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Monday, May 3, 2021

My next play: I’m going back to school, again.

When I was getting my MBA I met a few MBA students from other schools who were doing joint MBA/MPA’s through Harvard’s Kennedy School. I had no idea such joint programs existed and was bummed that I did not try to do a program like that at the time. I looked more into Harvard’s MPA programs and saw they had a full time Mid-Career 1 Year MPA. This program is designed for people later in their careers that often already have advanced degrees. Before I graduated with my MBA 8 years ago, I made the goal to attend this program.

Even before the pandemic, my wife and I decided that if I was going to apply to Harvard’s MPA program, 2020 was the year to do it for our family (which now includes 3 kids under 6). She has been extremely supportive even though this means moving our family again after only having moved to Raleigh from the Bay Area in September of last year. She has been an incredible partner on my career adventures. I like to tease her about how lucky she is that I don’t like to golf or watch sports but I do have one hobby that is really expensive and time consuming: grad school. Few things sound more fun to me than being a student again so I can sit in interesting classes and get to know interesting people.

I was interested in this program for a lot of reasons. Interest in the public sector/public service has been brewing in me for a long time. As the son of a Cuban immigrant, I have always felt a deep gratitude, respect and love for the United States from a young age. I saw how my family was able to leave a dangerous political situation and build successful lives in the US with the personal freedoms that were disappearing in Cuba when they fled. I believe the US has a net positive impact on the world and helping the standing/influence of the US on the world stage motivates me.

At the age of 19, I served a two-year, full time volunteer mission for my church working with Spanish speaking congregations in Southern California. That was an incredible experience for a lot of reasons, but it definitely helped to bust open my world view on many different levels. One of my most memorable experiences was trying to provide some comfort to an alcoholic around Christmas time. He lived in a junky trailer behind a house in the worst part of town. Listening to him describe how he was driven to alcohol after losing his wife and daughter tragically as he illegally crossed into the US seeking a better life was a life changing moment for me. I really saw, recognized and felt the suffering of someone from a different culture, religion and country. That moment has helped drive the need for my life to have a positive impact outside of my immediate sphere of influence. I also at that time was able to recognize how fortunate I had been in many aspects of my life.

As an undergrad I was initially drawn more to studying business, but after being rejected from BYU’s competitive undergraduate business program, I decided to study Political Science. I absolutely loved my classes but continued to nurture the business side of me with club affiliations and internships. I graduated in 2009 during the peak of the recession. I did not have a job at graduation but was fortunate enough to get another marketing internship at a software company where I continued to build marketable skills. As that summer was starting to wrap up, I felt that marketing in a software company was a really good fit for me. I’m naturally an evangelist for the things I care about so promoting a product or service that I believed in felt good. As the son of a software engineer, I always had an interest in technology and I liked the pace and excitement of the industry. Unfortunately, I was not having much success trying to get a full time job where I was interning because of a hiring freeze. I continued to look for jobs in tech all over the country. My plan was if I was not able to get a job in tech by the end of the summer, I would move to DC to pursue more public sector interests. This was a significant career fork in the road for me.

It’s a long story for another blog post, but I was fortunate to land my first job at Salesforce in San Francisco. When I got that job, I had never even visited San Francisco before. I was ready for that adventure and eagerly packed everything into the back of my truck and moved to SF. At that point I started flying down the tech career path. Being in SF provided a ton of new experiences and greatly expanded what I thought was possible for me professionally. You are going to laugh, but I had never even had Indian food before I moved to San Francisco. During that time, I also met my amazing wife and we got married. Working in marketing was still feeling like a great fit, but after 3 years at Salesforce I decided to return to BYU to do an MBA. An MBA had also been a goal of mine since my undergrad. My goal in getting an MBA was to prep myself for future leadership, have fun, learn and expand my horizon and that’s exactly what I did. After exploring different cities, industries and jobs during my MBA program, tech marketing still seemed like the best place for me, so after my MBA I returned to Silicon Valley to work at LinkedIn in marketing. That was a great experience, but after a few years, I was itching for another adventure and specifically something that would accelerate my career experiences.

My thought process was that if I am going to be living in Silicon Valley, the pedal needs to be to the metal. I joined Zoom in April of 2017 when there was about 100M in revenue and 500 employees. Zoom was a rocketship. Immediately after joining I had more responsibility and experiences that I had ever had before. I was fortunate enough to run the first two Zoomtopia’s,  be on the IPO deal team and build out our international, partner marketing and localization programs. I built a talented team of around 20 marketers in 5 different countries.

The pandemic had a profound impact on our business at Zoom that I will definitely describe in more detail in a later blog post someday. I will say though that working at Zoom in 2020 during the pandemic and all the challenges we faced as a company, gave me chance to work on a lot of things outside of my day job that started to scratch the public service/public sector itch, including launching Zoom’s International Government relations program. Zoom overnight had become center stage on critical issues like the future of work, security, relations with China, privacy and many others. I had a front row seat on the biggest collision of policy, technology, international relations and public health that we have had as a nation in a very long time. This has helped me recognize areas where I think there needs to be some changes for the US to continue to expand our leadership position in technology.

My experiences the last year and a half at Zoom during the pandemic have really brought together my professional experiences and some of my long-standing interests in ways I could have never predicted. It stirred some passions that have been taking a back seat the first ~10 years of my career. Adding fuel to the fire has been seeing the political turmoil in the US over the last four years. Personally, I value diversity of thought, peace, diplomacy and respect in the political process. As I angrily watched protestors storm the US capitol, it solidified my desire to pursue this path. I have felt very strongly for the last 8 years that I have wanted to pursue this path, but like it often does, how this might all work only became clearer towards the end of my 8-year journey to apply to this program.

I feel grateful and privileged to be able to take this detour. Very quickly in my career I was able to provide enough for myself and my family to even be able to think about pursuing my interests and passions, even when that has meant stepping out of the workforce or taking what some might consider riskier moves. I view my career as an adventure, not just a way to make a living. Most people are not able to do that, so I feel the weight of making it count and using this experience for good.

I feel lucky to have had so many people in my corner (parents, family, mentors, bosses, friends) throughout my whole life that always encouraged me, nudged me and helped me see what was possible, even when I did not. If you were to tell me in high school that I would go to grad school at Harvard, I would have laughed you out of the room. Below is the video of when I found out I had been accepted.

At this point you are probably thinking, “well…what the heck are you going to do after you graduate?”. My response to that is “ask me in a year”.

I have been so focused on my tech career, that now I will take this year to re-tool, learn and explore the public sector. I am interested in tech policy, local government, international relations and the refugee crisis. This could mean I pursue one of those areas after graduation, or I find other ways to apply it to my business career or incorporate public service later into my life.

As always, let’s keep in touch and if you roll through Boston in the next 12 months and want to say hi, please reach out.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

4 Career Lessons from 4 Years at Zoom

Four years ago I remember leaving LinkedIn's swanky offices to go interview at Zoom. As I sat in the lobby waiting for my interviews at Zoom HQ in downtown San Jose,  I remember looking around at the very scrappy/modest start up office and really questioning whether this was a good idea. 

Turns out, it was the right thing for me and I've learned so much from my experience so far at Zoom. I'm on paternity leave right now so I've had some time to reflect on the last four years and wanted to share 4 lessons from 4 years at Zoom. Now, I must admit I stole this format from my friend at DoorDash, Nathan Tanner. His 4 year post is great if you want to check it out

1. Personal growth is almost always uncomfortable. I joined Zoom because I wanted to push myself. I figured if I was going to be in Silicon Valley I wanted my career to accelerate as quickly as possible. Joining a small, fast growing software company like Zoom was my way of trying to kick things up a notch. It really has been a career accelerator, but I always joke around with other Zoomies that even pre-pandemic Zoom felt like a brand new company every 1-2 quarters and during the pandemic it has felt like a new company every 60 days. This means there were countless times I felt completely in over my head, overworked, outside of my comfort zone, unprepared or frustrated that a process that worked 6 months ago no longer works. Over time, I'm come to learn that those uncomfortable feelings are signs that you're growing and being stretched, it's the price you pay for growth.   

2. Anything worth doing will have naysayers. When I joined Zoom, no one really tried to talk me out of it, but some people definitely seemed less enthusiastic or impressed when I shared the news. As Zoom has become more well know and grown, I've had several people reach out and say to me something like "wow...when you joined Zoom I thought you were really making a bad career move but looks like it has worked out!". It does not always work out, but as I look back on that decision and have watched other people make different career moves, I've come to the conclusion that if everyone thinks everything you're doing is 100% the right thing to do and the perfect path, you are probably not doing anything too interesting or your friends/network is too homogenous. I have found immense value is talking career moves over with a variety of people I trust and respect, but at the end of the day you have to decide what your path is and not let a consensus or worries about the perceptions of others drive big decisions.  

3. You're in the drivers seat of your career. Even in companies with sophisticated career programs, you have to decide what you want to pursue, have goals and share them with your manager. If your company does not have good career programs not only do you have to do those things, but also drive it to action, whether that be a promotion, a role change or additional responsibility. I see a lot of people that seem to be waiting around for someone to give them an opportunity, or point out to them their next best career move. Chances are you are surrounded by people that can do that, but often you need to ask or initiate those conversations. Waiting for a formal evaluation once a year is usually not enough. Also, be wary of stagnation, deciding to things slow down a bit career wise is often the right call, but it should be a conscious decision. 

4. Raise your hand. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world with the variety and amount of cool experiences I've had the last four years at Zoom. I got to run our first Zoomtopia (I hired my favorite band, Weezer to be the entertainment), be on the IPO deal team and help launch our International Government Relations program. All of these things were never my day job, but most of them happened because I volunteered or just started doing it. Now, I must admit there were almost always moments I regretted signing up for a big project on top of my existing demanding job, but looking back on the last four years, some of the most interesting, fulfilling and memorable experiences came from my willingness to raise my hand. 

The last four years has been the most rewarding and challenging time of my career. As I reflect on this journey so far, I'm filled with gratitude to all the Zoomies that have helped make this such a incredible place to work and hope these hard earned lessons can help or inspire anyone reading.   

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

A Cliché Bay Area Farewell and the Future of Work

If there is one thing that is more cliche in Silicon Valley than wearing a Patagonia vest, sporting Allbirds, discussing the latest S-1's dropping or planning a future trip to burning man, it's writing a blog post about moving away from the Bay Area. 

I fought the urge, but once a blog post is swimming around in my head, I have to write it. Actually, what I want to talk about the most are the trends that got us here, how the world is different now and what the future of the Bay Area could look like. Yes, my family and I are moving to the Raleigh area in North Carolina, but more about that later.

A bit of background: I've spent my entire career working in tech in the Bay Area. I moved here during the last recession in 2009 and have basically been here ever since. I've lived in San Francisco, Mountain View and Palo Alto. My wife has lived here her whole life and now we've got three kids, all under 5 years old. I've gotten to work for what I believe are some of the best companies in the Bay Area: Salesforce, LinkedIn and now Zoom.

I'm not going to rehash the great things about the Bay Area in detail because those are well known: the weather, mountains, coast, incredible food, amazing schools, incredible intellectual capital and the best career/life changing companies in the world to work for. In my eyes, there is really just one main downside to overcome… the cost. On one side of the equation are all the amazing things about the Bay Area and on the other side is the cost.

There is no doubt that COVID has drastically changed that equation for many. Suddenly the dynamics of the situation have changed. You have a really small house or apartment because of the cost, but now your job is not tied to a physical location. Is the Bay Area still worth it? For many, the scales get tipped and the answer will be no.

I've read so many articles about whether working remotely will stick once this terrible virus goes away and I think that while many people will return to the office, many people will decide to stay remote or find in office tech jobs outside the Bay Area. Here are my reasons for why this will be a lasting trend that will result in a new normal far beyond where we were pre-COVID.

1. Some of the most well known and largest tech employers are embracing long term remote work to a level that has never been seen before. These companies are leaders and have set expectations for the industry. Every week more companies are added to the list. The ability to work from home is going to become as expected and iconic of a tech company as having a ping pong table.

2. Long before COVID, large tech companies in high cost areas like the Bay Area had started to invest heavily in “2nd HQ’s” in low cost areas. The majority of hiring in a lot of these Bay Area tech companies, even pre-COVID was focused on the lower cost areas. Now, it will become even easier and more attractive to transfer roles to the other HQ office in Salt Lake, Chicago, Denver or Austin.

3. COVID has forced a massive WFH experiment. Some will like it, some won't, but millions more have tried it that might not have ever tried it without COVID. It has accelerated exposure and adoption.

4. The tech scenes in other lower cost states have really matured over the last few years, better companies, more options and stronger startup ecosystems. (I'm looking at you Texas, Utah and North Carolina)

5. The tools to work from home are better. Companies like Zoom and Slack exist today because previous chat and video software products (which we have relied on heavily when working remotely) did not live up to their potential. Identity management tools like OKTA and a variety of other cloud applications have made it so you can truly be anywhere to run many, complex applications.

6. Hardware is more accessible to enable video connections. That means every laptop and phone has a camera, which was not the case 10 years ago. Not only that, but the cost of building video enabled rooms into conference rooms has fallen off a cliff. Now that you'll be able to plug your work video conferencing into a Google Nest Hub, Facebook Portal or Amazon Echo Show will enable you to create video conferencing experiences as smooth as your high priced video enabled boardroom with the hardware already sitting in your house.

7. A new generation of companies even before the pandemic were proving out that larger firms can go fully remote. InVision, Gitlab and Zapier are great examples.

So what is my prediction about the future of the Bay Area?

I'm still pretty bullish on the Bay Area. While a lot has changed, some things have not changed. It still has world class schools, companies and weather. Those with a lot of the power and money in tech are less likely to leave in the wake of COVID because they are not worried as much about the cost and likely living in a space they are comfortable with (or hiding out in their 2nd homes in Napa, Tahoe or Carmel). Working in office with those leaders and executives will have some advantages post COVID. However, one of the Bay Area's competitive advantages as the tech center of the world is the in-person connections where networking and deal making happen. Those in person events will return, but will it be to the same extent? How long will it take? Will virtual happy hours stick? Maybe Silicon Valley VC's will have gotten used to making deals over Zoom and invest in companies that are further away from their offices? I think there will be a new normal that will weaken the Bay Area's grip to some degree.

In general, I think the concentration of talent, money and other resources has been good for Silicon Valley and have enabled it to become the worldwide leader in technology. However, too much concentration for too long has led to some of the highest costs in the country. And that is not a good thing in my opinion for a lot of reasons. It was never going to be sustainable, especially without bold efforts by the local government and the community to change that.

I do not see any area in the US surpassing the Bay Area as the strongest US tech hub anytime soon, but I do think what we are experiencing with COVID will greatly strengthen and accelerate the already blossoming tech hubs throughout the US. Lower cost tech ecosystems have much to gain in this environment and if I were them, I'd be welcoming any talent leaving the Bay Area with open arms.

In the meantime, the Bay Area will still be strong and traffic will be better. And while I don't think housing costs will fall off a cliff any time soon, it might cool off the growth rate we've seen over the last few decades.

The Bay Area is still a place where dreams come true. Spending the first 10 years of my career here was probably the best professional decision I ever made. I do not wish for the demise of the Bay Area as a worldwide tech leader, but I do hope for a stronger, nationwide tech ecosystem in many states that brings innovation, high paying jobs and taps into talent that would never be able to come to the Bay Area.

Why now and why did we choose the Raleigh area?

When I was in grad school, I had a case competition at UNC. My wife tagged along for the weekend and we really liked it. Three strong Universities in the Research Triangle creates a ton of intellectual capital. It also has a growing tech scene, a relatively temperate climate, it’s a few hours from the beach and has extremely affordable housing. We've also had a few more family members make their way to the east coast recently.

COVID really did become the straw that broke the camel's back. Luckily at the beginning of the year, after living several years in a 800 square foot cottage with 2 kids, we rented a 3 bed 2 bath place in Palo Alto for an amount that made me cringe every time I paid the rent. We felt lucky to have a bit more space when COVID hit, but in May we had our 3rd kid. Combine this with me working from home, we were bursting at the seams. Since I'm not going back to the office anytime soon, the kids need space and I need a dedicated workspace. We figured that now is as good a time as any to try an adventure in a place we've been talking about living in for years. Being able to move to a lower cost area without changing jobs made the leap even more attractive.

To my friends and colleagues in the Bay Area, I'll miss seeing you all in person and will surely be out to visit frequently once this terrible virus goes away, but until then, I'll see you on Zoom. :)

Monday, June 22, 2020

Recent Media Interviews

Given Zoom's sudden popularity, it has become part of my job to be a media spokesperson for Zoom in our markets outside the US. I've learned a whole lot about speaking with the media over the last few months and overall it has been a very positive experience to tell Zoom's story at this crazy time. I'm going to use this post to track the interviews I've been doing. More to come!

20minutos - Spanish Publication (my first media interview in Spanish)

New York Times - This was a random one, did not have anything to do with work, but a journalist from the NYT saw a tweet I wrote complaining about the internet and reached out. - Brazilian TV interview. 2nd one here. 

BBC Radio Interview I did on the Business Matters show. 


Personnel Today  HR publication

Epoca Negocios Brazilian Business Publication

Friday, April 24, 2020

Post MBA Career Decisions: Big Tech or Late Stage Startup

A friend of mine invited me recently to talk to the Duke MBA tech club about career paths in tech for MBA's post business school. In this 5 minute clip I shared my experience and some of the pros and cons of going to one of the big tech companies or pursuing a late stage startup, as well as the potential career implications.

Friday, April 17, 2020

A Guide to Running LDS Church Service (or really any church service) Virtually Over Zoom

Hi all,

I've been getting a ton of questions about having church meetings over Zoom. I've worked at Zoom for the last 3+ years. Here is crash course.

First, Zoom has a very robust free product that can have meetings with 100 people at a time. To sign up for free just go to The main limitation is that there is a 40 minute time limit if you are meeting with 3 or more people. This can be used for all sorts of meetings, large and small. You can even do breakout rooms and divide people up into smaller classes. If you are going to have church meetings virtually, I strongly recommend you use some of the security features outlined here. Please use passwords.

You're better off posting meeting invite details into email lists and not publicly on social media. If you share a Zoom meeting invite on social media and don't have a password or enable waiting rooms, anyone and I mean ANYONE can join your meeting.

If you want to meet for over 40 minutes, you can buy one license for $14.99 here.

If you are going to have consistent ward wide or congregation wide meetings over Zoom. I recommend you run this as a Zoom Webinar. Check this article out for a how to. This means you'll only see video and audio from the speakers. In a normal Zoom meeting everyone can be on video and audio. A webinar will make it easier to manage a large group, you can also stream it to Facebook or YouTube. Webinar licenses start at $40/a month depending on how many people you are expecting.

A few other quick tips.

1. You can broadcast video and audio so for the music you can share YouTube clips, PPT or visual aid.
2. You can mute everyone all at once.
3. You can make a meeting setting so people will be automatically muted upon entry. A really good idea.
4. For the paid versions of Zoom it also includes a dial in number which can be helpful for people w/o computer access or have difficulty with technology.
5. It generally does not work well to have everyone singing at once. Best to have one person sing and others sing at home, or just broadcast it.

Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any questions.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

My Recent Post on Nathan Tanner's Blog

Recently, an author and good friend of mine, Nathan Tanner asked if I'd answer a few career related questions for his blog. I was flattered because he has been the guy I call the last few years when I had a tricky career or HR situation. As I answered the questions, I really enjoyed reflecting on a few lessons, failures and critical moments. Check it out if you are interested.

I highly recommend you check out the rest of his blog and book for great career related content.