The Pandemic Work Diary of a Video-Streaming C.E.O.
Anjali Sud has never been busier. As the chief executive of Vimeo — a video-streaming platform with 175 million registered users — Ms. Sud is dealing with swelling traffic as the world, sheltering in place, looks for virtual connections.
“We woke up a few weeks ago to unprecedented demand,” she said. “We’re seeing increased usage across our products of two times, five times, 10 times.”
Ms. Sud, 36, a former investment banker and marketing director, became the platform’s chief in 2017 and changed the nature of the business — making it less of an entertainment streaming service that competed with the likes of Netflix, and more of a hub for content creators. Vimeo generated nearly $200 million in revenue last year, mostly from subscriber fees. It’s owned by IAC, which also operates Match, Tinder, Care.com and the Daily Beast.
Ms. Sud said that churches, nonprofits and fitness instructors have all expanded their use of Vimeo’s tools, and that the platform has also seen a spike in content as varied as programs for children and the live-streaming of funerals.
Though she is usually based in New York City, Ms. Sud is now staying with her parents in Michigan while caring for her infant son and managing the company’s more than 600 employees.
“I live in a world of perpetual trade-offs,” she said. “I can no longer operate at 100 percent capacity like I’m used to as a C.E.O., as a mother, as a wife, as a daughter, as a colleague. I think what I’m learning is that every day, I have to pick the things to let go, and I have to know I’m going to drop some balls, and that’s OK.”
7:30 a.m. Wake up to cries on the baby monitor. My 18-month-old son, Saavan, is ready for a new day. We have our ritual of diaper change, oatmeal with blueberries and a Sesame Street dance-off. (I’m Abby, he’s Elmo.) I FaceTime with my little sister, who just had a baby in Singapore.
8:30 a.m. Chai with my mom before she goes to work. I’m sheltering in Flint, Mich., my hometown. A silver lining of this crisis is getting to spend time with my parents, who both work in health care. My mom oversees a hospital internal medicine residency program, and her residents are on the front line. She tells me that they are both brave and afraid.
9 a.m. Zoom call with our chief operating officer and head of human resources. We discuss our new “Vimeo Virtual” series to help employees stay connected through Slack challenges, lunch-and-learns, round tables and online games. This week’s challenge is #socialDISHtancing and everyone posts pics of what they’re eating. I learn we have an increasing number of employees who have lost family members to coronavirus. We decide to start a charitable donation program for anyone going through bereavement.
11:55 a.m. Pass Saavan to my husband, Matt. He also works demanding hours, so we’ve been alternating coverage. It’s hectic but we’re also discovering hidden strengths — he makes a mean hot dog, and I’m not bad with brownies out of the box.
12 p.m. Our chief marketing officer tells me about a grant program for Vimeo filmmakers to produce videos telling the human stories behind small businesses that have been affected by the pandemic. Everyone from award-winning animators to Oscar-nominated directors have made submissions on entrepreneurs that have inspired them, from an iconic comic book shop in Brooklyn to a flower shop in Budapest to an African contemporary dance company in Minnesota.
2 p.m. Review our P&L and latest business outlook. Small businesses, churches, gyms, freelancers, conferences — everyone is using video to stay connected. We decide to increase investment in customer support and technical infrastructure. We also discuss how to weather the economic downturn, and steps we can take to protect employees and prevent layoffs, like slowing hiring and reducing marketing spend.
4 p.m. Weekly call with the chief executives of our parent company, IAC. We go around the virtual room and share how our people and businesses are doing. We talk about team morale and productivity, and what resumption could look like when the time comes — from increased remote work to office layouts and capacity.
6 p.m. I take my daily walk around the neighborhood I grew up in. It’s a precious window of me time.
9 p.m. I check our WFH Slack channel to see what’s trending, and find this welcome distraction: The Lonely Show. It’s cool to see my colleagues using their creativity to spark laughter in such tense times.
3:40 a.m. Saavan is wailing. Turns out he just dropped his pacifier and wants it back. Crisis averted.
6 a.m. Coffee + Bob Dylan playlist + catch up on email. The sun rises and I spot a deer in our backyard. This time last year I was in Tel Aviv, about to acquire an Israeli video start-up. I miss jumping on planes, crowded bars and sushi delivery.
10 a.m. Weekly executive meeting. Easter was our biggest live-streaming weekend ever, with 75 times the volume we typically see. Many of our teams are working around the clock to manage the scale, and I worry about burnout. We’ve bulked up our mental health programs with counseling services and workshops. I’m pleased to see employees taking advantage, but I know more people are struggling. I look at my own team on the screen and the little faces popping in and out. My reports are all working parents, and half don’t have child care right now. I decide to send them care packages.
12 p.m. FaceTime my nanny, who is with her sister in Brooklyn. She’s worried we don’t have enough toys in Flint, and I add a Fisher Price vacuum cleaner to my Amazon cart.
2 p.m. Quick catch-up with the team behind Vimeo Create, our new video-making app. We just launched 100 new social media templates to help businesses stay connected to their customers during the pandemic. Today we look at themes for remote work tips, contactless delivery, donations, at-home fitness and online learning.
7 p.m. It’s taco night. Like many, I find myself drawn to comfort food and nostalgia. We drink gin, watch “Law & Order” reruns and play board games. I’m wearing my mom’s velour pajamas and feel like a teenager again. It’s kinda nice.
6:30 a.m. Chai with my dad. He’s a surgeon and entrepreneur, and the person who originally inspired me to get into business. He’s also an aspiring poet, and he reads me something he wrote to capture his feelings about the virus.
11 a.m. Meeting with IAC to review funding for the rest of the year. We are growing quickly but are not yet profitable. We’re fortunate that our owners have strong cash reserves and a long-term investment horizon. We discuss a couple different scenarios for how things could play out. It strikes me that precision is impossible right now, and that as an organization our most important strength will be our agility.
12 p.m. I tune in a few minutes late to our monthly “staff picks” screening. Over 70 percent of our filmmakers say that being recognized has helped them receive paid future work. Today was our first fully remote screening, and each filmmaker did an intro video from their home. My favorites were a sci-fi film about gender identity, an animated project about food, and a documentary about Betye Saar.
3 p.m. Review engineering plan to scale our infrastructure. We’re already delivering over 2 terabits per second of streaming video — that’s more than 60 DVDs’ worth. But every hour more people are moving their businesses entirely online, so we’ve got to prepare for more.
4 p.m. Check in on my girlfriends via text. We’ve been attempting the weekend virtual hangout with varying degrees of success. A few of my friends are working in critical response roles — one is on Boris Johnson’s Covid-19 response communication team in London, and another is at the Hospital for Special Surgery.
6 p.m. Feed Saavan dinner, which ends with strawberry yogurt smeared all over his hair and mine. Bath time.
9:30 a.m. Vimeo Global Town Hall. This is the most important part of my job right now: to be a visible, reassuring presence, and to be both optimistic and real. Today the message I open with is: Hang in there. We’ll get through this together. I update the company on what’s working and what isn’t, and we spend most of the time on anonymous Q. and A. Not surprisingly, the top questions are on mental health resources and office reopening.
11 a.m. Matt tells me that Saavan has just said new words: “cookie” and “more.” The first I interpret as a sign of good taste.
1 p.m. Virtual lunch with some new hires. Even as we’ve scaled, I like to get to know each person who joins us.
2 p.m. I attend a closed-door C.E.O. round table with 14 leaders across the retail, tech, health and nonprofit sectors. It’s hosted by one of the top women in business, whom I’d never met before. She talks about her experience leading through crises over the decades, and it dawns on me that I’m in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’ve been so caught up in the day-to-day that it’s been easy to only look out as far as the next quarter or year. But in many ways, this experience will test and shape my instincts, character and values for the rest of my career.
5 p.m. Weekly happy hour with the leadership team. It’s BYOB of course, from negronis to merlot. Governor Cuomo has just extended New York’s shutdown to May 15. The drinks are stronger than usual.
8 p.m. I get sucked into the McMillion$ docuseries. Fascinating. Yet, I’m eager for the day when streaming shows isn’t the only thing to do on a Thursday night.
Interviews are conducted by email, text and phone, then condensed and edited.