writes copy 10 Jan 2021

2nd Watch CEO Doug Schneider on the art of building company culture while working apart

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Doug Schneider, right, with his cycling buddy on an outing near his home in San Diego. (Photo courtesy of Doug Schneider)

Over his career, Doug Schneider has held leadership roles for companies in telecommunications, web hosting and cloud services. He has founded and led businesses, navigating them through some significant transitions.

As former president of Verio, for example, he took the company through an IPO before selling to a Japanese telecom in 2000 for more than $5 billion. For the past six years, he has been the CEO of the Seattle cloud services company 2nd Watch. In 2019 the company sold a majority stake to Singapore-based investor ST Telemedia and is expanding internationally. 2nd Watch, which helps enterprise corporations build and deploy web applications, has also raised an additional $56 million in venture capital in multiple rounds.

This year presented its own unexpected slate of challenges, anchored by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

2nd Watch CEO Doug Schneider. (2nd Watch Photo)

The secret to successfully managing through the good times and the bad? Focus on building a strong company culture. Then the other two essential c’s of business '” customers and cash '” can follow. And with 2nd Watch offices in five locations nationwide, Schneider has advice for leading teams and fostering culture even when you can’t meet in person '” a skill that’s useful to many executives during COVID’s work from home needs.

“You try to create a bunch of different avenues for you as an executive to stay connected with employees across the company,' Schneider said.

For him, that includes an informal, monthly Zoom meeting with all of the new hires. He holds smaller “lunch and learn” sessions a couple of Fridays a month with existing employees; these used to be in person at whatever office he was visiting, but are for now virtual. The key is keeping groups smaller and more intimate to encourage deeper exchanges.

During the pandemic, Schneider is also mindful of helping employees avoid Zoom fatigue and uses other tools like Slack to stay engaged. The company has organized remote wellness challenges and other activities.

Schneider aims to be transparent and vulnerable with employees, and maintains a willingness to change his opinion. He has an open-door policy with colleagues and hosts “ask-me-anything” sessions.

His general advice to other leaders: 'œYou've got to be focused, optimistic with your feet on the ground, and humble.'

We caught up with Schneider for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.

Current location: Seattle is 2nd Watch’s HQ, San Diego is home base.

Computer types: MacBook Air.

Mobile devices: iPhoneXS, iPad Air.

Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: Spotify, Uber, DocuSign, WhatsApp, Evernote, Turboscan, CNBC, Slack and more recently Headspace.

Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? My office upstairs in our house. Big desk, sofa, lots of light and doors out to a deck gives lots of variety in one place to work.

Schneider’s sunny home office in San Diego. Pre-pandemic he regularly traveled to 2nd Watch’s five U.S. offices. (2nd Watch Photo)

Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? Find 30-60 minutes in the morning to do your own thing and stop looking at email (whenever possible) when the clock strikes between 8-9 p.m.

Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? LinkedIn. I use it for recruiting, competitor analysis, staying connected and business development.

Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? Less than 20.

Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? 12-15+.

How do you run meetings? Agenda for team meetings, frame and resolve issues, identify actions, keep to allotted time. More open structure for one-on-ones.

Everyday work uniform? Comfortable jeans and polo-shirt or t-shirt (if no external Zoom calls).

How do you make time for family? It gets easier when your kids are all out of the house.

Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? Wim Hof Method, a program of deep breathing and cold water exposure developed by the Dutch extreme athlete. Riding my mountain bike is the way I unplug.

Schneider likes to mountain bike to unplug. The nice views don’t hurt. (Photo courtesy of Schneider)

What are you listening to? Podcasts: NPR’s “Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me,” “The Joe Rogan Experience” and “Cloud Crunch.”

Music: The band Blackberry Smoke and Tom Petty's “Wildflowers” reissue album with some new material.

Streaming Video: “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (almost through all 10 seasons that are currently available).

Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal, CNBC, 451 Research Market Insight, PitchBook news, Seeking Alpha, and news from hyper-scalers.

Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “Stillness Speaks” by Eckhart Tolle.

Night owl or early riser? Early riser: in bed by 10 p.m. and stretching out by 6 a.m.

Where do you get your best ideas? Being around others and listening.

Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? Frank Slootman, CEO of Snowflake and former head of Data Domain and ServiceNow.

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