CEO and co-founder of Armis Security, Yevgeny Dibrov accumulated over 500,000 miles in flights in 2019, on one airline company alone. Since March, he’s been working from his home in Israel.
“It’s a pretty drastic transition and a unique experience. There is no alternative to human contact or interpersonal relationships that you form, but it’s surprising how on the other hand, working from home is so productive. On a personal level, I try to take advantage of the day, beginning to work around 11 a.m. and carrying on into the night until 3 a.m., so that I can work during European, Israeli, and U.S. hours. I hold an infinite amount of Zoom sessions during the day, so I don’t ‘waste any time’ traveling, flying from place to place,” he says.
Armis Security was acquired for $1.1 billion last January by VC fund Insight Partners. Dibrov’s relationship with two business development managers who began their position in December and work directly under him was formed mainly through virtual meetings. “They joined right before the acquisition, and I was in a crazy period, so most of our relationship was formed over Zoom sessions. I was surprised that it’s possible at all, but if a relationship is virtual, it’s less natural for people and it means you need to work harder to make it happen. This evening, for example, I have conversations set up with four or five employees who are located in Europe or the U.S. and report directly to me. I do it in order to strengthen those relationships,” he said.
Armis Security has teams in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia, and Israel, totaling some 350 employees all over the world, and 180 that work out of Israel, where most of the activity and the company’s product and development takes place. Most of the technical support as well as the marketing and sales teams reside in Europe and the U.S., so many are working remotely and not in actual offices. Before the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, the company didn’t regularly let employees work from home on a wide scale. There were those who worked from home once a week if they needed to commute from afar to the office, or due to family reasons.
“I like the creative solutions we’ve come up with during this time. It was a unique test to take working from home one step forward, whether that was through holding virtual coffee meet ups, or remote happy hours with employees, managers, or customers. It’s something completely new. I like how I can work directly across different time zones productively - I can talk to our teams in Asia and Australia. On the other hand, the human aspect is missing. At the end of the day, the personal connection is missing as well. I’m a person who likes to meet people and to have discussions with them face-to-face.”
What’s it like managing a company while working from home?
“Since I’m a person who really likes having conversations in person, I always tried to coordinate frequently with managers below me. Now I regularly update them on work and tasks throughout the week. It’s really important to me to use Sundays to hold more personal and social one-on-one meetings on Zoom. During face-to-face meetings, you can cover many topics and the relationship you maintain becomes natural. Nowadays, I make an effort to strengthen those bonds. For example, on the weekends we have virtual social meets, which have become very significant.”
In order to maintain a connection with his employees while everyone is working from home, Dibrov holds virtual coffee meets every day at 4 p.m., sends presents to employees who welcomed the birth of a child, or to those who are sick, or to those whose children have begun school. “We play games like pass-the-parcel; it’s a team effort. Our managers have all undergone special executive management-from-afar training. It’s a new world and it’s super interesting,” he says.
Does it feel as if the company culture is lost?
“We greatly invested in our company culture and embraced the work-from-home approach, so we entered the Covid-19 crisis in a good position. It has worked for us since we've managed to preserve our company culture. There’s a great number of work WhatsApp groups and activities that people are excited about, I can tell we’re in good shape but we need to keep a finger on the pulse since there’s no substitute to working together in an office. I don’t think that you can ever completely replace that. There’s no doubt that there’s no alternative to human contact and many people miss that. I hear from plenty of people that they’d gladly return to the old days. I am waiting for the day where we can return to our normal real lives.”
During the past few months, Armis recruited 30 employees and is currently in the process of recruiting another 30. “It’s a challenge. I had to consult with our HR department on how to go forward while putting an emphasis on paying full consideration to the applicant and providing feedback at every stage. The entire process was conducted via Zoom, and that’s why we have gone above and beyond to make it pleasant for people. We’ve heard from several people that the hiring process during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic can make candidates feel like they’re robots since they receive a task, and wait for employers to get back to them. That’s why it was important for us to ensure that people wouldn’t waste their entire weekends trying to complete our test assignments. We know how challenging these times can be. It was important to be efficient and considerate during the process,” Dibrov said.
Do you have employees who have never visited the office?
“There are employees who’ve never stepped foot in the office, but they’ve seen people during our virtual coffee meets. We have amazing offices, and it’s a shame but we’re doing everything we can to bring people up to speed. We have get-to-know each other activities that bring people into the mix. Everything is done with the intent to give people a good feeling, and show them that we are taking care of them during this time.”
You mentioned that you work from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and are mostly in Zoom meetings. Do you have Zoom fatigue yet?
“Being in Zoom meetings from morning to night wouldn’t work well if I didn’t love what I do. There’s nothing that I love more than my job. Armis is my life, my baby, and I really enjoy working here. Zoom fatigue is like being jet lagged the entire week — it’s just a different form of being tired. Perhaps it requires me to preserve my voice throughout the day because you really are having dozens of conversations. Ultimately, I just replaced an infinite number of flights where I take off after sleeping for two-hours with losing my voice a little during the day.”