In this first episode of our RemoteTechPodcast series we chat with Brendan Yell, Director of Twilio Startups. This is the first episode of our new series focusing on remote work and how companies and teams have pivoted to a remote first workplace, the challenges, the learnings and the success of this. Hope you enjoy the episode!
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The challenges of changing salary bandings in remote work
Benefits of remote work
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00:00:00:03 – 00:00:23:09
But there’s a lot of upsides from from remote work. I mean, the main one is obviously that you don’t have to spend an hour or two of your time every day commuting, whether that be driving or sitting on a train or on a bus. And funny enough to drive 40 minutes somewhere the other day. And I was really sitting there going, Wow, this takes a long time, but this is a long it’s a large chunk of my day, 40 minutes there and 40 minutes back.
00:00:23:09 – 00:00:44:05
So welcome to the first episode of Remote Tech Pay for the podcast. On today’s episode, we’ve got Brendan Yell, who’s the director of Twilio start ups? Welcome, Brendan. James, great to be with you. Those are the listeners that don’t know who you are. Mike, can you give us a bit of an overview of, you know, who is. Brendan Yeah, what is Brendan currently working on?
00:00:44:06 – 00:01:09:21
Yeah, sure. So I currently worked for a US based tech company called Twilio. Twilio allows you to bolt in things like SMS and voice and email into the apps and websites that you build, and I run these startup program. So we’re really small team. There’s just three of us globally and we’re globally distributed in New York, London, and I suppose I’m technically sort of based out of Sydney.
00:01:09:21 – 00:01:31:00
Yeah, look, COVID is accelerated. All forms of digital transformation of which, you know, remote work is kind of one of them, you know, was only a couple of years ago I was I was telling someone that QR codes are dead. It’s know it’s terrible technology. It’s hard to use, you know. And now my my my mother, who’s in her senior years, has no problem using a QR code.
00:01:31:18 – 00:01:57:00
My ten year old was on a Zoom call this morning. So I agree with you it was going to happen anyway, but it’s really kind of accelerated that. I think what’s interesting for our team and our job is really to get around and work with startups is that we actually doing a better job doing it remotely. I used to spend way too much time in airports, way too much time on planes, way too much time, exhausted and tired, feeling that I needed to go and have cups of coffee with these people, with these startups.
00:01:57:18 – 00:02:21:19
Now I jump on Zoom calls with them and we actually are doing a much better job and we’re servicing startups that are not only in San Francisco, in New York and Sydney, but also companies that are in Vietnam and Malaysia and India and places that we wouldn’t get to as often. So, you know, if I look at it as being a remote team, we’re actually doing a better job serving the startups, which is what our job as a team is to do.
00:02:21:21 – 00:02:45:03
But there’s a lot of upsides from from remote work. I mean, the main one is obviously that you don’t have to spend an hour or two of your time every day commuting, whether that be driving or sitting on a train or on a bus. And funny enough to drive 40 minutes somewhere the other day. And I was really sitting there going, Wow, this takes a long time, but this is as long as a large chunk of my day, 40 minutes there and 40 minutes back.
00:02:45:03 – 00:03:13:12
So yeah, I think that aspect of it is a real advantage and then that gives you some flexibility to hopefully keep a really nice work life balance. Yeah, I think that culture piece is is a big piece. I think companies that had moved to remote before COVID, I had to put things in place, put structures in place, whether it be those regular made ups or or the big gatherings are paper that companies that were prepared for that and have got those things in place have had success.
00:03:13:12 – 00:03:30:17
And companies that have moved to remote because of COVID and had to do it reactively maybe don’t have those cultural pieces in place yet and trying to reactively come up to speed with that. That’s where they may face challenges. But I agree. I think over time this remote work is is here to stay and the cultural piece will be figured out.
00:03:30:17 – 00:03:52:10
This more and more organized Asians and U.S. space companies that are trying to fill that gap where building culture remotely is a thing. And I think that that is definitely a space that will continue to grow. Now, you mentioned to a point earlier, which is quite contentious. I know it’s been a bit of a bigger conversation in the US in particular is that salary parity, San Francisco.
00:03:52:20 – 00:04:11:13
There are a lot of salaries. There are obviously extremely high becoming extremely competitive when the move to remote people moving out of the area, do they continue to get paid San Fran salaries? If you hire somebody on the East Coast versus West Coast, are they on different salaries of somebody in Australia versus the US again, are they on different salaries?
00:04:11:21 – 00:04:33:15
And I think that that that conversation is a continuous one. Do you have any opinion or advice in around that salary? Salary parity. Yeah. Look, we’ve, we’ve certainly experienced that. It’s really and it’s a really good point to discuss. And I think as a company you need to have a policy on it. So we have, you know, like most companies, we have different pay grades within Tulio.
00:04:33:15 – 00:04:57:00
And if you are located in one of the cities that is deemed to have a loading on it and San Francisco is one of those, then you can, you know, your pay, your salary might be up to 25% higher than what it would be if you’re in a different location. During COVID, of course, we had like like tons of employees, kind of not just free, certainly San Francisco, California.
00:04:58:10 – 00:05:20:01
So I did say we actually had an email go out and say that your pay might be adjusted based on your location because it was, I suppose, artificially inflated before we had situations where managers were not being paid as much as people that were reporting to them because of the people that were important to them were in San Francisco and the managers were not.
00:05:20:01 – 00:05:49:02
So it’s a tricky one. We also had know go the other way where we actually had employees leave because their salary was adjusted when they went back to Idaho. So we had a we it’s an interesting discussion. I think you have to as a company need to figure that out. It’s easier when you’re hiring someone new to go, This is this is a salary because you are in Denver, Colorado, or this is a salary because you are in Idaho or you’re on where I am in Lake Macquarie in New South Wales.
00:05:49:11 – 00:06:07:08
What’s hotter is that adjustment from moving from Yeah, you’re used to that coming to the office, but now you can just sit up there and wait in the car. You don’t have to come to Sydney anymore. That is that, that’s the tricky conversation to have because no one wants to go backwards in salary. So when you first hire new people, I think that that conversation can be easy.
00:06:07:15 – 00:06:33:23
But transition opening I think is, is it’s fraught. And I don’t know if all of our employees were pay adjusted that way back to different regions. I think someone not so I think it’s a tricky conversation. I think the first time I transferred out of an office and started working from home, if I was not in the mood to work, I used to just still sit at my desk and I had to suddenly realize that there was no one looking over my shoulder.
00:06:34:05 – 00:06:54:24
And, you know, if I wasn’t in that mood, I’d go for walk, take the dog for a walk, Take yourself for a walk, do some exercise, go get some golf balls, whatever that is, and come back in that zone where you know you’re going to be productive, where before an office environment, you wouldn’t really do that. You wouldn’t just get your walking are not really in the mood today, but you just sit at your desk.
00:06:54:24 – 00:07:17:02
Now, that desk time is nonproductive and all this is really kind of the kind of same metrics. Oh, I saw Brendan was at his desk all day today, but I didn’t actually doing it because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. So that was probably the first thing that I learned from remote working was if you’re not feeling it, if you’re not in that productive zone, then don’t sit at your desk, Don’t do something else.
00:07:17:03 – 00:07:32:07
Now I find that I’m really productive between sort of seven and ten in the morning, and then things seem to slow down after that. I don’t know why I’m a night owl, but I’m not productive at night, so I find my brain is operating fastest early in the morning and that’s what I try and do to take advantage of that time.
00:07:32:07 – 00:07:55:08
And some time I workdays, I’m done by 12:00, by 2:00, that’s fine. You know, if you feel like you’re being productive for those 6 hours that you put in like that, that day that you were doing to X what you normally would, that’s fine to take that afternoon off. I would say that we are going to get judged more on productivity and less on these kind of vanity metrics of Was Brendan logging to Slack all day?
00:07:55:12 – 00:08:18:12
I was like, Rose, like yours is an epic pack where you’ll feel X amount of boxes in X amount of hours if you do two really productive hours versus sitting at your desk for 8 hours on productively, you take this to two productive hours every day of the week, right? Yeah, I know that’s a big shift in thinking for a lot of people that that they judged purely on output and not on hours.
00:08:18:12 – 00:08:42:00
So that’s a it’s a tricky thing for employees to deal with and get their head around. It’s a tricky thing for some managers and employers as well to get their head around. And, you know, sometimes some days I will take Fridays pretty much off, but I might do a couple of hours on a Saturday morning. So again, that that flexibility and productivity, though, I think the trade off is awesome and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
00:08:42:00 – 00:08:58:23
And I, I kind of, you know, I laugh when I think about years ago when I was you know, I was working this and I would put my suit on at 730 in the morning and head on in on the bus. And I’d get in there and have a chat about the coffee machine and sit there. And then at 5:00, boom, you know, off I’d go.
00:08:58:23 – 00:09:16:15
And then I was, you know, I wasn’t online any of those hours. I was uncontactable, which is sort of a good thing. Like, you do have to choose your hours when you switch off. But that work environment from 20 years ago, it seems. Yeah, it seems very distant and foreign to me now, Is there anything else that you found super productive for you?
00:09:16:24 – 00:09:36:12
Yeah, I mean, look at Twitter. Yeah, we use all the Google suite. So good. It’s called Good Workplace now. So things like, Yeah, Google Drive, I think just make it very, very easy if you don’t use Zoom. I mean, Google Meet, which is their video product is good enough like the whatever it is, 599 a month per user.
00:09:36:12 – 00:09:56:20
It’s a very encompassing kind of suite of tools. Slack I don’t know if I’m the biggest lover of Slack. Shout out to Cal Tech founder, Slack mate of mine. But you know, I think you’ll learn how to use it. We we use threads a lot. You don’t want your slack messages to be these long kind of just pages of notes.
00:09:56:20 – 00:10:24:03
So we do we divide everything into topics and then we, we do threads off that. So that’s probably an important one. We use email a little bit internally, but mostly for external communications. That’s probably about it. I mean, I think it would vary depending on your set up and kind of what you do. But I mean, if you were to start off with something like Google Workplace, I think that’s a pretty encompassing kind of suite of tools.
00:10:25:10 – 00:10:49:08
But again, if you can get you the hardware that you need, I think everything else kind of goes from there. We use some other like note taking tools as well as a bunch of different ones there. Now. I mean, there’s a tool for everything if you need if you’ve got a use case for something. So yeah, whether it be like Post-its or whatever I use for task management, I use Trello.
00:10:49:14 – 00:11:06:24
So Trello kind of matches the way I kind of think with little sort of task boards. So Trello now and but last thing I think is a is a great a great tool for that. But yeah I think you’ll find that there’s industry even specific tools for pretty much everything you want to do. Perfect. Appreciate your time director.
00:11:06:24 – 00:11:10:08
Thanks James. Great to chat as always. Cheers mate.