Office Hours: starting a new job in a pandemic
On board, off site
Peter Naylor was quietly interviewing for his new role as VP of sales for the Americas at Snap Inc. before the pandemic completely shut down the country. As head of ad sales for Hulu at the time, Naylor was pretty sure that, as other companies laid off and furloughed workers, the offer from Snap wasn’t going to happen. So when the call came saying he got the job, Naylor says it excited him to see a company that was willing to invest in people in a downturn.
Naylor officially started at Snap on May 4 and has still not been able to meet his direct reports in real life. The onboarding process, he says, was seamless; since Snap is a global company, much of the training was pre-recorded and lives on demand. He says onboarding is one area companies should think about keeping virtual, even when people return to the office.
While its certainly been an “unusual” experience joining a company virtually, Naylor says he “immediately felt a sense of people going out of their way because they knew it was so unusual.” But he says he thinks he had it easier than his new employees. “Everyone is experiencing working from home. I was just learning the company, but they had to deal with having a new boss while in the pandemic … how cruel is that?”
Communication has been key, with Naylor saying he has made it a point to try to over-communicate with his direct reports. The biggest challenge has been the lack of spontaneous interactions, he says, like the hallway conversations or the discussions that happen when you are waiting for a meeting to start or after a meeting is over, which is where he says you pick up on things you might not get otherwise.
Snap employees are staying connected in the way most other company employees are—videoconferencing, emails and Slack—but, of course, they also Snapchat.
Naylor expects the ad world to change in several ways post-pandemic. “We don’t have to travel as much as we thought and a lot of those conferences will probably get winnowed down.” As it relates to the Consumer Electronics Show going virtual, Naylor isn’t as eager as some to skip Las Vegas, but he says “I’m sure we will come up with ideas on how to connect with people early in the year.”
He also believes there will be more flexibility in the workplace, especially for parents who need to work from home for whatever reason.
One thing companies should keep an eye on, though, once some people start returning to the office and another subset of employees are still working from home, there will be “some serious FOMO,” Naylor says. “Those in the office will be able to have those spontaneous interactions, so it is something we need to be aware of.”
Naylor is currently working from home with his grown children, who also have jobs in the ad world: one is at Quibi and the other at Creatively, a startup dedicated to creative talent. “It’s like WeWork over here—we all disappear during the day to find the hot spots and then we meet at the dinner table at night,” he says.
While Naylor is all for flexibility and working from home post-pandemic, he says through this time he has found he is still an “outside cat.” “You can learn at home, but going to school enhances learning … you can pray from home, but worshipping in church is different. … As an outside cat and someone who is in sales, I’m looking forward to getting back to the workplace.”