Increased focus on security. More systems operating in the cloud, more code running, and more internet-enabled devices, there’s just more surface area for potential attacks. Ransomware attacks doubled in 2021. More employees working remotely means more potential victims of phishing or smishing attacks. Security is definitely a market that will continue to expand.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Brandon West.

Brandon West is a Senior Technical Evangelist at Datadog (via acquisition of CoScreen), where he helps developers build apps with modern monitoring and security. Brandon has worked in tech as a software developer since 1999, with a focus on educating and empowering other developers in developer relations roles since 2011. He has built and led teams distributed teams as Senior Director of Community at SendGrid and as Senior Manager of Developer Relations for the Americas at AWS. Brandon and has travelled around the world speaking about software development, cloud computing, and devrel, and currently resides in Seattle, Washington.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Let’s get to know you a bit — what are one or two life experiences that led you to where you are today (professionally and/or personally).

I was interested in video games and computers as a kid, so I was always playing around with things. Oddly enough, trading mp3s on Napster is kind of what led to me pursuing software development as a job. I’ve written about this on Twitter, but to summarize, I lucked into being an early user of Napster, became an admin, and had an ICQ chat with Shawn Fanning that inspired me to learn to write code professionally. So I did.

The other thing that has had a big impact on my life is playing music. Me and some friends were bored during the end of our time in high school, so we bought some music gear and started a thrash metal band. It was a lot of fun, and it was also a very humbling experience to get up on stage at bars where we weren’t even old enough to drink and just absolutely suck for our first few shows. After that, I’ve never really been afraid to jump on stage at a conference or speak at an event. There’s no way I can bomb harder than I’ve bombed before.

Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

I don’t believe any of the metaverse hype. It’s the same dream I’ve been sold since the days of Sega VR in 1994 and Second Life again a decade later. In 15 years I think we’ll be operating in more or less the same modes as we are today, whether remote or hybrid or fully on-site, just with different and better tools, such as CoScreen. Maybe there will be a meeting or event here or there where a virtual component might make sense, but I’m skeptical that we need an entirely new modality where we strap computers to our faces.

These last few years have seen a lot of job hopping and relatively short tenures, at least in tech. And rightfully so; the ground shifted under us and we all had a chance to re-evaluate what we wanted. On top of that, if you weren’t open to offers even when employed, you were more likely than not leaving money on the table. I think that’s going to cool off and we’ll see longer tenures again. The attention that companies are now paying to culture and retention will bear fruit, as will some of the shift from equity-heavy compensation to higher base pay.

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

Everything starts with building a strong culture and providing psychological safety to your team. Those things will always transcend trends and technological shifts, as long as you design resilient processes to evaluate and adjust as needed. It’s never too early to start thinking about culture and reinforcing your values through how you conduct your meetings and organize your business.

I also think it’s important to have a practice of reviewing and adjusting recurring meetings on a regular cadence to make sure that the audience, content, and channel continue to fit the purpose of the meeting. If you’re using Zoom for everything, you’ve probably got room for improvement.

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?

Many companies are still in a transitional period when it comes to supporting remote work or hybrid work. Developing that muscle quickly is important so employees aren’t left with questions that don’t have good answers. I’ve seen some companies like GitLab create roles with titles like “Head of Remote” to focus on that gap. I think we’ll see more of that, and it’s probably a good idea. It’s a critical thing to get right, but getting it right also largely depends on the context. Making remote culture an on-going point of emphasis with high visibility will pay dividends.

We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?

I’m in the camp that makes a point to separate “Working From Home ‘’ and “Working During a Pandemic,” because I’ve worked from home before, and these last couple years have not been normal. Working from home doesn’t mean schools are closed, or that you get anxiety about going to the grocery store, or that all the other adults in your home are also working from home, and that kind of thing. There have been a lot of folks exposed to some big downsides. I know plenty of people that can’t wait to get back to the office.

The big, sustained cultural shift will come from the businesses that realized roles that they thought required being at an office actually didn’t need to be managed that way. A lot of businesses have now made the investment in equipment and tools and services to support remote employees, and I expect most employers will continue to enable those things, at least to some degree.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

People need to be able to trust that they will be insured and have access to healthcare and medication regardless of their employment status. In the U.S., the negative economic impacts of the pandemic have disproportionately affected lower-wage workers ( A future that exposes healthcare workers, teachers, delivery drivers, and other essential members of society to undue risk won’t be sustainable.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

I think decoupling where work is being done from the work itself is going to have a lot of benefits for a lot of different communities. Where a person is from will have less of an impact on their ability to get a job that pays well, and that creates opportunity.

Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?

There are a lot of articles out there about four-day work weeks and wellness stipends and better mental health benefits. All of those things are great, but the truth is that a few zoom therapy sessions with a counselor from an online portal aren’t going to be the difference maker in whether or not someone burns out. At one company that I worked at early in my career, the bosses bought a pool table for the break room after a grueling quarter. We played pool every day until someone made a comment that we were wasting time playing instead of working. Creating a good culture is an ongoing process that takes consistent practice. Many of the tried-and-true ways of improving employee wellbeing seem innovative now because they were ignored for a while.

Things like not contacting employees after work hours unless there’s an emergency take more discipline now due to the rise of emails and slack messages and smartphones, especially for those not used to working remotely. The companies that I think are doing the best do the hard work of caring about their employees, listening to their feedback, fostering psychological safety, and offering fair chances at promotions and raises relative to opportunities outside of the company. They create a culture that makes employees feel good and fairly valued, and lets them speak up when their needs aren’t met.

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

The biggest thing that leaders should take away from these headlines is that employees have more choice and more power now than they did previously, so they’re being more thoughtful about where they choose to work. Companies with strong cultures likely don’t need to evolve very much, as these cultures tend to be responsive to change and introspective when needed. Those businesses should instead focus on fair compensation and keeping up with the increasing market rates.

For companies that are struggling, my advice is to focus on your meetings. Meetings are your company’s values made manifest. The way they are structured, who gets to speak, the channel used, the level of transparency around operations, the types of accomplishments that are celebrated and so on all demonstrate what the business cares about more so than the values that are written in the company wiki. Be intentional about your meetings and how they are run. Make sure you have leaders that are modeling aspirational values during meetings. Pay attention to disconnects between the level of complexity of information being conveyed and the channel used to communicate it (this usually sounds like “this could’ve been an email.”) These are chances to make things better. Meetings should be for generating new ideas, collaborating, or establishing a sense of rapport rather than just sharing information.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”

Continued/Accelerated cloud adoption

It seems strange to say, but we’re still early in the grand scheme of cloud adoption. As more and more companies move their workloads to the cloud, the more experience they get operating things in the cloud, which leads them to build more things in the cloud. The flywheel will continue to spin. It’s been said that every company is in some form a technology company these days, and while I don’t believe that’s true from an engineering perspective, it doesn’t have to be true to mean that cloud adoption will continue to soar. Builders using no code tools are probably using tools hosted in the cloud.

Increased focus on security

More systems operating in the cloud, more code running, and more internet-enabled devices, there’s just more surface area for potential attacks. Ransomware attacks doubled in 2021 ( More employees working remotely means more potential victims of phishing or smishing attacks. Security is definitely a market that will continue to expand.

More low code/no code tools

There are already some very powerful platforms that let people without coding skills connect different services, transform data, trigger events, and automate complex workflows. I believe we’ll see this particular market segment heat up a lot. It’s a natural progression of abstraction and user experience improvements after the rise of services with public APIs. I’ve been a part of several developer relations teams that have tons of coding skills but still choose to build some workflows like event tracking or chat moderation using no code tools, especially for things that are likely to evolve. It’s faster and less complex than coding and can be handed off to other teammates more easily without requiring a bunch of documentation and install scripts.

Less Zoom, more apps for specific needs

People are sick of being on camera all the time. Even Zoom’s CEO got tired of video conferences. There’s often a disconnect between the level of focus the content being discussed requires, and the level of attention it takes to be on camera. People become disengaged because they feel like they can’t contribute.

In terms of remote work, we’re still early on, and there are a lot of companies, like CoScreen, that are building new and interesting ways to collaborate that aren’t just another video conference. As companies build their remote working muscles, we’ll see them adopt some of these newer approaches.

More focus on developing junior talent

When recruiting is difficult, having a way to turn potential into talent can be a big win in the long-term. Early on at SendGrid, we hired several extremely capable folks right out of university for our Developer Relations team, for two reasons: finding developer advocates in 2012 was very difficult because it was relatively nascent compared to today, and we were a startup with limited budget and funds. Hiring and developing talent enabled us to scale the team and find amazing teammates before someone else did. It takes a very deliberate approach to provide junior employees with structure and coaching to help them succeed. I expect more tech companies to create teams and programs for those that are earlier in their careers in order to supplement their talent pipeline and broaden the pool of candidates.

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

One of my favorites is from Maya Angelou: “[P]eople will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Working in developer relations requires cultivating empathy whenever possible, and that means trying to think about how other people feel. The biggest wins in my career have been when people tell me years later that some advice I gave them had a meaningful impact, and the worst losses are when I’ve forgotten who someone is or confused their accomplishments and made them feel unimportant. I try my best to be kind and consider how my actions make others feel.

Is there a person in the world with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why?

I’m going to go with Bill Murray or maybe Snoop Dogg, because they seem like they wouldn’t mind the intrusion. If I were having a cup of coffee with some Nobel Prize winning author or an esteemed world leader, I’d feel a lot of pressure to ask interesting questions. I’d be worried that I was wasting their time with silly conversation when they should be busy saving the world or something. But I imagine sharing a breakfast burrito with Bill or Snoop would be cracking jokes and hanging out, which sounds nice.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

I’m most active on twitter, where I’m @bwest. I’m looking forward to more conversations!

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.