Last Wednesday, I had several meetings with different people across the country that otherwise would have required extensive travel. But instead, I spent the entire day at my desk talking to everyone on my computer through Zoom.
Zoom is a video conferencing web service that’s so easy you don’t even have to worry about setup. It’s revolutionized the way more than 300 companies do business today. As Noel Cohen, Zoom’s senior accounts executive, explains, “It’s better to have a good phone call than a mediocre video conference call.”
Zoom’s founder, Eric Yuan, was the head engineer of Webex, which was once the most popular video conferencing service. But Yuan saw room for improvement, particularly to make the system “device agnostic,” so that it would work on any device or operating system.
He founded Zoom in 2011, incorporating those changes and developing the new service for two years before launch. “What is revolutionary about Zoom is that the other services are bad,” says Noel.
I’ve known Noel for more than a decade. He once worked for SBIFF as festival coordinator, and he’s one of the most enthusiastic people I’ve ever met. When he has a good idea, which is quite often, or is excited about a project, his whole face starts turning red.
For seven years, he worked at Citrix as an enterprise account executive. While at Citrix he meant Sean Chun, who is now in charge of international sales at Zoom. Together, they’ve been able to recruit employees from Citrix, Lynda.com, and other technology companies in Santa Barbara to join their team. “We’re doubling our staff in the next year,” promises Noel.
Born and raised in Santa Barbara, Noel, who refers himself as a “tech bro dad,” and his family live on the Westside.
“I kissed a lot of frogs before I got to Zoom,” he confides.
Noel stops video conferencing for a moment to answer the Proust Questionnaire.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
About five years ago, I was able to change the trajectory of my life. My career had stalled and I had to make changes with many of my relationships. At the end of that period I ended up meeting the love of my life.
What is your current state of mind?
Anxious about the election but optimistic about all of the opportunities that change will bring.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Displaced anger. I understand that Americans are pretty upset but we seem to display it in strange ways.
What do you like most about your job?
Those moments when you get solve a problem that no one else can solve.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being with my wife Emily near clear blue water, fried plantains, and a motorcycle.
What is your greatest fear?
My family getting hurt, specifically by a car or other motor vehicle.
Who do you most admire?
My grandfather. He was a World War II vet and had some great stories. Although he survived this horrible, violent experience, he was a very gentle and generous person.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Leaving the kids with the grandparents overnight.
What is the quality you most like in people?
Sincerity, when people actually tell you what they think regardless if it hurts.
What do you most value in friends?
What is your most marked characteristic?
Resilience. I’ve been through quite a bit in my life and have managed to succeed.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Which talent would you most like to have?
To be an excellent writer.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
To have more of an even temperament and not be such an emotional windsock.
Where would you most like to live?
Amsterdam! The city is beautiful, people are incredibly nice, and you can bike everywhere.
What is your most treasured possession?
When Emily and I got engaged, she gave me a BMW motorcycle. It is a 1975 BMW R75/6. When she gave me that, it brought back all the memories of when my parents got me a dirt bike as a kid.
What makes you laugh the most?
The first two seasons of Arrested Development always do the trick. It has never gotten old for me.
What is your motto?
Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
T.E. Lawrence. I find his life story fascinating and more relevant than ever with all of the turmoil in the Middle East.
On what occasion do you lie?
I consistently tell my toddler that the television is broken.