We talk to Eli about music, nomad work, and very competent coworkers
So you are one of the musicians in the company. Could you tell me about that?
When I started playing music I was 15 and really liked punk, and I was a drummer in several punk bands around Spain. Drums and percussion are still my instruments of choice, but about three years ago I started playing guitar and composing songs, mostly in Spanish and Portuguese.
You were saying you write your songs in Spanish and Portuguese - which one is more “natural” for you? Which language do you think in?
My parents are Spanish and always talk to me in Spanish, but I grew up in Brazil. I learned to speak Portuguese, went to a French school, and learned to read and write in French. I think in both Portuguese and Spanish, though. Those are my primary languages.
I like you just rattling off knowing three languages like it’s nothing. How many languages do you know at this point?
Five fluently, but I’m also working on Korean. That’s more elementary right now, though.
What’s good about working at CBH?
Everybody I work with has a superpower. By that I mean that everyone around me can do a lot of things generally, but can also do at least one thing very, very well. So you end up working with someone on a project, and suddenly you find out that this generally competent person is also a very specific genius. And that happens all the time, with everybody you work with.
The other thing is the speed. You are planning a project with the team, and then you are already started on it.
You get that already feel a lot - oh, I’m already making real progress. It’s four days later and you already fixed the problem. There aren’t any roadblocks, you can really just go in and make things happen.
Oh, and just the closeness of the work environment. It’s remote, but there are a lot of people I work with and like a lot. You see people taking trips to visit other people and work together. That’s really hard to get in a remote environment, and we have it.
How often do you find your week ending up completely different than you thought it would be?
That can happen any week; you have an idea of what you are going to try and do, but it ends up different. That’s why it’s important to have a session every week reviewing that; it’s a normal practice for us to have a weekly meeting where we look at the past week, reflect on our achievements and plan for the following week. We talk about new objectives, and what blocked us from doing as much as we could have.
As a rough estimate, I usually end up completing about 70% of the things I planned on getting done at the beginning of the week. Sometimes there are emergencies to handle and I’m the best person to handle them, or things break unexpectedly that I’m in the best position to fix.
I’ve had jobs where completing 65% of what we had planned at the beginning of the week would be considered superhuman.
Part of why 65% isn’t that bad of a number is that our standard is “unreasonably fast”. We are always planning to get an unreasonable amount of things done any given week, because our growth means there’s always a lot to plan for, and a lot of unexpected issues to solve. So it’s 65% of a lot. You still want to get to 100%, and we often do. But you have to plan on unreasonable results to have a chance at getting them.
The 100% weeks must be crazy weeks in product.
Product is a really creative environment. Sometimes work really hard to get a big, urgent thing done and it wears you out. But there’s a period of recovery; you can’t keep up that pace all the time, and the days after that you do a little less. At Clipboard that’s fine because we aren’t a regular job where everything is happening in a 9-5; there’s flexibility. People are looking more at what you accomplish and less at the time you spend on the clock.
There was an example of this from a few months ago. I learned my university is doing a career fair. So I signed up, and that ended up being an entire week of work for me. We ended up participating in two career fairs. Bo (Clipboard’s president) taught a master class. I spent time deciding who was going to do our pitch and who was going to be on our “speed dating” panel.
It was a lot of work, and not just for me. But finding the right people to hire is important, so it was something where I could go to George (Editor’s note: George Markoulakis, Clipboard’s head of product) and say “can we spend some effort and resources on this” and got an “absolutely, let’s do it”.
That was one of the big differences for me that I noticed right away when I came to Clipboard Health. We are willing to spend a lot of time on hiring compared to any other company I’ve worked for.
Our threshold right now is that anyone who we hire for the product team needs to be better at something than anyone else we have on the team, to bring something we don’t have right now. And right now we have some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever worked with, so sometimes I do an interview and say “this was great, but he’s not Alex Wong.”
You have to do math better than Jaron, or have a better business sense than me, or do metrics better than Alex Wong, or be better at automation than Will. And these are all brilliant people; it’s a stacked team.
It’s like trying to join the ‘96 Chicago Bulls.
It’s a US Basketball team. It was one of the teams Michael Jordan played for.
Ben, I’m from Spain.
You are in San Francisco right now though, right?
Yes! I had some extra time after a product team on-site and I work remotely, so I was able to just spend a few weeks here.
How do you like it?
It’s been great to meet new people and discover the city, but I think I’m itching to go to a new place already.
What town do you like better? Where’s your favorite place you’ve ever visited?
I think I miss whatever place I’m not. Barcelona is amazing, it’s this combination of safe, international and European. It’s a very chill artistic environment.
But there’s a square in Mexico City called Plaza Cibeles, it has all these plants and great street food. I love it and I miss it. But I think I miss the places I’m not; in Barcelona I missed Mexico City, and now that I’m in San Francisco I miss both.