Catherine Khong is Shield AI’s Director of Total Rewards. With over 20 years working at companies including Disney and Thermo Fisher, she brings crucial industry perspective to this role as a subject matter expert in total rewards.
While I feel strongly that working at a company like Shield AI – one that’s building the most crucial and impactful technology of a generation in pursuit of a noble mission – is immensely rewarding in and of itself, the value of a competitive, comprehensive total compensation framework cannot be overstated. Today’s workforce demands competitive pay and total rewards, and my job at Shield AI is to make sure we are doing it right – for the benefit of my world-class teammates and this company’s long-term success. I like to think of compensation and benefits as the marriage of art and science. Sure, it’s analytics and calculations. But the art comes in when customizing it all based on the organization’s priorities and goals, and since I joined the company about six months ago, that has been my tireless pursuit.
Our total rewards philosophy seeks to attract, retain, and advance the highest caliber individuals out there. We offer rewards that are externally competitive and internally equitable, which encourages and rewards achievement of individual performance — all while aligning with business objectives. Our approach encompasses all aspects of salary and compensation. We offer competitive base and bonus opportunities, including the ability to really achieve in the short term (within a year’s time). All full-time hires are granted equity and are company shareholders.
While we offer standard medical, dental, and vision coverage, we also offer benefits that go beyond “the standard,” like our enhanced parental leave with increased maternity leave benefits. Our paid time off accrual rate is aggressive and competitive and all new hires begin acquiring PTO at time of hire. The approach we’ve embraced involves looking at market data to ensure we remain competitive and equitable as the market conditions evolve to be able to attract and retain the best talent as we grow and scale.
Equity for All
On the equity side, we offer restricted stock units (RSUs). What’s different about ours is that we have implemented a double-triggering event. RSUs typically vest upon grant date due to vesting schedules, but because we are a private company, we put in a feature where you won’t pay taxes on your vested portion until vesting and the occurrence of a liquidity event. Our transition from stock options to RSUs reflects optimistically on the company’s future, as being in the position to offer RSUs is a common predictor of accelerated growth for qualifying startups.
As an employee with equity, the tax impact could be huge. We recently announced a free new offering, Carta Tax, which lets teammates model equity scenarios to help minimize taxes, schedule 1 on 1 sessions with a tax advisor, and learn how equity impacts taxes. We’ve also partnered with Carta via their “Total Rewards” interface to improve transparency around our compensation structure, and to give our employees an easy way to see the annual value of their total compensation (including value of equity) and benefits in one place.
Consistent with our aim to provide superior pay for superior performance, we are ensuring that all fulltime teammates are covered by an incentive-based bonus plan. Benchmarked against industry peers, Shield AI’s bonus structure offers a competitive compensation opportunity. We believe that a predictable, attainable, performance-based target bonus is an integral part of our annual compensation program and will be continually improving our individual bonus plan to match the market and workforce expectations.
A Wholistic Approach
With rapid growth rates like those Shield AI is experiencing, a detailed and thorough total rewards approach is an absolute necessity. My work is informed by the fact that this company will scale to thousands of employees in a fairly short time; as such, putting rigor around the analysis of employee pay and creating structure around job architecture is paramount. In tandem with job architecture structure, Shield AI has also invested in tools to ensure teammates are able to grow according to an Individual Development Plan (IDP), which lends to transparency and open feedback loops between managers and their teammates.
I’m passionate about my work on the People Experience team as the subject matter expert on total compensation and benefits because my teammates across the various teams at Shield AI are putting in 110% effort every day. I want to be sure they know the value they bring to the company’s mission is met with competitive compensation. Simply put, the people building the world’s best AI pilot deserve the world’s best experience in the workplace, and I am committed to delivering that in every way possible.