Ep. 2 How Technology Changed How We Communicate with Atish Kalyan

by | Nov 9, 2022 | Business & entrepreneurship (podcast), Podcast


In this episode, I invited Atish Kalyan, a founder and principal developer of a software consultancy company Monad Labs. We discussed how technology changed on how we communicate in business and how to manage a huge informational overload.

Show notes:

  • 2 major developments that changed how we communicate in business & positive results due to that.
  • How topology of companies changed with the internet and smartphones.
  • Struggles and downsides managing technologies.
  • The issue of E-mail and informational overload.
  • The problem of “presenteeism” and what it is.
  • Multitasking and how it impacts different generations.
  • How technologies and communication tools are shifting with Millenials and Generation Z coming into the workforce.
  • Is e-mail dead?
  • How e-mail is unique from other modern communication platforms.
  • How and when to choose the best communication medium.
  • How it can feel lonely in high positions with the overload of information.
  • Tips on how to catch up with the increasing amount of technologies and how to cope with the overflow of information.
  • What is the solution for the future?
  • What are arising technologies on how we will communicate in business?
  • The advantages of disengaging from technology.

Useful links & articles:


How technology changes how we communicate

Hello and welcome to tea and business lounge podcast, Episode Two. My name is Elaira and I’m so excited to be your host today. I have a special guest Atisch Kalyan, and we will talk today, how technology changed how we communicate in business and how to manage information overflow.

So hello and welcome Atish. And thank you for being here today with me.

Thanks for having me.

Could you introduce yourself?

Sure, I am Atisch Kalyan. I am a software engineer by trade. Until recently, I was living in Seattle. I spent about 12 years in Seattle, Amazon for about nine and a half of those years, where I did various things, software development, program management, Product Management. And after nine and a half years, I decided it was time for something new So I left Amazon and I joined a little startup in Seattle did that for about two years. And just recently, 11 months ago, I moved to Amsterdam. I’m the founder and principal engineer of monad labs. And we are a software consultancy here, based here in Houston.

So welcome to Amsterdam. Thanks. Tell me why you’re so passionate about your job. I like

building things. I like building things to help people. And I’m really passionate about the craftsmanship of software engineering.

Beautiful. So let’s dive in deeper in arts and crafts of technology today. How do you think technology changed the way we communicate and business?

Well, in my mind, there have been two major developments in technology that have changed the way we communicate in business. I think in the last five decades or so. It’s hard to ignore the impact of the internet in general to make the world smaller, it’s connected people. Far away. Everyone feels global. connected through pretty much every communication that you have in business, it probably goes through the internet some way email, Voice over IP technologies for conferencing or just person to person communication, video conferencing.

Yeah, absolutely. We living so surrounded with technology, and avoidable.

The second step function or advancement would be the introduction of smartphone. And that’s had the impact of making everyone connected. There’s 24, seven accessibility that the smartphone gives you. You always have access to your email, and therefore you always have access to your work. You always have access to documents related to work. You can always get in touch with your colleagues, there’s been some really good results of that. Number one, it’s allowed the workforce to be a bit more flexible. So you know, you can step away from work. And you know that you’re not going to be fully away from work because you have your, your email with you. Yeah, you can reach a colleague. And then the other thing It’s done is that it’s changed the topology of companies.

What do you mean by that? Well, what I mean is that,

you know, if you step back maybe 50 years, companies were structured in a way that communicate or that information flowed from the top downward. Yeah. And now everyone is more connected. And so you have companies that are flatter. There’s basically Point to Point communication between everyone in a company. And so information is able to flow more freely,

yeah. To access and connect more with each other, and how we do business and do it faster to do it more flexible. I love technologies being an enabler and connector. So don’t you think a lot of people are really struggling to manage it?

Right. Yeah. Yeah, there are definitely downsides. And I think I alluded to one of them earlier. There’s no line between work and life anymore, right? To some extent. I mean, like I said, You 24 seven accessible because you have your smartphone, you have your email, there’s no line. And I think people are really feeling the impact of it. People are more stressed at work. There are numerous studies that show that. I think in general, we’re suffering from Digital overload. Yeah, information overload, email overload. If we may have heard these terms before, I think the average American worker will receive or send 126 emails per day. And in my experience, that’s low, actually. And some of them I think, 20% or so you can say these are spam or low quality content. Yeah, sure. Yeah. But still, that’s a lot of email per day. We mentioned colleagues on the other side of the world, it’s not uncommon to wake up with an inbox that has 100 emails and before you’re, before you step into the office, you’re trying to dig out and the other thing is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to disengage for fear of being out of out of touch or out of date. Because information is flowing so fast, it’s moving so freely. There’s the sense of presenteeism, you know, the the feeling that you always have to be present.

I haven’t heard this term.

Yeah, read this term in a book called conquering digital overload. It’s almost the opposite of absenteeism. If you hear people who are in hospital, and they just feel bad for being away from work, or they’re on vacation, and they just can’t, workers, on average, spend about 28% of their days checking email, and they check email about every 37 minutes. And I think that rings true. If you’re checking on your phone, you get to your desk, you check your email, and more and more people are being bogged down by multitasking. They feel, you know, I can just I see an email notification, let me just respond to this really quickly, but they don’t understand the impact that it has on their deep work. The fact that this distraction, it takes a long time to get back to the task at hand that they were doing before. Right. And actually, that problem is worse for the older generation as compared to the new, you know, millennials and Gen Z, they’re able to get back to work really quickly because they’re used to context switching.

Yeah, this distraction all the time, because they grew up with this distraction. Yeah, in their life. That’s right. So how communication tools and technologies are shifting with millennials and Gen Z’s coming into the workforce.

I think that the nature of communication is changing. Not that long ago, it was all about email, millennials and Gen Z, like you said, they’re moving more towards a style of constant communication, right? They use other tools, Slack, Google Hangouts, even Basecamp you know, these these types of tools to manage communication amongst their their teams. And now people like to say email is dead

is email that

in your opinion, I don’t I personally, I don’t think that email can die. And in my opinion, the problem is just moved. The problem is not gone away. In fact, to some extent, it’s gotten worse because of those, those tools. So if you look at Slack, for example, it’s shorter messages than you might send on an email, for example. And the expectation is that people are going to respond faster, or an instant message, text message, WhatsApp, the expectation is that it’s going to be faster. I think there’s, there’s a kind of unwritten rule that you should answer the phone in two seconds, you should respond to an a text message, SMS, instant message, whatever, in two minutes. And you could expect to respond to an email in two hours. But with more communication moving to these, these platforms like Slack, the expectation is that you’re always going to be responsive,

like right away. Yeah.

Email is the last open communication platform if you think about it, and what I mean by that is that Email is just a protocol for how a message gets sent from one part of the network to another part of the network. No one really owns email, you may use Gmail as your provider. But you can communicate with someone who’s using a different email provider. Or you can set up your own little SMTP server on your box for your company. But if you’re using a platform like Slack, you’re using slack. That’s it. If you don’t use Slack, you can’t communicate with someone who is using slack. Or someone who’s using you know, Whatsapp can’t send a message to someone who’s who’s using slack. So it’s changed the nature of how people communicate, who gets to communicate, and who owns the data, frankly,

how is the data stored?

Yeah, platforms like Slack, there’s a company behind it. And they define what that data and what the capabilities of the platform are. Whereas with email, email messages, get sent and then email providers email clients really get to augment the functionality from for users in certain small ways, with Gmail, they prioritize the emails in the inbox based on machine learning. Or they added a little snooze feature where you can say, send me this email again in 12 hours. But when you use Slack, you only have the user experience that they define for you. And just just Slack, just this one provider. And when they change something, you have to adapt along with it, or your whole organization needs to adapt along with it.

Yeah, just rephrase it if I got it, right. So email is more personalized, individualized, you can customize the way you want to structure the data there based on your needs. And if we go to slack, it’s more information flow where you jump on it or not, like you just have to adapt.

Yeah, I think that’s right, that there is a certain level of customizability with your experience with email. Because you have you always have the flexibility to use a different email client. For example, I can use Outlook, I can decide I don’t like using Outlook anymore, I’m going to use airmail. Now. And maybe that has a slightly different feature set that works better for my workflow for how I take my the things that are in my inbox and make them actionable,

how to catch up with increasing amount of technologies and how to manage that information overload. People are burnout or really struggling with it and even afraid to climb the career ladders because of this information have been even bigger. Maybe you can give a few tips to people how to cope with it, because it doesn’t seem that the information flow is going to be less

than that makes sense. And beyond that, almost 40% of employees believe it’s impossible to maintain a career and and a sound family life because it’s just this deluge of information. I think there are a few things to be mindful of. That maybe we don’t think about enough when we’re communicating. Frankly, we have to choose the right communication medium, right? a phone conversation, for example, can boil 10 emails down to a two minute conversation.

I’m just calling you from now on.

No more What? No. There was some research done, we’ll put a link in the show notes down that showed that a face to face conversation can be equivalent to 34 emails. Well, so we’re allergic to meetings, but at the same time that can be more effective and just cut down on the amount of clutter significantly. So we just need to know when to choose the right medium. slack for example, it’s great for sharing ideas or resources, maybe announcements or driving follow up discussions, or questions, but it’s not good for deep dives that require someone to really sit down and think before responding.

Yeah. And I know your own experience you shared with me where you were working in Amazon, you had those days of overload of emails, and you were really struggling to cope with it? It’s very interesting story. How can you feel lonely as well in being in those high positions and overload of information? Yeah,

definitely. Yeah, there was a period of time at Amazon where I moved into a different role. And I just kind of got thrown in the deep end. You know, it was something I was looking to do, but I think I was ill prepared for it. And I woke up one day, and I just had a vast amount of email, I would reach 1000 emails a day pretty frequently. And I remember one infamous day where I received 9000 emails, and it was just nice. And I thought I talked to my colleagues and we kind of joke and say, yeah, today I got to, I read, you know, I processed 40% of my email. This was a great day. And so through understanding the problem, and yes, feeling really, really lonely feeling I was failing at my job, you know, feeling like I was letting people down because that’s kind of the nature of the role that I was in. I really went down this journey, if you want to figure out how to cope with that, how to deal with it. And I picked up some really interesting tips along the way there, you know, email, there are well documented methodologies for getting to quote Inbox Zero, for example. And there’s there’s something called Getting Things Done. There was one that I really liked called Total workday control. And I took a lot of tips from these, but one of the most important ones I think, that helped me early on, was to break the habit of trying to meticulously file every single email in the appropriate place I had, I had folder structures that were mazes, and it was like an art, trying to file it in the right place so that I could find it later. And the moment I just said, No folders. I don’t care what project it belongs to what team who sent it when it’s going to go in archive. And the reality is that email clients have a better ability to search through emails, then I can correctly file an email, my key takeaway, find a simple process for processing the information. And this is a lot easier with email because it’s one place. This is why I think the problem that we’re facing now with scattered sources of information makes this much more difficult for today’s workforce.

And I can really relate my takeaway as well from my career was really to take one methodology of structuring your information that creates more space in your head and stick to it. Otherwise, what you’re talking about the scattered information and more technologies involved in helping you supposedly to manage information, it’s getting just more out of hand. So what is the solution for the future? You think?

From my point of view, technology is helped not create a problem. It’s helped us fulfill our desires for information and for producing and consuming information. But I think the solutions need to stem from organizations the top levels of organizations, they need to set the digital strategy. I’ll give you some examples. When an organization decides to introduce a new technology, are they really having conversations about what that does to the way people within the organization communicate? Like let’s say you introduce slack? Does that mean you’re deprecating email? Or does this mean that your workers now have to deal with both of these sources? It notification like, you know, notifications from both of these systems. What is it doing to the nature of the communication frequency, volume, quality? Are these being considered? And most of all, I think, what are leaders in organizations doing to set an example for the culture? Are they promoting, you know, sort of technological quiet hours or is the CEO sending question mark emails for things that are bothering him or her At midnight, because that sets the tone for how everyone else is going to be using the technology for communication going forward.

And it’s so interesting. You mentioned it, we don’t have it on a table. There’s like, by the way thing that we use every day we encounter with, but we never put it on the agenda together with future plans is urbanization, what our goals been? What is our organizational design? Where does our culture how we connect people?

Right? Yeah, we and, you know, if you’re thinking about organizational structure, you know, that’s that conversation is largely about how information flows through an organization. But is digital strategy a part of that? Yeah. You know, so I think it needs to be an organizational cultural setting.

And are there technological solutions for that, like we talked about strategy and how to manage that. But are there tools?

Yeah, I think there is a lot of space to improve. One thing that I’m excited to see is more chat bots being used. Imagine having a instant message conversation with someone except the someone on the other side is a machine.

Okay, and so artificial intelligence part

Exactly. But one simple thing that one can do is use the chat bot as sort of a first pass of information before it goes to the source that it was intended for. So let’s say that there was some sort of system to kind of mine the data or or store the data that’s being produced throughout an organization, a conversation with a chatbot, you might be able to say, what, you know, what’s the release date for this project? Or, you know, that that would that would typically go to a user to another person who knows that information, but maybe the chatbot can sit in the middle and say, I know, I’m not gonna bother so and so with this question, because I know,

I can be medium too. So Exactly. Yeah.

In some ways, it’s what you know, a lot of organizations have wikis, central repository of like, information that people can can go and see. Okay, here’s the status of this project. Here’s all the different reports from the weeks past, and they can go fetch that information. But a chatbot can do something similar. They can surface information that otherwise would go to some other person.

So use a chat bot is on the horizon for the future.

Yeah, for sure. There was one of the companies that I worked at in Seattle, basically took the support documentation then, you know, Knowledge Center FAQs, technical documentation and consume that and surfaced it through a chatbot. And that had the impact of reducing calls or emails to the support team by almost 25% overnight, so it can really be a valuable tool for for reducing the amount of communication.

Right. Are there any other other tools that you want to bring it up?

Well, I’m excited to see where virtual reality is going to go.

Oh, wow. This is really exciting one.

Yeah, because I think it has the opportunity to bring people closer together. video conferencing, for example, add interesting benefits compared to you know, just teleconferencing or voice conversations. You get to see the person on the other end, you get to see facial expressions, how they respond. I might be talking to someone in India, but it feels like they’re here. And I think with virtual reality, you could take, you could extend that further, you could be in the same place, you could be interacting with the same things if the nature of the job is kind of tactile or visual in that sense. So it could, you know, I’d be interested to see whether people start favoring technologies like this.

I could connect with my colleague in India, as you said, and we can just have a meeting, we can see each other and we can have flip chart and we can write notes. So it’s right, real meeting.

Yeah, in a way. The idea is to get two people are more into the same room. Yeah, there’s one more area where I think technology can help a little bit in That’s just doing more to automate routine tasks. So what I mean by this is there’s input of work somewhere, for a lot of people that it is email. But the result of that email is some routine tasks. Let’s say, as an example, I get an email. Well, the routine task then is a log into some console and navigate around, I look at this graph, I look at that graph. I decide, Okay, looks like a false alarm. Or maybe it’s going down or whatever. But that stuff takes time. And I think there’s an opportunity to really take, you know those routine tasks and for some system to identify them, so that we can just say, Would you like me to go to this console and just pull these two graphs that you tend to do every time you get this email? I think that will save a lot of time.

Yeah, it comes all about the mind space and the time we have right isn’t always the most precious thing, right? What would be your best tip or advice to make the world a better place? In regards of technology,

it’s kind of ironic for the technologist to say this, but I think disengage, disengage from the technology take time to just make space for yourself. And I don’t know, whatever your nervous tic vise tends to be Facebook, Instagram, you know what’s up, Reddit, it’s so easy to just grab that in a moment of boredom, for lack of a better word. I think it’s important to just take those moments and disengage from technology take a few moments to just reflect on what’s important, what’s going on. What needs to be top priority, and, and why you’re doing what you’re doing and why you’re doing what you’re doing. And next time you do grab that technology, maybe you’ll have a better direction of what’s important what actually needs to get done, versus being stressed out by the amount of items in your inbox or, you know, little notifications that It’s like sent to you.

Yeah. Because we really start to forget that technology should serve us and we shouldn’t serve technology. Its intention was there like that, but it seems like it’s getting out of hand that technology starts to drive and kind of control us. And

yeah, we get this little dopamine hit when we kind of process an email or maybe even receive an email. And it’s kind of replacing the human contact as well. To some extent it’s, we’re kind of just replacing what the feelings that we used to get.

Yeah, dopamine makes you feel enjoyment and pleasure and instant gratification is related to the seeking so we pick up the phone to check the time and then we ended up seeking another thing and dopamine is growing and growing and growing guilty. You end up checking this is the food for the dog, you know, as well How did I end up here right. And I really love your tip about disengaging and at least to have some parts of the day that you disengage You know, just just disconnect from technology or have the talks of technology, right? And I personally doing it, it’s my favorite thing to build up my own business. I meditate every day, an hour. And sometimes it’s really sit and do nothing, right like just disengage from stimulation of inflammation. It’s usually the first half an hour, what I call the breakup with the thoughts. I really have to come down my nervous system, which was so overstimulated of from the information played. And then after the five minutes, one hour, right, all the insights come up all the ideas, all the inspirations, and this is how I call it meditational decision making of my business.

You hear so many people who say I have my most creative ideas in the shower. Yeah, well, that’s because you’re not staring at a screen. For me personally, I’ve always found when I get a haircut, I’m sitting at the barber, especially when the barber isn’t very chatty. They take my glasses off, so I can’t really see anything. Like, visual stimuli, and I’m just sitting there going, Okay. And, you know, I have my most profound thoughts, I think in that chair. So yeah, I think disengage it’s just important for Well, first of all, it’ll reduce the amount of communication that’s happening via all these channels, and maybe add a little bit of quality to it as well.

Yeah, because sometimes after this disengagement you realize, Oh, actually, that was not really even important to do exactly. So to summarize, the key shifts and how we communicate and business started with internet and smartphones entering the world. Another point with millennials and Gen Z’s generations coming to the workforce communication moves to instant messaging platforms, and email is not that and probably will not die. Information overload, probably one decrease and to manage it is really important to have digital strategy in organizations and on a personal level, choose one inflammation management technique, and stick to it chatbots virtual reality and maximizing efficiency in routine task technologies are on the rise for the future. And don’t forget to disengage and disconnect from technologies at least once in a while. So through which medium channel people can connect and communicate with you and teach

while they can go to the website for monad labs, Amsterdam that’s www.monadlabs.amsterdam and be able to find all fine details.

Thank you so much for being here. It was such a pleasure to talk to you and I learned so much. Thank you for having me. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it rated or write a review.

Thank you.

And remember, if you want to create a better world, it starts first with knowing and realizing What kind of world he wants to live in

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