Where to work, how to work, and taking back your time with Jeremy Hyman

  • Jeremy Hyman, principal of Jeremy Hyman Associates, serves as a fractional CTO for companies across the globe. His role gives smaller companies that don’t need a full-time CTO the benefits of a part-time, tech-savvy consultant. 

  • According to Jeremy, the best work environment varies by industry and how much collaboration is required. Some in-office time helps tech companies flourish by staying close to customer needs. 

  • Jeremy believes that the best tech companies are those that put the customer first, not the shareholder. He anticipates an incoming wave of enabler technology that will free up more of people’s time. 

Jeremy Hyman’s work frequently has him globe-trotting, splitting his time between Israel, the UK, and wherever else his work takes him.

As the Principal of Jeremy Hyman Associates, he helps clients build out their optimal tech stacks. For companies looking to do more with less, his fractional CTO services are a huge benefit. 

Since the onset of COVID, Jeremy has observed many businesses move in this direction. Throughout the pandemic, his firm saw 35-40% growth—but Jeremy is careful not to take all the credit for himself. 

“I have been fortunate to surround myself with some very talented associates who have got complementary skills. It's not about winning new clients from the people we know. It's about winning clients from the people we don't know and showing them that independent advice in the technology arena is not only valuable in terms of technology, but also invaluable for their practice,” Jeremy says. 

In his work, Jeremy is happy to report that companies tend to grow in size and profitability simply by choosing their tech solutions more thoughtfully. On episode 35 of the Accounting Leaders Podcast, Jeremy chats with Karbon CEO Stuart McLeod about all aspects of getting the job done in a post-COVID world, including where to work for each industry, how to work productively, and what tech tools help bring success.

The setting: where to work

With all of the travel and consulting that Jeremy does, it seems he’d have a good perspective on what makes the ideal work environment. In their conversation, Stuart asks Jeremy which environment seems best: the office, home, or a hybrid? 

Jeremy’s answer is a variation on the classic response: it depends.

Although some tech professionals aren’t known for being social, Jeremy points out it’s dangerous to always work remotely because of the risks of siloing—that is, being totally removed from how others think.

“Good software professionals get in the head of their customers,” Jeremy tells Stuart on the podcast. “They don't just write clever code. If you're in UI, or in UX, the more you understand what your client is trying to achieve, the better the code will be.” 

Given this reasoning, Jeremy feels that tech firms are better suited to having at least some in-office time. Stuart agrees, as Karbon works on a hybrid system. But what about the best environment for Jeremy as a tech consultant?

“I've worked at home for I don't know how long,” Jeremy says. “Offices to me just mean paying rates and rent to someone that doesn't deserve it most of the time.”

Trading the high-rise for the metaverse

Nowadays, there’s another work location growing in popularity: the metaverse. Considering how many companies moved to online meetings as a result of COVID, could the metaverse be the new frontier for virtual meetings? Jeremy isn’t so sure. 

“At least one or maybe a couple of firms have opened up virtual offices in the metaverse,” Jeremy observes.“Are they just worried that someone else is gonna get the domain name and use it? Do you think you're on the right track and that we all want a virtual office? Is it a bit of FOMO? I can't work it out myself. I think it's all a bit early, but that might just be me being a bit grumpy.”

Despite his skepticism, Jeremy sees the benefit of more enhanced virtual meetings: 

What you get back in return [for working remotely] is the most valuable commodity for any professional, which is time. The time you didn't have to spend commuting, the time you didn't have to spend parking, and the time you didn't have to spend waiting for a train or plane.
Jeremy Hyman, Jeremy Hyman Associates

Besting yourself: how to work

When it comes to productivity, it’s all too easy to be your own worst enemy. Phones, email, pings from coworkers, and of course, social media, can cause anyone to lose focus. While there are many strategies for limiting distractions, Jeremy and Stuart share different ways of managing their minds and making the most of their days.  

For Stuart, long flights without Wi-Fi can lead to some of his best work. But when he needs to do deep work on the ground, he’s a fan of the Pomodoro Technique. Named for the tomato-shaped timer used by its founder, this method consists of 25 working minutes, followed by a five-minute break. Rinse and repeat until you’ve completed four 25-minute sessions. 

Jeremy takes a very different approach: he uses a completely separate workstation.

“What I've been experimenting with is having another desk, another computer, and no internet, no nothing, just me,” Jeremy says. “I allow myself to go over there and be creative and think for an hour, two hours, three hours—whatever it’s going to be—and produce output without interruption and distraction.”

Jeremy’s idea stems from his experience as an Orthodox Jew. Observing Sabbath involves taking a complete break from technology. While he still uses tech in his separate workstation, he reduces the possibility of distraction. 

Some might fear backlash from not being readily available. But Jeremy has received positive feedback from clients who receive his ‘out of office’ message whenever he’s in deep work. 

“Clients understand it. If they try and get hold of you, and you say, ‘I'm sorry, but I'm thinking about something and doing some work,’ I think most of them feel like ‘Great, I should be doing that too.’”

Recommended reading: 4 ways to make deep work happen more often

Tech that isn’t saving you time, isn’t working

As a fractional CTO, Jeremy is experienced in pulling together tech solutions for companies across the globe. His aim is to use tech not to create more noise, but to give back valuable time. 

It's not about how many operations a second you can squeeze out of something, or the bandwidth—because to me, those are commodity items. The real difference is in close alignment between technology and people, and what motivates people in the behaviors we want to drive.
Jeremy Hyman, Jeremy Hyman Associates

If the technology isn’t ultimately saving a company time, it isn’t working the way it should. 

“We have become slaves to our technology, rather than leveraging it,” Jeremy observes. “And I think we are seeing a revolution where that gets upended. … I think that the next wave of technology is the enabler technology: the computer does more, so that the human can [be] a human. That is a mantra that hasn't changed in my 25 years of doing this. It's just that technology is catching up with supporting it.”

Jeremy and Stuart agree that the best tech companies focus on serving the customer first, and then the shareholder. If the customer is kept at the forefront of the company’s mind, the shareholder will ultimately benefit, as the product will be well-received. 

Moving forward in a post-COVID world 

Stuart asks how the firms Jeremy consults fared in the pandemic. In general, he feels they did well, though they’re now facing major exhaustion. 

“They've been running [at] 120%, for two years. And now they need a rest, they need a break, they need a bit of a reset. They need some time to recover.”

For Jeremy, managing expectations is key to staving off burnout, as well as giving staff time to regain focus. Reflecting on recent economic trends, he believes the Great Resignation is “an overreaction.” Ideally, leaders should focus on having “an honest conversation” with their team and clients.

“Go away for a week. Put on your ‘out of office’, say, ‘We're having a week off to reset, so that we can work for you better when we come back. If you really need me, you can text me. But otherwise, please leave me alone for a week’,” Jeremy says. “I guarantee you will not lose a client.” 

In the end, staff who feel valued and heard are more likely to stick around. With Jeremy’s recipe of time-saving tech, the appropriate work environment, and productivity hacks, those valuable assets of time and people will naturally fall into place.

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