Earlier this month, the Forbes Cloud 100 list recognized Fuze for the second consecutive year. The list, which is a collaborative effort between Forbes staff, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Salesforce Ventures serves as the definitive list of the top 100 private cloud companies in the world. We could not have earned such a distinction without the hard work and dedication that our team displays on a daily basis. Together, we’re continuing to build a product that truly impacts the way teams communicate and is ultimately shaping the future of work.
Few in our organization have a better window into the impact cloud-based unified communications (UC) is having on employees than Jed Brown, Fuze’s Director of Product (Applications & Cloud). We recently sat down with Jed for his perspective on flexibility in the modern workforce and the vital role UC plays in enabling the workforce of tomorrow.
Can you give us a little history on yourself and how you first heard about Fuze?
It was really one of those moments of serendipity. It was end of summer 2015 and I was quite happy living in Seattle. I was congratulating Michael Affronti, Fuze’s current VP of Product, with whom I had worked for about 10 years prior, on his new role as the startup he was working for had just been acquired by ThinkingPhones (which as we know, later rebranded as Fuze following another acquisition). We’re chatting and it just so happened that it was the day he was interviewing folks for the job that I have now. Because of that timing he had the thought, “Wait a minute, we should talk, you might be perfect for this!”
In thinking about making the move to New York, where I am located now, there were a few things that really convinced me to come to Fuze. For UCaaS, the market opportunity is phenomenal, with projections putting the value at $42.8 billion by 2020. That’s a big draw. But more importantly, and it may sound cheesy, what Fuze does matters. If you look at the history of Fuze, it began in telephony but evolved very quickly around how people changed their work habits inside both small and large businesses. Forecasts for the number of remote workers are only growing over the next 10 years, and organizations need to get ahead of that to accommodate and attract the next generation of employees. Fuze is really leading that charge and it’s something I’m happy to be a part of.
How does your day-to-day use of the Fuze platform impact how you think about creating a meaningful end user experience for customers?
So let me start by saying that for the most part, we are very dispersed. I work directly with my team spread between New York and Paris. We also have product managers in our Boston hub and Ottawa, as well as developers in Portugal and across the west coast. So nine out of 10 times, meetings consist largely of remote participants. We’re the perfect case study in the sense that we need rich collaboration (voice, video, messaging, etc.) to support what is really a global team.
For better or for worse, the different time zones mean that the collaboration is nonstop. We’re always asking questions, relying on group chat, or jumping on a quick video call to bounce around ideas. It has also really allowed us to help each other disconnect by having a detailed built-in record of everything that’s going on, so our teams can log off for the night, jump in the next morning and get up-to-speed as seamlessly as possible.
With your dispersed team, does that impact how you build rapport with your colleagues?
Yes and no. Because we rely on group chat so heavily, we find ourselves mixing a lot of life and work together to build that human connection, which has the potential to get lost when everything is virtual. One of my colleagues just had a child and I have a young son myself. So we’re always sending photos back and forth of our lives outside of work. With another co-worker, we’ve even had our two daughters wave and say hi to each other over Fuze. It’s funny, but thanks to the platform I’ve actually gotten to know the family of my colleagues (and their pets) who are walking behind them if they’re working from home. It's a level of humanization you wouldn’t get if we were all in the same office everyday together.
That said, at the end of the day few things can completely replace in-person human contact. Having this technology with a remote team makes it a thousand-times easier to build these relationships, but it only gets you 80% of the way. The real attraction is the flexibility it offers, and that will never go away.