Five Questions With: Alaina Restivo

Alaina Restivo
ALAINA RESTIVO, vice president of talent for Upserve, spoke about what makes the startup one of Rhode Island's Best Places to Work. /COURTESY ALAINA RESTIVO

Alaina Restivo is the vice president of talent for Providence-based Upserve, a restaurant-management platform recently named one of the Providence Business News 2017 Best Places to Work.

Restivo spoke to Providence Business News about the company’s culture and some of the workplace challenges unique to tech companies in Rhode Island.

PBN: Do prospective employees have different expectations for a “Silicon Valley-type” startup like Upserve, compared with expectations for more traditional companies?

RESTIVO: That’s a great question. At Upserve, our employees are united by a desire to make a tremendous impact – on our organization, and in our industry. And, at a company like ours, we hold firm to a belief that each and every employee can do this through their daily actions – not just when they hold a specific title, or reach an arbitrary tenure milestone – and our employees have come to expect that they can rise to that occasion, and to be an “everyday leader.”

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PBN: What opportunities does Upserve provide its employees for continued education and training?

RESTIVO: Talent development has always been central to the growth story at Upserve. We use a blended model, which combines online learning (delivered through our internal “Upserve Academy”) with experiential and interactive elements. We also have a six-month leadership-development program that teaches critical skills such as feedback, coaching and behaviors of inclusion.

PBN: Upserve is one of the Providence tech firms recently highlighted in PBN for its 12-week paid leave for new parents. How does Upserve’s “family-first” mentality play into your business culture?

RESTIVO: Our “family-first” culture goes beyond simply offering paid parental leave. We offer an unlimited  ‘take the time you need, when you need it’ time off policy, because as most parents can attest, caring for a new child doesn’t end at 12 weeks! We also wanted to recognize other family care situations, such as elder care, which aren’t covered by more traditional time-off policies. Lastly, our flexible policy is also meant to encourage participation in family activities outside of simply “sick time.” Whether it’s leaving early for soccer practice, or taking the day off for an unexpected museum trip, we encourage each employee to define what “family first” means to them.

PBN: What are the benefits and drawbacks of being headquartered in Providence, as far as attracting and retaining talent? Have you seen this change at all in the years since Upserve launched?

RESTIVO: I feel really fortunate to be headquartered in Providence. It’s great to be part of such a vibrant city, especially one with such an amazing food scene! And, being central to the economic hub of Rhode Island allows our employees to take a more-active role in shaping our environment – whether through community activism, or leadership roles on various nonprofits, we strive to make an impact. From a talent-recruitment standpoint, it certainly doesn’t hurt that Providence has gotten some amazing press in recent years! We’ve been able to successfully attract individuals from other states to relocate to Rhode Island, particularly in fields that are not as common in this geographic area.

PBN: Diversity in the workplace has been in the tech industry’s spotlight lately. How does Upserve prioritize the issue of diversity, both in terms of recruiting and company culture?

RESTIVO: Diversity is certainly getting a fair amount of attention; however, at Upserve, I like to also focus the conversation on creating a culture of inclusion. That means not just attracting diverse candidates to join Upserve, but also making sure that all employees feel engaged by our work, and by the organization. We assess our performance against these goals every four to six months through our culture and engagement surveys, and conduct training on unconscious bias and behaviors of inclusion twice a year. We also work closely with various organizations that are trying to eliminate educational inequity, and increase the diversity in technical professions, overall. The result has been quarter-over-quarter increases in the percentage of new hires from underrepresented groups.

Kaylen Auer is a PBN contributing writer.

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