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How have CIOs around the globe survived the pandemic, and how will the experience change the way they lead going forward? I chatted with Harry Moseley, the Global CIO of Zoom, about the challenges and opportunities that the crisis has presented.
Prior to Zoom, Harry spent 40+ years leading technology organizations such as UBS and Credit Suisse, the Blackstone Group and KPMG. 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. He has also held a number of board positions for both business and non-profit organizations.
Getting to Zoom
Recently, Harry retired after serving as CIO & Managing Director for KPMG. Having spent his entire career leading technology organizations, he felt it was time to do something different with his life. But then Zoom called and said they were looking for a global CIO. Harry listened to the pitch, but wasn’t interested in relocating to California.
“They told me that since they were a video-first platform, I wouldn’t need to relocate and that they’d like to have an executive on the East Coast. I met Eric Yuan, our CEO and Founder, a true gentleman but also super smart. He had a vision about unified communications and collaboration by acquiring a variety of different technologies and stitching them together to enable that sort of collaboration.”
As a technology leader, Harry understood the need to collaborate locally, nationally and globally, and decided to join. He believed it would be great fun, and that the platform would have a positive impact on the world.
Little did he know what he was in for.
The Impact of a Zoom-First World
“Just imagine how dark the last 13 months would have been if it was an audio-only world,” says Harry. “Zoom video is the new voice. I see you nodding. I see you smiling. I know you’re agreeing.”
One of their customers, a large financial services organization, called Zoom on Friday, March 13th, 2020. They were going all virtual the following Monday and wanted to know if Zoom could support them.
“And our response was, what time Monday morning? Fast forward to the following Friday and 180,000 people were taken virtual on Zoom over the course of seven calendar days. If anybody had said three months earlier that we could take 180,000 people in one organization and migrate them to Zoom over the course of seven calendar days, we wouldn’t have believed them – we would have said that’s just crazy. We could never do that.
Over the past 13 months we’ve learned that we can actually do amazing things in incredibly short periods of time, when we have the goal of doing a few things really well, rather than doing a lot in a mediocre fashion. We do communications and collaboration. And we do it really well.”
Managing Customer Demand
Before the pandemic, Zoom wasn’t in the background of building infrastructure for an onslaught of new customer demand of this scale. But they were aware of the growth trajectory of clients coming on board to the platform. As a result:
- All of Zoom’s data centers had excess capacity.
- Zoom had phenomenal partners in place around the world who were available in a heartbeat to help the surge in customer demand.
- In every geography, Zoom had multiple colocation centers. “In the US, we have East Coast, we’ve got Center and we’ve got the West Coast. And as the sun comes up on the East Coast, the New York data centers start to get busy. If they need additional capacity, they can borrow from Center or West Coast. As the sun continues on its journey towards the West Coast, it gets more active and can borrow from the East Coast as it starts to acquiesce. The ability to borrow from what I call ‘Sister Data Centers’ is how we were able to scale.”
And scale they did. Zoom went from 10 million daily meeting participants in December to over three hundred million daily meeting participants. In April, they went from one hundred billion annualized meeting minutes to over three trillion annualized today.
“All the while we maintain customer satisfaction and high service levels. Many people actually refer to Zoom as a utility — as a platform that can’t go down. And the platform is not just about business. It’s about human interaction — connecting with your friends, your family, educating children and even running countries.”
In one case Zoom had to do a network upgrade for New York data centers to support the New York City school system. Normal network upgrades take 90 days. Zoom did it in seventy-two hours.
Transforming Leadership in a Post-Pandemic World
“There has been a dramatic change in the way CIOs need to lead because the virtual world is dramatically different from the in-person world. The behaviors that are exhibited in an in-person world can’t just be transcended into a video world. You can’t, for example, tell the teacher and the students to go home now, open up your laptop or your tablet and turn on your camera, turn on your microphone, turn on your speakers, turn on your screen, and do exactly the same thing that you were doing in the classroom. In-person teaching and learning versus distance teaching and learning are dramatically different.
And the same thing is true in the professional world. You can’t run a board meeting the same way in the virtual world as you would in the in-person world.
So leading and managing has changed forever. Before the pandemic we’d go into the office and talk to the team, manage the people, and get the work done. We don’t do that anymore. It’s all about achieving the outcomes. There is no schedule. Eric Yuan, the founder and my boss, doesn’t really care when I work – but he cares about the outcomes. He inspires employees to wake up in the morning with the attitude of ‘How can I help this company? How can I help our clients? How can I help move this ball forward?’ Now, achieving excellence is doing the best job you can.”
A Culture of Innovation
“At Zoom, we’re known for innovating at speed and at scale. We were the first with virtual backgrounds. We were the first to have a video for backgrounds. We were the first to have a presentation as your background content. And we’re going to continue down that path of innovating at speed and scale. That culture of innovation gets everybody excited. It’s like you’re working hard to break that sound barrier – to change behaviors. It’s never been a better time to be in technology.
When we think about things like artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, IOT, now ML 5G, and soon 6G, we are only scratching the surface of what these technologies enable us to do.
In the last year, we’ve learned that having 20 people on a video meeting is democratizing. It’s given us the ability to include people that we haven’t been able to in the past. If you’re a caregiver, for example, you haven’t had the ability to work because you weren’t able to be in the office five days a week. Now, that’s all changed. A hybrid model will allow organizations to be more inclusive.
It’s clear that COVID-19 accelerated the trajectory of the transformation path we were already on. My partner, Annabel Mexica, a CIO advisor for Zoom, says that when we talked about digital transformation 10 years ago it was about ‘What can the machine do versus what can the human do?’ Now we’re entering a new phase of digital transformation which is ‘What can we do virtually versus what do we have to do in person?’ In my opinion, that exemplifies what every enterprise, every government, every educational institution in the world is now looking at because they recognize it’s going to be hybrid. How can we make that hybrid experience truly fantastic? People are now selecting companies not just based on compensation benefits. Since they know they can work anywhere, they care more about the company culture and work life balance.”
Working with Startups
I’ve always had the privilege of working with startups. In my prior roles I took tours through a bunch of great VCs, looked at their portfolio, and tried to identify great companies that were just starting to get revenue. I joined Zoom in 2018 when the company was seven years old, had 800 employees and was just getting started. Here’s my advice:
- You’ve got to develop very good relationships with people, because if you develop that really great relationship and they trust you, then you get your toe in the door.
- It’s super important to be transparent and to meet your obligations. And if you can’t, at least do everything you can to possibly get there.
- If you do get a toehold with a large enterprise, make sure you work with somebody who has the authority to be able to change and make changes to the execution model.
- Enterprises can kill you with paperwork and forms and all sorts of stuff. You need to be psychologically prepared for that.
- Be conscious of the purpose and outcome of what you’re trying to achieve.
- Think about your clients as partners.
- It’s a video first world. Video is the new voice. People are happy to join Zoom meetings. In many cases, people prefer to join Zoom because it’s easy, reliable, functional, and it gets the job done exceptionally well.
- There is a tendency in the work-from-anywhere model to work all of the time. You can work 7:00 a.m. till midnight for a day or two, but beyond that your brain stops functioning properly, and that’s super unhealthy.
- When you think about the in-person experience, the office is a place. Work is not a place. Work is something we do. It’s important to find a balance.
Harry D. Moseley brings to Zoom a blend of transformational leadership, disruptive innovation, and corporate growth strategies. As the former CIO & Managing Director for KPMG, Harry was responsible for technology and innovation to support the firm’s competitive growth. Over five years he identified and replaced legacy technology to dramatically improve productivity, security, and reliability. Before joining KPMG, Harry served as CIO & Senior Managing Director – Partner for Blackstone, where he led the company’s transformation to the world’s best digital alternative asset manager. Prior to Blackstone, Harry was a Managing Director for Credit Suisse, where he served as the CIO of Global Investment Banking, and Global Co-Head of Application Development / Co-CIO of the firm. Before Credit Suisse, Harry served as CTO & Managing Director for UBS Americas.
Harry has been inducted into CIO Magazine’s Hall of Fame, recognized as one of the world’s top 100 CIOs by Computerworld, and honored by Irish Magazine (twice) as one of its Annual Wall Street 50. Harry is an Advisory Board Member of BioDental Sciences, a Board Member of Rewards Network, was a National Board member of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and is a member of the Advisory Board of the New York City Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a sponsor of nPower. He is a former Board Member of Bi-Sam (since acquired by Factset), a former Advisor to Aquiline Capital Partners, a former Board Member of iLevel Solutions (since acquired by Ipreo), and led Blackstone’s investment in Watchdox (since acquired by Blackberry).
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