The Office Will Never Die

How A Job Search Taught Me The Limitations of WFH

In December of 2020 I found myself unemployed.  This was the first time since I started working at the age of 15 that I didn’t have a job.  It was a feeling that I absolutely hated, and it gave me a new level of empathy for the millions of people that are out of work.  Although the last 3 months were some of the most challenging times of my life, what I learned during this journey was worth the price.  The story has a happy ending, but it is the experience that I wanted to share.  Especially how the hiring process is tied to the real estate industry.

The Challenge of Standing Out When you Can Apply for a Job in Under 10 Seconds

Responding to job postings is a futile exercise.  The process, at least in my mind, is a complete waste of time.  I submitted hundreds of applications through companies like ZipRecruiter and Indeed, even splurging for ATS Optimization, yet the response rate was zero.  I tested my theory by applying for roles that I was overqualified for, and the results were the same.  I spoke to others that were in the same boat as me, and their experience was similar.  Although job sites try to make the application process easier with features like “1-Click Apply”, the truth is that these features actually create a much more significant challenge then the problem that they are trying to solve.  The application process has become so easy that instead of a candidate really searching for the roles that they are the best fit for and investing time on those applications, thousands of candidates are applying for every position, making it impossible for a hiring manager to get to the best candidates.  My general sense is that very few applications actually get viewed.  This is an example of technology making something too easy that it actually creates the opposite effect of what it was intended for. With teams being remote the friction is exponentially increased.

I then took matters into my own hands.  I started writing personalized emails to CEOs of companies that I was interested in joining; detailing why I was the right person for the role.  This was the game changer.  Of the companies that I either got into advanced conversations with or received offers from, 100% of them came from personalized notes.  If you want to learn more about this strategy, send me an email and I would be happy to help guide you with samples that worked for me.

WFH Has Its Limitations

I have written at length about the future of the workplace and the pros and cons of WFH.  I am a believer in a hybrid approach and my job search proved to me that offices are a necessity for certain tasks; interviewing being one of them. Interviewing over Zoom is an awful experience.  Not just for the candidate but for the hiring manager as well.  It is nearly impossible to learn about the culture of the company if you don’t have a chance to spend time with a team and see how colleagues interact with each other.  It’s even worse when you are interviewing with multiple people from the same company back-to-back.  Since some conversations go long and some go short, the process leads to someone always staring at a blank screen and just waiting.  And then the emails start flying:  “Am I on the right link? Are you still able to make this time work? Are you having connection issues?”  Employers and candidates are all trying to put their best foot forward during this process, yet technology has other plans.  And then there are the distractions of dogs barking, kids screaming, and poor internet.  These may sound like small issues, but when multiplied by many companies that candidates meet with, it is draining.  Interviewing for a job is stressful enough, and Zoom compounds that stress 100X.

The process made me think of Breather’s original model of on-demand purpose built spaces designed for specific use cases.  As much as I would like to walk the halls of the company that I am thinking of joining, it is not a necessity.  A quiet private space where a candidate can sit face-to-face with the people that they are going to be practically sharing their lives with, would more than suffice.  As I was going through the interview process virtually, another challenge occurred to me:  onboarding.  A smooth onboarding process is vital to a quick ramp.  To truly be effective at your job, you need a deep understanding about how the company operates. It’s two sided as well - companies invest tens of thousands of dollars in hiring but typically don’t continue this for onboarding.  Onboarding employees is a cross functional process across the entire company.  How do things work?  How do you navigate through the organization?  How do the different departments interact with each other?  I find that that best way to ramp is to immerse yourself into the culture, ask questions, and observe.  How can this possibly be done over Zoom?  The short answer is, it can't.

Workspaces need to be functional and different environments serve different purposes.  From the perspective of someone who hated to work from home pre-pandemic, I have completely changed my viewpoint.  I would now prefer to work from home (with no commute) when I need to focus on certain tasks.  I would rather be focused with minimal distractions. For individual contributors, when not in a team meeting or client meeting, a home office may be more conducive than an office setting.  For team meetings, collaborative projects, or interviews, a workspace designed for that use offers a clear competitive advantage.

Offices will not die because they are a necessity.  Leases will still get done, but these purpose built environments will also be fulfilled by options like WeWork’s new unbundled offering or companies like Convene, Industrious, and Regus.  I believe that the future is also bright for marketplaces like LiquidSpace, Upflex, Upsuite, and Peerspace to capitalize on the coordination that enterprises will need to administer these offerings.  I also think that many of the coworking players that have struggled through the pandemic, at least the ones that were able to survive, will find success in this new world.

My Journey

I was just about to accept a role when I received a call from the Co-Chairman of a company that I used to work for,  Kastle Systems.  To be clear, I loved my time at Kastle and I left on wonderful terms.  The only reason why I left is because an amazing opportunity became available in an area of the industry that I was extremely passionate about, Flexible Real Estate.  He asked why I didn’t reach out to him for a job.  I was honest and let him know that as much as I loved my time at Kastle Systems, I wanted to be on the front lines of innovation for PropTech.  What he showed me over the next 30 minutes, and what was confirmed with subsequent calls with other leaders at the company, was mind blowingly exciting.  

Kastle has always been an industry leader (they offered cloud services before cloud services were a thing), but over the past few years Kastle has transformed.  When I left the company they were a security company.  They have now transformed into a leading-edge PropTech company.  I couldn’t believe the level of innovation which had taken place.

Kastle’s Safe Spaces is the most advanced solution set that I had ever seen to ensure a safe and effective return to the office in a post-Covid world, but it is their vision of a commercial real estate OS that sold me.  I don’t want this article to turn into a promotion for Kastle, but it’s hard for me to not be excited.  From touchless everything (doors, elevators, turnstiles) to integrations with leading 3rd party tenant engagement apps, to the ability to monitor and report on air quality, the more that I heard the more I wanted to be part of the company.  Once they detailed their expansion plans, including the investment that they are making into the company to ensure that they have the right technology and support to bring on the largest CRE portfolios in the world (they also have amazing solutions for multi-fam and schools), my decision was made.  I could not be more excited and more appreciative to announce that I have rejoined Kastle Systems as Managing Director.  In this role I will be working with all departments to ensure that we have a complete offering to meet all of the needs of portfolio owners and their tenants.  We will be looking at integrations, partnerships, and acquisitions, along with continuing to develop cutting edge technology in-house.  We have giant plans and I am so excited to get started and play my part in the company’s future.  As I have said before, we are entering the most exciting time period for the proptech industry.  As an industry, the market dynamics are prime for innovation in a post-covid world, and we have a responsibility to bring people back to a safer, smarter, and more flexible workspace.

Never Burn Bridges

The experience taught me one more valuable lesson and that is to never burn bridges.  If you decide to leave a company for any reason, even if you are fairly certain that you will not be back, do it the right away.  Give proper notice, tie up loose ends, and go out of your way to make sure that your hard work from your tenure doesn’t go to waste.  The same is true for companies.  If someone on your team is leaving, no matter how much you wish they would stay, handle it with respect and gratitude for all of their contributions.  You never know when they may be a free agent again.  Had you told me that I was going to be rejoining Kastle Systems even as recent as 2 weeks ago, I wouldn’t have believed it.  Now, thanks to Piyush Sodha, Mark Ein, and Haniel Lynn, there is no company in the world that I would rather be a part of.