Balance, Connection and Availability with Philip Yi

Philip Yi, SDR Manager at Confluent joins Jordan to discuss the pros and cons of working in the office and working from home.
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Show notes

Post-pandemic, it seems one of the biggest debates throughout the country is: work in office or work from home?

There are many pros and cons of each option that RevOps Therapist and CEO of Greaser Consulting, Jordan Greaser, and Philip Yi, SDR Manager at Confluent, discuss, as well as ways to better connect in a virtual world.

This episode starts with a bonus discussion of what it’s like to work in the UK versus the United States.

How does each country handle PTO? What does work and life balance look like in each country? 

No matter your industry, this is an episode for everyone.

Transcript

Jordan  00:00

Hi everyone, this is Jordan, the owner and CEO of Greaser Consulting. On today’s episode, we have Philip Yi with us, who, we crossed paths together when he worked at BlueJeans. He was an SDR manager; I was a consultant for that company for some time. And specifically, what was neat about when we got a chance to work together is that he was in the process of moving to the UK. And in today’s episode, we’re talking about things like work-life balance, being available, being present. And so we’re diving into some of his learnings that he got from working internationally, some cultural differences and some things that, you know, he’s thinking, “let’s bring to the US; maybe we need to shift.” We also talk about just his experience with the pandemic and in different struggles that he went through, and then how he changed some things, even just simple tricks like with his calendar that allowed him time to transition to, to sort of get out of work mode and into life mode. So as you lean in today, and you listen to today’s episode, we took a pretty casual approach, just talking about life, availability, and just sort of slowing down. I hope you enjoy. 

Intro Jingle

Say you want some clarity in sales and marketing and SEP? Well, we have just the remedy: our podcast, RevOps Therapy. Yeah.

Jordan  01:27

Hi, everyone, this is Jordan. I’ve got Philip with me today. Philip, why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself?

Philip  01:33

Hi, everyone. My name is Philip Yi. I am currently an SDR manager at a company called Confluent. For those of you guys who don’t know, Confluent is a company that is based off an open-source software called Apache Kafka. And what we do is basically allow users to leverage their data in real-time. That’s probably the simplest way I can put that.

Jordan  01:54

Hey, get that sales hat on, buddy. See if you can get yourself like three or four sales leads by the time this thing is done.

Philip  02:00

That’s the reason I’m here, right?

Jordan  02:03

It’s good to know; it’s not to see me and chat. But it’s, it’s to get those leads. But that’s the way of the world right? Anyway, I’m just messing with ya. So we, I always like to tell people if I’ve met folks, like, how do we meet? So we actually met back in the day. You were at BlueJeans, a video conferencing software. But ironically, you were like, did you like already move to London? Or you were, like, in the process of moving to London when we first met? Like, what? Like, what stage of the journey was that?

Philip  02:35

I think it was right before. I was still here in the states in San Francisco. And there was talks flying around about like expanding our team in London. And I think that’s where you came on board. Because there’s also other conversations at the time of optimizing our operations and whatnot. So…

Jordan  02:51

Yeah, and I know like the theme of today is we’re talking about work-life balance and, and you know, sort of finding that middle. So I’m curious with your… this is all like pre-pandemic, so sort of regular workings, right? Did you find whenever you lived in the UK, like was there a drastically different work culture in terms of that sort of work-life balance and where it all fits? Or are we actually not too dissimilar?

Philip  03:22

There was a big drastic change. But then there’s also a lot of similarities as well. I think the biggest one that really stands out is, like, PTO days and time off. There are certain periods in the year especially around like August, summertime, also Christmas and the holidays where the entire, like Europe kind of shuts down. And every… it’s not, you know, abnormal for folks to take the entire month of August off, right, In the UK. And I think something else was just like, when you have PTO time, it’s respected as PTO time; you’re not expected to answer your emails, Slacks, nobody even bothers to kind of like hit you up.

Jordan  04:03

Like, “just in case you’re checking email…” like you’re not even getting those emails? 

Philip  04:07

Yeah. And people kind of respect that over there. And, you know, I think the other kind of fun part of the culture is it wasn’t very, you know, odd and maybe similar to the US, where you would see people at a happy hour at right at five o’clock or six o’clock at a you know, pub drinking a couple of pints. So, yeah, there’s there’s definitely similarities, like they, they work extremely hard over there as well. But I think time-off wise, it’s, I think, dedicated, you know, months out of the year that they respect that.

Jordan  04:36

Is that… Is that something that when you came back to the US, you sort of brought that with you, or did you find yourself like just sort of leaning into old habits again around PTO and some of this ability to shut things off?

Philip  04:52

I think, too, it’s similar to a lot of folks… this concept of like, unlimited PTO, like you don’t realize, like, I think sometimes, like what that really means, and so I remember it. And then obviously, I was younger back then like, but having unlimited PTO, I didn’t use a lot, you know. I think, looking back, like maybe took like five or six days out of the year to, like, you know, go to a wedding or go like on an important family trip over the weekend. But like, when I was in the UK, like, I used my full 20-25 days out of the year, and that was, you know, very different, you know; you start to enjoy, like, wow, like time off is actually really good for your mental health. And it really helps you, you know, break away from the norms, and you do actually come back refreshed, right?

Jordan  05:37

Heaven forbid, you come back refreshed. But so back here in the US, have you like, and again, I don’t know when you came back as relates to COVID. So we might, we might treat that separately. But did you? Like are you taking as much time off? Have you been setting that as a priority? Or is it just harder because you’re now back in this culture where everybody just works?

Philip  06:02

I think it was a mind shift, shift for me. Where I did kind of learn, hey, like time off is good for you. Right. And so I did start to use a lot more PTO nowadays, obviously, it was a little bit harder during the pandemic over the last couple years. But once it started, things started to open up and things are a little bit safer, I am finding myself taking a lot more time. But also even booking like an extra day after a big trip like a wedding. Like because you have a long weekend. You’re out there having a good time with your friends. And then you come back Sunday night; like are you really refreshed on Monday morning? Probably not. Right? And so I think it’s also having, you know, the wherewithal of my own body and mental state now where I know I might need that extra day for Monday to take off. So I can come back on Tuesday and just have a really good week.

Jordan  06:50

You know, my mom actually was a proponent of that 20 years ago. I remember we would go on a vacation. And I’d think well we should be on we should be at the beach until like the day we get back. And then the next day we go back to school or we do whatever. And she was huge into we’re always going to come back one day before the holiday is over. So we get an entire day to sleep, rest, you know, eat popcorn and do nothing, right, and then get back to it. And that’s, anyway, that’s just it’s just funny hearing you say that because there’s not too many people I know that like get in that mindset. But you know, Mother Greaser here is in alignment with you, Mr. Yi.

Philip  07:30

She was on to something. Those are words of wisdom right there.

Jordan  07:35

Yeah, she was on to something. So as you as you got back, and I know I wanted to touch on some of this UK stuff, because I know it was just different. Before we shift from that completely, is there any other thing just about like work and balance that you took out of there, or was PTO like, like, legitimately the only real difference?

Philip  08:01

Um, you know, I think just as a young professional myself, I think just throwing yourself out there and being able to experience something brand new, different cities, different countries in my, you know, from my perspective, like that always helps. I think you’re getting exposure and learning something, right? I have a lot of friends that have never, you know, got the opportunity to do something like what I did, or people in my network that were you know, had other things going on maybe unfortunate that they weren’t able to do something like that. But there’s other ways I think in work to be able to get that exposure. You know, volunteering for trade shows, you know, if you work in tech, and maybe in sales, going to work events, you know, volunteering to go do different projects I think will give you some of those opportunities, go you know, experience something new. That was probably one of the biggest takeaways from living in the UK and coming back is just a different lens now that I have from the exposure that I’ve you know, the people that I’ve worked with, the different cultures have an experience, how people do business in different countries or, or different, you know, verticals or, and I think all that, you know, would have been definitely missed if you never took a chance, just raise your hand to go do something like that. So I would just say that was a big takeaway.

Jordan  09:21

Do you… moving on from this UK trip and some of this international work, which you know, I’m with you on that. This might sound like a kind of funny question. But I’m gonna ask it anyway: was, was the pandemic, was it hard for you? Or was it like… there’s different people I talked to, and I’ll say like, you know, “what happened with the pandemic?” Was that alright for you? And there’s some folks that are like, this was the hardest season of my life. And then there’s other people with like this little bit of guilt inside of them and they’re like, “I actually… it was really nice, and here’s why, but like, like I don’t like telling people.” Like, so, I’m gonna, I’m gonna ask you here, like, how was the pandemic in your eyes?

Philip  10:06

Mine was a hybrid, as in, like, the first part of it was awful. I didn’t know what to do with myself, because I was so used to always either riding a train or tube or sitting in traffic for, you know, 40 minutes to make it into the office. I had this entire morning routine that was based around, you know, how I would travel. And I think myself, as a, as a routine guy, it was really hard for me to adjust. And during the time as well, I had just moved back from the UK, landed in San Francisco, and I started with my job a month later, and then we went into a pandemic. So I didn’t even know anybody at my company, their team that I was managing and I was trying to get to know them over remote, over video. And I had a very hard time, like the first six to eight months, I was depressed; I felt like I was working, you know, 12, 16 hours a day, just trying to catch up, because the laptop was just in front of me all the time. I was trying to figure out my new routines and what I’m supposed to be doing, you know, you know, during the morning and during breaks, you know, but then like, after about like six or seven months into it, like, you start to figure those things out. And you start to like, really appreciate some of the things that you never had of, you know, because you’re constantly busy, I think before the pandemic, but now you can kind of slow down a little bit, take a deep breath, take things in; also, you know, being able to work wherever you want from a remote location also expands your freedom a bit as well. And I think you started to appreciate a lot of those things that you might never would have experienced if the pandemic never had happened.

Jordan  11:47

So I know, again, with chatting with people, a whole set of folks that talked about how that car ride home, or in your case like that, riding the tube, right, coming home, that was their opportunity to kind of transition, like to get out of my work brain and into my home brain and, like, allow that separation. But whenever that, like it’s as much as people don’t want to sit 40 minutes and traffic, which like, I don’t think anybody like, would say, “Oh, I like to do that. Let’s go sit in traffic for a while.” But it did serve a purpose of allowing you to transition. But then getting into an environment where like, you know, my bed is just right out of my video screen. You know what I mean? Like, like, literally tilt it a little bit like, hopefully I made it today. Like, like, where does that transition time happen? And like, do I transition? Or am I just plugged in all the time? So thinking about that, is that something you talked about being in the tube and different things like, how did you handle or come to place, or maybe you haven’t yet of like finding that ability to just turn it off and then transition?

Philip  12:58

I love that you brought that up. Because that transition period is, for me, back before the pandemic, that was where I would listen to my podcasts or throw my headphones in to just decompress some, you know, my Spotify playlist and, and having that abrupt change, I think did, was one of the biggest impacts to you know why, you know, I didn’t enjoy it for the first couple months. And something that I recently did, I think just about a year ago, and I’ve been sticking with it is… In my calendar, I have a “busy” schedule starting at 3pm every day, and it’s literally blocked from 3-5. And it’s actually, it’s literally titled “Busy – Ask to Schedule” because that’s how I start my, my transition period every day is I want to know what the final meetings that I have. So people don’t just put me back to back to back and then it’s dinnertime. And so I protect my time in my calendar where, if I do want to take a meeting with someone that’s really important, I’ll accept it. But I also asked people to ask me first. Otherwise, I take from 3-5 every day; I use that time to either go work out, ride my bike, or spend some time with my girlfriend when she gets home. And I need that transition period because that’s what keeps me mentally, like healthy, you know, throughout the day. And the reason I think some people want to think 3pm is really early, but I cover the Eastern Region. So I start work at like 6am Pacific Time.

Jordan  14:30

I like how you qualify that so, so people don’t think you’re just you’re waking up, tuning in at 11, signing out at 3, and saying “Peace out,” right? 

Philip  14:40

Yeah, but for me, like overall, like I need that buffer period, and I protect that religiously, or like I hold other people accountable for my calendar where I say, “Hey, if you want to meet with me, you need to ask me first at this particular time.”

Jordan  14:54

Well, how long did it take for you to sort of get onto that idea?

Philip  14:57

I think I started to realize when I started looking down at my clock one day, and it was like 6 or 7pm, and I was still online, and I started to realize for my mental health, like I was never happy coming to work the next day, right? There’s a concept that I had spoken to one of my mentors about. It was around availability, right? And she had asked me; she said, “Hey, Phil, like, how do you feel at the end of the day when you when you finish your day from work?” And I said, “What do you mean? Like, how do I feel?” She goes, “Well, what do you typically do? Like? What do your habits look like after the work? Do you sit on the couch and watch Netflix, like brainless TV for a couple hours? Are you going to go exercise? Like, do you go out and meet people? Like, what do you typically do Monday through Friday after work?” And my response was, “I literally just sit on the couch and veg out,” right? And she’s like, “That might be like, that may be something to look at, like from your availability standpoint.” She goes, “Okay, well, let me ask you a couple other questions, then. How are you showing up for people after a really tough day of work?” And I, again, I was like, “What do you mean?” She goes, “Well, when you have a team meeting the next morning, or when you have a one-on-one with one of your reps, like, are you fully engaged? Do you genuinely care? Like, are you showing up prepared, you know, to ask them questions and help drive their business?” And I was like, “Huh, that’s a good question.” And she said, “Well, maybe what about outside of your life? Like, how are you available for, you know, your, your significant other? Or your girlfriend?” And I was like, “Huh, that’s a good question.” “Like, when she comes home to tell you about your day, are you engaged in those conversations? Or do you just kind of nod your head and listen brainlessly? Or are you you know, emotionally available for her to, you know, field some of our communication.?” But then eventually, what she was saying is, you know, you need to be in tune with some of that stuff. Because if you’re constantly just drained, and you know, watching Netflix after work, because you just want to shut off and decompress. And that will start to lead to you to miss out on opportunities in your life, where you might say no to one of your friends that want to invite you out to dinner that day; you might not ask a particular question when you’re meeting with one of your teammates the next day because you’re so tired, because you don’t want to like communicate or talk with them, you know, much longer, or you might not engage in that conversation with your significant other. And that’s a moment where you miss out on an opportunity to build some type of relationship or further your relationship with that person. And if you continue to do that, you know, over weeks, months, a year, right, how many opportunities are you missing out on? Right? And that was kind of the realization that I had at the time to kind of draw this all back in is, is, like, I started to notice myself, like, disengaging and not being in tune, genuinely caring about people. And as a leader like that affected me. And so I said, I need to do something about this. And I said, I’m going to start putting these blocks on my calendars to help me transition, to help me decompress and get ready for the people that I care about. And we, you know, available for them.

Jordan  18:06

So how has your life changed since that moment? Now you don’t watch Netflix; you exercise all the time; you’re reading philosophy? And you’re you know, you’re engaged in the latest debate? Or, you know, is it like, what, what has since that day, what does life for Philip look like?

Philip  18:23

I feel like Elon Musk now, you know, no no, but…

Jordan  18:29

Is it reasonable? That was a reasonable conclusion. That’s, that’s what I thought you’d say.

Philip  18:34

So, I ride my bike a lot more. So I am doing a lot more physical activities, and it’s nice to enjoy the sunshine when it’s out. I feel like, you know, my relationship with my girlfriend has gotten a lot stronger. She’s actually moved in with me now. And we’ve lived together for the last six months. Yeah. And I also, you know… she’s in another room; she might be listening. So. But I think overall, my relationships across the board have been healthy or more healthier than it has been. You know, like, we just had a culture survey here at our company and our team. And, you know, we consistently beat metrics across, you know, the entire company of how our team performs in terms of culture perspective, are they happy? Are they getting what they need? And maybe it’s a stretch to make that correlation. But I would truly say I think I’ve been a lot more available and genuinely caring about the folks because I have the energy to do that now.

Jordan  19:41

Do you go into the office, or is it still all remote?

Philip  19:45

We go about once, once a week. I try to go in once a week but you know, sometimes, you know, that doesn’t always happen.

Jordan  19:52

So here’s what’s been really interesting to me about this whole transition back is… and I know there’s a massive movement now of like, let people choose, let people choose. But I’ve run across folks that the last thing they ever want to do is set foot in an office again, like, like, literally, you could not pay me enough dollars. And then I have people that are the exact opposite. They’re like, I have to get to the office, like, I want to see people; I want to interact face-to-face; I hate looking at everything through a Zoom computer, like, please, for the love of God and all that is holy, let me go back to the office, which was like surprising to me that like there actually is a huge movement of people that want to go back to the office. Are you somewhere in between? Are you an office guy? Are you a remote guy? Now that you figured it out, like where do you land in the scheme of things?

Philip  20:45

I lean more towards the remote side of work. But there’s also an extroverted side of me being also in sales and leading a junior sales team where I think office-based culture is valuable, especially for some of the younger guys or folks on my team. But, you know, ultimately, my philosophy behind this is wherever you’re comfortable, wherever you feel like you’re productive, you know, and if you’re taking care of yourself, wherever you might be like, those are probably the most important things to someone’s mental mindset and productivity at work. So whatever they want/ need, in terms of that, I’ll support.

Jordan  21:22

Do you feel like you can really get to know people if you’ve never met them in person? The reason I asked that is we just, we had somebody just leave our company to start their own, like coaching business, which, you know, we were excited about. And at all, it was like a very, it’s always nice when this happens when you have a happy exit. So it was a very like happy exit. But one of the things that that person said on her way out, which I didn’t even think about, she’s like, she’s like, “it’s amazing to think some of, like three-fourths of the people on this team I’ve never been in the same room with. But like, we’ve gone through life together for the last three years.” So anyway, as you’ve led your team, do you feel like you really get to know people, or there’s sort of a requirement that like, well, we should be in person at some point, if I’m actually going to know this individual.

Philip  22:16

From all the Netflix I’ve watched, you know, before, there was a show called Love is Blind. I don’t know if you’ve seen that or not, but there’s this whole concept around people who’ve never met before. And they speak to each other in their own rooms; they don’t get to see each other and then they, you know, ultimately decide if they want to get married after getting to know that person.

Jordan 22:35

Whoa. Whoa. Whoa.

Philip  22:38

For some reason, your question just made me think of that show. But to reel this back in, I think, yes, I think you can get to know someone virtually, without having to meet them in person. 

Jordan  22:51

But do you think it’s their whole self or just a piece of them?

Philip  22:57

It depends, right, I think the pieces that might be missing is like the questions you have like how tall is this person? Or, you know, you know, what is their vibe like? What is their energy, like in person, right? And I think sometimes a lot of that is you can’t really get that through a video call. But I think you can get to know someone really at that level if you’re willing to be vulnerable at that level. And that kind of goes back into the availability piece I was talking about earlier is… I think a lot of times I noticed on video calls or you do the generic, you know, chitchat in the beginning, you know, breaking the ice, “Hey, how’s your weekend? How are you?” Right? And then you go into the agenda, the business and then at the end, you might do a little bit more chitchat and close the call. I think something that you have to be conscious about, even when you’re in video is, or remote, I should say, is being vulnerable to ask the second and third layer questions. Right. You know, “Hey, how was your weekend?” “It was great.” “Cool. What did you get up to this weekend?” “You know, I went you know, hiking, you know, with my family.” “Oh, do you guys do that often? Is that something that you and your family do often?” “Yeah, sure.” “You know, what was the, you know, what was a cool moment are on that, like, did you guys get to see something cool?” I think if you continue to go layers and layers deeper into you know, getting to know somebody, like you’ll start to uncover some of those moments that build those genuine relationships. I think over video too many people kind of stay surface-level still. Granted, like you don’t want to be a creep and keep pressing when the conversation’s dead, but I do try over video to go layers deeper into getting to know somebody, and I think that will help build genuine relationships.

Jordan  24:43

I would say like that is one of my, I would just say like concerns of the era, quite frankly, is just this. I’m not sure… I’m not saying we can’t work virtually. And I’m not saying as well that, like you can’t have productive good things virtually. But there’s, there’s part of me that like, just knows the design of, of humanity is that we’re social creatures. And so this is my like old school anthropology degree coming out, like, I just can’t help myself like, like, we’re like sort of an odd creature because we, we actually desire to eat together. Some animals do, not all do, right? But like we actually we want to eat together, we want to like, there’s actually something about when someone’s crying, giving them a hug, right that there’s like, there’s a physical response that like relays into the emotions of the individual. And so anyway, I say that all to say is, like, my concern is, like, are we losing… are we gonna lose something socially here if we’re not in the same, the same room the same place the same? Like to shake Philip use hand, you know what I’m saying? Like, there’s, there’s actually a response that happens in that. So I’m not, I’m not sitting over here on my side of the screen arguing with you and saying, “You’re wrong. You can’t get to know people.” But I think like, at one point in time, when you went to work, everybody that you are in a physical room with people, and I’m simply saying, I think to have balance in your life, it’s good to go layers deep on a Zoom call. But when you hanging up, you should still go try to be with people, right? To get that, like real balance, is your kind of… I don’t know, do you have any thoughts on that? Or do you think I’m off my rocker?

Philip  26:39

No, no, I agree, I think to your point, because we’ve only met like once or twice even for our relationship. But the two times we met I think we broke bread and we ate and we had communion, right? I think that does have a big impact into how your relationship forms with somebody. And I think, to your point, it is important. I also think that if you have some of those in-person like meetups and relationships, that will help expedite how the relationship forms. I think if it’s pure virtual every single time, like that might even draw out the process. But I don’t think it’s impossible to have a genuine relationship, if that makes sense. 

Jordan  27:18

All right, man. Last question. We’re running out on time. Whenever you were getting, you’re in the tube and you’re on your way home and you were listening to a podcast or you had your Spotify on, what was your podcast? And what’s your playlist on Spotify?

Philip  27:34

I had a routine. I would always listen to like NPR first just to like understand, like what was going on in the world from a news perspective. And then there was a podcast I still listen to today called The Mindset Mentor. And they cover like various topics around just like business life and whatnot. In terms of like my music, this always reminds me of the question when people will like always post like their their top artists every year at the end of the year. And my top artist, it was actually Justin Bieber.

Jordan  28:09

You’re a Beebs guy?

Philip  28:10

I’m a Belieber, I guess. So, you know, it was probably something Justin Bieber-related or some hip hop. I’m a big like, old-school Kanye fan, listen to a lot of that. And, surprisingly, or not, I’m a big country fan, too. So I have like a lot of Luke Combs going on. I’m not surprised. Like they don’t you know, see me as a country fan, but I’m a big country guy.

Jordan  28:36

Well, listen, you… I always learn something new on these podcasts. And I’ll have to say pegging you as a country music guy was, was not something I expected to hear today.

Philip  28:48

I’m glad that I could surprise you, man. 

Jordan  28:50

All right, man. Well, hey, thanks for coming on today. I know we kept things pretty casual. But in some ways, even this conversation is a microcosm of what we’re talking about here is like, connecting with friends, having conversations, whether the consequences are high or low. Just checking in with people is incredibly important. You know, we can’t, we can’t do this thing alone. So I appreciate you coming on, chatting with me, and for everybody listening today, Thanks for… thanks for tuning in. We’ll see you next time.

Philip  29:23

Yeah, thank you, Jordan.

29:26

Hot dog. That was a great episode. Thanks for listening. If you want to learn more about Greaser Consulting or any information you heard on today’s episode, visit us online at www.greaserconsulting.com. Be sure to click the Follow button and the bell icon to be notified on the latest here at RevOps Therapy. Thanks and see you real soon.

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