Reza Rahimi on how team culture can survive a pandemic [Video]

Wave is one-stop money management for small business owners. In this episode we sit down with Reza who oversees Payroll and Payment products at this Toronto based company.

Reza has been at Wave for 6+ years, and the company has always had a great social atmosphere in their office (which is located in Leslieville - a downtown-West neighborhood of Toronto), so when people couldn't make it into the office the company had to figure out ways to ensure that relationships between teammates stayed strong.

In this conversation of our Gathering Podcast you'll hear about Wave's $500M+ acquisition by H&R Block in 2019, how they managed to retain and grow their team through the pandemic, some fun tricks they've used to prompt social interaction between their teammates through Slack and much more!

    Spend time with this conversation - here's the full transcript

    Managing finances for small businesses with Wave's Reza

    Qasim Virjee 0:12
    All right, so welcome back to this the eighth episode of The Gathering podcast from start well, where we sit down with people in people and culture and hear their tales of, of working in this new hybrid reality, and also, just in general to get a sense of what the modern way of working is with remote teams and teams that are distributed, and all the pains and joy that come with it. So today, I'm in studio with Reza from wave. And it's a pleasure to have you here, man.

    Reza Rahimi 0:43
    Likewise, happy to be here. Very excited.

    Qasim Virjee 0:46
    So Reza, let's jump into a little bit of background. Okay, give us a sense of, of the company, you work at what you guys do to start with, and then we'll dig in a little bit about your career history, if you're cool with that.

    Reza Rahimi 0:58
    Okay, sounds good. So at wave we serve small business owners, micro printers, small business owner has sort of a broad definition, we focus on the smaller end of small businesses, the average employee that we serve, or the average employer that we serve has 1.2 employees. So most of these are single, sorry, we went 1.2. Yes, so the average, so most of these are single person operation. That's where it basically screws to. And we focus on this market, because it's where we feel like there's not a lot of attention being given to these micro businesses and small business owners, even though there are millions of them out there, every year, every month 10s of 1000s, start something, it could be a side hustle, it could be some passion that they've had that they now wants to turn into a business. And one of the questions early on that come up is, how do I do my invoicing? If I have customers? How do I manage my books? How do I be compliant? How do I do my taxes, if I bring in a contractor to help me how to manage the payroll for the contractor, so a whole bunch of questions come up for them. Many of them start with shoebox accounting, which is basically using pen and paper and keeping everything that way. It works early on maybe very, very early on the first few weeks and months,

    Qasim Virjee 2:20
    until you have to find a receipt and then you're like, oh my god, what am I doing it comes

    Reza Rahimi 2:24
    tax time, it would be very difficult to kind of consolidate things, if you need to work with a CPA, they're gonna hate that they're like, it's gonna be expensive going through all of this. So the core of wave is, we want to be that operating system that automates a lot of these financial services and needs and complexities and takes them away and handles them so that the business owners that micro business owners, entrepreneurs can focus on where they can generate value, which is generally their passion. If you're a photographer, if you're a recording studio. Bookkeeping is another thing that you are interested in

    Qasim Virjee 3:04
    the opposite of what you're interested in exam until you get audited by the CRA.

    Free invoicing and accounting software for small businesses

    Reza Rahimi 3:09
    Hopefully never, if used, maybe you wouldn't probably. But yeah, but that's the thing. Like we want to take that pain away, make sure that you have the time and resources to put through your business. These other things, how you will keep things how you record your transactions, how you record your expenses on the bookkeeping side, how you invoice your customers, how you collect the payments from them, how do those payments land in your bank account, we go on automate all of this. And the unique thing about wave and part of it's always been part of our general core belief is our accounting and invoicing product are completely free. There's nobody else out there in the market. With really good quality, we generally rank in the top five, with many other competitors. I'm not gonna name names, but there are competitors, if you look online for invoicing and accounting, and we usually rank in the top five, often closer to the very top, if not at the top. And we offer this for free, because it's part of that core belief that as a small business owner, micro business owner, where you're not getting a lot of the attention, there aren't a lot of people building software for you, and services for you. You just started something, we don't want you to feel like you have to go 50 100 $200 In the red every month, just to get access to bookkeeping, and invoicing, which is what a lot of our competitors would do, you would go and sign up for a subscription, maybe first month trial, but after that, you're paying 100 bucks a month just to do those bookkeeping. And as a small business owner, you have two transactions, you don't really do that much.

    Qasim Virjee 4:31
    Exactly. So then you're always trying to like justify these expenses, wasting too much time operating them. And it takes you like I guess the thing is an enable people to focus on their business as much as possible. And then the business model is I guess you have added services on top or added features that people pay for. So as they grow they they actually start paying you money,

    Reza Rahimi 4:52
    correct? Yeah. So let's say use our invoicing product and your customers pay you with check cash interact That's all free, just collect the payment. But if you want to go to the next level and enable card payments or invoices, so you can send that invoice, your customer can open it, pay it with their credit card, debit card, Visa, MasterCard, Amex, prepaid doesn't matter, any of those we support or pay directly out of your bank account with an ACH or EFT transaction, we enable that for you as well. So that speeds up your cash flow makes it more convenient for your customers, and makes the small business also look more legitimate to their customers. Because this is a small business owner, who is now allowed to accept payments online, they must have gone through some due diligence, which is true, they would have to go through some online due diligence, although it is again automated, we won't ask you to fax documents or anything. But that's basically the payment side. So we charge a per transaction fee. So 1% If it's an ACH transaction, or EFT transaction 2.9% plus 60 cents if it's a card transaction, so Visa or MasterCard payment, for example. And this means the business owner doesn't have to chase the check, doesn't have to set up the track, and send the Interact email and everything, all those issues that exists within Track. It's safe, secure, it's convenient, it's professional, and it's easy. And the funds in Canada land in your bank account next day. So your customer pays you 2pm You send them the invoice 2pm Today, the customer receives the invoice they pay, and tomorrow morning sometime around 9am The money lands in your bank account can't get easier than that. We often hear from these small business owners that cash flow is one of their primary challenges. It sometimes makes a huge difference getting access to the funds now versus two days from now. 100%

    Qasim Virjee 6:31
    I mean, yeah, no matter what the size of business you are, I mean, I think anyone facing this kind of the last, anyone who's lived the last couple of years is going to be concerned with cashflow.

    Reza Rahimi 6:42
    Yeah, yeah, exactly. And and we have the payroll product federal is a SaaS subscription, small business payroll fairly reasonably priced. It's not super cheap, but it's also cheaper than many competitors. And it meets the needs of micro businesses, small business owners, if you have a handful of contractors, if you have five, six employees, if you have 50 employees, we don't even recommend our Payroll solution. It's not for you, it's your you're too big for our Payroll solution. But 1015 is a really good range. And most of them are much smaller than that. And they're happy and they pay for that Payroll solution. It's more involved, it has a lot of compliance things that you need to file with IRS in the US or in Canada, a lot of that sort of things have a cost so that payroll you can operate as a free model. But invoicing and accounting have been free and have stayed free since wave has been around. We just found other ways of making money. And customers will appreciate that we have customers and this long tail where they joined with us for five years for free, and then eventually decided, Hey, I've grown out to the point where I need to bring in a couple of employees and contractors, I'm gonna sign up for your payroll and pay for it. And then they'll leave. I feel like I owe you something you brought me all the way a year, right? For free. I'm happy now to pay for your services. And that's the best thing like customers paying when they are happy. And they feel like, well, they're getting the value

    Acquisition, growth, and remote work during COVID-19 pandemic

    Qasim Virjee 7:50
    and being able to support that early stage growth, like being there with a customer forming relationship that actually can grow and flex and you get to know each other and you help each other in different ways. Is the company from Canada or the states? Or where's it from?

    Reza Rahimi 8:04
    Oh, we're Canadian. We're headquartered in Leslieville. And, oh, you're

    Qasim Virjee 8:09
    actually based in Toronto? Yeah, the

    Reza Rahimi 8:12
    headquarters are in Toronto. In 2019, we did get acquired by an American company, h&r block, and this was in 2019. And at the time before the pandemic, yeah. And at the time, it was, I think, June 2018, we closed it. And at the time, it was the sixth or seventh largest acquisition of a tech company in Canada, which was pretty big. And it's been one of those really good acquisitions have been through and seen acquisitions where things don't go necessarily well. But kind of h&r block, folks, when they acquired us, they were really nice. And they said, We're growing 30 40% a year, block is growing as a large 67 year old enterprise, much, much smaller piece. So they said you know what you're doing come to us when you need help, we'll figure out what synergies exist, and what opportunities exist for us to collaborate. But for now operate as you are. And we've kept our culture, we've kept our mission of helping small business owners. We've kept our operating model for the most part, how we did I think very few things changed, maybe we don't have, well, one thing changed, which was really, really good, which is we don't have to chase funding every couple of quarters. Yeah,

    Qasim Virjee 9:22
    that's a huge thing for an early stage or startup of any kind.

    Reza Rahimi 9:26
    It allows you to think long term, you can think and plan long term, you can think of things that will that piece of tech debt, we don't have to carry it anymore, we finally have an opportunity to fix it as long as you still deliver on that goal of really rapid growth. But you kind of get to balance the two things and get to a place where you both deliver on growth but also build a better organization from the ground up and infrastructure and that's people infrastructure as well as our software and technology and solutions and office and everything essentially, but it gives you that opportunity to think long term positive acquisition.

    Qasim Virjee 9:57
    No, it sounds it sounds like the rare rare case that you know from the number of people I talked to about m&a, always being this kind of aqua hire weird, mixed motive kind of process. This sounds very much the opposite. This is like how it should be done? No, it's

    Reza Rahimi 10:13
    the model exactly for how it should be done.

    Qasim Virjee 10:15
    Okay, so what was headcount, like as a Toronto based company, you mentioned in Lesley Vale for our non Toronto audience. Leslieville is a beautiful neighborhood, we had a guest a couple episodes ago, who's an agency called Zero, alpha kilo, and they're building on Queen Street East in Leslieville. They're building a new building for their agency creative agency. So some of you listeners may already know that it's a lovely neighborhood. That is mainly residential, just outside of the downtown core, but still in really what we call downtown Toronto. So, yeah, tell me about the headcount. And what the office kind of feel was going through this, you know, acquisition, not that it sounds like it impacted anything in terms of your operations, but just before the pandemic, and then what happened when, when 2020 rolled around?

    Reza Rahimi 11:04
    Yeah. Lots of memories of that. So we were, think close to 280. Something, we're now 360. So 280, when the acquisition happened, again, I'm trying to remember the correct number. But somewhere in that vicinity. It was 87 people when I joined the company in 2016. So those are the milestones when I joined 87. Then at the time acquisition, 280, something and then today, we're at about 363 65, maybe, with some recent group that we onboard it. And yeah, it was it was an interesting time we things are working, we were happy with the acquisition and the results of that and how things worked out. And we were executing as good as ever now with the backing and balance sheet of a larger organization, which gives you that margin of safety and long term thinking. So we're super excited about that. And then late 2019, early 2020, there's gradually whispers of something going around, started if you remember in Asia, first you hear the news and everything like SARS, version two, it's gonna leave us alone for the most part, but of course it didn't. And gradually, sometime in late January, early February, we hear of people in the office getting sick, and staying home and there's no detection is infection yet, if I remember at that point, so I know home test kits or anything, but they stay home and avoid it and the office starts getting quieter. Now we run a remote company, but we always had the flexibility. So Friday, you want to work from home or you have a doctor's appointment midday, work from home, your doctor's walks from

    Qasim Virjee 12:38
    you weren't necessarily like clocking in and out on the timesheet when you come in the door. Exactly.

    Reza Rahimi 12:42
    It's it's very trust, fortunately, thankfully, it's very trust based and outcome based, as long as you're doing a good job. You being in the office necessarily. It's not mandated. But most people just came to the office majority were in the office, we had a few folks who work like one out of Denver, another one out of Vancouver, a couple of folks on the east coast. So we had a bit of that mix. But most came to the office like 90% came to the office very regularly at least four days a week. I was in the office five days on this a Friday or something event or something but get out earlier. But yeah, but people started disappearing, kind of like this, that you see your colleague sitting next to you in roles, and it's an open flat office and you see like, two days away, somebody's not sitting there, Hey, Jim is gone. Sarah is not there anymore. What's happening start pinging in the AI, they caught this thing. And they are of course thinking of everybody else and trying to stay home also taking care of the family members. And it's a couple one is sicker, the other is not so particular to each other. It's all that is happening. And then the WHO announcement comes that this is a global pandemic and shutdown orders and all fab calm. And we're getting prepared. So the people in culture team was sending regular messages to the waivers that here's this is the latest evolution of this. These are the laziest things we've heard. And also we're in touch with health bodies in Ontario, and just making sure that we have the latest information if something changes, we are ready to execute that some of the IT stuff already started rolling and preparing for a place where we wouldn't be in the office. Nobody knew we wouldn't be in the office for like two years and never go back to that. Like that was not on the table. Like no way.

    Qasim Virjee 14:16
    There's always like one step at a time even though the steps were pretty large steps.

    Impact of remote work on team interactions

    Reza Rahimi 14:20
    Yeah, yeah. So we thought like a month or two and this thing goes away. And that's it. Everything goes back to normal. But yeah, march 15. I remember correctly was the date where we basically shut down the office, nobody come to the office. If you have stuff coming get them but come with masks and everything mascot be prepared. And sanitizers are everywhere now gradually started popping up on tables and on desk. But now there were office sanitizers as well that were showing up here and there. And little scary, like we didn't even know the impact and that level of health threat that this is at that point very well. And there were really variants popping up. So yeah, we went home And we go home, and it's a new ward. I did say we've done this in the past and we had zoom, we would call in from zoom overstayed Wednesdays Tuesdays from time to time, just depending on if I had an errand or something at home, like take an hour off from work, then complete my day. But this was different this was you are only at home, there is no more being in the office, the concept just doesn't exist anymore. You're allowed to go into the office, the door is locked, you lose a bunch of things. In our operating model, we had certain kinds of meetings and gatherings. These are the scheduled ones. Okay, what do we do with these? So we move all of them to zoom, many of them happen over whiteboard. What do we do with? What's our virtual whiteboard solution? We haven't had to do that before. We just drew stuff and sent to what is okay, zoom itself is fine. It has some tools and everything we found Miro, it's a virtual tool for brainstorming has visual stickies, and everything can vote on a sticky. So we gradually found some tools over the course of the next week once. But then there were things that were more soft, like not easily replaceable, like swivel chair conversations,

    Qasim Virjee 16:16
    even like, Hey, can I just get your attention on something and someone turns around to like, gather input doesn't

    Reza Rahimi 16:21
    happen anymore. Imagine that would be at best this like message that they may or may not see and that you may or may not get an answer.

    Qasim Virjee 16:28
    Yeah, that gray area of interacting, where it's kind of like I don't, I'm not really interrupting flow. But if you change your mental focus from one application software application to another, for example, it's like, yeah, you're really shifting focus. You're not kind of like pausing.

    Reza Rahimi 16:46
    Absolutely, absolutely. So what are cooler conversations, just completely gone. I remember I met so many vapors in water cooler conversations, like or coffee machine conversations where the morning a common like, three, four people standing around the coffee machines. And for some reason we have three of them, maybe to really, really encourage this. But you stand and like, there are five people standing there. I know four of them. There's one that I don't Hey, how you doing Welcome aboard, probably new employee, I've been there five, six years, I know must be new employee. So we will get to know each other, have a conversation, strike something. And hey, let's put half an hour later, sometime next week when your onboarding is done, we sit together and chat. I've been here a while love to hear what you've been up to what you've done in the past what your new team is, what do you plan to do? Who's your manager? What are the other members of the team, what your focus would be maybe there are some areas that we would collaborate. And

    Qasim Virjee 17:40
    the flip side of that is that the new hire feels welcome. And looks forward to interacting with, you know, the new guy that they met. And if that happens 10 times 20 times in their first week or so they feel really kind of like bonded to the organization right away. So that's gone, that's gone. It just doesn't happen. New Hires get dialed in. Yeah, it's all automatic. Somehow, they're plugged into the machine, ship, ship their

    Remote work culture and its impact on relationships

    Reza Rahimi 18:05
    laptops, basically ship their laptop, and keyboard and mouse or whatever. And they never set foot in the office, never see the office and we have a fairly nice office with with Zen room and all sorts of things in the office, game room. peloton, all of that, and none of that you don't get the benefits of any of that. But again, I think the relationship piece was the most dramatic change. And it ended up kind of splitting the office into the organization into people who knew each other because of in person long term interactions. And people who were new Now you're also getting hit by turnover, resignations, and has great great discussion is picking up or getting hit with that so a lot of new people are joining and we had our gross natural the new people joining but these new people who don't know much of other people at the company, haven't interacted with many other people don't have strong bonds versus other group which is the oldies there where we know each other we've interacted in person with know a thing or two about each other. Each other's families like there's a bit of a what we call professional camaraderie. And that professional camaraderie only belongs to half the organization to 1/3 have none of that

    Qasim Virjee 19:21
    difficult to extend that into the new hires without meeting them in person.

    Reza Rahimi 19:26
    It's very difficult it's very difficult. So what did we do we started kind of building way before he goes into that I was looking at the stats around is this felt like I'm a millennial might look a little bit like a boomer but like you're

    Qasim Virjee 19:40
    a millennial. Yeah, am I a Millennial? Millennial is post Boomer millennial

    Reza Rahimi 19:44
    is 1981 I think Right?

    Qasim Virjee 19:48
    Right. What was before millennial wasn't what do we call those guys? Z? Z is after millennial. Geez, I don't know what the hell I'm 1980 so I'm Cosby Yeah, you

    Reza Rahimi 20:00
    can't as millennial Damn it. But yeah, somebody posted some stuff. This was actually something that caught my eye because I was interested in seeing what Gen Z think because they're, they're more like I that don't pick up the phone type everything tags and like different sort of interactions. And in survey, I think it was Bloomberg, they asked Gen Z's and half of them said, they feel like they're not getting enough value, because they can establish relationships, like the other people in the office, like the groups have been in the office for a while before them, who were doing that type of thing. So even the Gen Z are feeling that was an interesting one because some of them finished their last two years of school remotely, then went to a remote work environment. They've never worked in the office. At

    Qasim Virjee 20:50
    that point. It's culture like it's it's indoctrination. It's it's the context of their reality. Their work environment has been hybridized for so long. Yeah, they don't know any other social, the social side of work is gone. And it definitely can't be rebuilt by like having cocktail kits shipped to your house while you dial in on Friday afternoon being like shit, I got 20 Other things to do. But I'll just have a drink awkwardly with my boss on Zoom. It doesn't really make up for it. Yeah,

    Remote work and cultural management in a distributed team

    Reza Rahimi 21:17
    no. It's not the same. So I did we addressed it. We did? Well, we did a few things. One to clarify. Some organizations have already started back to the office mandates and everything. We had wave, very deliberately and very, based on our philosophy said, we're not going to mandate being back to the office. It's a choice. Yeah, we're not going to solve these problems by forcing people to come to the office question. In

    Qasim Virjee 21:45
    the time, let's call it through 2020. Right now. And 2021, I guess is what we're talking about now, period was the new hires that you had brought on, you know, replacing old positions as people dropped off or otherwise just net new hires. I guess the idea was like, were you hiring with a different strategy? Also, were you hiring globally and outside of the city?

    Reza Rahimi 22:07
    Very good question. We did start gradually looking a bit outside. Partly because it was now more common, partly because we had to, because Americans started tapping into our talent up here, very heavily by opening offices, Stripe open an office, Facebook's open an office, Google expanded their office over the course of those years. So they started hiring locally, and they started picking them remotely. We

    Qasim Virjee 22:40
    talked in episode two of this series to Shawn Wynn, who runs a company called dev talent. Dev talent is entirely a tech recruiting company. Well, now they've started, you know, additional rules, but mainly SAS companies, or their customers exclusively dealing with American companies trying to hire locally in Toronto. And it's surrounding areas like a company that's just one recruiting company out of how many that are sourcing these, these talent. And the purchasing power of the American dollar is always going to be stronger, right? Absolutely. So it's difficult.

    Reza Rahimi 23:13
    They get very similar, I would say sometimes better quality talent out of Canada for much, much lower cost. And that was super attractive to them. So they started hiring here. And some of our local firms, the likes of Shopify obviously went on a huge hiring spree they hire that was the thing that they said they were

    Qasim Virjee 23:33
    going to hire 2022 engineers. And that's just engineers, not not support staff and not the people that you need to even onboard those people and all that.

    Reza Rahimi 23:43
    So there was a lot of competition from rich players who were still a smaller company, smaller firms that we can directly often compete with a Shopify or a Google on a con perspective, I think on a lot of other things, culture and everything, we could very well compete. But yeah, so we had to expand. So we started hiring, we started looking in the US, again, that dynamic of US dollar works against us, but we're looking because we have to pay our Canadian salaries and the US dollar order. So we did hire a few good people, we're in financial services. So some roles just made naturally more sense to hire in the US. And most of our payments and financial services businesses in the US were kind of like, let's say 20 30% of our business in Canada. 70 80% is in the US, depending on the line of business that you're looking at. So we started hiring some specific roles in the US and we had good success success with those that are just more people have done that kind of thing down in the US. So we had good success there. And we hired for compliance roles. We hired for folks who have done certain banking operations that now we needed those. So that was good and useful for us. That was helpful. But yeah, for those two reasons, one, we had two and two, it seemed like it's now more viable than ever. It's not going to be this person is a special breed that only works remote everybody else is in the office don't this person is working remote and everybody else is working remote. So that kind of facilitated that discussion. And we generally have had good experience with that remote hiring. And I think it saved us to some extent, if we only focused on local Toronto talent, which used to be what we only did, we would have had a challenge. We also had folks wavers who were in Toronto and moved out. Of course, yeah, we have a couple of my good colleagues moved to Nova Scotia. Wow, I'm kind of envious every time we're on Zoom, because they showed their view, and they're looking at the ocean in the middle of like the next houses, I don't know, 1015 kilometers away. It's all Greenland, and really much nicer than my view of parking lots.

    Qasim Virjee 25:46
    And raccoons trying to steal your trash. Yeah.

    Reza Rahimi 25:50
    But yeah, we had quite a few people. Because again, the same thing, if we're hiring remotely than our own employees deserve to have that same flexibility of being able to work anywhere that they want. And because of some regulatory stuff, and some challenges for a small company, we don't allow work from literally anywhere, but pretty much North America is fair game. If you move outside of North America, I'd like how do we support the labor laws in the UK or whatever? So that's a bit of a limitation. But we have given that flexibility. Yeah.

    Qasim Virjee 26:17
    So as your team becomes, you know, more distributed, how are you kind of like managing culture, or in the last year and a half? How have you tried to manage culture between this like in person as you return the office and a remote kind of identity? Yeah, introduce these new hires to the old hires and try and rebuild. Yeah,

    Reza Rahimi 26:36
    good question, getting more deliberate about all of these. So new hires, how do we force it so they meet people? No, no bad way. So you get hired, you have a buddy you get who is responsible to tell you everything about

    Remote work culture and social connections

    Qasim Virjee 26:52
    leave to your buddy onboards you another staff member, yet another staff member somebody who has been generally here for at least some night like Judy from HR know, like, Let me run through the checklist and come back to you with any problems. We

    Reza Rahimi 27:05
    do have that as well as HR basically, handholds really nice onboarding process we have that we've perfected over the years. COVID kind of disrupted LA, but it wasn't built for them. It was built for on site. But you get kind of a good amount of overwhelming amount. I would say everything that the isn't doesn't who does what? See,

    Qasim Virjee 27:22
    I like that, like you have to ever needs to know what the company is and how it operates. And not be felt like treated like your this is your job. You'll learn the other stuff. If you kind of like have a year or two of tenure, you know, you'll figure it out as you go. People feel a little like, oh, yeah, this is great. Okay, so yeah, the conventional processes that deep dive into the company, but then this buddy system is great, because it's really about someone showing you through their lens,

    Reza Rahimi 27:50
    how things work. And then we have other mechanisms to bring people together. I was selling the water cooler, doesn't exist anymore, but it's still there, but nobody uses it. But we have what we call banter. What on Slack, is a bot just posts a topic or something. And then people start engaging with it on Slack and our main random

    Qasim Virjee 28:10
    topics of conversation get published by this bot in a Slack channel. And then everyone chimes in and it becomes this like fun. What's

    Reza Rahimi 28:16
    your favorite Christmas movie? And then we get to fight over whether diehard is a Christmas movie or not. But yeah, it's fun. And I was initially personally skeptical around how this bot could help. I was pleasantly surprised that it gets a lot of engagement. And people go in there and comment and despite his discussions, and you see some of the people, I mean, that last one recommending movies and everything and getting to learn, Oh, I like this genre. These are the ones I would recommend. You kind of build that community again, they're remote, they're distributed. It's not one to one.

    Qasim Virjee 28:48
    It sounds funny, though, because for some people, they might pick up on that and say, well, that's not authentic interaction is not the true serendipity of being in the office. But I mean an anecdote even from from IRL. You know, a few years ago, we started this thing at our barista station at front desk where we would always have for a little while we had tips and then we realized tips don't I don't agree with tips. That's a whole nother thing. But we pay our staff fairly well. So the the cup had a question just cafe style, like, like a sandwich board out on the street. Always a question that's like on that, you know, same thing it'd be like, would you choose? Like, who? Which character from that movie would be more Christmas? Yeah. And the funny thing is like it was always a binary question. You know, true or false red or white? Black, red or white? That's interesting. See, that's a Canadian answer to the blue or black or whatever, right? That's true blue or red, white or red man. Anyway. Yeah. And that always spark conversation, giving someone a choice or giving someone like, you know, so the bot the bot makes sense is a prompt.

    Remote work, professional comradery, and knowledge loss during COVID-19

    Reza Rahimi 29:51
    We have other channels like there's one which is travel, and other one which is outdoors. So if people go hey, we have one of my colleagues. is in France right now. And she just keeps posting their photos of like in the Slack channel. Yeah. And the Slack channel as she tries to your private Instagram. Yeah, it's sort of Yeah. And it's fun and it connects people. And then people come back and then do discussions around like, where they went, what things they saw a travel guide, basically for their team or others were interested. So we end up connecting people like this. And again, you're never going to recreate what we lost with like going to hybrid model now. But there, if you get delivered around certain points, you can make up for some of those gaps and still meet some of those needs. So professional camaraderie instead of completely disappearing and going away. It's being reshaped and morphed into something new, that serves a lot of that same purpose. People know each other better people have a relationship beyond just your name on Slack or a person on the chart that we have in our org chart. Once you have that connection, communication becomes easier, decision making becomes easier, collaboration becomes easier. There's more respect, mutual respect. So your colleagues are more than just names. And I think we've been able to create that. And something that has always been in the DNA of wave is, and we always every time somebody asks like, what do you like about the wave is the supportive nature, you're never alone. Often you even need to ask for help when people notice like, okay, resonates help. This is something that is just too much like is doing too many things, like people come and offer a hand and offer help and everything. So building that trust allows us to now continue that tradition of being helpful and supportive of making sure that whenever somebody needs help, you can it's there, they're supported, and a gap they need covered, anything that is blocking them, others will come in and help them. So rebuilding a bit of that professional comradery has enabled making something like that possible, which is awesome. It's, it's awesome in that it's awesome for what it is, it's also helpful to the organization, from the perspective of achieving our goals, the more effective you are at decision making, the fewer conflicts you have these things all result in you moving faster towards your outcomes. And that people aspect is super important in all of this. So we can't let COVID and remote work get ahead of us and kind of ruin something so good. Yeah,

    Qasim Virjee 32:16
    no, I liked this idea. It sounds so simple. But the idea of kind of like buddying people up, we've seen it in of course, in the engineering world, like pure programming, let me say that, again, they fumble that phrase, pure programming, I did not enunciate that whatsoever. I don't know what's going on. Not enough caffeine. But yeah, like you put two people, you know, on the same task next to each other, I guess the hypothesis of the methodology is that they will, together, finish that task quicker. And with a deeper learning curve, like they'll be able to be much better. And they, as they work together, become much faster than, you know, individually working on something. So I think that carries forward out of just playing logic and into, you know, soft skills and everything else. Yeah. Yeah. People don't want to be alone necessarily all the time. If they're having a good time with someone else.

    Reza Rahimi 33:07
    We're hardwired that way. Right. It's fun and work that way. So why not make it that way? And yeah, work should be fun. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And, and you do better work. And you have had that skill trade, which is also super beneficial design a topic on my list, which is another one of those challenges. Around COVID. And some, some of the, one of the ones that was particularly painful, especially early on was what we called triumph of the unknown unknown. So just just to reiterate this topic of like, you have known knowns, like on your roadmap, there are things that you put there, like we were delivering this feature by this time. And this is because of this customer's needs, if you're an enterprise unknowns

    Qasim Virjee 33:51
    as well, we don't know how to code that thing. But we're gonna figure it out. But you know, what you're coding, you just don't know how to code it. Exactly. And then the unknown unknowns.

    Reza Rahimi 33:59
    Yeah, I know, not even say examples of unknown unknowns difficult. But let's see, some,

    Qasim Virjee 34:04
    well, event happens, like a pandemic, pandemic, oh, my God, you

    Reza Rahimi 34:08
    can plan for that. And this is the thing that we've always had in your organization, you have mostly known knowns, some extent of known unknown, and a few unknown unknowns here and there come out and you deal with domestic content, you just have to have extra capacity and be quick and react. You can be proactive, really about them. But what COVID And particularly great resignation changed was huge turnover of a lot of people who were known as subject matter experts. SMEs.

    Qasim Virjee 34:41
    Within organization, you're talking about people that are like, key holders to sacred knowledge in their field. And then they leave and you're like, Wait a second. How does zoning work? Yeah, and we didn't even know that person was working on that thing. And it was brilliant. Oh my god, and we never ever knew and like, do we are we allowed to call them out? Can we call them? We don't have their phone number? Oh, they don't use a phone anymore? Well, I do them. I do them. But yeah, like the point is, it's really expensive to organizations to lose that knowledge.

    Misinterpreted data in a business decision

    Reza Rahimi 35:13
    I'm hoping somebody in one of the many books that will return over this goes and does a an analytical quantitative assessment of what this aspect of great resignation cost in productivity in dollars in lost revenue. Because I've seen so many times like when example colleague came to me, it was a few months back. And he's looking into prioritizing a bunch of things on the roadmap and asked me, here's a, these are the figures that we're seeing that behavior tracking and user analysis and everything. And a certain action, he points out and says, that counts for 40% of the volume. I won't go into the deep details. Yeah, key numbers that counselor 40% of volume? And I'm like, No, that's that's not impossible. Let me take a look at that. This was actually a bit of a sideline to discussion, but it would have led to a very important decision. I go in and look and look at our data. I have technical background. So still run my own SQL queries from time to time.

    Qasim Virjee 36:12
    Well look at you, Reza, yeah, hardcore man. And I

    Knowledge sharing and documentation in a software development team

    Reza Rahimi 36:15
    pop up data grip, write a few lines and figure out how they arrived at the 40% number. It was basically mixing two completely distinct things into one number and then naming it badly. Now, I knew that and I quickly could come at that conclusion, because I'm sort of ESP on this. I've been in payments for a while led the payments product team now as a GM, so I know a thing or two about it. So when that number 40 just didn't sound right to me. I kind of learned and looked at it and knew exactly where to look. And I'm like, Okay, no, the real number is more like the real figures were like 17%. Now, you make two very different decisions based on figure 40%. And figure 17% 40%, was convincing him to go in a very different direction. 17 percentage drop it. So this is an unknown, unknown. And it was only serendipity that we ran into each other. And he brought this question, if I didn't answer the Slack message that afternoon, they would have continued with the 40% assumption and made the decision. It's actually been a bit of a struggle for me a lot of these cases where I'm like, here's something I'm like, doesn't sound right. But should I get involved? Or should I just let it be, which is sometimes you like, they learn the lesson, this is not going to be a disaster, if they continue to have a dead wrong number or with that wrong assumption, they're gonna go and learn it, and they're gonna learn six other things for interfere. Now I'm going to prevent them, yeah, I'm going to stop this thing. But I'm going to prevent them from learning from learning things that down the road will be super beneficial to this project that they're working on. So let it be, it's a struggle choosing what to do at those points in time. But yeah, that's another aspect. So if we had our old data analysts and payments, involved in decision, he would absolutely 100% Notice, the data would not become 40% error, it would just be 17%, or 18%, which is the correct number. But nobody did anything wrong. That's the funny thing. Like across all of this, like the research that they did look at the data and analysis that they did. Everything is absolutely correct. 100% by the book, they did the best they could, there was just an unknown unknown there that they didn't know that this is a misnomer in our data, and behind the scenes is actually covering for two different things. And they were making a decision off of it. So unknown unknown, I think it's been extremely costly. And, again, it's not the thing that happened only because of COVID, but COVID engrade resignation, amplified it to a great deal. So how do we deal with it, we can first try to keep as many of your key people as possible. The thing that goes without saying, but try avoiding it in future based on lessons learned. So true pointer and pair programming, we adopted more of that. Splitting the now sharing knowledge. Yeah, there shouldn't be ever a case where one person Yeah, like, if you look at the depths of knowledge are like five topics in a domain. There shouldn't be a case where one person knows 10 deep, this one and other knows 10 deep that one was 10 did the other one, any of them leave, none of them can take on the responsibility anymore. It's better if we have a group where everybody knows five, right? And maybe one person has gone to 10 on one topic. But everybody knows five of it or two, three people know. So that's

    Qasim Virjee 39:18
    also part of that kind of like across the board want, you know, smart organization for everyone who is an employee to have a deep knowledge base about not specificities of particular jobs that are outside of their domain, but about how the organization functions. Part of it is building that, you know, subconscious framework base for people to make decisions within their own field, you know, and part of it also is about knowing how to share what you have to prime that expectation.

    Reza Rahimi 39:49
    That's cool. Yeah, that's very true. So yeah, that we kind of written communications was another thing that we did. Let's write things down. Good idea. Great idea. is the context behind it. And this is the hypothesis that document

    Qasim Virjee 40:02
    your workflows. Yes. Document jobs, your decision making.

    Reza Rahimi 40:06
    Yeah. Why did we make this decision? So

    Qasim Virjee 40:08
    is there a particular software package or you know interface for that? Or is it ad hoc, we use

    Reza Rahimi 40:14
    confluence, which is a wiki, enterprise wiki type of solution. And we use that and some things are stored in JIRA, JIRA, and Confluence worked well with each other. So tickets are in JIRA, and issues are in JIRA, and Confluence acts as the week. It's good enough, like anything else, it could get stale, if you don't regularly maintain it. So it's like there are probably two thirds of our conference today is useless because it's old, stale data. And new ones, you have to have a kind of governance, which is too much for an organization outside governance of the wiki local company wiki. But yeah, it could get stale, but it gets the job done. Things are documented. I'm sometimes surprised they go and run into a page that I wrote down. When I'm looking for a keyword unconference. I go and write into a page that I wrote down in August 2016. Okay, this helps. Did they write this? It looks really good. I don't think I could have written this, but it looks really good. So I like it. But you go back and you find something like that. So we're async communications became a lot more important as part of remote work. Sure. Like, we we now encourage it when I was talking to my boss, who's our CEO, the other day, and we're talking discussing the topic, and we just made a decision. Okay, let's do this this way. And he's asking me, okay, go and write it down. See how you feel about it when you wrote it down?

    Remote work, async comms, and team motivation

    Qasim Virjee 41:32
    Yeah. And they see that as a is a very interesting discipline, isn't it? articulate something before you go and create the actionable items?

    Reza Rahimi 41:40
    Yeah, don't broadcast it first. Just go and write part of that is also about changing

    Qasim Virjee 41:44
    culture away from like, reaction ism to, you know, ProAction, and people kind of making informed decisions, as opposed to just you know, reacting and then making the quickest decision? Absolutely,

    Reza Rahimi 41:55
    absolutely. So we push that kind of like, clarify your thinking, outline things and write them. So that's one aspect of it. But async communications is a meeting, getting back to efficiency. A meeting on Zoom, sometimes can be a document page, or blog post on confluence, our wiki where everything is written. I mean, yeah, instead of a meeting. And sometimes the precursor to the meeting, is that document everybody goes in, like one of the monthly updates that we do now we've moved into this place where instead of everybody bringing a deck and walking everybody else in the meeting, waste of time not doing that anymore. Instead of decks, we have a written piece, every leader has a written piece. They put that together a couple of days before the meeting, and posted in a channel for that purpose. And then everyone else goes in reads the document. Is

    Qasim Virjee 42:47
    it verbose? Is it like editorialized copy? Or is it like a bulleted list?

    Reza Rahimi 42:51
    We try to be more on the bulleted list. Yeah,

    Qasim Virjee 42:55
    keep it concise. Keep it to the point. Yeah, it's not about storytelling

    Reza Rahimi 42:59
    in this case, is just highlights of the months action oriented things that we saw that should raise concerns, things that are going well. So I put that like that together, every leader, I do two of those, for example, over months, and everyone goes in comments on the document, you go in and answer comments and questions. And then when we go to the meeting, we start one by one. Are there any questions that are not answered yet? Let's discuss those. Are there any new questions that have come up since then? A really good one. It has been such a relief. It's so much more organized it so much more time saving, like those meetings that just go easily for we booked him for half a day, at least. Oh,

    Qasim Virjee 43:40
    my God, and everyone has input when they don't necessarily need input in just trying to get the key points out. And you want to make everyone feel included. So whoever is leading that, yeah, you know what it's, it's the best way is like be concise and make it easier for people to also because there's a lot of assumptive miscommunication using digital communication. Yeah, yeah. Like you spent 10 minutes trying to get everyone's webcams working. And then by the time you kind of can hear properly, you know, despite all the like problems at home of like a dog barking too loudly or something. Yeah, you need to be as precise with with the core information as possible.

    Reza Rahimi 44:18
    It's made us a lot more efficient. And then another area like this ties to kind of moving into the topic of managing remote teams and kind of being effective at teams. We touched a few points around async communication, it was a big one. But everything that was disrupted was we had mechanisms and systems in place, and cadences and meetings and routines. Yeah, you

    Qasim Virjee 44:43
    said that going into the pandemic, right. Yeah, yeah. And like quarterly meetings or whatever team meetings once a week or so. And the in person stuff

    Reza Rahimi 44:50
    teams usually pod sitting together. So like these 20 desks are the payroll team. Those are the accounting thing. We're sitting together. You just hear conversations that are beneficial and I feel like a lot want to be involved in that conversation or something being done on the whiteboard, Team whiteboard, you jump in. And it's all of those went away at different levels, like blew up after code. So how do we replace these? And particularly, how do we keep the big concern was, these teams are now on their own distributed as leaders? How do we keep them still motivated? How do we keep them excited about the work they're doing? Not just because they're remote, and they're not working with each other. And they were so used to working with each other, that it kind of lost that connection, but also because of the fact that everything else is going on in a macro Ward, distract you like you probably have sick parents, sick family, all the news coming out, you know, entertainment. So as bad for your mental health, we can fix all of that. But it's how do we keep people motivated, so they don't feel bad about their work? This one that we can help with. And one thing that existed even before and we kind of doubled down on it was and this is kind of borrowed from Daniel Pink's book drive.

    Qasim Virjee 46:03
    Yeah. All right. You mentioned that to me before, before we jumped on the mic. Yeah. He

    Reza Rahimi 46:07
    talks about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and instability in terms of intrinsic motivators. He mentioned three things, autonomy, mastery, and purpose. And these are the three things that can help you keep your people interested and motivated to do the work that they're doing.

    Qasim Virjee 46:25
    So recap those three things again. So

    Reza Rahimi 46:29
    autonomy is that they feel like they are in charge and own the work, right. They're not being told what to do. They're going out and figuring out the how to do and achieve results. The opposite of micromanagement, exactly the opposite of micromanagement, you you have the ownership. So as the team and mastery is, you're getting better at it. But you're getting better at something, you start playing a musical instrument and you get better at it, and you get better at it just keeps motivating you. I'm getting better at this.

    Qasim Virjee 46:58
    I was talking to my daughter about that this morning. She has a piano lessons this evening. She's four and a half, right? And she's like, Papa, I don't know. I was like, what don't you know, she was like, I don't like piano. And I was like, You love piano? What are you talking about? And she was like, No, I don't want to keep playing the same thing. She's four and a half. I'm like, well, but do you enjoy each lesson when you're learning new things? And she says, Yeah, I just want to learn new things. So it's like, become a master at the thing that your teacher taught you last week, and then you'll be able to move on. So just get quick with it. And you'll be able to enjoy learning and continuing. And it's something that adults don't quite get that often. No, maybe forget about it. A lot of people enjoy stasis in their lives, you know, and they mastery is escaping mastery. Yeah. Yeah,

    Tying work to company objectives and impact

    Reza Rahimi 47:49
    that's true. Yeah. And then the last element is purpose. So have a purpose. If you there are a couple angles to this one. Something that you feel like it's with bringing something positive to the board. And then the other one is, it's tied to your company's objectives. Hopefully. For every employee, we've put a lot of emphasis and we continue to do so that the thing that you're working on a line of code, you're writing the content that you're publishing, on the marketing Republic site, you should be able to tie this back to a company objective, right? If you can't ask your leader, if your leader can go one level up and ask we don't have that many levels, but three levels to

    Qasim Virjee 48:33
    climb to the top of the staircase, wherein you'll find a penthouse within the penthouse. Yeah,

    Reza Rahimi 48:40
    that's pretty much it. But But ask like, make sure that work you're doing because if it could is not, then we may not be one, we should probably shouldn't be working on that if it's not helping company goals. But if it is, we want you to know, and you want you to feel like you're part of the big picture. You're not just a cog there. You're part of the big picture like everybody else, you're making an impact. And the other is the do good type of thing. I have a really good example from this from back in the startup days, I was a co founder. And one of the features we built was called CSUDH 911 which is a 911 which is basically on IP phones IP phones don't have a fixed address right and IP phone you can pick it up anywhere there's internet, you can go and plug the IP phone and now you're talking on that network IP

    Qasim Virjee 49:24
    address you mean but they have a MAC address device a physical

    Reza Rahimi 49:28
    address, okay, so your phone talk to your landline? Not anymore. Okay, so landlines when you've been a landline you call 911. They immediately know where you are because that landline register Yeah, sorry.

    Qasim Virjee 49:40
    My brain when I'm not full millennial, but I was I was imagining a kind of IP phone as opposed to an actual rj 45 plugged in, you know, to the wall. But yes, okay, so landlines have an identity. Yeah,

    Empowering teams with autonomy, mastery, and purpose

    Reza Rahimi 49:53
    have an ID 911 You call you don't even talk they can send you someone so just don't help. But IP phones The talk to network needs to connect to a gateway that is connected to the internet. So if you have the gateway, but in your bag, the gateway and your IP phone, you can go anywhere in the world connect to the internet through the gateway, and you have the same phone number, you're on the same org, you're connected to everything the phone will operate as it was before, as long as you have good internet connection. Now, this feature allowed IP phone owners to set their physical address and fill out those profiles. So some some of them were salespeople would take their phone home after hours. So this feature allowed them to go to the simple portal and say, This hour to this hour, this is my physical address this hour to this hour, this is my physical address. Because I'm at home, I'm at work. So if somebody dials 911 on this phone, the emergency services, the responders will know where to go. Because that feature that we built will alert them that it's this hour. So this is the central office told it emergency services that this is the address to go to. So as a PM, I brought this team and I said Hey guys, today, we're saving lives. And it's true. It's an it's an it's an extreme case, you very rarely build software that saves lives like that. Most of us don't. We're working in financial services, I told you, we make a lot of impact. But we don't save lives every day. It's nice to hear from a customer that says we've because we automated things I was at the dinner table and I managed to close my laptop because you help everything fix me, I got the chance to eat dinner with my kids and family. That was great. We hear that on customer interviews. Sounds nice. But it's not saving lives, really goodness and saving lives. That's an extreme example. But it's good to have these examples and motivate people with these examples that are making a difference. And part of that is why we put up those three, autonomy mastery purpose, the purpose part, we encourage everyone in the company, including engineers, to participate in customer interviews like that, and hear from customers like at least attend one customer to product managers and designers or customer interviews every week, at least once every other week, go to a customer interview, we have a calendar, you can actually go and drop yourself in one sign up, you can already signed up, you can be no take care, you don't have to talk, but you wouldn't be there. And you would hear the pains of the customers the opportunities that exist. And sometimes good ideas come up from like these economic features and things that we call Yeah, but also they just put themselves in the shoes of the customer empathize with the customer. And that is absolutely invaluable. So you have a bunch of remote teams. You give them autonomy, you help them become the masters of their craft. And you make sure that they have purpose. You get good results, which is what we've experienced. I've been surprised i i do less now in team leadership than I used to do before COVID. Even though I talked with COVID, I would have to do a lot more. But just following simple rules like this and being deliberate about these things and pushing them and getting feedback from employees all the time that is this working is this workshop that collecting feedback all the time, because we could be wrong. Yeah. There are just thing meetings that I used to go to that have pulled myself out and they're going well. And they would say they're doing better than they would have admitted them. Me being in them makes people sometimes hesitant to say things otherwise said, bring up something this is too small for this meeting or like wasting less time. I don't feel that all that a detailed and technical. But it could have that me having pulled myself out of things I feel like actually helped. And the reason I could pull myself out is we give the team that those abilities those that autonomy, mastery purpose. And then there's the accountability bit, which is the flip side of autonomy. So you have autonomy, but there's also accountability, report back on the things that you're doing. And we have some certain meetings, certain conversations around that where we bring folks, we have a bi weekly alignment meeting with our payments team. The whole team is like 30 people, but the leads group is 1012 people. We sit together and we discuss every other week. What things have we accomplished? What things Are we late on what questions do we have any major updates from a leadership perspective that should be shared? Yeah, use that channel. But after that, the team spreads out. I don't hear much or one on ones. one on ones also shifted completely two. What do you need from me? It's not an update where you tell me what you did.

    Remote work culture and recognition

    Qasim Virjee 54:16
    Right? Yeah. So as to time, yeah.

    Reza Rahimi 54:18
    What do you need from me? Are you blocked on something? Is there something I can help with? Is there an interpersonal thing that I can help with? Are you not? Are you looking to get a are you were you hoping to get a promotion this year that didn't get and you're upset about that? I'm there to help you with those kinds of things to make sure that that's well equipped.

    Qasim Virjee 54:36
    That's also like about shifting culture. Are we still talking about in a kind of remote only way or across the board hybrid like?

    Reza Rahimi 54:44
    So we had some of these things in the old Ward as well, like autonomous repairs was a thing but we weren't pushing it anywhere as much as we have in the last two years. Yeah. So we double and triple and quadruple down on this because it worked.

    Qasim Virjee 54:58
    Digital company caches intrapersonal digital communications, is that kind of like functional expectation of the interfacing? Yeah. Right. Yeah. So definitely works well. Yeah.

    Reza Rahimi 55:08
    It really works well. And,

    Qasim Virjee 55:10
    and as you guys are moving into, back into the office, how's that working? What's happening on that front? So, or back into person in real life? IRL? Yeah.

    Reza Rahimi 55:20
    So the the premise and the promise that we've made to the company is, office is the place we want you to feel like you want to be, yeah. We're never going to mandate that you have to be sure. So we don't have a mandate of I know, some places they have a mandate of two days in the office or Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and I like Goldman Sachs or something. Yeah. We're not going to mandate that. Because also there are people who have moved out of town now they have very long commutes, it just doesn't make sense gonna be troubling, difficult. But we're going to do as much as we can town halls, hybrid town halls with benefits for folks that come in to the office, whether it's pizza, or whatever, like make it fun, make it fun. Yeah. Training in person, we have a couple of different rounds of training different courses, there's one that is public speaking, we can do that remotely, you have to be in there.

    Qasim Virjee 56:11
    Because it's not public speaking at that point, it's a whole different thing,

    Reza Rahimi 56:14
    a different thing. So you have to be in the room, and we try to bring people in the room for those things, and they get a lot of traction. Then once you have people in a room, well, you get the opportunity for them to network to build professional camaraderie. They're locked in a room two days together. So they learn about each other, they learn about their weaknesses, it's a place where you have to be vulnerable. You feel like you're not a good public speaker in front of your peers, you have to be vulnerable, and builds relationships. So true courses, bring people in and encourage them. So no mandate. But if you sign up for this course, you're gonna get a lot of benefits besides learning, right? You're gonna make friends, you're gonna make comrades here at work. And yeah, so bring them into work that way. And all the opportunities, we still offer recognition. Like, again, another thing that he would high five people in the old word. Yeah, I just want to Slack. So this

    Qasim Virjee 57:02
    is a good topic, recognition. How do you encourage the team who may be distributed, right, for the most part remote to recognize you're documenting stuff, so people kind of get it have a the ability to understand it and be tapped into kind of whatever I was working on? But yeah, so there you go. How do you do it?

    Reza Rahimi 57:21
    If you don't recognize good work, people, some people will stop doing good work. It's just our nature, like, everybody appreciated this thing. And we're gonna do more of it. Nobody cared and probably going to do less of it. So we do have that focus on encouraging this. And again, real high fives are not an opportunity are all co characters. He would hear something and then you see him running, he would see something on Slack. And he would see him running and going across like the office to somebody and then high fiving like a team. Yeah, every single person, they did something good, like wristing blocked some attack, basically some frauds fraud activity, yeah, saved us. 10s of 1000s of dollars, saved our customers, bunch of high fives and everything. So that just doesn't happen in remote work. You could do you have those tiny emoji emoji? Yeah, that's the same thing. So what we do is, we have a few things on Slack, we have kind of a gobo these days by Bravo, or kudos channel and everything. And there are predefined set of things like tying to company values, like this person showed this, which is one of our company values. So that's one, it could be anonymous, sometimes just directly goes to the person, sometimes it's published. We have our town halls, which we run as hybrid. So some people come to the office, some people work from home, I would say 30%, come to the office 70% work from home for tunnels. And some nice town halls have additional events, like a barbecue or something, you'll get 50% in the office. But food is really good at bringing people to the office. And what they think, oh, yeah, so in town halls, we have a shout out section where leaders record a personal video, saying thanks to someone on your team. We used to do this as CO does this. But then we felt it's disconnected.

    Qasim Virjee 59:00
    It's not about top down. It's about kind of all sorts of people recognizing each other. Yeah. So now

    Reza Rahimi 59:04
    the actual leader that worked with some person and recognize something great that they did, we'll make a really informal, super informal video from home on their phone that, Hey, Sarah, you did this amazing thing and helped our customers and unblock them. And this is in line with our mission of helping small business owners and we put that into town hall and we played those and the feedback has been amazing for that kind of thing. We've gotten a lot of success and people just love it and we clap and we're happy and we get to know another colleague this way. Both their faces and everything is there. So that has been super helpful. We have a channel where we have chips we call it chips whenever new thing chips, new product goes live. We do like multiple a day being SAS and everything. We give an opportunity to boast person who posted it basically when it's somebody who has ownership of this to post this and kind of take credit for them and their team and give kudos to them. onto people. And then we all go in, like folks that know what that is around that topic isn't where how it helps them. So I go in and say, this helps me this way. It's amazing

    Qasim Virjee 1:00:08
    to like socialize the, the kudos. So we

    Open-source software and remote work culture

    Reza Rahimi 1:00:11
    give that recognition that way. And yeah, making making alternatives, I think we have more alternatives for giving recommendation now than we did in the old word. It's interesting, you

    Qasim Virjee 1:00:23
    know, something came up about this topic that reminded me of the way I used to work. So I had a company called Design guru. For about a decade, when I moved to Toronto, like 2005, I moved to Toronto with the mandate of founding a practice that would take the placemaking effort from urban public thinking, urban public space planning, and make it available to digital spaces online. That was my whole thing. So I moved from New York, working with a project for public spaces that redesign parks, and all sorts of public forums and urban public spaces. And I took their placemaking methodology and digitized it. And it's very interesting, because very early on in that practice, I decided to only use open source software. And in that, I keep telling people that it was a really interesting experience, because I worked automatically with a distributed global team, because my comrades is, I like that word that you keep saying, My comrades in the in the open source world, especially in the Drupal community at some point, which is an open source content management system. You know, we're 1000s, and 1000s, and 1000s of people around the world with a vested interest in the success of the software that we're all using. And this is pre dating a little bit of that code checking in and out, you know, we were really old school in those days. But with every feature advancement, there would be like a lot of critique on how it was implemented. And people would chime in on better ways to do things, suggest code, you know, changes, and discuss it. And it was always a social experience, you know, around that. And it's funny, because a lot of the innovations that I used to do in my team used to do on client projects that resulted in advancements of the software, you couldn't celebrate with the client. Often cases, because we're dealing with subcontractors doing some of this work, when you know, I was stretched too thin or whatever. That person might leave the team after they've done their ninja work. So even amongst us on the team, you couldn't give kudos for certain innovations. But with posting it back to the open source community, there was always a community that would kind of do that virtual high five, and also, more importantly, take the good work and be able to develop it further. But it's funny, because I think that I primarily worked in open source software, because it came with a turnkey community. And also the side benefit of that community and feeling that recognition that your work wasn't just lost to the code commit. That fed back into this lifestyle of working as a remote team, like my studio on Spadina was a drop in studio. So I had up to 20 people at a time in it. But for the most part, it was like me and one other person. So for us not to feel alone, I think it was a big boon to work with an open source community that was already dirt digital and distributed. And how there was that built in feedback loop was really something that that enabled that lifestyle, and fed back into the client work to make it more fulfilling.

    Open source development and remote work

    Reza Rahimi 1:03:29
    It's interesting. That's very true. And funny, you should bring open source up because open source, the development, the operating model, has always been remote by default. I started a lot of it started out of universities with a BSD license and everything. And these were disparate, remote universities and students.

    Qasim Virjee 1:03:53
    Here's a little anecdote of that little anecdote on that you mentioned BSD. Right. And so BSD had had an operating system called BSD OS, right, which is like a flavor of Linux kind of thing. They had kind of like, created a software package that came integrated with Apache, the web hosting architecture. When I was before I went to university that was like, I must have been 15. And I wanted to start an ISP in Kenya 95. I reached out because they were in a computer shop or magazine, there was like an ad for BSD OS. So and they were kind of shipping like a hardware software bundle. That was a turnkey, ISP computer. So the idea was that you buy this computer for $15,000 or whatever. And it comes with 10 modems, and you can start an ISP. So I was really interested in this because I was one of the first people online ever in Kenya. And I called them you know, and my voice probably at the time sound like Hi guys.

    Speaker 3 1:04:50
    I'm a student in Kenya Canadian, and I love what you're doing,

    Qasim Virjee 1:04:55
    and they were so amazed. We had like 10 conversations. My mom would call me from the kitchen. Somebody's calling from California who is this awesome. And then they shipped me out a computer. I never actually started the ISP, I ended up going to university instead and moving to Montreal, but they shipped me out a computer for free, because the prof was so enamored with the fact that this Canadian kids sitting out in Africa wanted to use their solution. For this really interesting, that's amazing. But that's the power of that open source community, right. And the heritage of it residing in this kind of peer to peer call culture from universities from from educational institutions,

    Reza Rahimi 1:05:40
    they were the original remote ones. And remote was a requirement for how they operated because like one university to another, to another to another, you wouldn't bring everybody together, working nine to five, you just had to work remotely over whatever network access they had, and communicate, and they didn't have video conferencing and everything, especially back in early VSD days and all of that. And from before that ARPANET was starting to show Asia but like, like they just have to operate in that mode. So maybe there's something to be learned from people who grew up doing it remotely?

    Qasim Virjee 1:06:13
    I definitely think so. And I think these are stories that are not necessarily socialized today, because a lot of that community didn't necessarily move into mainstream in the commercial context, even though a lot of that software now is being used, and relied upon for commercial work. And yeah, it's very interesting. Well, maybe we'll be able to showcase more voices from the open source community on this series.

    Reza Rahimi 1:06:37
    Yeah, yeah, it's worth getting some attention. So much like, in crypto wouldn't have existed without the early days of open source and everything and all the thinking and hypothesis, hypothesizing and all of that happen. They're building distributed systems like that. So, so much we have today, as thanks to

    Qasim Virjee 1:06:58
    a web source, do the whole web, right. The whole internet for the most part is thanks to open source. Yeah. You know, so there we go. Even Even if you look at the language is like I was joking at the gym, I think this morning with a developer who was working out the session just before me. We'd never talked. And I was like, Hey, so what do you do for a living man? He's like, I'm a developer. And biotech was like, whoa, okay. What do you do? Well, I do this biotech stuff. And I'm like, that's great. But you're a developer. So what do you develop software? And I'm like, That's awesome. What kind of software do you do, you know, all sorts of software, for mobile apps. And for the web, I'm like, great, what kind of languages now we dug in a little bit deeper. And he's like Python, and Jas and like Python. And I was like, Python only exists because of Symbian, the operating system for Nokia. He was like, really? And I'm like, Yeah, man. But a lot of history. Yeah. In in looking at the evolution of software. And you're right, I mean, a lot of the tools that have existed for 2030 years that people are using and relying on have beginnings that are so maybe obtuse that people using them today don't even care to, you know, and

    Reza Rahimi 1:08:06
    they were built for working remotely. So like, today, we're like, okay, Zoom is our tool to work and communicate remotely. Yes, this is after a period of remote not being a thing. And then going way back, there was a period where that was the only operating model, you only work remotely with peers that are all over the world. And they did that originally.

    Qasim Virjee 1:08:25
    I think in that way, there's been an over focus. And in kind of the popular dialogue around dissecting efficacy of distributed work in the last couple of years, there's been a kind of a bias that's been a modern blenders bias. People haven't looked past the last five years of technology to say that, hey, nothing new came out of the pandemic, in terms of collaboration software, there's like little bit of eye candy on stuff. But, you know, realistically, like I've been using Skype, I've stopped recently, but I was using Skype back in 99. And like, I mean, that's a whole nother story. This is apparently, heiress to the throne, like there's a king of Sweden. And the kings like nice, came to McGill, and was at university with us, and introduced us to Skype because it was the p2p, like, you know, dialing system that used to call people over the internet and not pay international fees. And then very quickly, they rolled out video right before Microsoft bought Skype. Yeah. So I mean, all this a lot of this stuff is not new. It's just become popularized. It's been rehashed, and, and re skinned. And, you know, it's great to have this chat because a lot of these tools people have been frustrated with for 20 years, you know, so though the popular media will kind of report on them being kind of a savior of efficacy in the last couple of years. A lot of people, especially in the software community have known how to work with these tools and have had to think beyond them, which is really the subject of this conversation. So it's really good to have you on to talk about, you know, culture and how you evolve that culture to make it a little bit more resilient in a hybrid environment and it was a pleasure speaking likewise

    Reza Rahimi 1:10:05
    likewise really enjoyable chat thanks

    Qasim Virjee 1:10:07
    for having yourself on the show

    Unknown Speaker 1:10:09
    thanks for bringing yourself to the studio today

    Reza Rahimi 1:10:12
    thank you thank you

    Qasim Virjee 1:10:13
    awesome man Cheers Cheers

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