Sales Talk for CEOs: From FBI to Entrepreneur with Joanna Riley (S5Ep1)

Sep 6, 2023 | Sales Talk for CEOs Podcast

From FBI prodigy to HR tech disruptor, meet Joanna Riley, the extraordinary CEO revolutionizing talent acquisition.

Joanna’s secret agent aspirations led her down a unique path, guided by her parents’ unwavering support.

Her undergraduate years were a whirlwind of cutting-edge courses in the psychology and geometry of crime, fueling her passion for espionage.

Joining the FBI right out of college, Joanna’s first taste of the professional world may surprise you – she conquered sales at just four years old, going door to door as the “snail annihilator” with her best friend.

After 3 successful startups, Joanna is now transforming the way companies find and harness their most valuable asset – people.

As the visionary leader of Censia, she focuses on diversity, a deep understanding of customer connection and is shaking up the traditional notion of sales. She is on a mission to revolutionize talent acquisition with the power of AI.

Hear Joanna’s journey and discover how she’s reshaping the hiring landscape and paving the way for a new era of success on this incredible interview!

Watch the podcast below or on our podcast channel on YouTube


[03:53] Importance of using data to make hiring decisions and retain employees.

[05:22] Joanna’s background in the FBI and how it translates to entrepreneurship.

[08:26] Transition from the FBI to starting the first company in sales.

[10:05] Success and sale of the first company at a young age.

[13:20] CEO pain point: finding the right people for their company.

[13:56] HR tech focuses on helping companies with talent acquisition.

[14:55] Talent market shifted from active to passive job seekers.

[15:49] Current talent search methods are outdated and ineffective.

[16:46] Underrepresented communities are disadvantaged in keyword-based searches.

[17:16] AI can provide a more intelligent understanding of candidates’ capabilities.

[18:03] Shifting the focus from keywords to desired achievements.

[19:04] Started selling after building a structured talent database.

[21:45] Customer advisory board helped identify pain points and validate solutions.

[25:50] Importance of CEOs staying in touch with customers.

[26:37] Initial challenges in selling and finding product-market fit.

[30:39] Transitioning to hiring salespeople.

[32:02] Scaling and growing the go-to-market team.

[33:07] Advice for CEOs: prioritize sales and customer conversations.

About Guest

Joanna Riley is an experienced entrepreneur and investor, renowned for championing diversity in the tech sector and for driving the development of ethical AI in HR Tech. As the CEO and Founder of Censia, she spearheads a cutting-edge Talent Intelligence Platform that is revolutionizing the way enterprises identify, recruit, and retain transformative talent.

Joanna’s passion for leadership extends beyond her role at Censia. She is a prolific early-stage investor and a distinguished member of the Board of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) as part of the Global Membership Council. She also devotes her time to mentoring up-and-coming entrepreneurs in the tech space.

Her achievements are rooted in a diverse and robust background. Early in her career, Joanna was an integral part of the International Training Unit for the FBI. In addition, she distinguished herself as a national rower and earned her BA degree in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. Today, she continues to hone her business acumen as part of the President’s Program at Harvard Business School.

Social Links

You can learn more about and connect with Joanna Riley in the links below.

Connect with Joanna on LinkedIn:

Check out Censia’s website:

You can learn more about and connect with Alice Heiman in the links below.

Connect with Alice on LinkedIn:

Check out Alice’s website:


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