Zoom has become the operating system for life in the last two years. It’s how we worked and visited and saw other humans. It’s how children learned and government worked. It’s where happy hours met and families visited.
I spent a lot of time on Zoom everyday for work. We don’t call, we Zoom. If it needs more than text, we Zoom. If there’s any chance we’ll need to share a screen to troubleshoot or discuss a new feature, we Zoom. Even if we’re just using the audio, we Zoom.
Zoom has become our main channel for communication. It’s computer audio is rock solid, it works on every platform (somewhere Webex stumbles for our Linux users). It’s reliable and it’s ready to roll.
I was thinking about some tips I have for using Zoom. They’re not the typical questions you see everyone online covering. How do I sound better? Get yourself a good headset and use it. How do I look better on camera? Lighting and camera positioning.
I have two tips I’ve not seen mentioned elsewhere that I have used since I became a Zoom native.
First, don’t let Zoom open until you’re ready. I’ve clicked your link. I’m ready to join. I make sure Zoom waits for permission to open.
I do this because I want control over when Zoom opens and I am available to others. I also want to have control over Zoom opening in the application or in the browser window. Sometimes I need to have multiple sessions open at once. Most of the time I want to connect to Zoom as an intentional act.
Second, Zoom doesn’t get my audio until I’m absolutely ready.
I have never allowed Zoom to automatically connect to audio. Once I open Zoom and it’s connecting me, I take the extra step to join the audio. This allows me to prepare myself and run through my mental checklist.
Headset on. ✓
Am I muted? ✓
Is my video off? ✓
I don’t like surprises and I want to be in control instead of hoping the software does the right thing. These are two things I’ve done to allow me to stay in control of my Zoom life for the past two years.
For the past two years I worked from home. I would sometimes go multiple days between leaving the house other than getting the mail or refilling my bird feeders. I was a government contractor support Webex, and a host of other teleconferencing options for a government agency you’ve heard of.
I am particularly well-suited for remote work as I’ve had the time (and money) to setup a space that’s not grandiose by any means but far surpasses anything I’ve ever found at a job site.
I have a hand-crank standing desk from Ikea that I dearly love. Not always because I want to stand, but I’m tall and often times desks aren’t high enough for me. It’s a huge open workspace I can lay out computers and notebooks and whatever I’m tinkering with at the time with room to spare.
I have two monitors setup amongst my small army of computers. I have two windows I can open for cross-breeze. I can control the temperature and amount of light at any given time. Those last two are the biggest benefits of working from home. Light and temperature control are so often overlooked at offices.
I’m also extremely introverted. I’ve got lists of books and projects and things to do miles long. To be inside is to be in my element.
My wife and I do not have any children so we are not trying to figure out how to keep small people entertained and educated all day, while stressing about them, and the coronavirus and the state of the world and… and… and…
It is a great irony not lost on me that on my birthday this year, in Mid-February I resigned from my full-time remote job to take another job in an office. Albeit very nearby which allows me to avoid all of the Interstates and Beltway hellscapes of Washington DC area traffic.
But it means going to work. In an office. Away from my perfect work place. Right at the start of this outbreak.
That lasted a week.
Then I was sent back home since I’m in a position where my job can be done remotely. Which I understand is a completely privileged position. The place where I work relies on people being in the office so many don’t have the same luxury.
Where did I decide to take a job right at the start of a global pandemic where millions of people are being sent home to work or quarantined in their homes?
Why, a company that specializes in remote collaboration of course! My new role is to oversee Webex and Zoom webinars for clients of all sizes including many large companies and government entities you’ve heard of.
I jumped out of the frying pan and directly into a seething volcano! It’s been a breakneck pace for the past week trying to get up to speed and onboarded into a new company, all the while everything is on fire!
This is how my week has been going. And how next week will go. And how the weeks for the foreseeable future will continue.
It’s thrilling being right in the middle or building something and racing to troubleshoot and put out fires with the technology platforms our business relies on. All while trying to learn the business and how it all works internally. I’ve had just as many people ask me this week how my first two weeks have gone as had said how much they appreciated my help with something or expertise I was able to provide. Or even having a warm body to hand a task off to and trust it would get done.
It’s a satisfying feeling knowing I am appreciated and that I can step in and immediately contribute. And those contributions aren’t overlooked. I’m no longer one number on a huge spreadsheet somewhere. A cost for a large government contractor to worry about spending money on. Worried I’ll ask for more or want more out of my position.
As much as it’s nice to know I’m an asset, it’s just as stressful. We use a lot of remote cloud-based applications with work and they’re struggling to keep up at times. Zoom and Webex overall seem to be doing a good job at the basics, but not a day goes by I don’t have a stream of alerts and notifications of various issues with both platforms.
Many of the them are simply limitations of capacity. There are only so many phone lines into a country. There are only so many ports for data and voice to travel across. Just as with cars and trucks sharing a road, the same is true for the internet. And we are going to test that infrastructure like never before.
I’m thankful to still be working. I’m thankful to still be healthy. I’m thankful to have been part of a religion for a time that pushed preparation and saving. It’s serving us well as we have safety nets and savings in place for ourselves.
We are lucky.
And if you made it this far, here’s a silly picture of Zoom multi-platform testing.