company mission and product roadmap should not only be external facing, but they should be internal tools that give clarity of what our charter is and energize us.
What are some areas you see Ada growing in as a company?
I think that Ada, in addition to its business mission, has the opportunity to redefine how a company culture is created and optimized in a global digital first world. Over the last few years, the ways businesses work has completely changed, and Ada is in a unique position, given its technological AI focus and employee first approach, to move the needle on the future of work.
Who is someone you look up to? This can be someone you know, don't know or a fictional character.
So many people, past and present, have created such a positive impact around the world. One person that is top of mind is Michelle Obama. She is authentic, super smart, funny, a great mom, and a loving wife. She creates a positive impact in so many ways and proactively and looks to uplift those who have had a more challenging path.
As a total aside, I would not say I look up to Tupac per se, but I will say there is one quote (below) that he said that has influenced some of my decisions. I remain in human resources because it is one of the few functions that creates impact across an organization as it focuses on the heart of the organization (its people). While I hope to leave as much positive impact around me, at work and personally, as possible I also hope to spark that passion in others so the positive impact has a multiplier effect.
“I'm not saying I'm gonna rule the world or I'm gonna change the world, but I guarantee you that I will spark the brain that will change the world. And that's our job, it's to spark somebody else watching us.”
Sarah Fox is a scuba-diving, animal-loving journalist turned content marketer. In her career, she’s covered stories on development, written profiles on notable philanthropists, and interviewed celebrities with a passion for giving back. When she’s not producing content for Ada, Sarah’s likely fawning over her dog somewhere in the woods.