When we think of culture at Time by Ping, we think of Eric. Eric Zaarour helped Ryan build Time by Ping back in law school when it was still a business card app. Eric has been with Time by Ping through pivots and shifts, highs and lows, touching nearly every department in the process. He embodies service-leadership in every role he’s had here, and it’s particularly important as Customer Success Director.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
I’ve been told many times that it’s my optimism. People believe when things get as tough as they do, I remain positive. When you’re setting out to build something that hasn’t been built before, no one can really tell you what the tough times are going to look like. I’ve been told that I’ve always carried a very optimistic perspective when facing those challenges.
I’d say identifying the critical issues we are facing. When you need to discover a solution, it’s important you know every element of a problem. Niket (VP of Product), for example, is so excellent at identifying the root issue. He makes sure the group understands the smallest components that make up the bigger picture.
The leadership team is super focused on having the perspective and insight into these issues to understand what the true problem is, which empowers the rest of the team.
"Ryan called me and made a deal with me — if I didn’t take the bar, he’d quit his job as a lawyer and we’d build Time by Ping."
Time by Ping started in my law school bedroom. I come from a background of entrepreneurs, so I always felt like I wanted to impact the world in one way or another. Ryan and I were talking about another idea for a business card app.
After meeting Michael Mizono, now our Head of Design, I went to his house, and I saw what he did for a living — designing beautiful software. I always loved technology and being creative, but I never knew that something like design could be learnable and accessible. Design is difficult, but you can take steps to learn it. So I was bored in law school, and I started downloading Adobe Illustrator and creating really bad mock ups of products, but it was fun.
I took Ryan’s idea for the business card app, and created a mock up. That fired Ryan up! I didn’t realize how unsettled he was about being a lawyer. We started these weekly chats where we would talk about what that business could be. My friends in law school thought I was absolutely crazy since I should have been studying for a final, but instead I was talking to Ryan.
We worked with two amazing engineers to build it, launched it, and it completely failed. Once Kourosh joined the team, who helped us with a healthy dose of reality, Ryan presented us with the idea of pivoting to timekeeping.
We were in-flux, and Ryan called me and made a deal with me — if I didn’t take the bar, he’d quit his job as a lawyer and we’d build Time by Ping. Ryan took the plunge first and that propelled me to follow through. The first thing we did was drive down to San Francisco and visit Nick Bazley, who’s now part of our product team, who gave us a crash course on how to build a product.
The rest is history!
It’s the fact that we all get to share the responsibility of returning time to the world, and our leadership team ensures we aren’t straying from that.
To effectively serve customers, we need to intimately know how we build and sell our product. Without that understanding, it’s really tough to handle client issues. I’ve been fortunate enough to design our first solution, which allowed me to understand our customers’ problems deeply. I’ve had a blast selling TBP — which provides the right clarity on how firms approach this problem and the challenges they face adjusting. These backgrounds allow me to develop a prepared plan to handle the change management they’re about to undergo.
It’s three things: understanding the culture of that specific department, understanding the core outputs that department should produce, and understanding your own limitations. I’d say the culture piece is most important. For customer success, for example, I really wanted the department to operate with servant attitudes and humility.
I’ve also made sure that there was a mentor I could learn key pieces of information from. On the product side, it was Niket who made me understand the trade offs between design and engineering. In design, it was Michael and Nick who helped me understand the quality of interfaces versus the thoughtfulness of experience needed when building products. With customer success, it was Jonathan Sousa who focused on understanding what the core issues were in our customer journey and how we could alleviate those problems. Now we’re blessed to have Mitch, Alison and Jon who have elevated our customer success practices beyond what I could provide.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You have to create a place where people love coming to work every single day and have the energy to contribute to that growth. If I can make everybody at Time by Ping say, “God, I love working here” then we’ve done our job. If you’re spending time at work and hating it, you’re wasting more of your life than you really think.
"You’re going to laugh and have fun in meetings and learn more deeply about your colleagues [at TBP] than you would anywhere else."
Bringing your whole self to work. You’re going to laugh and have fun in meetings and learn more deeply about your colleagues than you would anywhere else, and likely spend time with them outside of work. There are even clients that call us on the weekends just to see how we’re doing.
"The core of our hospitality is sanctifying time."
We will take more customer requests, go deeper in collaborating with their departments, and double up on our communications with them so they feel as comfortable as possible. Deploying new timekeeping software is a sensitive project and I believe our team strives to take on as much of the load as we can.
We believe in each other. We’re attempting to tackle a very large problem and it takes all of our energy each day to get there. I’m thankful I have incredible teammates to rely on to get to the finish line.
"I think the next generation will be people realizing they have more freedom to decide their own happiness."
This is something that I’ve thought about a lot. When you start exercising your time intentionally, you’ll learn that some people never get there. When you’re headed to college, they ask you to pick a major and a career. You’re trying to decide your life when you’re 18 or 19. So many people fall into a false sense of security by just picking a predetermined path. I think the next generation will be people realizing they have more freedom to decide their own happiness.