Building Forward with Confidence

Gary Sorrentino

Global Deputy CIO at Zoom

Learning Objectives

Please Join the Global Deputy CIO of Zoom Video Communications, Gary Sorrentino in this Executive Interview where he will discuss how to build forward as the current nature of work has changed in the last 12 months.


"It's all about talent, it's all about transformation, and it's all about trust."

Gary Sorrentino

Global Deputy CIO at Zoom

Transcript

Britt Erler

Hello, everyone, and welcome to CIO VISIONS Leadership Virtual Summit hosted on Quartz Network. My name is Britt Erler, QN Executive Correspondent. Thank you so much for joining us. I would like to welcome our Executive Speaker Gary Sorrentino, Global Deputy CIO of Zoom Video Communications. Welcome, Gary.


Gary Sorrentino

Hi, Britt. How are you? Thanks for having me.


Britt Erler

Of course! A pleasure to have you here. Doing well, it’s been a crazy start to the year. Really excited to get your insights on the topic we’ll be covering today. Before we do so if you wouldn’t mind giving the audience just a quick context about yourself and your current role at Zoom?


Gary Sorrentino

Sure. I’ve been in technology for about 42 years. I’ve worked mostly in the banks. The last 25 years, I did four of the largest banks in the world. About 18 months ago, I started with Zoom as their Global Deputy CIO.


Britt Erler

Fantastic. Well, sounds like Zoom is obviously killing it this year, with all the changes we’ve seen. We’re on it here as well, but also the nature of work has changed drastically. We could sit here and talk about that all day, but we want to talk about moving forward, especially how employees are using new products and new services. How do you see this new work style changing in priorities in the future?


Gary Sorrentino

That’s an excellent question and a great place to start. We’ve changed so many places, and so many times. I think, right now, what I probably see from a style perspective is, we are going to see a return to people who aren’t going to go back to work, right? There’s going to be certain jobs that you have to go back to work—can’t build that car in your driveway. There are different places where we’ll see a return to work, and we’ll see a lot of people actually staying home. They’ve been very productive and effective and staying home, and then there’s that middle group. I think that, today, we kind of know what to do with the people that go back to work, because we’ve lived that life, our whole careers. People that work home, we’ll figure out what to do with them, maybe just continue where we are. I think the middle hybrid part is really the part that we’re going to see an issue with. I think that that is going to be the biggest group—the most predominant group—and those are the people who are going to embrace that work from anywhere model.


I also think that in styles, we’re going to see many different groups inside of there. It’s not just going to be one employee here. We’re gonna see that group that, let’s call them alienated. At the beginning, they’re going to be a little disconnected. They’re not going to be connected and working with everybody at work. I think they’re probably looking for companies that work the way they want. I think the next group up from there is probably going to see detached. They’re separate from the company, they’re engaging, they’re living the new work style. I think they still have some decisions to make in their career. I think the next one is connected as a good group. They’re connected, they’re working, they’re effective, good. The top of the scale is really plugged in. I think the plugged in people are going to be going forward—the best group. I think they figured out the company, they figured out how to work. They’re effective, they’re collaborative, they’re gonna stay with the company.


I think we’re gonna see those different levels. I don’t think everybody’s decided what level they’re on right now or what style. I think that’s going to be the big decision is, what do we do? Like, I’m a boomer. In theory, they think I want to go back to work, but over a long time, I’ve been thinking like a millennial. I’ve been thinking differently, so we can automatically make assumptions. I think we’re gonna see new styles and new types of employees and workers very soon.


Britt Erler

I completely agree with you. I think a lot of people have realized, including myself, that I work just as well from home as I do in the office. I miss the engaging environment of being in person, but my actual workload, my work ethic has been pretty much the same, if I’m being honest. It’ll be really interesting to see that kind of hybrid approach moving forward for a lot of companies and what their employees will do. Now, in terms of CIOs and other IT professionals, with that in mind, with these different tiers that you mentioned, how should they look at the road ahead differently?


Gary Sorrentino

Going back when I was involved in different places, what happens is we decide the type of technology you use, the type of desktop, the type of software—basically a one size fits all most cases. I think CIOs are going to have to understand that this new hybrid workforce requires radical flexibility.


Second thing is, they’ve been running a lot differently. For instance, at Zoom, maybe I get a 27 inch monitor, but I’m home [inaudible]. I’m learning to work in a much different way. When I go back, CIOs and tech groups are going to have to learn how to support the way I want to work, especially if I decide to go back to work with the office. Now, I’m using technology, and I’m using hardware and software differently. People have gotten different kinds of lighting. They’ve made themselves comfortable at home. The technology is commodity, so it’s not that expensive, and what they figured out is one size doesn’t fit all. I think CIOs and tech groups, if you don’t go back with a different attitude, you’re going to see more of your users wanting to work home, because they work better, they work more productively.


Britt Erler

Right. They’re in the comfort of their own home. They have children, maybe, that they’re taking care of that are still being homeschooled. Everybody’s got such a different situation right now, so companies need to have that flexibility. They have to be willing to adapt, and knowing that the work environment is going to change now and moving forward.


Gary Sorrentino

It’s not just on the work from anywhere, if that’s what you’re talking about. It’s also about what we give them. I don’t think I’ve made a phone call in a year on a regular desk phone. If I go back to work, do I want to see a desk phone or do I want to use video as my new way of collaborating, things like that? That’s why I think the CIOs really need to sit back. If they think that this is an extended close, a shutdown—we closed for four weeks, nobody’s come back to work [inaudible] the work the same, I think you’re going to be a first surprise.


Britt Erler

I completely agree with you. I think a lot of companies, they’re going to take it day by day and see what works and what doesn’t for their employees. It’ll be a really interesting time when people start going back into the office and what their expectations are. I want to talk about this concept that I know you’ve mentioned, which is building forward with confidence. I think this is really key. I want to hear why you believe that and what you believe are some of the key areas to really focus on when considering this.


Gary Sorrentino

Yeah, that’s a great topic. Along with this, we’ve heard working from work, living at work, evolving at work, the future of work, the new next normal, the great reset, I can’t even remember all the names. I think now we sat back and figured out a go forward message and the go forward message is “Let’s build forward with confidence.” Then we said, “What are the three guideposts in there?” One is talent. Look, we’ve proved and you said it before, happy people can stay connected and collaborative from anywhere now.


The second thing is we learned, we needed to transform—that’s our second guidepost. People consume products and services so much differently than before. I was just reading this morning an article online, one of the fast foods, they are facetiming their users in the cars in the parking lots to take the order and then having a runner bring it out. They’re transforming their services, because the drive-thru was overcrowded. Companies today have to figure out how do I transform the services and how do I transform the products? People want to buy online, but they want to see it. They want to be able to show it on me? How do I do different things? I think that’s our second part.


I think the last part is trust. I think organizations have to take a thoughtful approach. They have to start thinking about trusting their employees. Let’s stop managing hours, and let’s start managing productivity. Let’s start figuring out results, but we have to also take a safety and security approach. People want to come back to work safely. Some of the things they want to do is I want to come back safe, but I don’t want to be the person to manage my own safety. In other words, if we have a rule that only four people can be in this conference room, and the CEO comes in and sits down, who tells him to leave? They want to make sure that their safety is guaranteed by the company. We had another group that we identified, and they said, “I don’t want to use the phone. How do I know who’s used that phone before I came to work today?” Imagine this, in our old office, if someone said, “Hey, there’s a call on line seven,” pick up anybody’s phone and start talking. They want the phone shrink wrapped. They want a little sticker on them that they’ve been sanitized. Companies have to figure out how to make that employee safe at work? How do I make them feel safe at work going forward?


Gary Sorrentino

Those are our three guideposts. It’s all about talent, it’s all about transformation, and it’s all about trust. Trust is going to be look, we know that the new workforce wants radical flexibility, and we know that most management and leadership is all about everybody coming to one big office building and working together. It’s gonna be great to see how they meet a couple months.


Britt Erler

It will be, and it’ll be interesting to see what everyone’s comfort level will be as well. I have not heard of the shrink wrapping of the phone, but it makes such practical sense when you say it like that. I think there’s so many things that companies will realize once they’re back in office that they need to change. This is why preparing for it is so crucial to make sure that those strategies are already set in place. Now, this is not going to be an overnight success. It’s going to take a lot of the departments coming together to make sure that the safety precaution, the trust that you mentioned, is really working collectively as a whole. For other departments in a company, not just IT, why are they so crucial to making sure that this return to work is a success?


Gary Sorrentino

As a company, you have to think out of the box. You have to sit down and you have to figure this out. Like I said before, this is not Monday morning, we’re opening up it was a long weekend. This is a return to work, hopefully, in a new manner, and a much more improved manner, but that’s going to take all the groups to think together. That’s going to take everybody coming to the table with a fresh way of thinking, but a very open mindedness to say, “Okay, look, we don’t have a game plan for this.” There was no resiliency plan that said pandemic. Back in March—I think it was March 13, that Friday—when they said, “Look, we’re sending everyone home. We’re sending our clients home too.” No one had a game plan for that. If we don’t have a game plan on how to leave the work environment, we certainly don’t have a good game plan for going back.


I think what you said is the same way. Day 1, what’s the variable? Humans? How are they going to feel on day one? How are they going to feel on day 5? How are they going to feel on day 10? If management goes back to work full time, well, maybe I don’t want to work home full time, maybe I need to get back to those in person moments and things like that. I think what we’re gonna see is, companies have made some decisions, employees have made some decisions, but I think they’re all going to change. I think that companies are going to change their decisions. If they wrote them down in ink, that should be in pencil.


The way that employees are going back to work, they think they want to go back to work or certainly. Then, they’re going to find out—those who have outside, you start to mention, anybody who has outside variables, kids at home, things like that. Some of those, you have to take into work. The normal worker has to decide—imagine this, I used to have to call up and say, “Can I work from home today?” In the future, I’m probably going to call up and go, “Is it okay if I come to work?” because work is going to have a different purpose. I think that’s what companies need to think about. This building has a different purpose. We’re meeting here because we have an all hands—okay, that’s going to work. We’re meeting here because we are going to manage a client who’s going to come in and needs the resources of several departments so I’m going to go to work that day. After that meeting, I can go home and finish work, because now work has become a different place.


That’s why I think the entire company needs to sit back and go, “There is no game plan. Let’s figure this out and let’s constantly be able to adapt.” I think those are going to be some of the companies you see going forward, but managers are going to change, we talked about that before. It’s all about managing outcome. With this new workforce, they want radical flexibility. That’s something companies aren’t used to—radical flexibility. That means that what you want today you might not want next week? Yes. Well, what you wanted last week, you’re gonna want next? Yes. Okay, radical flexibility. That’s how people are gonna want to work on core. We’ve all got a little spoiled.


Britt Erler

Absolutely. It’s really flipped the entire workspace upside down. I’m very comfortable working from home with my cat sleeping next to me. I don’t have to put on a full face of makeup. It’s really a new day and age. It’s an exciting time to to see how also video collaboration is starting to play such a major role. This hybrid approach that we keep talking about time and time again, is really becoming the new wave of the future. Talk to me a little bit about how those worked collaboratively.


Gary Sorrentino

Look, video is the new voice. Like I said, I actually have Zoom phone, but I use Zoom video almost all day long. I’m on some sort of Zoom video call, even if just a quick call a catch up a scheduled meeting. I think what happened was, we were moving towards a more gig worker, a more work from anywhere model. The pandemic just kick started what was already in place. There were a lot of businesses that were starting, and think about it, I’ve worked in global businesses. In theory, I get on the phone or I get on a call. My staff is not local to me, so whether they’re home or in another country, didn’t really matter. I think the pandemic sort of took this movement in a very quick amount of time, moved it completely forward.


Companies like Zoom—the last year has probably been the most rewarding part of my career, helping companies and helping people. Think about this, we have kept employees collaborating and effective. We have kept companies servicing their clients in a new way. We also kept friends and family connected—all on the same product. Video products will keep people connected going forward. I think we just have to figure out when the new employee goes back to work, are you going to work at your desk on a dedicated video and a Zoom call or you’re going to go to conference rooms? Now we have to figure out, well, wait a second, where do you get the better experience? If I go to a conference room, and there’s me and you in a conference room, and there are five people on a Zoom call working from home, we have to make sure that we have a positive, collaborative, productive experience with them and they have a positive, collaborative experience with us, which means we both have to be on meeting chat, we both have to see, like, what did they say? The greatest thing about Zoom is everybody stays the same size. You kind of get used to that because how many times would you walk into a conference room, you look at the attendees, and you decide, can you take the end of the table seat or not? Don’t do that on a zoom call. Everything has changed.


I think video is going to play a key. It is going to be the way people communicate going forward. Zoom is coming out with so many great things. A little commercial, our Zoom rooms are going to actually be able to split up, Like if me and you are in an office, and there’s five people home, they’re gonna see us in two boxes, like we’re not in the same room. We are going to walk in, and are you really gonna want to walk up and touch that panel that you don’t know who touched before you or do you want to say, on Zoom, let it come on? Are you really gonna pick up that crayon and go to that whiteboard or you’re gonna want to pick up your iPhone and say, “Hey, wait a second, I can control the room, the text, and the whiteboard on a device that I brought in.”


I think the last thing we’re going to do is we’re going to have fun with things like a smart gallery. Why can’t we take it and show a boardroom table with all the little thumbnails around it? Why can’t we show a teacher, a classroom, and there’s rows of students, and she can put the students all in a row, rather than them moving around on a normal video. I really think that video collaboration is going to be a key factor in keeping us productive and effective when we get to this next stage,


Britt Erler

I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s incredible how creative these platforms including Zoom has become. I mean, Zoom is what our company uses for everything. It’s the only way we were able to transform our in-person events to be virtual. It’s made us collaborative, it helped us to pivot quicker, it’s been incredible for us as a business, as a whole. It’s so interesting to see how this will move forward. Once our in person events go back and happen live in Las Vegas or Chicago, we’re still going to have this hybrid option. As you mentioned, it’ll be interesting to see how we can collaborate when there are people in person, but also people that are connecting via Zoom or from the comfort of their own home. Really excited to see some of the new ideas and new platforms that you guys are coming out with because so far, it’s been crucial in helping businesses actually move forward through this pandemic.


Britt Erler

The last point I want to talk with you about is I think the leadership aspect. A lot of leaders roles expanded, changed drastically during this crazy time. What are some final pieces of advice that you have for leaders just make it through each day?


Gary Sorrentino

You got to lose the old way of thinking, and you’ve probably done it already. Think about this, if you were suddenly a leader, a manager, now you found your employees virtual, but I’m virtual too. Now, my management while walking around, well, that doesn’t work anymore. How do I measure outcome? How do I measure productivity? I think the thing with leaders today is you’re going to change. You’re going to have to change. To have a different employee set, we need a different version of leadership and management. The two have to go hand in hand. You can’t expect to go back if you’re a leader and says once I go back to work, and I go to my desk every day, things are going to go back to the way they were—not the leader I want to work for. What I’m looking for is a leader that really says, How do I invest in my employees? How do I figure out what makes the resources that we have most effective, most productive? How do I invest in them? How do I trust them? That was one of our pillars, their trust, you now have to trust your employee.


Not everybody can work synchronously or asynchronously right? At the end of the day, it might be better for you to work from 10 to 7, and for me to work on 9 to 5. The old way, because that’s how we commute it. I live in New York City. Everybody comes to work at a certain time within a certain hour or so. Everybody leaves around a certain time, and everybody’s basically there for the bulk of the day. Now, we have to look at things a little differently. Let’s trust that my employees are getting things done. I’m not going to count hours, I’m going to count outcome, I am going to figure out where to invest, but I’m also going to think about where to improve. How do I transform my group? If everybody transforms their group, and what they do to a future state, the company will evolve great, and the employees will flourish. You know what they’ll do? They’ll be happy where they work and they’ll stay. That will allow themselves to reinvent themselves, which everybody loves to do. Reinvent yourself, get to that next upskill yourself. I think that the leaders who support all this, they’re going to be the future leaders that people are going to want to work for.


Britt Erler

I completely agree with you. Fantastic piece of advice for not just leaders that are in the IT industry, but really all departments across the board. Willingness to adopt, trusting your employees, but also being there for them on a human level.


Gary Sorrentino

Empathy is going to be really big going forward.


Britt Erler

It’s a key factor. As you mentioned, just being there for everyone and knowing that the changes are going to come but you’re going to collaborate and work through it together. Fantastic pieces of advice, Gary. Thank you so much for being here today, and thank you to everyone who has joined us as well. If you do have further questions for Gary, there will be a discussion forum underneath this presentation. Thank you again for joining us. Please stay safe, be healthy, and enjoy the rest of the summit.


Gary Sorrentino

Thank you.


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