Working for a fast-paced, fully remote startup like oVice requires a lot of stamina, discipline, and creativity. In the Global Team Young, a Global Operations Manager sets up processes and keeps them running, and oversees product design, sales, and marketing. In the meantime, he has the time to travel the world from Tunisia to Australia, Korea Japan. To find out more about his approach to work and lifestyle, we had an in-depth operations team manager interview with Young and asked him questions about work, building an innovative product, managing a remote team, and setting up a work-life balance.
Because the original interview ended up very dense, we decided to share Young’s insights as a two-part series. This is the first part of the full interview.
Tell us about yourself and your role at oVice
My name is Young. Right now I am based in Japan but I am originally from Australia. I work as an operations manager for the global team at oVice.
I joined the company at the very beginning. Before that, I was working as an engineer at a startup company, and I joined oVice after finishing my last project.
What kind of background (education and work experience) did you have before joining oVice?
First of all, I got a CS degree at a university in Australia. As soon as I graduated, I went to Japan and worked in a startup with the CEO of oVice (editor’s note: Sae Hyung Jung). I joined as a junior engineer and work there for two years. I became a project manager.
Generally, I had diverse jobs – I’ve been a barista, a secondary education PE teacher, and a lifeguard.
How did you discover oVice? What was your first impression of the platform?
The team of the startup I worked at went to Tunisia for a business trip. Unfortunately, due to the lockdown, we couldn’t come back to Japan. We had offices in Japan and Korea. Since we didn’t have oVice yet, we were using Slack and Zoom as our communication channels and quickly discovered our ways to interact with each other online were limited.
Suddenly, we had some time in the lockdown and were able to think about the next thing we wanted to build. That’s how we came up with an idea that was developed into oVice.
My first impression of the platform? Even though it was basic at first, it managed to connect the team more seamlessly than other tools we were using.
I liked the fact that oVice made communicating casual, just like it would be in a real-life office. I could just walk up and talk to people, without having to schedule meetings beforehand and generate links.
What made you decide to join the team?
I was interested in oVice from the engineering perspective because the platform was using a lot of new technology. At some point, the CEO offered a management position to me – it was new but, precisely because it would encourage me to see the product in a new light, I took it.
I was convinced I wanted to join oVice because of Sae Hyung Jung’s vision, which aligned with my own. I was always curious about working remotely and, during the pandemic, the opportunity came up.
Of course, oVice isn’t just about enabling remote or hybrid work – it was about making sure there’s nothing you are doing in the office that you can’t do online. I wanted to make sure a product like this gets out into the world – that’s why I joined.
According to your LinkedIn profile, you worked as a software developer, then shifted from a technical to a management position. Why did you make this decision?
Looking back at it, I believe it was a good decision. A management position gives you a three-dimensional view of the business because you focus on how things work across departments.
My experience in software development experience helped me be a more effective manager because solving problems and finding optimal solutions is the very backbone of a software developer’s mindset.
Also, because I know what comes with developing a product, I understand the mindset of the product team.
Of course, at some point, I’d love to switch my focus back to engineering and work alongside the oVice tech team. They are the most qualified people in the industry so there’s a lot to learn.
Working in a startup and managing an international team
You joined oVice in December 2020 when the platform was a nascent startup. What were the challenges of joining a project so early on?
I believe the challenges of joining an early startup are pretty much the same. There is no process, no limit to your job responsibilities.
When you are part of a constantly growing team, it’s hard to excel at time management. Also, you might lose your confidence a lot because you have to switch different fields and acquire new skills through trial and error.
What do you find most fulfilling about working at oVice? Was there anything that pleasantly surprised you?
Above all, I want to be a pioneer in introducing the workforce to the new way of working which started as remote working, and now we are expanding to include hybrid work as well.
I’ve seen the use cases proving that oVice can help managers lead teams without giving up flexibility and readiness to support different work styles.
When C-level executives come to us and thank the team for introducing them to oVice and helping them optimize a hybrid culture, I’m really fulfilled.
How is working at oVice different from the work you did before?
This is my first time working fully remotely. It brings different experiences. Working at an office, I follow a standard routine but working remotely is more flexible and, at the same time, complex.
I like that I get to travel a lot. Thanks to oVice, I was able to meet a lot of amazing people in Tunisia, like Aroua (Global Marketing Manager) and Maya (Global Customer Success Representative). If I didn’t work in oVice, I believe I would’ve never met them and many others.
A hugely different thing about oVice is that it is such a global company while, at the same time, it is a rapidly growing startup. I doubt there are many workplaces like this.
A lot of people who join startups are worried about “having to wear many hats” but you are doing it really well. What does your typical workday look like?
I start my work day by opening my inbox, and checking and answering emails. Then I go through the managers’ task lists and schedules.
Usually, the morning routine is full of scrums. I get in touch with other department leaders and share updates. Then I come back and talk to global team members. Once everything is finished, I work on business process automation and tracking CRM data.
That’s usually my routine but things can pile up – for example, reviewing resumes or having job interviews. I keep my schedule flexible to keep room for spur-of-the-moment tasks.
oVice is an international team with a Japanese, Korean, and Global division. As the Operations Manager of the Global team, what are your tips for working in an international environment?
Working in a global team has its challenges – physical distance, time zone differences, and others. I feel like using oVice made connecting with international branch offices (Korean and Japanese in the case of the global team) a lot easier because we can just come over to their spaces and talk to everyone.
Tips for working in an international environment? Since it’s often hard to find a time slot when everyone is available, rather than scheduling meetings, I’d recommend just catching up with people when you see them around.
As for the language barrier, make sure to translate your messages to the languages other teammates speak – this way, no one is out of the loop.
Lessons learned from promoting an innovative product
Do you see differences in how the product is being perceived in Asia compared to the West? How does the global team adapt to them?
The way the global team penetrates the Western market is different. Japan’s success metrics didn’t work in Korea and in the West. What succeeded in Korea, didn’t necessarily work in the Western market either.
I feel like people in the Western market are highly critical of collaboration tools because there are a lot of new products. That’s why they often come to the tour space highly prepared, having researched oVice, as well as our competitors.
They often ask very precise and technical questions and our team should be ready to answer those and offer resources that give a deep dive into the product. Also, team leaders tend to be particular about personalization – they want specific features, integrations, and dedicated support. Our team is focused on meeting these demands and constantly improving the product to keep prospects interested.
If you have to describe oVice in three words, what would they be and why?
Flexibility, freedom, diversity.
I think oVice is a flexible platform because it gives managers room for interpreting offices the way they want to. You can change the layout in oVice – in a physical space, it wouldn’t be possible.
Similarly, there’s flexibility in how much time people spend logged in. When it comes to real offices – people have to commute to get there so they are constrained to stay at the office for the rest of the workday.
As for oVice, most teammates are logged in during the entire day but some managers don’t ask for 9-to-5 attendance and only have people come together for events, meetings, and brainstorming sessions. In my case, oVice helps me balance oversight and autonomy the way I see fit – that’s why I associate it with flexibility.
As for freedom, I appreciate how stable oVice is from a technical standpoint. That gives me and the rest of the team the ability to stay connected when traveling because the platform will work in a hotel room or other places with limited connectivity.
Also, since it’s a virtual office, not a physical one, teammates don’t have to stay in specific areas to get to work comfortably. That’s the freedom from physical boundaries.
Another aspect of freedom comes from the fluidity of interactions.
I associate oVice with diversity for two reasons. Number one, our team is geographically diverse. There’s a mix of cultures and worldviews in oVice. I believe it’s a good thing, as it helps create a universally appealing product, that would be equally useful to all kinds of managers and teams.
Also, the platform is diverse in its use cases. We position ourselves mainly as an office space (you can even see it in the name) but there’s more to what oVice does.
The platform has a lot of event use cases, we’ve worked with universities and schools that hosted classes in oVice. Communities use oVice to create personalized spaces and interact with their fans.
In oVice, you can let your creativity run loose and mold into different shapes – that’s why I believe diversity is essential to the product.
The virtual office niche is rapidly developing and a lot of new platforms are being released. In your opinion, what sets oVice apart from other tools?
The fundamental idea behind oVice is communication. We focus on network stability more heavily than other platforms. Other tools put a lot of emphasis on third-party integrations, making the space more interactive, etc.
Unlike other platforms, we position ourselves in the virtual real estate space which shows in the architecture of the platform, our approach to billing, and our roadmap. I also believe we’ve onboarded more enterprise organizations than other competitors who heavily focus on supporting communities and event managers.
On top of that, oVice is driven by a very ambitious large-scale vision. While we are happy with the product we’ve built so far, our goal is to bridge the gap between the physical and online world even further. To that end, we are working on projects that involve highly innovative technologies – hopefully, we can share these soon.
How do you see the future of the company? Can you share your vision for your role and the Global team?
At first, we wanted to solve the issue of remote work which is online communication. I believe we successfully did that. The next step is creating a successful environment for hybrid work.
In 3-5 years, I see oVice competing with office real estate because we are changing the world with the hybrid working system. We would try to take over that space and introduce something very different from the current system.
This was the first part interview with Young, the Operations Manager of the Global Team at oVice. Next week, the leader of the global team will share work-life balance tips and actionable tips for successfully running a startup team. Stay tuned!
If you want to know more about people building oVice, take a look at more interviews with our team.