Sleep is for the weak… no seriously, I have had so many days where I worked sun up to sun down that days blurred into weeks and weeks into months. If your business startup is successful, you should consider hiring someone, even if part-time to take some of the workload off of you.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Demetrius Cassidy.
For the last 4 years, Demetrius has been the Founder and President of In The Cloud Technologies, a leading New Hampshire based Unified Communications as a Service company. Prior to running his consulting business, Demetrius was leading a team of highly skilled engineers in the Unified Communications industry. He has been working with voice and video conferencing technologies for the past 15 years and has seen the rise in popularity firsthand of a remote workforce. Based on this, he has made it his mission is to enable other companies to adopt a remote-first workforce style.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I’m told it’s hard to tell, but I’m actually half Hispanic, so most of my childhood was spent growing up in Puerto Rico with my parents. This multi-cultural makeup of my family offered a variety of perspectives on everything, which really helped mold me into the professional I am today. I’ve always been fascinated with building things and their innerworkings, so I’d often find myself taking my toys apart… but then often lacked the skill to put them back together! This continued into my tweens, roughly until I figured out how to disassemble my dad’s computer. But, like most times, I couldn’t figure how to put it back in together! As I’d always get in trouble when they came home to something I couldn’t put back together, this time their disassembled computer, I used this to push me to learn new skills that helped avoid situations like this. I realized I really liked computers, and the hardware side was so fascinating, that it followed me through my early development. It wasn’t long before I was fixing and upgrading their computer, as well as friends, family and even some neighbors.
I guess I’m a tinkerer by heart and why I got into technology!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“…one of the big lessons I have learned from my journey is you can’t please everyone, so don’t try.”
― Chris Colfer
There are a lot of similar quotes like this of course, but this one really put’s it best. It took me a long time to learn this, but It is very hard to take feedback from others when you are constantly worried about how your peers or network contacts think about you. In business, I cannot even count how many times people have said “no” to me during a pitch in a meeting. But that really does not matter. What matters is how you handle it, by not taking these things personally, moving on and finding the one that will say “yes!” It is about what you can control. You cannot change how others perceive you. All you can do is be true to yourself, to walk the righteous path and to keep presenting yourself in a positive way and move on.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
While I enjoy Sci-fi and Fantasy movies as a hobby, I don’t have a go-to type of media for inspiration. Honestly my eccentric hobbies revolve more about building and breaking things, seeing what works, why and how. So I will say the things that make a material impact on me is when I see someone talk or I read about a new idea or service, and I can figure how to incorporate that into my life or even my own business. Narratives on pop-culture always capture my attention, especially animated shows that are caustic and sarcastic, so if i had to pick a couple, I would definitely say Rick and Morty and South Park. It’s that different slant on things that really capture my attention, especially multi-dimensional plot lines, because it’s almost as if they’ve broken down traditional humor and dialogue, and then re-presented it in a way I had never thought of before. And they’re hilarious, so that really helps a lot as well.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
I have been working in Telecommunications my whole career, working with Fortune 500 companies and also as an independent consultant working with great products such as Microsoft Teams. Having such a niche skillset has lead me to find some very interesting opportunities with companies like Raytheon Technologies, who was involved in corporate and special-mission aircraft development.
I’ve always enjoyed the Unified Communications (UC) community, since the work is always evolving. Although sometimes very challenging, I find it to be very interesting and enjoyable. I like the immediate impact we can bring to a company, easing pain points along the way and the response it brings. I particularly like when we can go into a company, examine their architecture through a discovery process, and present a technology roadmap that gives more and costs less. That’s the beauty of the Cloud. I really do my best work under a time crunch and in difficult situations — it means my skills do not languish, so I’m consistently at the top of the learning curve. I really try to avoid working with a singular technology for the majority of my career. Keeps everything fresh and exciting for me.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
My true passion has always been for the IT industry, especially Telecommunications. While I was a VERY early adopter of videoconferencing, mainstream adoption has been fairly slow and limited to organizations with really large budgets. When the Pandemic lockdown began and everyone was forced into working remotely, I decided now was the time to dedicate 100% of my time into launching my new business. I feel that Unified Communications is the next important step in our evolution, because it brings systematic uniformity, regardless of where you are or what device you are using. If done properly, it delivers a consistent, uniform, and better experience to all users, while at the same time lowering costs and improving control, security, and reliability.
As I’ve worked with voice and video conferencing for the better part of a decade, and having lots of experience as an independent consultant as well, I decided to pivot and launch my company to provide Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). By being at the forefront of all these developments, I was able to spot these trends and predicted how our niche is very much in-demand as a service. This is applicable to all sorts of enterprises across the US and globally, and business is booming.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
When the 2020 lockdown came and we were literally forced to adopt technologies to survive. Seemingly overnight, Zoom became all the rage and was all over the news. And it was praised for the value it brought. The pandemic forced companies to think differently in regard to foundation and to question notions of employee location and even accountability. Covid put us in a do or die mentality, and the outcome of that, in some ways, has been very positive. “Aha,” I said!
This movement is only the beginning! It gave me a place to, in some ways, begin “predicting” the future of enterprise-level communication through technology. Breaking these longstanding notions that employees need to be physically on site and governed would have taken decades without the pandemic, because it’s not a question of technology, it’s a matter of management and processes. And trust. And hiring well.
We realized it’s not very different if you’re talking to someone in next room or on a video call, because it’s all about body language. That’s what matters. Video conferencing is an EXCELLENT solution to that. For the first time, corporate “Unified Communications” were front and center, not as an afterthought, or an unnecessary, luxury-based IT expense. What I took from all this was the idea “how can we truly pivot to this new remote workforce” and I have now dedicated my life’s work to this notion. Because it’s worthy. And it helps people. Best yet, is typically saves them money and frees up resources. So I now market this niche skillset to organizations as a company focused on delivering Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), and just could not be happier with the reception it has received.
How are things going with this new initiative?
After a year of working fully in startup mode, we have been hiring excellent engineers to tackle the growing amount of work ahead of us. I look forward to building a highly successful organization with the help of our new engineers and architects — because they will play an integral part of your company’s success. As a communications oriented company, we realize the value of all methods of communication, we we’re recently added an excellent marketing person to the team. With over 20 years in high-tech marketing and public relations, we feel this added component has been invaluable in helping with our efforts and communicating with clients. Part of our plan to provide managed services from start to finish includes training and methods for employee adoption, so communicating this well, and properly, is an important part of our overall plan.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I honestly do not have any single person I can point to and say, “this person is the one who helped me succeed in life.” The truth is, there have been many people across different points in my career that have given very meaningful feedback that helped change how I interact with others or how I approach a problem. There have been many leaders I have worked under and to this day still admire. Managers, Directors, Peers… everyone imparts a bit of knowledge and wisdom. The key is to take that bit of wisdom and use it to shape your behavior in a way to help you navigate this complex life. So this combination of surrounding myself with positive, talented people has been invaluable in making me who I am and where my company is headed.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Sleep is for the weak… no seriously, I have had so many days where I worked sun up to sun down that days blurred into weeks and weeks into months. If your business startup is successful, you should consider hiring someone, even if part-time to take some of the workload off of you. You may make more money initially by directly working solo, but you can’t expand your business if you do not have time to run it. In the long run, having a finely tuned team that’s engaged and productive will far surpass anything I could have done just by myself.
You need to learn when to walk-away from an opportunity — just because there is a potential to make money, does not immediately make it a sound business decision. We had a lead for a company looking to implement a CRM and ERP platform in the Microsoft Government Cloud — however neither of those applications are certified for secure Government Clouds. We took a hard look and decided even if we could potentially implement them, we would not have any vendor support. We unfortunately had to turn down the opportunity as we had no functional alternatives. In other scenarios they say you need to “know when to fire a client,” which really wasn’t anything I had thought about in great detail. I’m starting to see reasons why now, from toxic environments, bad vendor relations or even questionable business practices. Mirrored with real life, you take on characteristics of those you spend the most time with, so choosing these people or companies is really important.
You can’t hire someone and expect to delegate all of your tasks — this is a big mistake I made early on and it really came back to bite me — and hard at that! When you onboard a new employee, you have to be careful with introductions to customers, and you do need to be in constant contact to help them along the way. Do not expect to hire someone, delegate most of your work on them and be able to just walk away. They rely on the people above them structurally, for guidance and resources, support and collaboration. It’s the combination value of mutual collaboration that these people bring to the company that’s most important. Not to mention it’s incredibly important to gauge their temperament and social behavior before assigning them to customer facing duties. It is absolutely imperative to know how they will respond to adversity and how they will relate to the client. Knowing they will carry the correct behavior, tone and work ethic are the first things I want to know, well before we talk about skill sets and experiences.
You will eventually have to deal with that overly difficult customer — I still struggle with this at times, even as of today. My hard fought advice is to simply take the high road, every single time, with any interactions. Your job is to provide a service, and show them why you are correct, instead of just telling them you are the expert here. If you’ve done everything you can to appease a client and provided work at the best of your ability and that’s still not enough, then it leaves little room for wondering if it’s your fault. A good client will respect this behavior, if not add to the productiveness of it while a bad client will never be happy. Just as you need to vet your employees, vetting your clients will help alleviate this issue. As we all know, at the end of the day, we are working to live the lifestyle we want to have, and you can never know what challenges they may have outside of the workplace, be it personal, medical, emotional, ego or a ton of other reasons. By insisting on always focusing on the project at hand, a mutual platform for collaboration can remain professional. That’s not to say we can’t have empathy for our fellow humans, but you have to remember these are their issues. Everyone has some issues they struggle with from time to time, so it’s very important not to enable this sort of behavior and to get past it as quickly as possible.
Business owners need to lead by example — simply put, you are the face of the company. You set the tone. You make the rules. Every interaction you have WILL have a huge impact on your future. Being an upstanding, objective and fair person will ripple through the company and become the way everyone behaves. That’s what corporate culture means. It’s easy to say that you walk the righteous path, but anybody can SAY anything. It’s only through constant, consistent behavior that you’ll be viewed in this manner. Treat your employees as you treat your clients and they will then treat clients the same way. Learn to listen to your employees, when to provide careful, constructive feedback and really just get an understanding of what challenges they may face in their own lives. Nurture them, direct them and even see what you can do to make their lives easier. It is your responsibility to work with and get to know your Team — I just can’t stress this enough; if you do not care about them, why should they, at the end of the day, hold your best interest in their minds? I am constantly surprised when I see the “Darth Vader” approach to management because being mean, hurtful, loud or obnoxious is an excellent way to get your employees to work just hard enough not to get fired. They won’t break new ground or offer feedback because they’re scared of the wrath that’s sure to follow. In my opinion, there is no place for ego in business. It’s distracting, it’s ridiculous, and it raises a lot of questions that are not about doing good business.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
I am probably the odd-one here that thrives under stress and difficult situations, even though it’s not always immediately enjoyable. It is satisfying eventually, to know you rose about it and successfully faced that adversity. I do tend to get my best ideas when I’m in this focused mindset. The best strategy I’ve had is to first put a hard stop to my workday and stick to that preset time. One of the worse things for poor mental health is to work from the time you get up to the time to go to bed and then repeat. It’s not sustainable forever, and will eventually turn negative or even resentful in some way. Life is about balance. It’s the “Yinyang” of the situation, the yen and the yang. Work hard, play hard. For even action, there should be an equal and opposite reaction, so if you are going to push yourself really hard, then you need to allow time for rest, recovery and socialization.
The second thing, is I try very hard not to focus on things I can’t control. We have all been part of extremely challenging and difficult periods of our life, but you have to try and focus on what you can control. I truly believe that it’s how you respond to adversity that shows you who you really are. One amazing thing I’ve embraced is the concept that “Sometimes when you win, you actually lose. And sometimes when you lose, you actually win.” The trick is you have to let it naturally play out so it can be whatever it was intended to be. Proactively trying to manipulate a situation is a great way to end up with discombobulated, if not confusing results. I would also recommend that you can some time to disconnect from all forms of media and just work on your real-life hobbies. I find that the professional distractions give me a TON of motivation to continue working the next week. Afterall, that Expert level Star Wars Lego Millenium Falcon isn’t going to build itself! My marketing person actually saw mine and began his own, first expert Lego project, a replica of the Manchester United Stadium and constantly remarks how valuable, refreshing and even cathartic it is to focus on something other than work and home duties every day.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
One movement, and the basis of my company’s direction, is inspiring big corporations to adopt what’s being called a new “hybrid” workforce. If you limit people to only working in regional offices, not only do you miss on some of the best talented workers out there, but you also face losing your workforce to your competitors. You have to be able to trust your employees. If you hire well, then this isn’t a problem. It also establishes a basis of trust and respect that otherwise is lost in the daily workplace grind. The Covid pandemic forced companies to adopt a remote-work mentality and since they had no choice, went into it typically with the best intentions. If there is one thing that Covid did that’s immediately positive, it’s breaking these longstanding notions that employees need to be physically on site and governed. What we realized is that it’s not real different if they are in the next room or on a video call, because it’s all about immediate access and body language. That’s what matters.
Some of the biggest money sinks for corporations are related to an onsite only workplace. These include general overhead like large office buildings, temperature control, refreshments, phone lines, desks, chairs, you name it. And then the training of new employees on how these things work. Finally, business owners are realizing they can get happier, more productive, and loyal workers through being flexible with WHERE an employee happens to be. One of the most common costs, risks and complaints from employees are long commute times. Remote working provides an economic benefit to them, as well as being with their families and pets more. They really appreciate that and will do everything they can to help it continue. I would rather work for a company where I can be either fully remote, or this hybrid notion, where I’d work in the office a few days a week as needed. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that being flexible brings about so many benefits for both sides, it would be ridiculous to go back to our old ways. There are so many technical options to enable remote workers to be just as productive as the ones in your office, if not more productive. If you hire well and place value on culture, it helps build exceptional teams where your workers can even be spread out over different time zones! Just the huge increase in available talent alone is invaluable. A distributed workforce has proven to bring in different perspectives, cultures and skills that can’t be found by hiring people based on if they can commute every day.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Definitely, definitely, definitely, it would be Elon Musk. I would love to sit down with Elon — I mean of course, who wouldn’t? True pioneer that man. He threw tradition and caution to the wind and strove to break new ground. I am amazed with the huge leap he made in most all areas. Every industry he enters comes with light-years ahead thinking with little regard for how things have traditionally been done. And that’s what it takes to do anything beyond recreating the wheel, so to speak. I admire Elon, because as a person, he has staked EVERYTHING to make his ideas work and for the betterment of everyone out there. It’s that combination of providing what employees really need and want, to products that society finds useful and ground-breaking that sets him apart from most everyone out there. On top of this, he’s a real person, he makes mistakes, he misspeaks at times and does seemingly baffling things from time to time, but who are we to say it’s not ok? He jokes, gets emotional and carries his heart on his sleeve which results in enormous respect and has led to his success. It’s that amazing conviction that inspires such great loyalty and acceptance. I would absolutely LOVE to pick his brain, get ideas on what he did to pivot and be able to learn from his mistakes. We are of course in different industries, but our goals are not too far apart.
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Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!