The pandemic wrought many changes in our lives and how we connect to others. Business & Finance spoke to Harry Moseley, Global Chief Information Officer of Zoom, the platform for online connection, about the impact of new ways.
Interview: David Monaghan, Words: Sarah Freeman
Note: This piece was originally published in Business & Finance magazine, vol. 58, no. 3, available to read, with compliments, here.
With lockdowns of varying degrees of severity implemented all over the world for the last 18 months, we turned increasingly to online platforms in order to socialise, work and engage with the world. Now, as a result, how we run our lives has been infused with a greater tech presence than ever before.
One company entered public consciousness and became so prevalent that its very name has entered the lexicon as a verb, namely ‘to Zoom’ someone. The act of meeting someone via the Zoom platform is now so familiar to so many of us. The Zoom platform has hosted weddings, school lessons, parties, book clubs, yoga classes and endless social gatherings. Workers around the world have spent a considerable portion of their working day liaising with colleagues and cutting deals with clients on the platform.
Harry Moseley is Zoom’s CIO and the man behind the technology. B&F met with him, appropriately over Zoom, to ask the global tech leader his views on the changing world around us and what lies ahead for the hybrid workplace.
The tech superstar’s credentials are impeccable. He’s been inducted into CIO Magazine’s Hall of Fame, recognized as one of the world’s top 100 CIOs by Computerworld, and been honored by Irish Magazine (twice) as one of its Annual Wall Street 50.
Moseley was born and bred in Dublin and went on to third level education in Trinity College Dublin where he studied engineering, maths and computer science.
“When I graduated with degrees in computer science and engineering, I always wanted to be an engineer. You had to do math and computer science was part of math and it was kind of fun and I enjoyed it.”
In early 1978, he was working for an engineering consulting company in the UK. The job involved programming a micro computer to do various pieces of engineering for buildings and Moseley found that computer programming was more enjoyable than the engineering side.
“So I thought, why don’t I take a role working in tech? So I moved to tech.”
Later that year, Moseley took a role with a software company in London and in time was promoted and transferred to New York, USA.
From that point on, Moseley was steeped in tech. He started up his own company in the early 1980’s, then joined another company as a programme manager, worked his way up and became CTO for UPS America. From there, he took on the role of CTO for Credit Suisse and then back to a software company.
This career development took place against the backdrop of travelling all the time with young children at home, which was not always easy.
He would move again to the Blackstone Group and then to KPMG before finally, in 2017, Moseley decided to retire. Within days, he received a communique from Zoom, the video-first platform company helping communication happen across the world.
“Several days after retirement I got a call from Zoom asking if I’d join as global CIO. After a lot of no’s, I thought it might be fun. I met Eric Yuan, a very humble man with great vision around unified communications as a service. With my 40 years in tech, the solutions we put in place did not work seamlessly but I thought I could help this company and it could be a lot of fun.”
Moseley references fun, joy and happiness frequently and his emphasis on the importance of the same in the context of work is refreshing.
“As I reflect on the last 3.5 years, I’ve always had fun at work and I fundamentally believe that If you’re not having fun at work and you don’t enjoy what you do then find another job because you’re not going to do it well. If you struggle to get out of bed to go to work that’s a problem, if you’re cranky at the end of the day that’s a problem.”
He clearly finds great fulfilment from his work and when discussing the impact Zoom has had over the past 18 months, he describes the ability to have helped the world as ‘humbling’.
“To have connected government, schools, global enterprises. When you think about what we do and how we connect people, when you think about what people have experienced, the pain and challenges that people have had, I’d like to think that zoom has brought them a little joy in their lives.
The company was uniquely placed to function well when the pandemic first hit and Moseley was there for the exponential growth of Zoom. He began working there in 2018 when the company was just 7 years old and had 800 employees. By April 2020, the company had 300M daily meeting participants.
Moseley said witnessing the exponential growth of the company was extraordinary.
“Oh my God, it was just like a blur. I think back then everyone just got up and worked at a feverish pace. We scaled really fast and quite honestly there were a lot of challenges.
Fortunately, the company had additional capacity built into their data centres and so the technology and architecture were able to handle the load.
“As the sun travelled west and certain areas became quiet, we were able to shift capacity.”
Moseley credits their great partners in the tech space for facilitating this and recalls a significant contract they signed on a Friday which required additional network capacity to be operational the following Monday.
“Normally that would take 90 days to get that provisioned but we got it done in 72 hours because of a great partner that jumped all over it.”
Into the Future
Moseley believes the platform has brought about a much greater understanding of what equality is and he fervently hopes that, as we emerge from this pandemic, we hold onto the positives that have been established.
“There’s lots of challenges and hopefully we’ll deal with those but my hope is that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, that we don’t pivot back to the way things were, that we identify the things that we like and love and that really are very effective and that we continue those and hone others.”
Elaborating on the positives, Moseley mentioned the increased knowledge in how governments are run, the democratisation of meetings and how we’re now able to include people in geographically distributed areas.
“We’re now able to offer jobs to people in areas where previously they would never have had these opportunities before because in the past you had to go work in the corporate office in the major city. Now we don’t need to do that. Now we can provide opportunities to people like never before. I think it’s pretty terrific actually.”
He adds that organisations have learnt how to do things at speed and scale.
“CEOs gave up all the bureaucracy and let people sort of run with it and what they found was that the org was able to go a lot faster, giving people more control, flattening the structure, removing some of the processes to let people do things faster and here we are today.”
Moseley describes how the related processes encouraged employees to be more entrepreneurial.
“Before the pandemic, managers managed people to get the work done. Now, it’s all about managing the work.”
How we work
Moseley recalls how he used to tell his wife, ‘I’m going to work’ and says that it was a lie because he was in fact going to the office.
“Work is something we do, it’s not a place. We can work from anywhere more productively and more effectively than in the office. I can do my work anywhere; from my home, from a hotel, from my sister’s living room in Dublin. The office is somewhere we’ll go when we need to do something together.”
Moseley firmly believes that the practise of being in an office five days per week is over.
“The future will be hybrid and we’ll see different versions of that. It mIght be a few days in the office, it might be alternative weeks. We’ll see a lot of experiments over the next 6-12 months. There will not be a one size fits all.”
He acknowledges that in education, it behoves young children to be in a classroom together where they can learn how to work with other people and socialise. That experience, he says, doesn’t come through in a virtual world. However, the higher up the education system you go, the more opportunities there are for virtual learning with an ability to attract students from all over the world. Moseley also noted the achievement of Dublin Tech Summit as an example of an in-person event that pivoted with great success to virtual.
“I’ve always been urging hybrid events where you can attract more audiences around the world, more speakers. The world has either [gotten] a lot bigger or smaller depending on your perspective.”
How tech affects humanity
Moseley spoke about the disconnect that can occur in an increasingly tech-saturated world and how he himself found ways to switch off.
“The number one cure to loneliness is to get a puppy. I got my pandemic puppy and getting a dog has been a great remedy. I have to walk him and he requires attention so it’s a distraction. I take him for several walks during the day.”
His commute now takes three seconds but he adds twenty minutes to walk the dog and then go to his home office afterwards.
“As long as the work’s getting done, it doesn’t matter. Today, I’ll take an hour off to play tennis with my wife and I’ll come back home and make dinner. And then I’ll spend a few hours catching up on work.”
He discounts the notion that video is exhausting and says the key is to take regular breaks and to ensure they are bona fide breaks from work.
“Video is not exhausting! It’s great to see you, it’s great to get those non verbal cues. To see you nod, smile, shake your head. People recommend taking a call while you’re walking but no, don’t do that. Walk, smell the air, say hello to people and think. Enjoy the fresh air, enjoy the moment. Do the call when you get back.”
He continues: “In an office, there are lots of distractions. At home, that doesn’t happen. So at home, your brain is fully engaged in an activity and I can do that for a couple of hours straight. If you compare it to driving a car on the autobahn for 3 hours straight, it’s exhausting. You need to take control of your calendar and take your breaks. Otherwise your brain will be fried.”