Hybrid Work: Consumer Tech Experiences at Work

In this final segment of a five-part Tech Barometer podcast series on hybrid work, Nutanix CIO Wendy M. Pfeiffer talks about what inspired her to think differently about enabling worker productivity, using consumer technologies and experiences that allow employees to be their authentic selves.

By Jason Lopez

By Jason Lopez December 8, 2022

As hybrid work becomes more systematized across different industries, leaders are keen on keeping worker productivity high. The way people use technologies at home for work and their daily lives is leading many to re-evaluate the types of technologies that would be used for hybrid workspaces.

“One of the contexts our employees are living in now is home,” said Nutanix CIO, Wendy M. Pfeiffer. “And home is the ultimate individual consumer environment.“

In this final segment of a five-part Tech Barometer podcast series on hybrid work, Pfeiffer talks about how the pandemic made her think differently about the technologies her company uses for employee collaboration. She’s leading her company’s shift to being a hybrid work-first company, which means empowering employees to work effectively and easily from home, remotely and in the office.

“Work is not a social experiment,” she said. “Work is a productivity experiment. That’s why we’re bringing consumer [technology] experiences into the workplace.”

She’s a long-time student of human-centered design, but as Nutanix opened its doors after the COVID-19 lockdown, she realized all employees share common needs. She said they want to be their authentic selves, yet sometimes technology can get in the way.

“I have feelings about the world and society and life, so when I show up to work I show up as me,” Pfeiffer said. 

“In my professional life, the best, highest good I can do for employees in my company is to recognize their humanness and enable their productivity.”

Nutanix is augmenting the work with game technology to encourage activity, productivity, collaboration and learning. Her quest in the shift to hybrid work involves bringing apps and tools into the workplace with a consumer feel.

She’s even using consumer devices that can enable hybrid meetings for a fraction of the cost of some enterprise-grade technologies. 

“We're doing that everywhere we can because frankly, the consumer tech is more performant and more cost-effective than the enterprise tech,” she said. 

The Shift to Hybrid Work series includes:

Transcript (unedited):

Wendy Pfeiffer: One of the contexts that our employees are living in now is home. And home is the ultimate individual consumer environment.  

Jason Lopez: Wendy Pfeiffer is the CIO of Nutanix. In this podcast series on the shift to hybrid work at the company, she talks about bringing the consumer experience into the workplace. 

Wendy Pfeiffer: At home, I got to pick my desk and my chair and my lighting and my pink color on my walls. My alarm clock wakes me up at a certain time and I drink the brand of coffee I want. I am speaking to you while looking into the display of my gaming computer because it's a great display. Would you ever choose non 4K video if you had the choice of 4K video? I'm embracing the consumer tool. I have a USB microphone that comes from a not enterprise IT context. Let's think about this a little bit. 

Jason Lopez: Digital has democratized many things. For example, 25 years ago, if you wanted to write music for an orchestra and record it on your own dime, it would cost you tens of thousands, perhaps more than a hundred grand, to rent a studio, hire 80 musicians, the audio engineers and the producer, and pay for music mastering. But with today’s apps you have access to astonishing music sampling of the BBC Symphony for 299 dollars. Wendy has a similar take on the apps her team has standardized on. 

Wendy Pfeiffer: I used to have to pay either Cisco or Crestron or Zoom a hundred thousand dollars a conference room illustratively in order to have a camera and microphones in there connected to the computer. That's enterprise conference room technology. Now, as one of our principles and enabling hybrid, first, we've brought a consumer tech device into our physical conference rooms. It's from a company called Owl Labs, o-w-l Labs, and it's called an owl. It's called an owl because it looks like an owl. It's got an 18-foot range in all directions. And we've just put one of those in our board room because our board of directors was having issues using all the expensive devices in the room to enable hybrid board meetings. This thing costs $900 and the audio and the video integrates seamlessly with Zoom. So I don't have to set up a device, I don't have to turn on the camera, I don't need to go find the HDMI cable. I didn't have to do anything at all. Just works in the room. Data isn't stored anywhere. Super cool, super integrated, not expensive. Latest technology, very, very clear. Audio and video. Kodak, just a microphone. And some cameras on a device comes from the sports camera space. I used to work at GoPro. It's just a gadget. But this gadget is enabling hybrid meetings for 1% of the price of the typical meeting room setup. We're doing that everywhere we can because frankly, the consumer tech is more performant and more cost effective than the enterprise tech. Same with tools for curating personal presence. 

Jason Lopez: Here, Wendy is talking about what you look like on video in a Zoom meeting, what your background looks like. It borders on meta-versian in that there are consumer tools for augmenting what you present on screen 

Wendy Pfeiffer: If I know that I'm not going to show up on the wavy, crappy video with my face in the dark and people not able to see me, like maybe I won't spend three out of the eight hours tomorrow that I've allocated for work to drive to. And from a location, maybe I'll show via Zoom and give three more hours to the company for other tasks. There's this technology if you've ever used Snapchat, a very consumer app where like I can take a photo of myself, but I can enable all these filters, so I'll look funnier, whatever, or like way better that technology's now available in Zoom. So I can click on the setup icon and I can choose to touch up my appearance and I have all kinds of options. I can appear like I'm wearing makeup. I can change the lighting. I can have my face look thinner. I can even change my background, my skin tone, et cetera. And so that I'm able to curate my experience.  

Jason Lopez: These features on Zoom fall under categories like Since the features have been available on Zoom, Wendy has gotten a lot employee feedback. 

Wendy Pfeiffer: I can't tell you how much feedback we get from employees on this. How I feel much more comfortable. I feel better in these meetings with prospects when I'm selling that ability to curate how I show up. That principle is in consumer tech everywhere. It's in Discord. I build my reputation differently there. It's on my mobile phone, it's in technologies like Zoom. I just had a conversation with Eric, the CEO of Zoom, and he said that's their most popular, most enabled feature. 

We just lost our minds virtually. And that's the only place we want to curate how we show up. Now, think about how you dress to go into the office. You make sure that you, I don't know, shine your shoes. I wear a longer jacket, so like my, my fat butt doesn't show, you know, I put a little extra makeup on, I do my hair. Like all of that is like you, you're already doing that. But we give people the, the ability to do that everywhere. 

Jason Lopez: Wendy Pfeiffer is the CIO of Nutanix. In this brief series on hybrid work: the initiative by Nutanix IT on the future of how IT teams work. This is the Tech Barometer podcast, produced by The Forecast. Look us up for more in this series with Wendy at theforecastbynutanix.com. 

Learn how the Nutanix Cloud Platform helps unify hybrid multicloud IT infrastructure.

Jason Lopez is executive producer of Tech Barometer, the podcast outlet for The Forecast. He’s the founder of Connected Social Media. Previously, he was executive producer at PodTech and a reporter at NPR.

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