When I think about launches, I think the success and failure of it really comes from the alignment of all the teams. It doesn't matter how great a certain feature is unless you have all of the team behind it and working together.
In this episode
Are you launching what the customer needs or what you want?
In episode #101, Brendan asks “are you drinking your own champagne?
Brendan Ittelson is the Chief Technology Officer at Zoom.
Brendan shared what it takes to scale an organization and how he problem-solves by finding the root cause.
He explained his multi-step approach to how he works with his teams and how to quickly get up to speed in a new role.
Tune in to hear all about Brendan’s leadership journey and the lessons learned along the way!
Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.
Multi-step approach to teamwork
Removing yourself from a job
What it takes to scale an organization
Changing leadership style throughout scaling
Future of work
Zoom’s compassionate engineering culture
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 00:22
Brendan, welcome to the show.
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 03:02
Great to be here today. Yeah,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 03:04
very excited to have you on. You know, obviously, I’m a longtime zoom user, you’re today the Chief Technology Officer at zoom, you’ve had a pretty extensive leadership career VP of Special Operations at dynamics before that. And what I want to do is actually start from the very beginning. Do you remember when you first started managing and leading teams as early as that may have been? And what were some of the early mistakes that you made? That maybe you don’t make anymore? Or make less up?
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 03:35
Yeah, so I definitely remember, you know, just like it was yesterday. So in leading, I actually look at different forms of that. And my first experience was actually working for the government more in a leadership position, from knowledge as opposed to authority, where I was working with project teams and contractors and leading different directives that we had as an organization. Later, when I joined dynamics, where I said, VP of Special Ops, that’s when, in a number of my assignments, I did have direct reports. So each role requires slightly different skills and slightly different management styles. But I definitely remember each of those points, and it’s been exciting. Now, the second part of your question was, were there lessons learned, or things with skill set? And I think like a lot of new managers, I probably fell into some of the similar traps where when you look out and look at your team, you think that a lot of folks have the same perception of the work environment and maybe think in a similar manner. And for me, I remember that I had a large aha moment in this actually in a leadership training course that I had with a an Army Ranger of all things when I was working for the DoD And the exercise that they did with us was this Ranger put something in his hand and said, Okay, I’m gonna run by everyone that’s here very quickly, I want you to jot down what you see in my hand. And then we’re all going to compare notes afterwards. So he runs down the line. And everyone has a quick moment to see observe. And then we compare notes. First Person, cash, next person, a buck 50, another person, quarters, dimes, nickels. But it’s interesting, we all read the same place the same time, the same experiencing the same environment. But our perception of how we looked at it was very different. And so I really took away that that perception is very important. And the different ways that people think lead to greater success, and those varying point of view should be encouraged and not ignored. Yeah,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 06:00
I mean, that’s super interesting. Everybody does take things in a different way. So you learn that very, very early on, and, you know, find it throughout. So what does that mean? You know, from a practical standpoint, like knowing that, like, how do you go about, you know, managing your teams today with with that kind of information, like knowing that everybody does see things differently. So what kind of behavior change did that then lead to going forward?
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 06:29
So for me, a lot of it has been looking at taking sort of a multi step approach to how I work with my teams. And it’s a first encouraging different points of views, and really encouraging people to voice it. Because with a different lens, a different point of view, it gives a different perspective. And with that different perspective, you’re able to look at a problem or an issue from different angles, which can be extremely helpful. And the second part of that has really been sort of internalizing and going, folks have different points of views. So how do I actually step out of my viewpoint and mindset, and really put myself in each member of my team’s point of view perspective, as well as our customers, as well as our vendors, and really step back and take myself out of the equation? When evaluating decisions and paths so that we’re really looking at what is the optimal way? And what are all the different angles, we can look at it so that we are optimizing for all those different viewpoints. And considering all the different implications?
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 07:41
Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense in it. You’re absolutely right, everybody has this different perspective. And that’s a very powerful trait, just to be able to see things from different people’s eyes, and make sure to take all that stuff into consideration. So, you know, obviously, you must have learned a lot throughout your career, you’ve had a pretty fast trajectory to today being the CTO at zoom, one of the questions that I had was, you know, we all know like, in the last few years, Zoom has grown very, very, very quickly. And during this time of a lot of change at you were promoted to, to being CTO at the company. One of my questions was, how was that experience? Like? How did it come about? What did you learn from it? And you know, how did you get up to speed so quickly, to be able to take on such a big responsibility?
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 08:35
It’s a great question. And one that I often get asked to say the least, that was a very busy time at zoom. But at its core, we were all focused on how to stay true to our company vision and values. And we have a mantra internally, about Delivering Happiness to our customers. So we are really looking at how we could continue to achieve this and connect the world in such a critical time. And, you know, we’re just humbled to have technology that could help people connect and collaborate. So I was working in a senior support role, and naturally deep diving into technical issues that were very time sensitive. And that was my focus at zoom. So really, shifting over to the CTO role, where I was still focusing on those technical issues, and that time sensitive nature was continuing the same work, but really focusing at a higher level, but holding true to the same core values and mission.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 09:36
Yeah, so that makes a lot of sense. If it was, maybe we’re doing slightly different things. But, you know, the premise of the leadership was very similar. And so do you have any tips for people, you know, especially at the executive level of transitioning to a new role, you know, we’ve had, you know, Michael, who was the author of the first 90 days which is like a famous book around transitions and had to spend the first little bit, were there any tips or tricks or you know, things that you did, that you would recommend others do when changing roles or taking on something brand new.
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 10:13
Definitely. And I think the best approach actually starts, you know, long before the transition, I always promote to my team to work yourself out of a job. And part of that is, it’s fair if you work yourself out a job, because then you leave when you have something you’re capable to move on to, and can feel really good about the team and their trajectory that you are setting on on their path. So this really allows you to focus fully on the new role, without distractions, and really dive in at that point in time.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 10:49
So this is a great advice on the scaling. So what you’re saying is that if you are able to make it so that the team can operate very effectively, without you, you said, it also allows you to then dive in, maybe you can expand upon what you mean by that.
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 11:06
Definitely. I mean, the way that I look at it is if you are able to work yourself out of that role. That means you have the structure, the people the talent, and the competency, that you’ve got a great team that can continue to operate, and naturally has succession. And on a day to day basis will continue to perform and operate, even if you’re not there. So you’ve got a high performing team. And with that high performing team, you don’t need to worry about how that team is performing any longer. When you make that transition, you can focus entirely on the new team and set that new culture that new mindset, really look at the issues that are impacting and get to know without having that thought in the back of your mind of what’s happening with my other teammates. Because we’re all very passionate, I know that influence and thought is always there. But knowing that you’ve set up a team for success, it makes it easier to do that transition,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 12:10
obviously, there has to be, you have to be ready to make the transition. And if you’ve been working hard to ensure the team can operate independently from youth, then you are ready for the transition, it is a little bit you know counterintuitive, just the concept of like working yourself out of a job. But of course, like it makes all the sense in the world in a scaling environment. But also, I mean, that’s the best scenario, if you can get a team to operate at that level, it takes a lot of work to do that, by the way, I guess it This isn’t an easy thing of work, you know, to get work yourself out of a job, it actually requires a lot of work. And it is a difficult thing to do. And it is considered success if you can do it. So that makes a lot of sense.
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 12:52
Right up there with the simplest things are probably the most complex and vice versa. But yes, it those investments pay off in the long run in that I’ve seen it over and over in the roles that I’ve been in, being able to build those teams, have them functioning, and really set up where you have that vision and everyone in that team is aligned with that vision. It is such a motivator. Because when opportunity comes, everyone is ready to jump on to that opportunity. And that’s a really exciting place to be.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 13:26
Let’s talk about the process of scaling. You know, scaling is always a topic of interest for many people. And obviously you have as a company, as a team’s organization, gone through a lot of it. What are the things that you have learned about what it takes to scale an organization?
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 13:46
I mean, scaling an organization takes time and focused effort. But a lot of that is ensuring that you are focused and really dialing in on what is the critical path for the organization to get to that next level. And as you look at that next level, it’s important to celebrate as you achieve it, but also realize what got you there is not going to get you to the next level. So it’s that constant reinventing, and setting the new goal, the new horizon, which I find extremely fun, extremely challenging. But it’s so critical in that scale to be laser focused on that’s the hill we’re climbing. We know where each of our base camps are going to be. Let’s start up that hill. We might have to change our climbing gear at each level. But let’s do it and do it together.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 14:49
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. You know, it’s interesting. I’ve heard the term that sometimes scaling is about saying no to more things. I mean, is that something you would agree with?
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 14:59
I think scaling is being focused. And sometimes that might be saying, No, or sometimes it might be looking at really, what is the ask. And one of the big things for me and part of our organizational culture is actual looking at problem and root cause before you get to solution, folks often start talking about a solution to an ask. But when you dive in, if you don’t go through the diligence of problem and root cause, the solution might not actually fit the root cause it might fit the problem. But then you haven’t fully addressed the issue. And again, that will distract you because then you’re constantly doing a new solution to address the symptoms, but not at the core. So really, it is maintaining that focus and going, what are we trying to do? How do we do that? What is the root of the issue? And let’s nail that, and come up with a solution that addresses that fully, so that we’re able to nail it, no longer need to worry about it. And that’s behind us that we can keep on climbing up that hill.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 16:11
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Like really trying to solve a problem once and not keep coming back to it. I don’t know if you can think of an example off the top of your head. But is there something that comes to mind and either at zoom or at a previous company where you really like dived in, and the root cause was not what the surface level? The problem was?
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 16:34
There are a number of examples and cases, but I think the best one that I could reference is, you know, going back in history and going, if someone were to ask Mr. Ford back in the day, what does everyone want? They want a faster horse. So, okay, yes, that could have been a solution. But really looking at folks wanting to get from point A to B in a faster manner, led to Okay, vehicles. So that’s where staying really true to figuring out what the root cause of what they’re trying to do is so critical. And it’s listening to the customers, and listening to the stakeholders, but also diving deep beyond the surface to figure out what’s at the root and what’s driving it.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 17:26
I mean, it just reminds me of what we started talking about was everybody has different perspectives. And you know, if you just listen to the surface level, and everybody’s telling you different things, it becomes really difficult to converge on a solution. But it sounds like you’ve and I don’t know if you would agree with this. But it sounds like a core element of your leadership style is active listening, like really trying to understand before acting, and it sounds like you’re not like a reactive person, you try to get the information, the perspectives, figure out the root cause. And then when you act yourself once, and then and then you move on
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 18:03
100%, it’s about the act of listening, it’s about building a team of experts around, it’s being hungry to expand your knowledge. I love meeting with our customers, because every day they provide a new perspective, a new use case, a new way of thinking. And that starts framing deeper thoughts and sort of a wider breadth in knowledge, which makes it easier to apply different use cases and see things through different lenses, which allows me to sit back reflect and then actually act.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 18:43
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense into if we’re going back to this scaling in the last few years. And when you think about your leadership style, do you think that there were changes? Or did you have to adapt or do anything differently? Or was it largely like the same leadership style that you’ve had before?
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 19:03
Well, I mean, I think this is where already having a background and support really gave me a leg up when taking on the CTO role. My style always been looking at things from a customer perspective. And I think even more important when you’re the head of technology for a company, you need to think not just about the technology, but also the customers that are leveraging it. So just as important there is the approach to innovation. For me a key factor in producing innovation is being able to step back and really remove all the constraints during the problem solving process. So you know, as I’ve been saying, I’m a big proponent of the problem, root cause and then working through the solution. And when you’re working through that solution, removing all the constraints, actually, I think it’s one of the funnest processes As a leader, and getting folks out of their comfort zone, getting them into a place of complete creativity, now that we know really what we’re solving, and that’s what’s been exciting for me is leading folks through that change to think outside of the box. Now that we know what we’re trying to solve, and then getting to the next best solution.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 20:22
Yeah, this is very interesting, the concept of the removing the constraints, maybe you can talk a little bit more about that. And I don’t know if you have examples or stories in mind for that as well, that can help us really get the point.
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 20:39
Definitely, I have a story about removing constraints, that was actually one of my favorites, that came from the power industry, actually. And there was a power company that was having an issue where they had downed power lines each winter, because they had large deployments across mountain ranges that they couldn’t go out and service, snow would build up on the lines, and then eventually, towers would come down, lead to outages. So they needed to figure out a way to service them, and keep the service up and reliable. And they had sent this to many teams to think about to figure it out. And finally, they brought in some groups to really go how do we think about this creatively, we know the problem. There’s the buildup of snow on the lines, we’ve got to get the snow off. But these are such hard lines to access. How do we do that? So they asked the team to be creative. And they push them and push them. And when you know, really think outside the box. So someone came to the table and went, Well, you know what we need to do? We need to have the bears in the forest wake up and shake the power poles because that will knock the snow off. And you know, everyone around the table laughs But the facilitator says, done, let’s do that. How are we going to get the bears to come out of hibernation? So the team isn’t starting to go, Okay, this is a little outlandish, but okay, well, how do we get the bears to come out of hibernation, we’ve got to get honey and food. So we’ll put honey on top of the power lot on top of the power pole. So they’ll climb up that will shake the polls, and that’ll be great. And they go, Okay, we’ve got this food, we’ll be up there at the top that will get it. Let’s get back to the, you know, serious options. Facilitator says, Okay, great. How are we going to get the honey on top of the polls? You know, it’s easy, like, okay, what are we really talking about here, and they’re going, you know, it’s remote, we can’t take trucks out there, we can’t do other things. But we could have a helicopter fly out. And at that point, they realized that helicopter flying over the lines would actually do a downward win to dust all the snow off the power lines, and would solve their issue. So removing all those constraints actually got to the creative solution of using drones or helicopters to patrol their lines in the winter to make sure that they were up for service. So not a lot of people would think bear shaking Power Poles would lead to helicopters. But that was the path that got to an innovative solution that helps solve their business need. Yeah, that’s
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 23:31
amazing. Hey, there. Just a quick note, before we move on to the next part, if you’re listening to his podcast, you’re probably already doing one on one meetings. But here’s the thing, we all know that one on one meetings are the most powerful, but at the same time, the most misunderstood concept in practice and management. That’s why we’ve spent over a year compiling the best information, the best expert advice into this beautifully designed 90 Plus page ebook. Now, don’t worry, it’s not single spaced font, you know, lots of tax. There’s a lot of pictures. It’s nice, easily consumable information, we spent so much time building it. And the great news is that it’s completely free. So head on over to Fellow.app slash blog to download the Definitive Guide on one on ones. It’s there for you. We hope you enjoy it. And let us know what you think. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview. When you have really difficult problems to solve, and I imagine you had many as you were trying to scale the company. So is this kind of the I’m wondering what kind of exercises do you do with with your teams for like, they’re really difficult to solve problems. Like this sort of, you know, blue sky brainstorming all constraints removed.
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 24:52
I mean, whenever we’re presented with something as a team, my focus 100% with them is a Getting to root cause first, that’s probably the biggest challenge is making sure that we’re doing that deep dive. But once we’ve gotten to that root, then it becomes fun. Because once you’ve built that culture where folks feel that they can come with any concept and not need to worry about it, the creative juices start to flow, it becomes exciting meetings and sessions. And it’s a little bit of his the outlandish ideas that come from that. But in that folks are starting to build off of one another. And it becomes playful, it becomes fun, you’re getting inspiration and removing the stress out of the situation, that drives folks to be even more creative and get to those solutions. So every single time we’re diving into one of these, it’s, let’s really, again, deep dive on the root cause, because that gets us all aligned on the perspective. But then let’s have fun on the creativity, because now we know, we know the puzzle, we know what the piece looks like. It’s just sort of painting it in the process.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 26:14
Yeah, and, you know, I would assume that for potential problems that you’re you’re talking about. Obviously, these are not like super simple to solve problems. They probably been problems for awhile, because they’re hard to solve. But I imagined, like once you solve something like that, like the story that you just told, it’s probably a confidence booster for the team as well, right? They kind of become legendary in the company of how we solve this crazy problem in this unimaginable way. And if we can do that, like it’s probably like a boost for the team to to make them even continue to do more impossible things.
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 26:51
It’s a huge boost for the team and that, and the other half of it for us is we see our customers using the solutions and see the value that it’s bringing to their daily lives. I mean, our team has just been so humbled over the past few years of hearing about all the use cases and what we have enabled around the world. And that is so empowering to be able to go, there was a challenge that an individual in industry, a part of the world was having in our team was able to rally around that and build a solution that helped enable those groups to move faster, go further and connect as humans, it’s just an amazing place to be. And that feeling only propagates. So as you have that, you want more of that and you’re willing to take on more challenges and more interesting cases.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 27:49
Yes. How do you Brandon, one of the I guess, like the questions I have is I’m sure you’ve had situations where you’re trying to solve a really difficult problem. And, you know, the team says it’s impossible. How do you decide if you agree with them that it’s impossible, or if you should keep pushing, and that eventually, like you believe in them, and you do whatever it takes so that they can come up with a solution? Like in your mind? How do you decide where you should land? If you should keep pushing? Or if you should see it? Yeah, yeah, this is actually impossible.
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 28:21
For me a lot of looking at what is the possibility on an item is a, you know, really understanding what that root cause is, and then trying to understand the space around it. Are we the first to take this on? Or are there industries or other groups that have done something adjacent? What is the global context on this? And Why has everyone thought that this is an impossible task? What is the root cause of that feeling? Or that thinking? And going are those constraints that we can remove in a certain way? Are they constraints, but they’re only constraints and certain use cases. So if we take those off, we can actually charge forward, realizing that there are some customers that we might not be able to satisfy. But we can maybe roll out with an 80% solution that drives value. So a lot of it is and I know I’m probably sounding like a broken record, but that problem and root cause, because once you dive in the root cause of the issue, you dive into the root cause of the thinking. It gives you a very clear perspective on the why, and the how, and then it’s very clear of Yes, I should push further on this one. Or, yeah, this is probably not something that we’re ready to take on now. But something to always have on sort of the backburner to think about if the Worlds shifts.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 30:01
I like your line of questioning around this, which is, you know, are there things in other industries where they have done adjacent things? Are there any examples that come to mind where you borrow a solution or a way of doing things from another industry.
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 30:18
So it’s one of the things that I’ve found absolutely fascinating at zoom is how many features we have developed initially with a certain industry in mind. But then as you dig into it, that exact feature, maybe with a minor tweak applies to another group or another organization. And some of these are basic features. But some of them are more complex use cases. And what I often see is, so many industries are closer together and aligned. I think about for example, features that we launched for our education market in recent years, which have been adopted by large enterprises, because they’re trying to solve the same problem, slightly different environment, but it’s the same root cause. And it’s just the context that you’re placed in.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 31:17
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And so you mentioned the word feature. So we have a lot of engineering leaders, product leaders that listen to the show, I would imagine, you know, a thing or two about product launches, what have you learned in terms of doing, especially when you have to do things for large audiences and move really, really quickly? What have you learned about just doing great product launches and things that you’ve learned or changed through the process?
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 31:49
It’s a great question. And watching zoom over the years, and the other companies that I’ve been with and watching those launches, there’s a number of takeaways I’ve had to really make it successful. Naturally, first and foremost, is making sure what you’re launching is what the customer needs and wants, and not necessarily what you think. And that’s where that problem root cause really comes into play. Because you can very quickly get the alignment of going, we’re nailing their use case, and the problem they’re trying to solve. Now, in order to do that, you want to make sure that you’re putting yourself in the customers shoes, are you dogfooding your product or drinking your own champagne and really putting it through its paces ahead of releasing it to the customer to make sure that you’ve gotten it right for that customer. A feature you can evolve over time, but you want to make sure that it is a great experience the first time, so folks are just wowed by it. And if your team is on board with it internally, you know that they’ll be able to talk about it, and that it has achieved the goal that the customer wants. The other thing that naturally comes to mind, for me when I think about launches, is the success and failure of it really comes from the alignment of all the teams, it doesn’t matter how great a certain thing is, unless you have all of the team surrounded with it. And working together. You think about support marketing communications company as a whole, you want to make sure that there is that alignment and coming up to the launch, that can be a very stressful time. Some teams are on schedule, some teams are ahead, some are behind. But regardless, it is a feature that your organization is launching. So it is one team and you’ve got to cross the finish line together. It doesn’t matter who’s in first, second or third. It is getting that across the line. So really bringing that team mentality of Are we all ready to do this together and helping one another cross it is just so key. You know,
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 34:12
I think the the point around alignment makes a lot of sense are there you know, just very tactically speaking now, how do you get all the teams are aligned around the product launch? Or is there like a strategy doc that gets created prior to launch that all the team leaders or the functional leaders have to read and buy it on? Or what’s the exact process so that everybody is on the same page.
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 34:39
So on that one, how we get alignment across the organization. It starts with our problem root cause to make sure that everyone has the same perception of what we’re trying to address. This is the customer need. This is the pain point. And then we can go into This is our solution on how we’re trying to solve it. So folks are very much aligned of what the environment is, how we’re looking at approaching it. And then sort of the details of that. So they can get spun up very quickly on our customers, and on their environments. We also, since we encourage folks to try everything, naturally, you’ve got those sort of strategy decks, but then also putting it in the hands of all of our individuals to go try it firsthand, put yourself in the customers shoes. And so all the different groups can really get a look at it, and hands on experience. So they’re ready, they understand what we’re trying to achieve, and can provide that feedback as they see something. And then beyond that, it’s the constant checkpoints. It’s one team. It’s taking that pulse constantly of going, where is everyone at? Who has extra resources? Who needs more resources? How can we surge together and bring those talents together, to again, cross the line together with one amazing experience that meets our customers needs, has all the support behind it, and it’s just ready for the market to engage with and leverage.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 36:19
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So I mean, this is such a dynamic environment. I feel like the the I mean, the last few years have to spin. It seems like one big blog, it’s hard to know what year we’re in so much change into now, you know, there’s a group of people, I mean, they’re going back into the office, some people are trying to do hybrid, some people are remote, full time. How do you build a product in this environment? Like when you think about, you know, there’s so much I don’t think anyone for sure can predict what the future of work looks like. But, you know, with that lens, like, how do you figure out what to put on your roadmap? And what is the approach that you take when trying to build for the future of work?
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 37:04
Well, for us, we are definitely looking at the future of work and believe it’s hybrid. And so we’re constantly looking at how to individuals collaborate, and how do we empower that collaboration in a frictionless manner? I mean, as humans, we collaborate in so many ways, you think about writing verbally, non verbally, listening, reading. And so we’re really looking at how do we step back and leverage the technology to allow people to communicate more effectively, wherever they are, in whatever medium makes most sense for them. And so as you look at our features, we’re listening to our customers and listening to the challenges that they’re having, especially as they work with teams that are dynamic in nature. And we’re looking at rolling out solutions to help address that, whether that’s things such as collaborative whiteboard solutions that can work from home from a conference room, from mobile, all that looks at how do we place the technology in folks hands so that they can communicate? wherever they are?
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 38:17
Yeah, going back to your Ford analogy, you’re just trying to solve the problem, which is how do you get people to communicate, and that might take different shapes and forms and whatever the future work looks like? What doesn’t change is people’s need to communicate and collaborate. And so you’ll be there with the right solution. One thing that I wanted to chat about is the culture at zoom. So one of the things that you’ve said is that Zoom is a very engineering focused company. But you’ve also used the term compassionate engineers. How do you have a compassionate engineering team? And like, how have you made that a cultural value? Have you met made the whole team exhibit that that often, for most people, I think, like, if they hear that, they might think that that’s not the case by default. So you must have had to do some things to get everyone to behave in that way. So I’m just curious, like how you come across passionate engineering to,
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 39:17
you know, when we think about compassionate engineers, we’re really looking at engineers that aren’t just looking at the technical side of the problem, but also looking at what is that human experience? Because that is just as big a part of any item that we’re taking on is the experience. It’s not just the technical solution to it. So our engineers spend a lot of time looking at technical solutions. And then looking at what is that user journey? How have we optimize it for the user and taking out the barriers and friction and a lot have the technical challenges that they might experience. And so we spend a lot of time looking at our UI and UX. And our engineers really sit back and focus in on, how do we do just that slight tweak, to not just solve the problem, but to make it an amazing experience. And it’s those little things that makes such a difference, the ability to join a meeting, and have not just the option to select the audio device, but to have our system automatically look and go, we’ll give them the option to select it. But we’ll automatically select the one that we think is best for their system based off of what we see is common in it. That’s taking sort of that person first approach of going, What would someone want out of this experience? And how do we enable that with the technology?
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 40:57
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I love the example. That’s awesome. So Brendan, this has been an amazing conversation, you know, we started talking about working yourself out of a job. We’ve talked about removing constraints, learning from other industries. And you know, the constant theme throughout was listening to other people compassionately, and really always looking for the root cause. I think it’s been an incredible conversation. One question that we always like to end on is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to improve at their craft. What are some tips, tricks, or maybe just final parting words of wisdom that you leave them with?
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 41:38
Well, I think for parting words, you know, there are many challenges to overcome when we look at managing and leading in this new hybrid world of work. And the future of work isn’t limited to what work looks like you know, now, but how work is done, and more importantly, how we collaborate. So finding ways for technology to mimic these forms of communication that we leverage to help employees replicate the experience of being in the office with colleagues, and enabling them to build those relationships as a team is critical. So I believe managers need to be good at promoting and using technology to help lead their employees from wherever they choose to work be at home in the office or combination of the above. Moreover, the entire workforce will require training on how to incorporate these tools in ways that increase collaboration to keep teams efficient, regardless of location. So investing in those sessions in technology, and really focusing on your teams, I think is critical as we look at the future.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 42:46
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, the world is changing. So it does make sense that we’re going to have to do things differently. And that’s going to require effort and work and investment. I think that’s great advice, Brendan, thanks so much for doing this.
Brendan Ittelson (Zoom) 42:59