On Tuesday, Zoom CEO and Harker parent Eric Yuan made a special Q&A appearance for the Harker community. In a conversation with Brian Yager, Harker’s head of school, Yuan covered a range of topics, including how Zoom handled the sudden massive increase of users last year, the importance of a healthy company culture and lessons he has found helpful in his career.
Zoom, founded in 2011, was envisioned as a company primarily for enterprise and government customers. When the COVID-19 pandemic made working at home the new normal, Zoom was faced with a mass influx of new “consumer use” cases, Yuan said. The company suddenly faced an increase of 30 times the normal number of users, and employees worked tirelessly to prevent outages and improve the user experience.
“The usage is coming from all over the world, so that’s why our team, we were working extremely hard,” Yuan said. He recalled having as many as 19 Zoom meetings a day, and enduring “more sleepless nights than at any time in my career.”
Adapting Zoom to non-enterprise and non-government use also meant dealing with new security challenges. Inexperienced Zoom users, for instance, would sometimes mistakenly post Zoom meeting IDs to their social media accounts, inadvertently bringing in malicious users. “But we learned from that,” Yuan said. We doubled down, tripled down on privacy and security.”
He credited Zoom’s ability to weather these storms to the company’s culture. “As the CEO of the company, my number one priority is to think about everyday how to make sure our employees are happy,” he said. To this end, employees volunteer to organize events and initiatives, including reimbursements for employees who purchase books for themselves and their families. Investing in company culture, Yuan said, helped Zoom greatly when the company was at its busiest during the pandemic. “I did not receive any complaints,” he said. “All of our employees worked so hard around the clock, every day.”
In considering lessons that proved important over the course of his career, Yuan remembered his father’s advice to work hard and remain humble. He also recalled how important gratitude was to his grandmother. “That’s probably the number one thing that really matters from my perspective,” he said, adding that a lack of gratitude can lead to arrogance, which inhibits progress. “We’re all working very hard, and whenever we make progress, first of all we are so grateful for our customers’ support. I’m so grateful for our employees’ hard work. I think gratitude is extremely important for any leader, for any company, to make progress.”