How baking pizza saved the mind of a startup executive

How baking pizza saved the mind of a startup executive

How baking pizza saved the mind of a startup executive 150 150 WilloWeb Media Relations

WilloWeb’s Media Team: Hi, tell us a bit about you, name and what you do at WilloWeb.

Max: Hi, my name is Max Cascino, actually Massimiliano is my real Italian name. I moved from Milan, Italy in 2014 and came in as cofounder of WilloWeb around February of 2015. I started using Max as a preferred name since. It was easier to be pronounced here.
I’m currently covering the role of Chief Technology Officer and running the company together with Doug, CEO and original founder of WilloWeb.

WilloWeb’s Media Team: How is social distancing affecting your work routine?

Max: Great question. Covering the role of CTO of WilloWeb makes me responsible for everything “tech” in the company. From our network that connects our customers to the Internet, to all the systems that support our company to the technology vision of where WilloWeb will be in the next years.
We are pretty small compared to the tech giants of the Silicon Valley, so our organization is pretty flat, but I don’t do all of this alone. I have a very talented team that helps me achieve the goals we set.
I used to work from home before the shelter-in-place order. You know, it was different, you chose to work from home for different reasons and also your daughter is not home with you craving attention. So, yes, it has changed, and it took a while to adapt, to not be able to just walk to my teammates desk or have a quick convo to bounce off business ideas with Doug or quickly grab a coffee together with the team and get casual for a moment.

WilloWeb’s Media Team: Right, you have a 1year old, how has it been to have her home with you while working?

Max: Well yeah, my wife and I decided to keep her home from day care to limit the spread of Covid19 few weeks before the shelter-in-place would pass because having all my family in the heavy hit city of Milan, we knew that we were going to be in the same situation here. I have to say, it’s been challenging and still is. My wife was in between jobs and this helped a little since she could take some time off while transitioning.
We both had video call meetings with our daughter on our lap. It’s not ideal but it’s been fun in some ways.
When you realize that we are all in the same situation, it’s different. Everybody understands it, and in some way I believe that this has brought our community closer even if we have to stay at least 6ft from one another. On some topics like the balance between family and work we had the chance to see firsthand how difficult it is to take care of your family while working from home.

WilloWeb’s Media Team: Do you feel productivity has been impacted?

Max: Well, we had worked from home before. The real challenge was now doing it with lot more stress and distraction, because now I’m working from home and everybody is home with me if you have a family (or housemates) so I’d say yes productivity went down the first 10days or so. I believe it was pretty the same for everybody at WilloWeb. We were kinda expecting it. Nobody really had time to plan for this, so we knew we had to adjust.
The majority of the challenges came from not being able to focus for long time. I get distracted continuously because everybody is home. For example the dog wants attentions, my daughter wants to play or brings me a book to read, or I see my wife and I ask her something trivial that usually I would have waited till I got home to probably ask or talk about. Or a package comes in, the dog goes crazy, my family from Italy calls because they know we are home…
So, yeah, productivity went down, but we started to set boundaries, we started to give structure to our days. We did it from the basics like setting a routing for our daughter, do the same for the dog, get yourself ready by a certain time in the morning (instead of struggling to find a time for a shower) and now it’s a lot better.

WilloWeb’s Media Team: What about morale?

Max: That’s been, and it still is the real challenge. How do you keep the morale high in a global pandemic? we try to think that what we are doing at WilloWeb is helping a lot of people doing their jobs from home, taking their exams and completing their school assignments. Just yesterday I read a Yelp review that one of our customers living in the Almaden hills wrote and I immediately sent it to my team. It really cheered us up, they were saying that without WilloWeb she and her husband couldn’t do telemedicine and their kids could not do remote schooling because Comcast asked them $11,000 to bring cable and AT&T only had 1-3Mbits options (that for the records it’s barely enough to stream a video at mediocre quality). (Ed. You can read the review here)

WilloWeb’s Media Team: Going back to work-life balance, what have you been doing to unwind?

Max: Well, as we can see from Instagram everybody has started to do a lot of cooking and I haven’t been any less too! I started making a lot of pizza. Obviously enough, it is probably my favorite dish… I started experimenting with different flours and techniques. I have a small proper pizza oven that can reach 900F and cooks pizzas in 90seconds. That has been my mental outlet. I find it very relaxing and when you are at it you can’t think of something else, you need to be focused on working the dough, put it in the oven, make sure it cooks perfectly. Then serve  and, repeat!

WilloWeb’s Media Team: Wow, 90seconds, like a real pizzeria!

Max: Exactly! and my daughter loves pizza of course so, whenever she says “pizza!” in the morning, it’s enough an excuse for me to make dough for dinner.

WilloWeb’s Media Team: Well, Max, thanks for your time and for sharing this with us. We’ll let you go, I guess you have some pizza on the fire right now!

Max: You are very welcome, take care and stay safe!