In our Industry Spotlight series, we shed a light on leading innovators, new technologies and big ideas from across the industry. This month, we interviewed Ryan Bonnici, CMO of Whereby. Named by Forbes as the 26th Most Influential CMO in the World — and with former senior roles at Microsoft, G2, Salesforce and Hubspot — Ryan is a driving force in the world of tech and marketing.
We chat with him about the company – video meeting platform Whereby, flexible working and the tech he’s loving right now.
Whereby has made a strong statement on the importance of flexible working; your team has also been fully remote long before COVID-19. Can you tell me about the importance of flexible working to Whereby?
Whereby has been a fully distributed and remote team from the get-go; well before the pandemic. I think the founders realised that if people have more time in a day, because they’re not commuting, they can spend more time with their family. Essentially, they can decompress and they can do the things they love. It’s one of our most important values as a company.
It’s funny — I’ve moved twice for jobs. First from Australia to Boston with HubSpot — and then from Boston to Chicago with G2. They were amazing experiences. That’s what’s so empowering — being at Whereby, and the future of work. This idea of the freedom to live and work anywhere has been something that Whereby has been really passionate about, and continues to be passionate about.
What are your thoughts on the concept of ‘Zoom fatigue’ — does Whereby as a video platform play a role in this, or does it function differently?
In my opinion, the biggest problem with ‘Zoom fatigue’ is it’s less about the tech and more about having too many meetings. Non-stop back-to-back meetings, whether they’re virtual or in the office has always been incredibly tiring. I think we need to get better at maximising and optimising our calendar.
I think the added challenge of video meetings is that if I’m doing back-to-back meetings, I’m not moving at all. If I think back to when I was at the office, there was always different meeting rooms or locations. I was walking around seeing people. It gave me a bit more energy.
I think the other part of it is that at Whereby the company obsesses over design. So there’s a reason for example, why we chose this specific colour for our background is because it’s easy on your eyes if you’re on a number of calls. We hear a from a lot of people that convert from Zoom to Whereby is that they feel more energised after doing a Whereby meeting because of the small design aspects of the product. The company has thought about all these seemingly ‘little things’ from a design perspective but they really do make it the best experience possible.
What excites you about working in the tech space, in general? What tech do you love using lately?
Marketing was really my first love. I can’t remember what age I was, maybe eight or ten, I just knew I wanted to be a CMO. I don’t even know where that came from. No one in my family was in the industry. My first marketing job was at Microsoft. And it rolled on from there. I don’t think I really knew what tech was at the time, but I loved it. Because there’s so many interesting things you can do with it — and this industry still has so far to go.
There’s a bunch of different tools that I use. I’ve always been a bit obsessed with productivity tech specifically. Obviously, I use Whereby for all my meetings. But I use a tool called Clockwise to help me schedule meetings. It’s a really cool piece of tech that’s really useful for internal teams. It basically optimises your calendar for your preferences — it locks things out of your calendar and automatically moves things around. It’s amazing, very cool.
I’m a big fan of another tool called Roam Research. Like Evernote, but really connected. It’s basically used as a research tool for people writing books or doing scientific research. As you’re taking notes in a meeting it starts to create interconnected links between what you’re talking about and your previous notes. It cleverly builds digital paper trails and it’s an incredible tool for note taking, especially if you’re in tonnes of meetings and you have a lot of stuff going on.
You’ve had an incredible professional journey with companies like HubSpot and G2, building teams and repositioning brands. How has that been experience for you with Whereby — and what’s the brand story you want to tell?
I’ve been lucky in terms of falling into the right companies at the right time. One of the reasons I was so excited to join the team at Whereby was the fact that I fell in love with the branding myself — I was a user of the tool. And I loved so many things about it, especially how it looks so different to every other tech tool that I’ve used.
I think one of the things that makes Whereby quite different is that we’re a humane company and ethically ambitious. We don’t want to do anything that’s not good for our users, or good for the world. I think that’s a line a lot of companies have crossed — they don’t have that soul to them. I feel very lucky in that respect.
With some companies I’ve joined in the past, I’ve needed to really overhaul things — they hadn’t updated their brand or their vision or where they were going. With Whereby, I’m really trying to get a good feel of what the team has built and how they think about things — and hopefully add and build on that.