From interfacing to information, Moseleys appreciate connections | Neighbors | #dating | #elderly | #seniors
Rachel Moseley retired in 2002, her husband, Harry, in 2017. They like to joke about who had the shorter retirement, because within a few months of their respective “retirements,” the self-proclaimed “workaholics” were both back to work. And it’s a good thing, too, because both unexpectedly found themselves doing the most rewarding work of their long, successful careers.
Rachel Moseley began working for the Scarsdale School District as a school aide in 2003 and in 2005 she was promoted to Chief Information Officer (later Director of Information Technology/CIO), and Harry took on the CIO position with Zoom Video Communications in early 2018. However, it was a long journey for the now 65-year-old Harry and 56-year-old Rachel, who moved to Scarsdale in 1998 with their three children.
Rachel was born in Israel and grew up in Switzerland, and Harry was born in Ireland. After graduating with a degree in engineering with “intentions of putting up buildings and things of that nature,” Harry moved to England in 1977 and transitioned to technology a year later. In 1979 he came to New York to work for six months and never left. To him London was “dry and very inefficient,” while New York was “very exciting with lots of opportunity.”
Rachel made her way to New York for a year as an intern in 1989 when they were both working for Union Bank of Switzerland. They didn’t start dating until the next year when Harry made a business trip to Switzerland, and they started “having meals together,” Rachel said.
“What really happened was that we ended up having ideas on how to interface our systems — I was responsible for a system and he was responsible for a system — and we got all excited about how we could build an interface between the systems,” Rachel said.
As the long-standing joke goes, their interfacing got personal. “All our friends have made the joke about how that was very romantic for us to talk about systems interface,” Rachel said. “We started dating 4,000 miles apart, so we got a lot of MCI frequent user points by phone calling to 4,000 miles. You couldn’t just do a Zoom call then.”
She moved permanently to New York on Christmas Day 1991, a date Harry will never forget.
Rachel soon transitioned out of the programming side of the industry, shifting to business analysis and project management.
After a decade working in the city, Sept. 11, 2001 was the day that led to Rachel’s initial retirement six months later. She was in a windowless conference room at MarketAxess on the 38th floor at 140 Broadway when the first airplane hit the Twin Towers, and she and her co-workers watched the second plane hit from her corner office with a “prime view of the Towers,” which until then had only offered calming views of the city.
With a teenager and two small children at home, it was an eye-opening moment that made her rethink the balance in her life as she and Harry were constantly crossing paths in the sky when one was flying home, the other on a business trip.
“I was in charge of technology and HR for an electronic trading platform company, so more than half the company reported to me,” Rachel said. “It wasn’t just that I had to deal with my own experience from 9/11 but everybody who worked for me basically was telling me their experience, whether that was that they lost their brother, that they stepped over body parts, what they saw, what they felt. It was tough.”
For several years, the smell of gas and the sight of flashing lights had a PTSD effect on her, and the first few years she worked in the schools, she needed to be warned in advance of any planned fire alarms or drills.
“The first couple of years, maybe even more, I used to go into shaking and it was an awful experience,” Rachel said. “They used to have to give me a warning when they would do a fire drill so that I could be mentally prepared, but anyway they cured me with the 15 or how many they have to do a year. It was like therapy.”
Those memories have stayed with her for nearly 20 years. “It’s a long time ago but it sticks with you,” Rachel said. “It never goes away.” Replied Harry, putting a hand on his wife’s arm, “And it shouldn’t. We should always remember.”
Quickly realizing that having worked atypical and long hours for so many years she couldn’t just quit working cold turkey — and panicking about that — Rachel dabbled in recruiting for three months. While she had a great reputation for staffing her own company with “the right people for the right spots,” staffing other companies post-9/11 when jobs were scarce wasn’t for her.
In connecting with the school district Rachel told them she would stuff envelopes, anything to have a more normal schedule and be able to spend more time being a mom. She did more than stuffing envelopes — and Harry reminds her, it was more than working a 9 to 3 job, rather, more like 9 to 3 and then 3 to 9 job— by working to improve the district’s technology. After a year she began to want something more challenging and she was told to “hang in there” as technology reorganization was imminent in the school district, and with her background she could play an integral role.
“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and got hired at what was called then Chief Information Officer and I basically do what I used to do, just a much smaller scale, much less people,” she said.
“And a huge impact,” Harry chimed in.
Sixteen years ago when she became CIO the district had “very minimal technology.”
“I’m not involved in the technology in the classroom,” Rachel said. “My field is technology to run the district and to find things that can be made more efficient. I love when I find things that would slow down teachers or department chairs or principals, and I can find a solution that makes their lives easier. And what’s most wonderful is that they’re so grateful. That’s the big difference to finance. In finance you get the finance, you get the big bonus, here you get a lot of thank yous which is very lovely, too, I have to say.”
When COVID-19 hit in February and March 2020, many of the projects Rachel was working on and solutions she was searching for became “accelerated.” Decisions that under normal circumstances would go through a longer decision process were now happening quickly.
“Here it just had to happen because nobody was in the building,” she said. “We just have to have a quick solution for all these documents to be routed and be signed on. Right now I’m working on a software that helps with class placements. All the time there are two or three solutions that we work on, but this pandemic, Harry knows, the first nine months of the pandemic, it was seven days a week, all around the clock just nonstop.”
That leads us to Harry.
Harry held CIO and managing director roles at United Bank of Switzerland, Blackstone Group (2005) and KPMG (2013). In March 2018, just months after his late 2017 retirement, Zoom founder Eric Yuan lured Harry into the start-up’s Global CIO position. “He thought he was going to bicycle every day,” Rachel said. And, Harry added, “Do more charity work.” While he still does both of those, he found a renewed passion.
“When I met Eric Yuan and understood his vision and talked to my industry peers, not just in technology, but people who were very deep in the audio and video conferencing, and understood the technology architecture of the Zoom platform, I remember turning to Rachel and saying, ‘I think this could be fun. I think there’s something different here,’” Harry said.
He noted, “The need to collaborate locally, nationally and globally — having experienced that personally and having seen other companies and peers do it — to say that we had a solution that didn’t work was not true, and to say that it worked well was also not true. Historically we had acquired a variety of different technologies and stitched them together in the background to try and make it a seamless and frictionless experience for our employees.”
Zoom was ready to achieve that mission. Not only was it different from his past job descriptions, but “I thought this would be a lot of fun, I thought I could help Eric and the team, I thought I could help the company and as a consequence of all that, I thought I could help enterprises around the world,” Harry said. “Little did I know what I was in for.”
When Harry started at Zoom there were 800 employees and now there are more than 4,400, growing more than fivefold. “Not to mention the revenue growth,” he said of the company that went public in 2019.
He said his role is “very unique” in that he spends most of his time talking to clients in a variety of industries around the world “about our technology differentiation to everything else that’s out there.”
“When you scale from 10 million daily meeting participants to over 300 million daily meeting participants and go from 100 billion annualized meeting minutes to over 3 trillion annualized meeting minutes in the course of months, and you maintain that same service level, I think it’s testimony to the architectural differences that we have,” Harry said.
The COVID-19 pandemic helped make Zoom a major player in keeping the world running from governments to religious services to yoga classes. Zoom quickly gave its platform away to school districts — now 125,000 of them in 25 countries — when shutdowns began sweeping the globe.
“We fundamentally believe that education is the foundation for great people and great careers and people to make a difference in the world,” Harry said. “And if you stop the education cycle in the K through 12 and [it’s] impacting higher education, what then suffers is people entering the workforce, so the whole supply chain from a human capital perspective will get stunted. We felt that we could help them so we thought it’s kind of like, let’s just give our software away for free to schools.”
Of course, friends were hitting Harry up for Zoom licenses, too, which made him laugh since it’s $14.99 a month and he can only imagine how much people are spending on Starbucks each day.
Coffee aside, the world is changing and technology is pushing those changes along. And while no one knows what the future holds, Harry expects a hybrid of the old way people worked and conducted business and the new way we have proven it can be done during the pandemic.
“Work is something we do; work is not a place,” he said. “So enterprises around the world are figuring out what the purpose of the office is for hundreds of millions of people around the planet in all industries.”
One of the most uplifting examples of the power of Zoom came from an eye surgery procedure that used a 4K camera and Zoom to stream the operation on an 8-year-old blind boy in Malaysia while a consultant in Indiana offered guidance. “This 8-year-old boy gets sight as a consequence of the surgery, and the consultant had a hand in it and Zoom had a hand in it,” Harry said. “And I find that very emotional, to be honest.”
Harry read about someone in Boston doing a tour of a factory in Georgia, saving not only the cost, but the time of a flight, noting both savings as “significant.”
“So I think that the post pandemic era is going to be like where we started the conversation about 9/11, which changed a lot of things forever,” Harry said. “This COVID-19 has changed a lot of things forever, too.”
The less schools need to rely on a platform like Zoom for education the better, but it still has its merits for other uses. One platform Scarsdale uses is Infinite Campus, and Rachel founded and chairs a user group that spans five states that meets annually in Scarsdale. Now they can have that meeting via Zoom and save the time and expense of travel.
When the pandemic began, Rachel was initially dismissive of Zoom within the schools because as she and Harry both have banking backgrounds, they avoid conflicts of interest at any cost. “I am just very strict about that and as a matter of fact, I would have loved to use Zoom before the pandemic, but I always felt it would be a conflict, so I never did,” Rachel said.
So Rachel pushed for the use of Microsoft Teams and Google Meet, but as Zoom was gaining in popularity — and being as it was offered at no cost to schools — it was also included in the testing phase of how the district could continue instruction during the March 2020 shutdown.
“I had the IT people and computer teachers do different meetings on different platforms and then fill in a Google Sheet explaining the pros and cons, and it went clearly in the Zoom direction,” Rachel said. “That was just for doing meetings and then when it was about in the classroom, I said, ‘Let’s not use Zoom, let’s just use Google Meets,’ and there was a revolt from teachers, because at the time no other product had the feature where you could have all the students on one screen at one time. Maybe six or eight people was the maximum on others, so how can you teach when you don’t see your students? I was doing the same thing as every other district and it worked out very well. Everybody was very happy with it.”
Videoconferencing is here to stay in our professional and personal lives, just one of the improving technologies Rachel and Harry keep a constant eye on. And with new apps and conferencing mediums constantly being released, keeping up with tech isn’t always easy, but switching tech now is easier, thanks to the cloud as compared to the old days when you went from one system to another.
“So the challenge for a cloud provider is: how do you stay ahead of the curve, how do you continue to innovate with speed and scale, so that you could still be that selected platform?” Harry said.
Schools and companies often hoped that upgrades would be suitable vs. overhauls. “I am still replacing some things from before my time, but the solutions that we implemented in the last 10 to 15 years, they’re generally all companies that are very solid and continue to improve,” Rachel said.
The Moseleys have learned more than they ever expected in their respective “retirements” and will certainly think twice the next time they consider an end to updating their résumés.
“For me it’s always about, am I enjoying what I’m doing?” Harry said. “That’s been my whole history. As long as I’m enjoying what I’m doing and having fun and feel like I’m making a difference, then why not? It’s only when I become disinterested or things of that nature. Zoom is a lot of fun and really nice people and when I reflect on the last 14 months it’s been a humbling experience.”
Said Rachel, “For me it’s fun when I feel people appreciate what I do, so as long as people are excited about the solution that I introduced or we cut costs and people are happy because we no longer need to spend this money, as long as people feel like they want me I am happy to do it. It’s fun to do something that people are grateful for.”
On Thursday, April 22, Harry is part of the JCC of Mid-Westchester’s Salute to Our Superheroes virtual fundraising event from 7:30-9 p.m. (https://jccmw.org/spring-fundraiser/; a link to a recording of the event will later be posted at jccmw.org), which honors board of directors co-president Greg Kaldor and nursery school/summer camp director Caryn Simons. Harry will be interviewed by his friend Andrew Brandman, senior vice president of financial service at Salesforce.
There are two connections — Harry and Brandman have been supporting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society since 2002, and Rachel has been on the board of the JCC of Mid-Westchester since 2013.
This time, let’s start with Harry. In early 2002, a colleague sent him an email about the scenic 100-mile ride around Lake Tahoe for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. A recreational biker at that time, he printed the email and handed it to Brandman, who in turn pulled out his wallet to make a donation. He misunderstood Harry, who wanted Brandman to join him on the ride. Long story short, Harry has been riding and raising money for 19 years, and Rachel eventually joined him on that journey.
The first 80 miles aren’t so bad, even as the temperature hits the 70s. In that final 20 miles, however, it’s an 8-mile climb uphill at a 6% grade before 11 miles downhill. “Ya gotta go up to get down,” he said. “It’s been truly humbling and I don’t know how many thousands of miles we’ve ridden,” though he knows they’ve raised “a lot of money.”
When asked why he started doing the ride — and continues the ride — Harry has a two-word answer: “I can.”
One year halfway up the hill he was starting to get dehydrated and exhausted — “knackered” as they say in Irish — stopped at a water refilling station and a volunteer helped him out and asked why he was riding. “I can,” he said. This went on several times until the volunteer finally realized that Harry had no history of the illness in his family or his circle and was really doing it because he can.
“This woman broke down in tears,” he said. “She said eight years ago, when her son was 7, she went to see the doctor and the doctor said she needed to take her child to a pediatric oncologist and if it wasn’t for the research that LLS had supported, her son would not be 15 years old today. ‘So, thank you.’
“When you hear stories like that it doesn’t matter how you feel anymore. You get back on your bike and the pain in your legs, the pain in your back, the pain in your neck, there is no pain anymore.”
Harry has started corporate teams at his past companies, though he hasn’t had a chance yet at Zoom, and the teams have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.
“It’s funny because initially it was really just an activity for Harry, and it turned very quickly into a passionate family enterprise,” Rachel said. “We met so many people who were survivors from leukemia or lost somebody to leukemia, and even though we don’t have somebody in our family, thank God, it’s become just a mission.”
Among Rachel’s philanthropic endeavors has been the JCC — “near and dear to my heart” — which she became involved in thanks to her friend Karen Kolodny, who was named executive director and CEO in 2013.
“She turned the JCC around in these eight years and it’s been such a pleasure serving on that board,” Rachel said. “The JCC had almost disappeared before that, and it was completely different than what it is today. And it’s been challenging during the epidemic for any nonprofit organization, but to see everything that they are still doing, and people are happy to use the JCC, and new things they introduced to me — it’s fascinating. It’s a very rewarding experience to serve on that board. It serves so many types of people from the elderly to the preschooler to the special ed kids.”
The empty nesters also take pride in their Scarsdale High School graduate children: Michelle is 37, an architect and living with her boyfriend in Baltimore; Sammy is 25, lives in Switzerland, works for an American firm and enjoys the outdoor mountain life; and Ben is 23, an architect, recently engaged and living in California.
With the pace of life slowing down — though maybe not the hours being worked — the Moseleys got a new dog, Hershey, last spring. With Harry not flying around the world, he’s also been home to cook dinner for Rachel for the last 14 months, maybe with the exception of a couple of meals Rachel cooked, and the occasional time eating out.
“Harry has spoiled me with wonderful, delicious dinners,” Rachel said. “I’m a fortunate woman that way. Harry loves gardening and cooking.”
Said Harry, “I’m a very fortunate person because I got a great eater who loves my cooking. What could be better? At the end of the day I open up some nice wine, I can cook some nice food and I have someone who eats it, like ‘I’m very grateful and it’s so perfect.’”
Like many others, the Moseleys have hit the reset button during the pandemic.
“My plan in the post-pandemic era is not to do three or four flights a week,” Harry said. “Also, quite honestly, it’s kind of like pivoting: What is your priority in life? Work, at least certainly for me, and Rachel, if you would agree, has sort of preoccupied too much of my life. I’m very grateful and I’ve worked with great organizations and great leaders, and I’ve been very fortunate … we’re very proud of all of it, but given where we are and where we’re going it’s made me think more about personal and professional life and having more balance.”
Harry and Rachel took each other’s hands and smiled at one another. But they had to go. It was time for Harry to make dinner.