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The Future of Communication Technology: Eric Hanson of Fuze On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

An Interview With David Liu

At Fuze, we are currently focused on how our technology can help level the playing field for employees who choose to go into the office and those who work remotely. The days of simply throwing remote team members on a big TV screen needs to be upgraded in order to provide distributed workers with an equally engaging experience. That’s where Fuze comes in to hopefully save the day, offering a flexible and blended experience across different communications methods. And that’s where our focus is and will be throughout 2021.

The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on…What’s next? What’s just around the corner?

In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Hanson, Chief Marketing Officer at Fuze, a leading cloud-based communications provider for the modern global enterprise. As CMO, Eric is responsible for setting the company’s global marketing strategy and overseeing demand generation, brand, and product & customer marketing. Prior to his role as CMO, Eric served as the VP of Marketing at FuzeBox, which was acquired by ThinkingPhones in 2015, later assuming the Fuze brand. Prior to Fuze, Eric was the CEO and cofounder of SPY, a creative studio servicing advertising agencies and motion picture studios which sold in 2009.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate.

Prior to my current role as Chief Marketing Officer at Fuze, I was the VP of Marketing at FuzeBox, which was acquired by ThinkingPhones in 2015. ThinkingPhone later assumed the brand. Before that, I was the CEO and cofounder of SPY, a creative studio servicing advertising agencies and motion picture studios where I got to work on campaigns with Nike, Toyota, Apple and on motion pictures including Iron Man, Hunger Games, and Avatar. Being in the visual effects industry gave me a taste of the hybrid work model back in the early 2000s when the concept was new and foreign to most workers. In my role, I was managing artists from around the world while working from remote studios, our headquarters in San Francisco, and from my home office. The biggest challenge we had back then was that we lacked a solution that enabled our hyper distributed teams to stay engaged and connected on the work. That’s why I made the decision to come to Fuze and help communications technology and hybrid workflows become more mainstream.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of different people over the years. One story that sticks out was when I was consulting with Sony, their visual effects partner, and a prominent director for the movie Godzilla. This was before the age of mainstream video conferencing tools, and at the time, we were trying to film the movie in New York while all the visual effects artists were in Los Angeles. Our concern was filming the scale of Godzilla in computer graphics (CG) and effectively finding a way to get the feed from NY, transfer and overlay the CG in LA, and then send it back so the director could confirm the scale in real time. Working to solve this scenario demonstrated the need for better communications tools, sparking an interest in how collaboration technologies could reduce the time to market of ideas and new products or services, ultimately leading me to Fuze.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There are so many great quotes to choose from. One that I go back to is “Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.” I’m a big believer in that mantra and it’s something that I frequently reinforce with my team, given the pace of our market these days. In my role as CMO at Fuze, I also think a lot about the concept of momentum, and how it affects business. You can’t stop momentum, and the work we’re doing at Fuze, especially with our size and the weight we pull compared to some of our competitors, can’t be slowed down or ignored.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m grateful to have worked with Jeff Cavins, CEO of Outdoorsy and the founder of FuzeBox. Jeff is one of the most influential people I’ve had the opportunity to work with. Jeff is a true entrepreneur. I worked with him early in my career at two other companies and he served as an important mentor to me.

Jeff taught me the importance of being a charismatic leader that lives at the intersection between technology evangelism and customer value. Early in his career, Jeff was a Sony Broadcast Engineer. He transitioned to sales and was incredibly successful. He left to start his own company in Seattle in the early 1990s. That is when I met and worked for him the first time. He taught me the importance of driving customer value first and foremost, and of being a trusted advisor. The kind of advisor a company wants to take in front of their board. It was a great lesson for me early in my career, fueling many of my achievements.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I think it is really important to be an empathetic leader in every aspect of your professional life. Everywhere I go, I’m focused on being a catalyst for change and I always try to find ways to lift people up. From a work perspective, I try to do this on a daily basis, whether it’s giving coworkers an extra boost of confidence or helping someone on my team reach their short and long term goals. In the end, empowering your team and spreading positivity helps to shape a better work environment and it fosters goodness in the world.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

At Fuze, we are changing the way people think about how they communicate with others. People are rarely completing their work alone these days and effective collaboration is crucial to get projects and tasks done. At Fuze, our unified communications technology forms the connective tissue between individuals to get their work done, whether that’s working across internal teams or with external vendors. Every day, we are working to solve the question: “How do you replace proximity when proximity is impossible?” This pressing question has become more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic and it remains top of mind for many businesses that will shift to a hybrid work model after the pandemic subsides.

At Fuze, we are currently focused on how our technology can help level the playing field for employees who choose to go into the office and those who work remotely. The days of simply throwing remote team members on a big TV screen needs to be upgraded in order to provide distributed workers with an equally engaging experience. That’s where Fuze comes in to hopefully save the day, offering a flexible and blended experience across different communications methods. And that’s where our focus is and will be throughout 2021.

How do you think this might change the world?

Communication is always changing. The biggest trend we’ve seen in 2020 and into 2021 is the need to have empathy and the need for a solution that can effectively replicate workplace proximity when proximity isn’t there. As humans, we thrive on interaction, especially with our coworkers. Better collaboration between colleagues at work translates to better results in the work being produced. If we do our job here at Fuze and make up for things that disrupt the immediacy or intimacy of human interaction in the workplace, we’ll have created a solution that will empower the workforce from the front line to the back office, and enable organizations with a level of agility and continuity to face whatever business disruption come next.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

We have all heard the cliche about moderation. It turns out that it is true. The biggest challenge with technology is that it can power human interaction, whether it is communication or social media platforms. If unchecked, it can tip the scales between healthy and unhealthy behavior. At Fuze, we never want our technology to cross the line from being a product of productivity to an addictive aspect of technology that replaces meaningful human interaction entirely. When technology replaces human interaction, that’s when it goes too far.

At Fuze, we focus on balance. For example, as leaders, we let our employees know that they don’t always have to be on video in order to be engaged. We have features in our products that intelligently manage presence to help people automatically manage their availability based on timezone. There’s a way to enable healthy collaboration and interaction without overdoing it and causing fatigue.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

There were a few tipping points when we witnessed the technology making real breakthroughs. One was with the convergence of asynchronous collaboration and team messaging in early 2016 when we brought all these together into one truly unified platform at Fuze. We totally reimagined the meaning of unified communications with seamless switching between chat, calling and meeting, and that was very disruptive. A second breakthrough was when we demonstrated how video and content-sharing could be weaved into traditional calling. With this breakthrough, we broke down the traditional modalities of calling, which will continue to be important for workers in the future. The latest is really around how we break down the traditional unified communications and contact center categories, instead introducing blended experiences that combine the two, enriching communications for frontline and traditional workers and how they interface with one another and their own customers.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Blending different forms of communication is important for widespread adoption. What we’ve seen with the COVID-19 pandemic is the acceleration in video conferencing because of its accessibility. At Fuze, we see a natural progression to be able to escalate a call across mobile devices and web browsers and to be able to access a call from anywhere. The key is building products and user experiences that anticipate how people will work rather than how they have always done it before. The trend related to accessibility via our mobile and web solutions is something that won’t go away. As technologies like 5G and wifi6 advance and the pandemic subsides, these trends will continue to fuel our accelerated adoption.

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?

The pandemic has taught us a lot about the need for flexibility and the importance of investing in communications tools that enable fully remote and hybrid work. Fuze’s global cloud communications and collaboration software offers one platform to access all the communications tools a company may need. Having these types of tools delivered from the cloud allows organizations to enable worker flexibility while streamlining management for IT. This increased business agility will also enable organizations to more easily maintain business continuity and productivity when mother nature decides to send the next business disrupting event.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Surround yourself with people that help make you better at your craft and be receptive to feedback. You will grow as a professional, a spouse, a parent, and a friend.
  2. Hire passion and talent, not just experience.
  3. Make sure to exercise and take time to clear your head everyday. My best ideas have come when I am on a run, a hike, or in dreams when I sleep. When you are oversubscribed going from one deadline to another, it is much harder to get creative and develop creative or innovative solutions.
  4. Statistics and data analytics are not just a general education requirement toward a degree. Whether your degree is in economics, business, engineering, or marketing, you will likely use them everyday, professionally. Every business decision that I have contributed to has had a combination of data and gut instinct. Remember — I don’t believe in luck. I do believe in momentum. I believe preparation and the willingness to make a decision based on the best information available at the time, backed by one’s experience allows you to capitalize on opportunities.
  5. My college aged kids will laugh if they read this, but make an outline! What is the argument you are trying to make? What is the problem you are trying to solve? What is the audience you are trying to persuade? What are your proof points? It sounds basic, but you would be amazed how many young writers write as more of a stream of thought. This is not just in marketing. Think about every interaction you have with peers, executives, and customers. Make sure the interaction is relevant to them and that you drive to the outcome intended.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Far too often, I see companies that are still divided into functional silos. They lack shared goals and tend to focus too much on measuring the impacts of their activities and the success of their team rather than how their efforts accrue to their company’s business outcomes. My experience with Fuze integrating strategies and goals across sales, marketing, product, and engineering has proven that when cross functional groups work toward a common purpose, the impossible becomes possible.

I believe momentum comes when people work together. I believe that taking the best from diverse ideas generates better outcomes. In my role, I am committed to finding ways to inspire people to do a better job celebrating our differences and how we can learn from one another’s individual perspectives and experiences to drive innovation and accelerate positive business outcomes.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericshanson/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/eric__hanson?lang=en

Fuze Website: https://www.fuze.com/

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.

About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.

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David Liu

David Liu

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David is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, a unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication