Working at Temasys: A Pervasive Video Company
Posted On July 8, 2016 by Chip Wilcox in Blog
I recently asked Sherwin Sim, our CTO, to give me a few ideas of how having easy access to video interactivity and collaboration tools helped him in his past working arrangements. I sometimes call Temasys a pervasive video company. We not only work on technology that helps businesses embed real-time communications in any app, on any device, at any scale, we use our technology every day, and so frequently that I tend to take it for granted.
We often talk about the fact that while we live and work on opposite sides of the world, we rarely if ever feel “out of touch”, and we seem to work more closely than colleagues I’ve had in jobs where we sat right next to each other in a physical office.
It all seems like a perfectly natural thing, these days. Forgetting about email (hate it!), our entire team is connected by a staggering number of “real-time” apps, including internal tools and any number of apps that we’re testing, trialing, or which users of our platform have built (using Temasys). Whenever we want to meet face-to-face (several times a week), we just hop on a video call, or video chat, or video-whatever.
It hasn’t always been a natural thing, for me, however. Sherwin’s different, though, and here’s what he had to say about it….
Having worked in video and voice based companies for the last ten years, it’s been an interesting journey to see how technology has affected company culture, and how we interact with each other. I’ve worked in various companies building media application services, fixed mobile convergence gateways, video desktop/mobile soft phones, and telepresence systems. This allowed my career to spans many protocol stacks and codecs such as H.323, SIP, XMPP, Skinny, H.263, H264, VP8, SVC, and of course WebRTC.
What’s amazing is that in most of these companies, we would naturally use the tools we were building. At first, there was a bit of a learning curve or adjustment phase but as time permitted us to adopt our own technology, the way we interacted with each other begin to change. Some of these changes were dramatic affecting not just our ability to share information quickly and collaborate. The rise of casual communications increased our overall productivity and changed how open and social we were with each other.
I put together a few examples of how video communications changed our culture. Hopefully, they serve to inspire.
The Open Door Policy
In a past life, I worked with an excellent VP of Product Management where we did some pretty innovative things together. This product manager had an “Open Door” policy not only in his physical office but also virtually. Much like anyone who keeps his or her door open, allowing others to invite themselves in for conversations, this PM did this with our own video solution. He set his system up so it was permanently on “auto-answer”. Anyone who called him would instantly be connected. Some people might find this a little too intrusive. In practice, it worked very well. Many times, I would be at work in my office, and I could ask quick questions or have a five-second conversation with him with the push of a button. It was as if I popped my head into his office. I could also see if he was available or busy depending on who was in his office or decide to boldly interrupt him anyway. I did this without getting out of my chair and walking down the hall. That’s a great example a pervasive video company.
Code Reviews and Desktop Sharing
I’m an engineer at heart. Desktop sharing has become an incredibly natural feature that I use. When I attended university, before it was possible to even define a pervasive video company or team, we used to practice code reviews or do paired programming exercises, virtually. Compared to today it was maniacal; super complicated and kludgy. My peers and I chatted over IRC, used common ssh logins, screen, and VI to “screen share.” Yes, the lack of security and potential for major disaster makes me cringe, but there was a high level of social trust involved. The result? I and my peers could connect and edit code together. Those were happy days. Now, having built technology where one can share their own screen as well as their mouse and keyboard, we translate this type of collaboration to a different level using high definition video. This is extremely cool, especially since we have engineering teams on three continents. Making it easier to see each other and to securely share desktops allows us to create applications far more quickly, and cut down some of the overhead involved in asynchronous messaging.
Always On, Always Connected
What has happened quite naturally over the years is that some of us are connected always, and we use “always on” video. Many of us in engineering, verification and product management began to work together from our desks, and the more we stayed “always connected”, the more comfortable and familiar we became. Collaboration became so easy that eventually the act of disconnecting became an inconvenience. More extroverted members of our team would leave the video connection on permanently and casually ask questions about the work we were doing. All of this helped even the most introverted people on the team to be quite social. Even if we were just trading personal stories, talking about lunch, or coming up with innovative ideas to turn into features or products, it was “always on” video service that really drove us to become a pervasive video company.
These are just several stories about how video changed the social dynamics in the companies I’ve been a part of. It’s cool things like this which make working at Temasys awesome, as video becomes even easier to use. What’s even better is that Temasys’s Platform helps other companies build their own ecosystems and products by helping them enable real-time interactions everywhere. In some cases, we’re not only helping them deliver great products for their customers or users, but we’re also influencing their culture and their DNA.
– Sherwin Sim, CTO
Editor’s Note: We do not advocate the use of video real-time communications absolutely everywhere. For example, we think that this is a neat idea but we would not recommend using “always on” video in this situation.