Jeff Maggioncalda has been CEO for 25 years. In that time he has traveled the world, from Lisbon, Madrid, London and Germany to Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Cairo and the UAE – just to name a few places.
Travel is an important part of Maggioncalda’s way of working. Maggioncalda, a self-proclaimed nomad CEO, travels from country to country, working from different locations to understand the needs of different markets, experience cultures and communities and establish business relationships. Sure, he can just as easily meet clients and colleagues via Zoom, but what’s the fun in that?
“I have to be there to see it and talk to people,” Maggioncalda tells ZDNet. “I’m in adventure mode, I’m in sales mode, I’m in learning mode, and I have a learning ability that is much higher than just sitting in my family room on Zoom.”
Maggioncalda is the CEO of Coursera, an online training platform that offers online courses, certifications and degrees from universities and companies around the world.
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He joined the company in 2017, amid a high demand for talent in the San Francisco Bay Area. “It was extraordinary, especially for computer scientists and data scientists,” says Maggioncalda.
“Even if you hired someone, you had to work really hard to keep them because wage growth was fast and Google was just down the street.”
In 2022, competition for tech workers will be fierce, if not worse: not only are companies doubling their IT investments and moving more of their services online, but critical workforce shifts are also creating new opportunities for smaller tech companies to cope with the Googles, Apples and Facebooks of the world.
That shift is driven by knowledge workers’ desire to break away from the rigidity of office work and have a greater say in how and where they work.
“I honestly don’t see a world where companies don’t have a lot of flexibility to work remotely,” says Maggioncalda.
“You can’t rely on charisma. You can’t rely on fun parties at the office. You certainly can’t rely on the employer being in control and saying, ‘You have to do it this way, because I told you until.’ “
Find a middle way
Given his nomadic approach to his work, it’s no surprise that Maggioncalda is a big believer in the ‘work from anywhere’ ethos. He’s always ready for Zoom: he takes his iPad, MacBook, camera, Lume lights and green screen everywhere, and he buys a local SIM card when he lands in a new country.
Maggioncalda says the best conversations happen outside the office — at conferences, at press events, at sales meetings — wherever he gets a chance to gain a fresh perspective in a new environment that wouldn’t happen at a desk.
But that doesn’t mean everything about remote working is perfect. “One of the things we’ve all realized is this phenomenon of Zoom burnout, and work-life balance can get pretty messed up, and without social connections a lot of work feels more transactional — it’s just a lot more business oriented,” he says. adds.
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The CEO also recognizes the value of having a space where employees can come together to socialize and exchange ideas, as well as the difficulties that remote working poses for leaders in management and cultural challenges.
“I think there will be a middle ground, which will be more difficult,” he says.
However, he says this isn’t about mandating when employees should come to the office and what to do while they’re there: “The overriding message we’ve gotten so far is you can work anywhere — you do.” don’t’ I don’t need to come back.”
Companies that mandate office returns are most likely to lose staff to more flexible, friendlier rivals. “And not just any workers, the really hard-to-find workers, the computer scientists and the data scientists,” adds Maggioncalda.
The talent hunt will be global, he says: “And anyone who doesn’t play that game is going to lose.”