Overheard on Slack: RIP IRL?

Here’s how M13 partners stay connected while shifting to virtual meetings.

Last Updated: October 7, 2020

Published: March 16, 2020

Austin Distel/Unsplash

M13 will occasionally share what we’re overhearing on our Slack channels as our team unpacks the day’s news. This piece features a conversation between Christine Choi, Matt Hoffman, and Carter Reum.

Christine  11:04 AM

Hello and Happy Saturday! After SXSW's understandable and disappointing cancellation, I'm reviewing our calendar to see how much of our scheduled trips will be affected by the necessary COVID-19 precautions. The headaches of travel are a trade-off I've been willing to make in exchange for the richness of IRL experiences. It makes me a better colleague and more effective in my role with the external world. My fingers are crossed that we won’t have to postpone M13 “dock-in” [where the entire company convenes in M13’s LA office] weeks!

Matt Hoffman  11:19 AM

Happy Saturday morning, Christine! Just another relaxing weekend in our current dystopia :) One of the HR conferences I'm involved in organizing just canceled for March so I am feeling some of the impact directly. It’s one of the things I look forward to most during the year, so I was really disappointed.  

Christine  11:23 AM

Can we just talk about how much value we get from IRL experiences? When I ran communications for Virgin’s commercial space companies and also Kitty Hawk, it was essential for me to interact with engineers and the hardware in real life. It was worth it to work in the remote Mojave desert, Long Beach, and Silicon Valley but keep NY the media capital as my home base. It made it possible to remain close to the media and report back the latest on developments with spaceships, satellite launch systems, and EVTOL. This work was especially useful because the hangars where the work happens are inaccessible and restricted for many reasons, and the people reporting about them aren't able to see and thus believe the progress and people. We can't lose sight of meaningful engagement with media, partners, and future employees about the technology we're building and how we're building it.

Matt Hoffman  11:39 AM

What you are saying about the value of IRL experiences is directly related to the reason for my disappointment.  We could have (and considered) holding our HR conference sessions online, but so much of the value comes not from the content of the sessions (although I’m sure mine would have been fantastic) but the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and new colleagues outside of the formal sessions. That’s where so much of the real learning happens, and there’s no way to replicate that.

Christine  11:44 AM

Yes, I’m sure your session would have been fantastic so let’s figure out how to still do that albeit not IRL. Besides losing out on interaction time with our industry colleagues, conference cancellations are terrible for service workers, creatives, contractors, and gig economy workers. We can WFH but they cannot. You know who also can't WFH? School kids who don't have internet at home and can't access online learning (not to mention free or reduced meals that are served in school). What is the right thing for businesses to do? It's encouraging that companies are considering compensating or will compensate their contractors.

Matt Hoffman  11:49 AM

As you mentioned, at M13 we're learning how to build an effective organization on two coasts. One of Carter’s most brilliant contributions to our culture is the forcing function of dock-in weeks, where we all come together as a team in person to have meaningful discussions and build deeper relationships. What we’d soon come to realize is that the value of these dock-ins is not in 10 structured planning sessions but in the chance to get to know each other better as partners and human beings. That strong foundation enables us to work more closely, collaboratively, and be more trusting, which in turn lets us work more effectively for the majority of times in which we are distributed. ⭐️

Christine  11:59 AM

Yes! What our monthly dock-ins do is acknowledge the difficulty and benefits of being a bi-coastal team, but it’s a choice M13 made to leverage the best of both coasts. I love how excited Lizzie gets when the NYC crew shows up to the west side. Re: unstructured get-to-know-you time, I learn more and get more done with our colleagues while walking to Good Boy Bob coffee and meeting outside on the astroturf than many of our more structured and literally confined meetings. Anyone else with me?

Carter  1:02 PM

The two things that have been really top of mind is in a world where people aren't traveling as much and fewer in-person meetings are happening, how do we continue to build relationships within M13 and also externally with our current investors and future investors? I love video conferencing as much as the next guy but obviously you can't replicate getting coffee with somebody or taking a walk around the block with someone on the team to catch up and see how things are going if they are working remotely! You know I love my chicken scratches so I've started one on "Driving Relationships During COVID-19." I'm brainstorming hacks for accomplishing this internally and externally if the current climate continues for a few months. For example, writing more handwritten notes and also creating gratitude cards to send to M13 colleagues since I’m not always able to grab them at their desk and give them praise if they are working from home. My takeaway from my brainstorm is that in a world of less IRL and more COVID-19, you can still build rapport and relationships. It won't be easy and it will take thoughtfulness! But who knows if my brainstorm is right, maybe stationery stores will benefit! ha

Christine  1:59 PM

Love the practice of handwritten notes that acknowledge and show appreciation for our partners and colleagues! You are the master of both the thoughtful and physical assets (hey my love languages!): I used to collect those lovely acai seed bracelets that topped off each bottle of Veev! One of M13’s brand values is Community, which means activating IRL experiences such as firesides, networking gatherings, and office hours for our constellation of entrepreneurs. We all get so much from organically conversing and discovering commonalities and where we'd like to work together. I hope that we can approximate that with our upcoming webinars and give our community members the choice to attend and participate in person. And let's face it: I am terrible at video conferences. Acknowledging that there is nothing better than IRL, what suggestions do you have for people like me who suck at voice and video chat?

Matt  2:30 PM

I am glad you asked that question. Luckily we’re putting together a best practices webinar on remote working, and we are convening a panel of some of the most experienced leaders in managing distributed teams. When working remotely, focus on the content and not the channel. Also, remember to communicate. We’ll talk about all this with the panel during Thursday’s webinar.