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Thoughts on no camera culture in tech lately?

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Machine Learning Engineer at Taro Community6 months ago

With all the remote work, more people are opting to not use cameras in meetings. On one hand that means you can not have to worry about looking put together, but on the other hand it makes remote work more painful

Questions for the community:

  • do you prefer cameras on or off?
  • if your team is primarily a camera off, do you think its worth it to ask for camera on?
  • Do you find meetings more effective with cameras on?
  • How does this change if you are fully remote vs. hybrid/in person

When I say meetings, I am referring to small huddles/quick zoom call with your coworker(s) to help or ask for help on some bug or brainstorm stuff. By large no one really pays a ton of attention in large more formal meetings anyways

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Discussion

(5 comments)
  • 7
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    Software Engineer @ Reliance
    6 months ago

    I prefer cameras to be off for quick huddles and short meetings, I prefer people to be on the point and share their screen if necessary. When we communicate, I usually look for, How do we articulate our questions better.

    Maybe because I care about agility in engineering a feature I prefer communication to be as minimal as possible but crisp whenever we do, well written/documented, more direct.

  • 14
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    6 months ago

    do you prefer cameras on or off?

    On. It's good for building relationships as I cover here: Alex's Guide To Effective Communication

    if your team is primarily a camera off, do you think its worth it to ask for camera on?

    No. This kind of culture is hard to change, and it can come off as a bit rude if they have a strong, practical reason for camera off (e.g. they look terrible and want to hide it).

    Do you find meetings more effective with cameras on?

    Yes. Again, as it's good for building relationships. Seeing body language (if it's positive) is also great for showing intent. If you are delivering constructive criticism with positive body language, it will have a much higher chance to land.

    How does this change if you are fully remote vs. hybrid/in person

    If you're fully remote, it's far, far more important to have camera on as relationships build up more slowly when nobody ever meets in-person. Imagine you're full-remote and nobody turns on their camera - You literally never see your coworkers' faces live. That's just crazy to me.

    Long story short, I'm a big fan of camera on. However, I understand that it's not for everybody, and this is the kind of thing where you have to adapt to the existing culture. If your team is a camera off culture, go camera off.

  • 6
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    Fractional CTO, Board Advisor, & VC Tech Advisor
    6 months ago

    I like what's been provided here already and I wanted to add just a tad more to this from a meeting hygiene standpoint as well. Quick conversations or help is usually cameras off. Calls with clients are 100% cameras on unless someone's internet gets wonky. I've had issues where there's just too much traffic across my network card (1gbps up and down with generator backup for WFH so it's highly unlikely to be the ISP).

    Formal meetings cameras on with 18-20 people doesn't work as RAM on your computer is likely to die before too long in the meeting so be aware of that.

    One thing I've paid attention to is recently what my background would look like based on having an injury and where I can take the meeting. Some injuries might have you taking the meeting from an unoptimal room or location. Virtual backgrounds work wonders for these settings.

  • 12
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    6 months ago

    I prefer cameras on, and every teacher I know also prefers cameras to be on, since the visual feedback is helpful to the presenter on if their message is landing.

    If the meeting is purely transactional or about info transfer, camera off is fine (it's true that camera on meetings are more taxing).

  • 10
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    Senior SWE, Manager at Google
    6 months ago

    Yeah I definitely prefer camera on! I would even say in some instances, having everyone’s mic on is also good. It just feels more natural and help people get to know each other ever slightly faster. I have operated in an environment where 95% people turn on their videos, however.

    if your team is primarily a camera off, do you think its worth it to ask for camera on?

    While asking about this openly might not be wise, I would say this is a case where you can definitely lead by example.

    Just start having your camera on during 1:1s and team meetings even if no one else does. It’s one of those things where nobody is gonna tell you to turn your video off. You just have to be brave and break the norm. People will appreciate it when you speak, and you’ll be certainly be more effective. And others may start copying your behavior eventually. Be the change you want to see!