For a lot of people outside the tech sector, working remotely was an entirely new concept. I think it’s safe to say that it was a little easier for those of us lucky enough to be working at Slack, a workplace messaging app that was re-thinking virtual productivity even before all this pandemic business began.
That said: There’s a big difference between switching to remote work and joining a remote team for the first time.
5 Things I Learned in my 365 Days as a Remote Leader
When I came on board with Slack in June of last year, I became part of a 35-person team comprised of individuals that I have never met before, not a single one. I had to not only find a way to get to know everyone (which is hard enough as it is) but also gain their trust as a leader.
Now, one year in, I’m thinking about the tools, tricks, and philosophies that have made remote leadership not only possible but also a pleasure.
In the end, it’s about being “graceful” within the confines of the limitations that have been thrust upon us. We can deploy the quality of “graceful” while embracing the new tools and technologies that have cropped up along the way.
Here are five things I’ve learned:
Don’t let productivity get in the way of team development
I didn’t know how much I relied on the soft meetings – in the elevator, casually at someone’s desk, etc., to build the base-level trust needed to operate as a real team. During the pandemic, the loss of these “watercooler” moments has been viewed as a sad but necessary sacrifice to keep people safe.
In the post-COVID world, the hybrid workplace is here to stay. That means that it’s on us as leaders to make room in our messaging for those natural moments to occur. If a casual conversation emerges during a structured time, so be it.
When holding a meeting, know that it’s okay to let some of the more social conversations unfold. It’s okay that you’re not being quite as productive. What you’re doing is getting to know your team, and perhaps more importantly, letting them get to know you as well.
Remember: You can always schedule another meeting to discuss the things you didn’t get to.
Embrace the great “leveling effect” of remote work
In my last position at Boomi, my engineering group was based in Pennsylvania while the engineering group was based out of San Francisco. Anytime I had a meeting with engineering, I would Zoom into a meeting taking place in San Francisco, where everyone was together.
Once we all started working remotely, it felt like the playing field had been leveled. We all face the same frustrations and complications, and for the most part, we’re all using the same technology to get past it. That means that no matter where we are or what position someone is in, they have the same opportunity to tune in to the conversation as anyone else.
This equal opportunity is one of those things that we’ll need to pay attention to in the post-COVID working environment. As some workers remain remote while others go back to the office, it’s essential that we protect this leveled approach where everyone has an equal opportunity to jump into the conversation.
Believe it or not, the remote nature of our work in 2021 has led to the creation of a number of tools that make it even easier to develop team bonds.
Slack apps like Donut have given me a way to engage the team on a daily basis, without having it feel too forced. I’m a big fan of the conversation prompts in our team Slack channel that we get at the beginning of the day. My team seems happy to engage with something that is both lighthearted and directly integrated with their digital workspace.
Automate the important
Whether your team is remote or not, there are some daily (dare I say tedious) tasks that can’t be overlooked, no matter what’s going on in my day.
Whether I’m bringing a new hire up to speed with an existing project, or even just introducing them to the rest of the team, it’s critical that these messages get out quickly.
Using Workflow Builder has made it possible to automate all of our most important “maintenance” tasks. The automation tasks mean everything from onboarding and training to vacation requests.
Workflow Builder is about getting information to where it needs to be when it needs to be there.
As a bonus, Workflow Builder’s visual interface is a piece of cake. Anyone on the team can create a custom workflow in a matter of minutes, no coding required.
Be graceful with your expectations
We have to remember that when it comes to the concept of “work performance” there is really no benchmark for things like this. Saying this last year was not easy is an understatement. Our employees have faced spouses lost jobs, loved ones fell sick, and people across the country struggled from financial hardship.
It’s near impossible to discern what “high performance” even means these days.
From a leadership perspective, the invisible stressors of living through a global health crisis are hard to detect and even harder to engage.
This is where the personal connection becomes truly valuable.
If you’ve put in the effort to get to know your people, and you’ve given them an opportunity to get to know you, it’s much easier to share the things we’re struggling with and act compassionately. Because in the end, I’m a human being as well, and it helps a lot when that compassion goes both ways.
Fintech Kennek raises $12.5M seed round to digitize lending
London-based fintech startup Kennek has raised $12.5 million in seed funding to expand its lending operating system.
According to an Oct. 10 tech.eu report, the round was led by HV Capital and included participation from Dutch Founders Fund, AlbionVC, FFVC, Plug & Play Ventures, and Syndicate One. Kennek offers software-as-a-service tools to help non-bank lenders streamline their operations using open banking, open finance, and payments.
The platform aims to automate time-consuming manual tasks and consolidate fragmented data to simplify lending. Xavier De Pauw, founder of Kennek said:
“Until kennek, lenders had to devote countless hours to menial operational tasks and deal with jumbled and hard-coded data – which makes every other part of lending a headache. As former lenders ourselves, we lived and breathed these frustrations, and built kennek to make them a thing of the past.”
The company said the latest funding round was oversubscribed and closed quickly despite the challenging fundraising environment. The new capital will be used to expand Kennek’s engineering team and strengthen its market position in the UK while exploring expansion into other European markets. Barbod Namini, Partner at lead investor HV Capital, commented on the investment:
“Kennek has developed an ambitious and genuinely unique proposition which we think can be the foundation of the entire alternative lending space. […] It is a complicated market and a solution that brings together all information and stakeholders onto a single platform is highly compelling for both lenders & the ecosystem as a whole.”
The fintech lending space has grown rapidly in recent years, but many lenders still rely on legacy systems and manual processes that limit efficiency and scalability. Kennek aims to leverage open banking and data integration to provide lenders with a more streamlined, automated lending experience.
The seed funding will allow the London-based startup to continue developing its platform and expanding its team to meet demand from non-bank lenders looking to digitize operations. Kennek’s focus on the UK and Europe also comes amid rising adoption of open banking and open finance in the regions.
Featured Image Credit: Photo from Kennek.io; Thank you!
Fortune 500’s race for generative AI breakthroughs
As excitement around generative AI grows, Fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs, are carefully examining the possible applications of this technology. A recent survey of U.S. executives indicated that 60% believe generative AI will substantially impact their businesses in the long term. However, they anticipate a one to two-year timeframe before implementing their initial solutions. This optimism stems from the potential of generative AI to revolutionize various aspects of businesses, from enhancing customer experiences to optimizing internal processes. In the short term, companies will likely focus on pilot projects and experimentation, gradually integrating generative AI into their operations as they witness its positive influence on efficiency and profitability.
Goldman Sachs’ Cautious Approach to Implementing Generative AI
In a recent interview, Goldman Sachs CIO Marco Argenti revealed that the firm has not yet implemented any generative AI use cases. Instead, the company focuses on experimentation and setting high standards before adopting the technology. Argenti recognized the desire for outcomes in areas like developer and operational efficiency but emphasized ensuring precision before putting experimental AI use cases into production.
According to Argenti, striking the right balance between driving innovation and maintaining accuracy is crucial for successfully integrating generative AI within the firm. Goldman Sachs intends to continue exploring this emerging technology’s potential benefits and applications while diligently assessing risks to ensure it meets the company’s stringent quality standards.
One possible application for Goldman Sachs is in software development, where the company has observed a 20-40% productivity increase during its trials. The goal is for 1,000 developers to utilize generative AI tools by year’s end. However, Argenti emphasized that a well-defined expectation of return on investment is necessary before fully integrating generative AI into production.
To achieve this, the company plans to implement a systematic and strategic approach to adopting generative AI, ensuring that it complements and enhances the skills of its developers. Additionally, Goldman Sachs intends to evaluate the long-term impact of generative AI on their software development processes and the overall quality of the applications being developed.
Goldman Sachs’ approach to AI implementation goes beyond merely executing models. The firm has created a platform encompassing technical, legal, and compliance assessments to filter out improper content and keep track of all interactions. This comprehensive system ensures seamless integration of artificial intelligence in operations while adhering to regulatory standards and maintaining client confidentiality. Moreover, the platform continuously improves and adapts its algorithms, allowing Goldman Sachs to stay at the forefront of technology and offer its clients the most efficient and secure services.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Google DeepMind; Pexels; Thank you!
UK seizes web3 opportunity simplifying crypto regulations
As Web3 companies increasingly consider leaving the United States due to regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom must simplify its cryptocurrency regulations to attract these businesses. The conservative think tank Policy Exchange recently released a report detailing ten suggestions for improving Web3 regulation in the country. Among the recommendations are reducing liability for token holders in decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to adopt alternative Know Your Customer (KYC) methodologies, such as digital identities and blockchain analytics tools. These suggestions aim to position the UK as a hub for Web3 innovation and attract blockchain-based businesses looking for a more conducive regulatory environment.
Streamlining Cryptocurrency Regulations for Innovation
To make it easier for emerging Web3 companies to navigate existing legal frameworks and contribute to the UK’s digital economy growth, the government must streamline cryptocurrency regulations and adopt forward-looking approaches. By making the regulatory landscape clear and straightforward, the UK can create an environment that fosters innovation, growth, and competitiveness in the global fintech industry.
The Policy Exchange report also recommends not weakening self-hosted wallets or treating proof-of-stake (PoS) services as financial services. This approach aims to protect the fundamental principles of decentralization and user autonomy while strongly emphasizing security and regulatory compliance. By doing so, the UK can nurture an environment that encourages innovation and the continued growth of blockchain technology.
Despite recent strict measures by UK authorities, such as His Majesty’s Treasury and the FCA, toward the digital assets sector, the proposed changes in the Policy Exchange report strive to make the UK a more attractive location for Web3 enterprises. By adopting these suggestions, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to fostering innovation in the rapidly evolving blockchain and cryptocurrency industries while ensuring a robust and transparent regulatory environment.
The ongoing uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrency regulations in various countries has prompted Web3 companies to explore alternative jurisdictions with more precise legal frameworks. As the United States grapples with regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom can position itself as a hub for Web3 innovation by simplifying and streamlining its cryptocurrency regulations.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Jonathan Borba; Pexels; Thank you!