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Jack Brooks, Head of Operations at Deazy

As is the startup experience, Jack Brooks' role as Head of Operations at Deazy covers a whole host of areas. Ultimately it’s making sure Deazy runs as smoothly as possible. Jack is definitely kept busy, handling everything from legal related issues, or sales processes, all the way through to compliance and information security - there is a lot going on.

Way of Working at Deazy

At Deazy, a tech build platform enabling cost-effective, flexible and scalable development services, flexibility is baked into their DNA. Deazy has 3 main hubs across the UK - Exeter, Bristol and London, and are flexible about where employees work from, whether it be from one of the hubs or remotely. They try to make the most of these hubs Wednesday to Friday - this is the intention, but not the obligation.

The purpose of their office is to provide a space for social interaction and belonging, which means they aim to have fewer regular meetings on in-office days, so there is more space for social interaction, impromptu short interactions in the office (for quick questions, feedback and ideation), and important 1:1s. Although Jack enjoys coming into the office on occasion, he says the one thing he can’t stand about coming in is needing to take the tube.

When asked, ‘is there anything that would make you return to the office 100% of the time?’, Jack’s response was ‘No’.

“If there was a football pitch to use at any time (with Arsenal’s invincibles ready to play), a bunch of niche metal bands playing live, and a freezer stocked with ice cream, then I may be tempted.”

He says, there are many reasons why he wouldn’t want to return to the office… some of which include, the lost productivity from time commuting, the lack of deep focus time, and most importantly, you can go a whole week without seeing your loved ones, which he emphasised can’t be good in the long run.

Which values associated with a hybrid environment do you identify most with?

Intentionality. To make hybrid work you have to be intentional, individually, and as a team. It takes work. We encourage team members to be proactive and protect their time so that they have space for critical interactions - be that for social connections, collaboration or creative ideation.

Within our hybrid working environment we also want to make sure our team is empowered to schedule their time and work efforts as effectively as possible. We have worked hard at the start of this year to re-baseline our calendars, and clear costly, regular meetings, and asked everyone to justify every regular meeting they have. We have done this to make the most of remote and in-office time. It is still early doors, and a learning process, but we are excited for more space for the team to be effective, and grow as a result.

As a hybrid team, how do you reinforce company values across the organization?

We have 4 values at Deazy, these are incredibly important to our team and we often see them as the secret to your success. Our values are:

  • Seek Audacious Adventure
  • Empower Collective Genius
  • Follow Your Wisdom
  • Be Radically Candid

There are a host of ways we reinforce them across the business, for example:

  • The first meeting any new joiner has at Deazy is to go through our vision, mission and purpose as well as our values. Our aim is for all new team members to understand how interlinked our vision and values are.
  • We run dedicated training on our values, how best to live them out in our day-to-day lives, and then measure how well we are performing against our values
  • When we give feedback (formally or informally, positive or developmental); our feedback has to be anchored in our values

We don’t want to stand still and assume our culture remains consistent as we grow. Over the past 12 months we have doubled in size and we’ve just successfully raised £5m in Series A funding with Puma Private Equity, which we know will further accelerate our growth. This growth and expansion has highlighted the need to continually protect and enhance our culture, particularly as a hybrid business, otherwise we could very quickly lose sight of what we are aiming to achieve as a business.

What are 2 of your best practices you use to foster engagement and employee development in the hybrid working environment?

First, I think engagement is about linking the problem we are solving at Deazy to our strategy and culture, and within that continually checking that we are still on track. As I mentioned earlier, it is easy to lose sight of this in a hybrid culture, so we have clear OKRs for each team member that all ladder up to our wider business goals. We also meet as a whole company on a quarterly basis for a refresh on the problem we are solving, our strategy and culture. During these meetings we are always striving to talk about what we need to change and how we can further improve.

Second, 1:1s. These are the most important regular meetings we have in the business. We make sure to keep these check-ins regular, to ensure we are as aligned as possible within our hybrid team. 1:1s generally vary in agenda but they always cover:

  • A check-in on how every employee is doing,
  • A review of progress against our goals
  • An opportunity to give and receive feedback.

I think this final point is especially important. To keep our team engaged we work hard on a sense of community and openness where each member feels comfortable to provide feedback to anyone else in the business.

How do you schedule who is in the office, making sure that the right people are in together?

This is hard to do well. We are continually learning how best to do this. We have recently re-jigged our priorities on this as we grow, as it is getting harder to coordinate.

So, our intention is to prioritise in-office days on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.  The aim is to have fewer regular meetings on these days so there is more space for social interaction, impromptu meetings and collaborative work with the right people.

We decided to make this change and become more organized with our in-person and online days because we were finding that people were in the office all day while having calls meaning they did not have a chance to interact with coworkers in person. We really value the spontaneity and freedom for discussion an in-person work environment creates so making these changes are really important to us.

Do you use Slack to keep your team in the loop or another communication tool?

This is definitely a timely question… we have used loads of tools (Slack, Teams, Skype, and have never truly “cracked” communication holistically - has anyone?!); the reality is there is a need to use a couple of tools to work well with clients, our delivery partners and internally. We are continually improving how we communicate, and review the tools we use to make sure they remain fit-for-purpose.

One tool we have adopted in 2022 is Lattice. It is still early on, but this has been helpful at setting out our business, department and individual goals, and tracking our progress against them, as well as giving us more structure to our 1:1s.

Ultimately, keeping everyone in the loop still boils down to clear conversations at a 1:1 level, ensuring we are heading in the same direction.

— If you enjoyed Jack’s insights on his team's transition to hybrid, share this post on social and tag a hybrid or remote leader who you feel is an accomplished peep and deserves a little extra recognition. —