Recently, Gaper’s VP of Engineering, Ahmed Muzammil, had the pleasure of having John Walker as a guest on an episode of Founder’s Grit.
John has worked as the Executive Director of Operations Technology and Sales at Verizon Consumer Group and is now the Chief Technology Officer at Goalster Corporation. He chatted to us about his work experience in the telecommunication industry and remote work and its implications for work and productivity.
The discussion started off by discussing John’s career journey in Verizon. He considers himself extremely fortunate to have worked in such a colossal organization which gave him a platform to work in different departments such as Information Technology, Network Engineering, Marketing, and Operations. He also shared how Verizon helped him work and connect with some of the most amazing people.
John is the CTO at Goalster Corporation. Goalster is a startup aimed at changing how companies do transformation in a way that enables them to be more successful. Fundamentally, there is a disconnect between leadership and the rest of the organization. Goalster ensures that all of the resources in a company are working and moving towards the same goals. Even if your teams are distributed across several geographies, it is possible to identify which team is the most productive and efficient, and then apply that formula company-wide. Goalster has an individual-centric and enterprise-centric software offering that ties remarkably well with remote work. It helps individuals document and pursue their objectives and businesses align their remote work force to achieve corporate objectives whether they relate to sales, cultural or other transformational hurdles.
Goalster, being a remote company is something that John considers an advantage. Though it gets tricky to, for example, hold meetings when your team is distributed over three different time zones, they make it work – that too really well.
The modern workplace, or the ‘new normal’ are interesting and inevitable topics of discussion for business professionals nowadays. Ahmed was interested to know John’s view on whether remote work was a new trend or had existed for ages and had just been a recent by-product of the pandemic. John shared how in Verizon, the mode of work really depended on the department one was working in. For example, he recounted how working in the Operations department where the work mostly was the typical 9-5. At the same time, on the other hand, at departments such as information technology, Verizon had to implement a few remote work strategies. He explained that projects were being worked on nationwide, making it challenging to work face to face with some project managers. Hence, the implementation of remote work strategies was a need. According to John, doing so helped him provide the employees with work flexibility, and he found it to work great. Remote work, therefore, has been around in many organizations for a longer time than most of us assume.
In the next question, Ahmed and John discussed the differences between the current form of remote work and how it used to be regarding the technology and the infrastructure. John’s experience primarily relied on conference bridges. John told Ahmed that they did have the option to conduct video conferences, though they did not make it a frequent practice because the modern format has considerably better tools for communication. According to John, modern technology has made it easier to connect with employees; working together is easier than it was a decade ago. And we couldn’t agree more; this view aligns neatly with Gaper’s approach to remote work as well.
With regard to productivity associated with remote work, John expressed his opinion on the matter and shared that it vastly depends on the type of employee you are and your home situations. Household distractions can have a jarring impact on productivity while working remotely, so efficient time and project management is crucial for an effective remote work setup.
Further along, Ahmed and John also discussed the impact of boundaries and time zones, and the challenges faced while practicing remote work. John shared the major challenge he faced was making remote employees feel like a part of the team and staying connected with people on a personal level. To further explain his point, John shared, “Naturally, our main goal for working is to generate income. After a while, that becomes secondary as job satisfaction and the sense of being appreciated and needed is much more important.”
John has an insightful piece of advice when it comes to hiring. It is not important just for a company to hire the right person, it is also necessary to ascertain that the company is also the right one for the person. Bringing new people on board is an expensive and timely process. Even people in HR are wrong a fair amount of the time. Gaper, he surmises, is a good platform for businesses to ensure that they are hiring the right developer for their teams, but also for developers and engineers to determine that the client they work for is the right one for them. This ends up saving a significant amount of business resources in the long run.
Secondly, for leaders building remote teams, John finds that an element of patience is particularly important. It is important to understand and acknowledge the value of a person to your company and help build a relationship between you as colleagues. This connection goes a long way in transcending the miles and the technology that is otherwise considered a barrier to good, cohesive team building.