Amid the pandemic, we’re all missing in-person human interaction — from face-to-face meetings, to business trips, to something as simple as a hug or handshake.
But thanks to Zoom, we’re not without human connection. The video call software has become a household name over the past year, and a reliable way to collaborate, create, and connect during a challenging time. Whether it’s meeting with co-workers, chatting with friends, or catching up with far-flung family members, Zoom has given us a way to stay human.
Recently, I was lucky enough to speak with one of the people who makes Zoom tick — Harry Moseley, Zoom’s Global CIO. Harry shared with me his career journey, how Zoom has evolved, and his plans for a post-pandemic future.
S: Growing up in Dublin, Ireland, what are some of the values you received from your parents and Jewish heritage that have shaped who you are now?
H: It was unique being Irish and Jewish. And I was fortunate to have loving parents who did everything they could for me.
In 1976, all of my friends went to Kibbutz in Israel and asked me to join — but I wasn’t going to work for free. I wanted to get a job. I was studying to be an engineer at Trinity and thinking about switching from structural engineering to chemical engineering. I wanted to go work for one of the oil companies in Israel.
When I did go to Israel, I met this girl who worked for the Israeli telephone exchange. Every Friday, I’d call my parents through her and would be on the phone for a very long time with them. My dad asked me if I was looking forward to coming home and I said, ‘That’s a good question — I’m thinking I might not come home.’ There was this long silence. I told him I met a girl and that I liked my life and work in Israel. My dad said, ‘You really need to come home and finish your last year at university, and then if you want to go back, you can.’ I said I’d think about it.
That was a Friday. Sunday afternoon, there was a knock at the apartment door and my parents were standing there with two suitcases. They said, ‘We came to help you think about it.’ That was the essence of my parents.
S: What has been your silver lining of the pandemic?
H: I used to be on three or four flights a week. So I started doing some personal reflection on what I had been doing and came to the realization that I must be mad. None of us are immortal; we’re here temporarily on this planet and we need to make the best of it. That’s my plan in the post-pandemic world — to make the best of it. I’m going to spend more time with my kids, family, and friends. I’m going to work, but in moderation.
S: When you left your former post at KPMG you were set to retire. What brought you out of retirement in 2018 to join Zoom?
H: I really liked Eric Yuan, our CEO and founder, and thought it could be fun. The last three years have been fascinating and the last year has been humbling. I remember President Biden’s swearing in process over Zoom — you see things like that and get goosebumps. And also the Discovery landing on Mars, which was broadcast live over Zoom around the world. I’m just one little cog in this huge machine that’s bringing it to the world and it’s super humbling.
S: What would you say is your ‘magical moment’ that happened over Zoom?
H: We rolled out the Zoom platform to an organization in Europe and one of the employees being trained approached our trainer after the session and said, ‘Thank you for changing my life.’ The trainer said, ‘How have we changed your life?’ And he said, ‘I have a hearing impairment. I can hear, but I don’t understand what people are saying when they speak; I can’t process the words and have difficulty participating in meetings. Now, I can read what people are saying — and for the first time in 14 years, I can participate in meetings.’
Also, one of our clients provides surgical consultancy services for eye surgeons around the world. There was an eight-year-old child in Malaysia who couldn’t see, and the surgeon in Malaysia was getting consultancy services from a consultant in Idaho, who advised the whole surgery over Zoom. The child has partial vision now.
S: How has Zoom adapted and innovated so quickly? And, how have you been able to maintain customer service at the same time?
H: It’s been really challenging quite honestly. There have been a lot of heroics from a lot of people. One day flowed into the next. People worked around the clock. We were consistently staffing up. Close to fifty percent of the company has been hired in the last year, and they haven’t even been to a Zoom office. But it gets a little easier every day. And from a technology perspective, we’ve had great partners.
S: I probably used Zoom only three times before the pandemic. But Zoom is now a household name. It’s also a verb. What adjective would you use to describe Zoom’s brand personality and company culture?
H: The common phrase is, ‘It just works.’ Eric is an inspiration to all of us. He’s very humble, very driven, very focused, and a really nice human. He’ll often say to the employees, ‘If you’re not happy, don’t come to work that day. You don’t need approval, just don’t come to work.’ Because he fundamentally believes — and I agree with him — that if something’s bothering you, you’re going to come to work and not do a good job.
S: Zoom has a strong ethos in giving back. Could you share a little about Zoom Cares and how you’ve stepped up doing good during the pandemic?
H: We invested over $1.5M in remote learning grants to organizations supporting education in under-resourced communities. When we saw the pivot that occurred in K-12 last year, we ran Zoom Academy to train 35,000 educators around the world––and we lifted our 40-minute limit for free meetings for more than 125,000 K-12 schools in 25 countries. We helped our customers reduce their CO2 emissions by more than 55 million metric tons in 2020 by enabling millions of users to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also discount the service for charitable organizations.
S: What’s your one piece of advice for business leaders?
H: Have a laser-focus on your clients and employees. We don’t think of our clients as clients — we think of them as partners. We want them to be successful. Have a lasting impression on people. They remember their experience.
And that’s a wrap!