Lockdown diary: Ian Jansen van Rensburg, VMware
When you’re focused on cloud and ‘digital workspace technology’, working during lockdown should be business as usual. VMware SA’s lead technologist Ian Jansen van Rensburg tells ITWeb how it’s been for him (and his dogs). It’s about having the discipline to occasionally take your eyes off the screen, go outside and stare at the sky, he says.
ITWeb: How have you organised your operations during the national lockdown?
Jansen van Rensburg: VMware is luckily one of those software vendors that have a ‘work from anywhere’ policy in place. IT equipped all employees with remote work capabilities long before the coronavirus struck. For many years, I have been working from the office, coffee shops, home and even in the car before some customer meetings. I can access any application from any device running on multiple infrastructures.
ITWeb: What technical considerations did you have to get right? Laptops and connectivity for staff, improving your VPN, beefing up security?
Jansen van Rensburg: With the VMware Mobile Workforce technology, it’s as simple as enrolling your device through an Internet portal and you have access to all your business-critical applications and systems. There’s even a remote desktop, if needed. I can take any ‘off the shelf’ laptop and have it back to my ‘working laptop’ in minutes.
If I have to give a negative, it would probably be that you’re always equipped to work from any place, and if you don’t have the self-discipline to give yourself breathing space, you will constantly work.
ITWeb: What HR issues did you have to consider? How many of your staff are now working from home? Have any staff been put on leave?
Jansen van Rensburg: All staff currently work from home. VMware is one of the best ‘caring’ companies to work for. Even before the official lockdown in South Africa, VMware suggested we work from home for our own safety and that of our family. I can be very productive from home but it does not replace seeing the whites of your customers’ eyes. That human interaction cannot be replaced with any video-conference call.
ITWeb: Which platform are you using for virtual meetings?
Jansen van Rensburg: Within VMware we make use of Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype. The corporate standard is Zoom but some customers prefer to make use of Teams or Skype. All these platforms work well and you can easily have conferences. I do prefer Zoom due to the stability on low latency Internet lines and also ease of use.
ITWeb:What other tools are you using to keep track of projects/teams/monitor employees’ work?
Jansen van Rensburg: There are several applications that we use within VMware. Some I would not like to mention due to confidentiality and non-disclosures but the obvious ones like Office 360, Salesforce, Concur and Workday are only a few among them. VMware also makes use of business intelligence tools to monitor and draw reports for the business and management.
ITWeb: How have your clients adapted to the new normal?
Jansen van Rensburg: Customers are remotely managing and administering their virtual environments. The focus now is to keep the lights on, and stability. Customers also make use of several platforms to connect with VMware. I have completed meetings on WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Teams, Skype and Zoom. WhatsApp is a quick and easy communication tool and actually more used as a business tool than people think. There are customer WhatsApp groups to keep everyone in sync and aligned.
ITWeb: What have you learned since the lockdown began? What has been a pleasant surprise, and what has been the biggest challenge to overcome?
Jansen van Rensburg: I have learned that my dogs love to play at specific times during the day and that lockdown gives me serious cravings for quick snacks (not good).
From a work perspective, all people now have their cameras on within calls (in the past they were mostly off) and people are getting better with how to run, manage and record remote calls.
We live in a connected world and because of this, the biggest challenge is to disconnect when it is needed. Read a book, go sit outside and stare at the sky, do anything that does not involve a screen in front of you. The human was not built to multitask at the levels we’re doing it. For example, while on a remote call, check the e-mail and WhatsApp messages plus have some business applications in the background (why not have Facebook and Twitter also open, just in case?)… This multi-tasked, fast-paced, constant screen staring can lead to anxiety and a feeling of never switching off. People constantly want to check their smart devices as if something is chasing them.
Lockdown can increase anxiety and depression in people. Not being able to be social in coffee shops and restaurants, and constantly having to make use of technology for everything. Stay safe and try to disconnect from everything when needed.