Working from cafe

This is part of a series we’re doing to help people in our community get to know the person behind the chat screen. Say hi to Conor at @conor in the chat room.

Hey! My name is Conor, and I’m one of the members of the Success Coach team in Expensify. The Coach team has a pretty broad remit, from working directly with a group of our larger customers to make sure we’re meeting their needs, to conducting customer research, and doing product update communication. We also work with our wonderful colleagues in the Success Team to make sure that we’re enabling our 15,000 paying companies around the world to be successful with Expensify.

I’m based in London, England, and work primarily with customers in East Coast US, Europe, and India.

Up, breakfast & shower. At this point, I am usually listening to a podcast or audiobook, keeping my phone offline and staying away from my laptop.

Customer email check-in and open Slack. First thing’s first: I check in on emails from the customers I typically work with. We use Front (“the multiplayer version of Gmail”) to handle a number of shared inboxes, and it has made a huge difference in how effectively we can communicate with customers. At this point, I tackle any outstanding questions or issue, and (if necessary) set a reminder for the email to appear again (for example, to remind a customer about a question I had raised). Working remotely, I also benefit from commenting my colleagues onto a conversation, and having them respond in-line.

At the same time, I open Slack. After I’ve checked in for those customer emails in Front, I switch over to Slack and check for any red bubbles first, then I skim through notifications in other channels. This process is key for keeping up-to-date on everything that is changing in Expensify. I check in on #europe, which is where our European colleagues hang out during our mornings. I also start Sqwiggle, which I use primarily to exchange silly faces with Jenna, my Success Coach counterpart in Amsterdam.

We post all of our incoming Intercom messages to a specific Slack channel, and I have a look back through the incoming messages to see what’s been raised in the last day.

Internal emails time. In spite of Slack, we still have a fairly heavy email load. A lot of that comes from a combination of GitHub notifications plus the open email lists that we maintain (i.e.: an email for the marketing team is still visible to everyone else). So, I hit Gmail and power through that. It’s a key way to check out if anything was deployed to Staging and Production since I was last online, and to see any movement on the GitHub issues in which I’m involved.

Finally on the email side, I send my 10am email. In Expensify, we use our 10am email to highlight what we’re going to be working on for the day. I include any meetings I’ve set up with customers, as well as any project work I’m going to be focussing on, and any internal meetings we’ve planned. Everyone in the company is expected to reply to the same thread and say what they’re working on today.

Time to move! If I’m working from home as I do on occasion, I’ll go around the corner to a cafe. One of the nice perks with Expensify is free tea/ coffee/ whatever (non-alcoholic) every day. When I’m not working from an office or co-working space, I like to get out to a cafe for a few hours.
From here, I check in on the Support Driven community in Slack. It’s a great way to shoot the breeze with success/ support people.

Project work. We work on quite a few projects at a time. Looking at my current project list it includes communicating a new feature to our customers via Intercom, customer research, an upcoming webinar on a different product update, a few training videos, and a number of other things.

First, I check in to Intercom to look at the results of a message that we have started sending out to gauge reactions to a product change we’re planning. While overall our customers are positive on this change, I follow-up with a small number of people so that I can understand their concerns a little better.

Next, I spend some time working on the webinar that we’ll be running next week. We’re anticipating a lot of interest in this, and I’m a little nervous so want to be well-prepared. I spend some time on slides, and use case (demonstration policy) setup. The feedback from our customers on the last webinar that I ran was that it was didn’t spend enough time in the product, so I’m switching around the run-down to focus on that first and foremost.

Back to Front (gettit?). At this point in the day, I’ll start to receive replies from the East Coast customers I work with as they check their emails for the first time in the day, and our European customers have time to write in.

Lunch time. Another pretty amazing perk of Expensify is free lunch every day. So, I head out for a walk to the Pavilion Cafe in Victoria Park. It’s got seriously good good, in a beautiful setting. On a fine day, I can sit outside and look out at the lake, watching all of the people in the paddle boats paddling too close to the fountain and getting soaked when the window changes direction.


Pavilion Cafe, Victoria Park, by Julian Walker

Back to my desk. Check in again for customer emails and internal emails. I also chat to our Success Team, who are based in the Yoop in Michigan. I spend a little more time on project work. This time, I’m doing some research for a new feature we’re hoping to add in the coming weeks. I’m planning out my understanding of how this will work, and identifying which customers to speak to in order to validate these assumptions.

I also spend some time booking my flights for this year’s Offshore to Cambodia and Thailand. Offshore is our month-long trip to a new country around the world. It’s the most productive and amazing month each year, and means that we spend time exploring new countries, languages and cultures, and working together on interesting projects that we wouldn’t usually attempt in the normal day-to-day.

Customer calls. We’ll occasionally do calls with our larger customers to tackle more complicated topics and use cases. These are always a really interesting opportunity to expand our knowledge of our customers, and identify how we can improve functionality. In this case, I have a few customers to speak to, and then follow-up with, and note down follow-up tasks. This is also a key chance to pitch new features and discuss upcoming product changes, and to test out different ways to explain functionality. All of this informs how we communicate with the rest of our customer base, and improves documentation overall.

Internal calls and meetings. As our San Francisco office comes online, typically I’ll have a few internal calls scheduled with colleagues based there. That can either be a 1:1 with our team lead or another Coach, or a sync-up meeting with all of the Coaches. This is also the best time of the day for me to ask any questions, have conversations or prompt for anything that requires “live” interaction – like an All Hands call on the next set of features we’re developing.


Evening calls with my colleagues around the world

Finish up, and get offline. It’s difficult to do when most of your colleagues are only starting their day (and can lead to FOMO/foolish guilt), but finishing up early and getting offline can make a huge difference to quality of life. If you’re having trouble doing this, one strategy that I find helps is to set a very specific time to go and meet someone. Go have dinner with someone, or join a yoga class, or arrange for a game of tennis with a friend.

So, there’s a typical day in my work-life. If you fancy a chat, you can me on Twitter as @conorp.

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