Byron’s OfficeNinjas All-Star Award is presented by Caviar for Companies! Feed your office with the service that simplifies group food ordering.
Name: Byron Anson
Title & Company: Internal Operations Coordinator and Chief Vibes Officer, Shopify SF
Location: San Francisco, CA
# Years as an Office Ninja: 1 year
Mantra: How we treat each other is everything.
Fun Fact: An avid cyclist, Byron has competed in the National Championships and raced internationally.
Talk to Byron Anson’s colleagues at the Shopify San Francisco office, and you’ll quickly learn that the office has two distinct time periods: Before Byron and After Byron.
You’ll get the sense that before he was hired as the Internal Operations Coordinator, the workplace functioned … but something was missing.
“I’ve been told that there’s been a night/day shift about how people feel about the office, and that’s huge! I cannot take all the credit for this, but being able to be a part of the transformation feels amazing,” Byron says. “To be honest, I’m just having fun and inviting others along for the ride — I’m glad they’re joining me.”
We’ll go ahead and say it: stop being so humble, Byron!
In just one year, in addition to his day-to-day tasks, Byron has: managed an office move, initiated a company-wide health and wellness challenge, planned countless celebrations, and created an office newsletter that his colleagues actually look forward to reading.
If you want to see an All-Star in action, look no further than Byron Anson! Or, better yet, read our interview with this impressive 2019 OfficeNinjas All-Star.
What’s your favorite part of being an Office Ninja?
Making various people’s days. Nothing feels better than surprising someone with something that just blows their mind with happiness and excitement. Keeping my finger on the pulse of the office, knowing what employees want or need to make their time in the office as great as possible, is a continuing challenge that I love solving every day.
What do you do when you’re stressed or upset at work?
I have THE most stellar lead. I’ve never had such a great relationship with a boss who wants to drop whatever she’s doing to make sure I’m in a good place. I know I can reach out to her at any point for support, to bounce ideas off of, get honest input, or simply listen to what I’ve got weighing me down. Brianna, you the real MVP. Having someone in your corner at all times is invaluable.
In my career in tech, he is hands-down the best office manager I’ve ever worked with. He’s always super-positive, works really hard, and is always coming up with great ideas to promote our culture. Our office would not be amazing without him! – Vee
Where does your drive come from?
I’ve learned that I need to stay balanced between work, home, and hobbies in order to present my best self. I’m surrounded by people who inspire me; the office that I’m in and my wife at home are straight hustlers.
The biggest motivator comes from those moments when I’ve done something to make someone else’s day better. They range from ordering a specific tea that someone loves, all the way to planning an offsite picnic on Angel Island where our work family can come together and bond outside of the office.
Seriously, what’s better than thinking, “what would make me even a little more happy to walk through these doors” — then executing on it and seeing people light up?
Lastly, I’m a firm believer in the idea that if you’re going to do something, why not do it the best you can?
What’s the one thing that’s always on your desk?
A coffee mug with sub-par latte art that I’ve been trying to improve, a fidget cube, a Supreme bouncy ball, and a wireless phone charger. Basically, caffeine and stuff to do with my hands.
How does your team help you succeed?
I cannot speak more highly to the collaborative and inclusive environment that Shopify promotes. Even though many of my team members are 2,600 miles away, we work hard to stay close. I see everyone on a weekly basis. I would not be succeeding if it weren’t for my team and lead who consistently inspire me with new ideas and motivation to keep pushing.
How do you see the admin profession evolving? What do you do to stay ahead of the curve?
Great question. I’m fairly new to the role, but what I would predict is that businesses will start to value culture more and more. Culture is at the heart of everything a successful/productive/open/safe company is. Everything — from the way people feel when they walk through the door to the way they interact with one another — is tied to culture.
Ways to stay ahead of the curve? First, I take the time to interact and form relationships with people that surround me. I go to others for help and ideas.
I’ve also been reading (and using Audible, when running!) a lot of inspiring books on how to be the most effective and well-rounded admin person that I can be: The Culture Code, Radical Candor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mindset, Shoe Dog, and Raising the Bar, to name a few.
What is your greatest professional achievement?
Although I can’t speak to this first hand, I’ve gotten plenty of feedback about the culture before I jumped into this role and where we are at right now. I’ve been told that there’s been a night/day shift about how people feel about the office, and that’s huge!
I cannot take all the credit for this, but being able to be a part of the transformation feels amazing. To be honest, I’m just having fun and inviting others along for the ride — I’m glad they’re joining me.
What are you most proud of outside of work?
Outside of work, my biggest accomplishment is going from being a person who hated exercise and being medically obese in high school to becoming a nationally ranked semi-professional cyclist.
Unlocking this competitive, driven, and growth mindset-centered person was wild! Cycling has taken me all over the US. I’ve competed in National Championships (5th on the track) and raced internationally in Trinidad.
How do you balance work and personal life?
By being an old man and having a massively supportive wife that operates on the same schedule as me: in bed by 9pm and up around 5am, so I can either ride bikes with my amazing crew of friends before work or go for a great run with my wife and dog.
What would you say are the top three traits of an OfficeNinjas All-Star?
- Empathy. Relating to others is single-handedly the best thing you can do. Putting yourself in someone’s shoes lets you relate and solve problems before they even arise.
- Growth mindset. Maintaining a “What can I do better?” attitude, regardless of failure or success.
- PMA. Positive Mental Attitude. Pretty self-explanatory, but the world gives back what you put in, and I’ve seen my fair share of life with a positive and negative lens on the world.
What’s one thing that’s been the most impactful in advancing your career?
Honestly, my wife Keely. Having a partner who’s been supportive no matter what, helped me quit a career that I dreaded and hated going to every day (note: I worked with a lot of GREAT people, but financial services was not my jam). She pushed me to do something else, and now I’m here! IT’S WILD.
Office Ninjas often have tips and tricks of the trade. Any you care to share?
Be your genuine self and have fun with what you do. Learn everyone’s name. Thank people and appreciate them as much as you can. Find an excuse to do things outside of work with the people you see every day. That and stock Shout wipes for your office — it’s distracting as hell to try to work with a food stain somewhere on your clothes.
What are some of the ways you’ve helped shape your company’s culture?
Crafting a personal relationship with everyone has been the most valuable use of my time, both from an operational and a personal fulfillment standpoint. Shopify was also awesome enough to fly me up to Canada (where we are headquartered). I had a whirlwind week where I visited four different offices in three cities.
I talked with a LOT of people while I was there and studied the offices as much as I could. Shopify has continually made “top places to work” lists due to its Canadian headquarters, so bringing as much of that as I could into the SF office has helped tremendously.
I’ve always been very deliberate about addressing the office as “fam.” From day one, I wanted everyone to feel like a part of something greater than an office. A lot of things are really easy to do, such as putting up giant number balloons for everyone’s anniversaries or even putting up a board with a polaroid of everyone with their name on it (to be honest, that was a lot for me at first because I’m horrible with names).
I ask for feedback and try to listen and learn about what others like. Going into every single interaction with a simple goal of making their day a little bit better has been a north star.
Other things that I’ve done were really things that I always wished other companies did when I worked there, such as bringing in a Health and Wellness program. I finally got to start doing yoga and boot camp classes, and I don’t even have to leave the building!
Lastly, at Shopify, we have a HUGE network of merchants who make pretty much anything you could ever want. With a local office that has a lounge designed for and dedicated to our merchants, I wanted to source anything and everything I could from a Shopify merchant. Being able to stay aligned with a company’s mission that has given me all these great opportunities is fulfilling in such a circular way.
Byron’s been a key component to elevating the culture and employee experience in the office. He greets visitors of our Shopify Merchant Lounge (where our merchants come and work and go to events), and he’s been a key player in the happiness of employees in the office. He’s helped bring more “Shopify” to our small office in San Francisco, and I really appreciate his commitment and hard work to making things great at the office. – Rune
You’ve created an office newsletter that your team actually wants to read. Tell us how you did it.
I had never written any newsletters before taking this job. My main goal was to cut through everyone’s busy inboxes with something they wanted to read. I figured most people waste time by looking at memes and funny videos, so incorporating those would amount to clicks. (I’ve only recently started to track individual click rates, so this is great confirmation that I’m doing something right — thanks, OfficeNinjas!)
I start with a skeleton of the various points I need to make, and an outline of important items. Then, I’ll go back and see if anything reminds me of a meme, video, or anything funny, and I just start easter-egging the heck out of the newsletter.
I don’t take myself seriously and never try to come off in a tone that’s “professional,” just authentic. People want to read and interact with something that has personality. I’ve had fun creating memes for the office and swapping our CEO’s head onto ridiculous pictures. I always try to sneak other employees into the newsletter — nothing makes someone more involved than seeing themselves in there!
The mission is always to send out something original and colorful that stands out from the hundreds of emails people receive. I try to keep emails under five minutes of reading time. I hyperlink to more in-depth content and even include the estimated reading time in the subject line of the email. (From what I’ve learned, the average reading time is about 200 words per minute for an adult.)
His monthly office newsletters are the kind of email you actually look forward to getting rather than filtering them to Trash. His GIF game is far above anyone else I’ve come across, and these newsletters are a mass of easter-egg-hyperlinks, turning each sentence into a treasure hunt as the GIFs bring the words to life or playfully twist their meaning. He also makes sure he is inclusive. We are an international company with a diverse staff, and he makes sure he includes a wide variety of relevant holidays and celebrations. – Alex
Tell us about the office fitness challenge you started.
I can’t take all the credit for this. Our lovely office yoga company’s CEO approached me about doing a “New Year, New You” fitness challenge to try to encourage more people to attend. She had a great framework to play with, and we tweaked points and prizes and incorporated our other boot camp class.
She also said that doing planks every day would be a fun way to encourage people to participate. What I love about this idea is that virtually anyone can participate — from executive staff to someone who just started their first day (or even people in interviews). It’s silly and approachable, and what’s more humbling than getting on the ground with everyone else you know?
As silly as it is, from a culture-building standpoint it’s HUGE. It doesn’t matter how high your position is, it’s a great equalizer. Doing a plank every day is so approachable, and most people can just drop and join the fun.
So as a family, we all saw each other improve weekly. Plus, people are finding out that talking and telling jokes passes the 90 seconds fairly quickly (and I love me a solid dad joke). I’ve found it pretty refreshing to just get the blood flowing and re-energize right before lunch. An added bonus is that it also forces you to wash your hands right before you eat.
Something that I have yet to announce to the office is that I’ve got some tiered awards to send out. You know how collegiate football teams have stickers on their helmets for making big plays? Well, I want to do something similar for people who put down 10+, 20+, 30+ planks to really gamify the plank challenge and make an incentive for anyone in our international company to participate.
I’m thinking the coolest award should go to people who plank mid-meeting (aka the Can’t-Stop-Won’t-Stop Award). I also have the goal of designing these awards myself, so it gives me an excuse to learn some new design programs!
How have your ideas about the Ninja profession changed since you first started working for Shopify? How would you like to see your current role evolve?
I never imagined that I could play such a vital role in how people feel coming to work every day. When I took the role, I had imagined more of a “make stuff run smoothly” type of position: making sure snacks are stocked, mail gets delivered, and broken chairs get sorted. I’m proud of how much more this position has become (for me) and how much Shopify has empowered me to do my thing.
I’m not sure how I’d like to see my role evolve next. I already get to be an extension of our culture, IT, A/V, streaming, PR, culinary, facilities, and internal services teams. I certainly have something to do at all times, but I’d love to see our Shopify family grow, so I can throw bigger and better things at the people killing it around me.
Byron, no matter how the role evolves, we have no doubt you’ll find ways to make it fun and fresh!
As part of his prize package, Byron will receive $1,000 in meals from his favorite restaurants, courtesy of Caviar for Companies, a proud Admin Week 2019 partner!
View the complete photo album from our photo shoot at Shopify with Byron!
Today’s All-Star is brought to you by Caviar for Companies
Caviar for Companies’ extensive lineup of local restaurants and convenient app features make it easy to organize company-wide lunch orders or catered meals for groups of all sizes. Use Caviar’s corporate service to navigate dietary restrictions, schedule deliveries, share options and updates via Slack, and access expert account management and support.