The "Next Normal": Zoom CIO Harry Moseley Shares His Thoughts on Effective Leadership During Times of Crisis
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In organizations across every industry, 2020 will be remembered for the unprecedented operational challenges the global lockdown created. Concerns over cybersecurity intensified, as employees connected their corporate laptops to home networks, and the question of whether productivity would wane haunted executive teams and board members. During these times of uncertainty and disruption, leaders were put to the test.
One technology company that felt the full force of change this year is Zoom. The video-telephony company added nearly $50 billion in market capitalization as organizations and schools around the world rushed to enable remote work. Zoom’s exponential growth couldn’t have been possible without strong and effective leadership.
“Throughout my career, I’ve seen organizations be challenged by incidents and events — 9/11 in 2001, huge storms in the Southeast and fires in California, for example — but nothing close to the magnitude and global impact of Covid-19,” said Zoom’s CIO Harry Moseley during a recent episode of Cloud Counsel. “The pandemic has impacted organizations in every sector, from global enterprises to government agencies, to educational institutions — all at the same time.”
The mass exodus from the physical workplace and schools put pressure on Zoom’s IT department to accommodate 300 million daily participants, a 30X increase from 10 million in December. Despite the massive demand, Zoom rose to the challenge.
Humbled By Rapid, Exponential Growth
Moseley attributes Zoom’s ability to handle the rapid increase in demand to the platform’s distributed architecture. “We enabled two trillion meeting minutes in April — up from 100 billion in January — while maintaining service levels and high availability,” he said. “It’s a great testimony to the quality of the architecture that our CEO, Eric Yuen, designed.”
Not only is Zoom used by countless organizations globally, more than 100,000 schools across 25 countries are hosted on the platform free of charge, which, for Mosley, is a humbling thought. “We’re not only working to keep the economy going,” he said. “We’re helping to educate people on a global scale.”
Moseley said that the speed at which organizations have been able to pivot to enable remote working is astonishing. “One client called us at 3:00 p.m. on a Friday to tell us they would have 175,000 employees working from home the following Monday, and asked if we could support them,” he said. “Our response was, ‘What time on Monday?’” By the end of the following week, all 175,000 employees were up and running on the platform. “Before Covid-19, everyone would have thought that was impossible, but in times of crisis, it’s amazing how fast people can make decisions and execute successfully,” he said.
Stay Calm And Partner On
To tackle new challenges posed by the pandemic, Moseley turned to past lessons for guidance. “History can be a great informant on how to lead in current times,” he said. “One lesson I’ve learned during my career is to never panic. If you go into panic mode, the brain becomes frazzled. It’s important to take a deep breath and remain calm.”
Zoom’s culture supports this measured approach to problem-solving, often employing rigorous analyses of issues rather than implementing a quick fix. “Instead of jumping to a conclusion and landing on a workaround, we pause, identify the problem, determine the root cause, then work on the solution,” said Moseley. “Without taking those steps, you could end up putting a solution in place that fixes the immediate problem but doesn’t prevent similar issues from occurring in the future.”
When things go into warp speed, strong partnerships are critical, as well. The organization leveraged its 17 global datacenters, as well as Amazon and Oracle clouds to manage the increased capacity. “To say we had planned for something like Covid-19 would be inaccurate, so we relied on our partners to support us,” Mosley said.
Past Myths About Remote Working Have Been Dispelled
Will remote working remain a common workplace practice? Moseley thinks it will. “The myth that people can’t work from home effectively has been dispelled,” he said. “People actually work extraordinarily well from home, and in many cases, are more productive than they are in the physical workplace.”
One huge benefit of remote working is access to a broader talent pool. “We can hire people who live anywhere in the world, and we don't need to relocate them,” Moseley noted. “They can work remotely like we’ve all been doing successfully since March, and the only thing to worry about is accommodating different time zones.”
Furthermore, Moseley said, remote working will simplify the logistics of reintroducing employees to the workplace while CDC guidelines are still in place. For example, corporate offices in larger cities like New York require workers to enter 50-story buildings, which poses immense challenges around elevator usage, dealing with long lines in lobbies, and limiting two-way traffic in narrow corridors. “Social distancing will require businesses to limit the number of employees who return to the workplace,” he said. “Creating hybrid working environments can alleviate these challenges, but organizations must continue to collaborate effectively.” Technology will be a critical enabler.
A Cultural Shift Is Inevitable
Still, corporate culture is being challenged by people working from home, as it changes the dynamics of business interactions. “Say I get on a Zoom call with my colleagues and there are three new faces — people I’ve never met,” Moseley said. “They may be new clients or new hires, and first impressions are critical. Meeting over Zoom for the first time is not the norm, and corporate culture will need to adapt.” This shift will be especially drastic in certain countries such as Japan, where culture plays a larger part in business relationships, he said.
While some people may prefer the social environment of a physical workplace — and others may not have suitable accommodations to continue working remotely — many will find the work/life balance they can enjoy too good to give up. Additionally, Moseley said, the shift to remote working will likely have a positive impact on a business’s top and bottom lines moving forward.
Adjusting To The "Next Normal"
Despite the challenges of what he calls the “next normal,” Moseley anticipates that experimentation will help organizations adapt and thrive. “We’re going to witness a lot of experiments — some that will work and some that won’t, but we’ll figure things out fast.” Technology, he said, will always play a key role. “Organizations either run on technology or build it, and without technology, every company grinds to a halt. It’s as critical as human capital or financials or product development to an organization's ability to operate effectively and succeed.”
Moseley noted that the role of the technologist has changed drastically during his career. “Today, young adults graduate college with advanced technology and analytical skills,” he said. “We’re here not to teach, but to provide access to tools and platforms that enable employees to apply those skills.” Doing so, said Moseley, improves the employee experience and increases employee engagement, loyalty, and retention, leading to better business outcomes.
And regardless of the obstacles that lie ahead, Moseley remains optimistic about corporate ingenuity and resilience. “The human race is extraordinarily resilient and inventive, and we’re going to see some great innovations emerging from this crisis that will help us work successfully in a distributed model,” he said. “I’m encouraged by what we’ve already accomplished — we can move much faster than ever before, and our creativity is astonishing.”
To watch the full interview, visit the Cloud Counsel website.