Steven Mih is clearly comfortable leading his team into uncharted territory.
Inclusive asynchronous communication habits, employee autonomy, and schedule flexibility helped propel his company, Ahana, to BuiltIn’s 100 Best Remote Companies to Work for in 2022. His leadership also earned him a place on The Software Report’s Top 50 SaaS CEOs of 2022 list.
Founded in 2020, Ahana is the only SaaS for Presto, offering managed service for Presto on AWS. Ahana is an all-remote company headquartered in San Mateo, CA.
Born in 2020 and focused on the data lake analytics space, Ahana is the first and only company to offer a managed service for Presto on Amazon Web Services (AWS). When Mih co-founded the company in 2020, he decided to be fully remote from the beginning, following the advice in GitLab’s All Remote Guide—not because the world was in the midst of a pandemic, but because they felt it would be the best choice for their business. Today, Ahana continues its commitment to being remote-first, with 40 employees around the globe. Its leaders prioritize connection with employees through thoughtful asynchronous and synchronous communication.
The founders of Ahana decided on remote work early on in part because there are so many technologies now available to aid with communication and collaboration. “We’ll experiment with as many as we can, and then find the ones that we can work with,” said Mih. One of the tools he has come to rely on to keep in touch with his team is mmhmm.
Mih appreciated mmhmm’s early product videos which proposed breaking the presentation status quo. “I saw Phil [Libin, mmhmm co-founder and CEO] and I was like, wow, this person is trying to do something different than PowerPoint.”
For Mih, being remote is not about improving output—in fact, as researchers have shown, productivity actually increased for many remote employees during the pandemic. Steven understands that at a small company, the harder problem to solve is helping people feel less isolated and more connected. “Ensuring productivity is not our problem. It's finding ways to make sure that we stay motivated, in sync and aligned.”
Mih is most excited about mmhmm for creating watch-worthy asynchronous communication. He uses mmhmm Studio for Mac to record brief, information-rich videos his team can watch whenever it fits into their schedules. “I think the biggest value is engaging async content,” said Mih. “It's much more engaging content than it would be if I just recorded a meeting and said ‘Watch the one-hour Zoom meeting’.”
Every two to three weeks, Mih sends out a video to discuss what he’s excited about, what’s happening in different parts of the company, and what the current challenges are. He sends these brief, well-edited videos out to give his team a starting point for discussion. “Startups are all about being as open as possible about what's going on, and being open and available for people to ask questions,” said Mih.
"The Takes feature is a superpower. That lets people revise and improve the async [video] and saves the person making the presentation time."
CEO of Ahana
His favorite mmhmm feature is the ability to record Takes. He can re-record sections of video until they look and sound exactly right, without having to re-record the entire script. “The Takes feature is a superpower. That lets people revise and improve the async [video] and saves the person making the presentation time,” Steven said. “It's almost like you get to be your own movie director and editor at the same time.”
Mih’s advice to people who are considering going fully remote is to look at resources already available such as GitLab’s Guide to All-Remote. He believes it’s important to be remote-first, which means no hybrid meetings—even if local colleagues share a coworking space from time to time, as his do. He also recommends building a habit of asynchronous communication.
“You have to remind yourself of the benefits of remote work,” he said. “I work the same amount, if not more, but I get to drop off and pick up my kids more often than not, and that's been a great difference.”
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