Gabriel Engel is the CEO and co-founder of Rocket.Chat, the leading open-source team communication platform that allows users to chat securely on the web, desktop, or mobile and offers the choice of both Self-Managed and SaaS options. Rocket.Chat is used by companies and individuals from a variety of sectors ranging from education and technology to financial, non-profit, governmental and public services. Gabriel founded Rocket.Chat in 2015 and is passionate about collaboration tools, open-source and new tech. Prior to Rocket.Chat, Gabriel co-founded Konecty, and worked as Product Manager for Business Innovation and Mobile Applications at Vodafone Global Enterprise. Gabriel’s long-term vision for Rocket.Chat is to replace email with a real-time federated communications platform.
When Did You Realise You Wanted to Be in Tech?
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to grow up to be an inventor. My interest in technology flourished when my father bought our family’s first computer. Having access to a computer made me realise that I no longer needed to have a full lab because now I could create digital projects much faster.
What Inspired You to Pursue Tech?
I have always been interested in learning how to create and build things. As a kid, I was inspired by the fantastic story of General Electric. The idea that, for Thomas Edison, to create the light bulb was not enough. He also had to found a company and raise a lot of capital to commercialise it to achieve success, which intrigued me from a young age. The entrepreneurial potential of tech is exciting.
How Did You Get Into Open Source?
As a freshman in college, I decided to start a business with some of my classmates, and this is where I got to experience open source for the first time. Our collective project garnered a lot of interest and attention from businesses around the world. The successful small business that we built inspired me to pursue my own larger open source project.
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As a Virtual Business, How Do You Manage to Provide Feedback to Your Employees?
I cannot stress enough the value of consistent and open communication. This is critical to sharing constructive feedback, especially when managing a remote team. Instead of sharing feedback by email or phone, I prefer to do it via video calls. This gives my staff the chance to pick up on both verbal and non-verbal gestures during the conversation. I always prepare my discussion points in advance of a call. It is imperative to position the conversation to be supportive and goal-oriented. We end the discussion with key action items that will help to get my staffer on the right path.
How Do You Ensure That Team Building and Bonding Remain a Top Priority at a Virtual Business?
At Rocket.Chat, I have prioritised creating a great company culture that both engages and empowers employees to understand their ideas and voices matter. As a company, we emphasise staying connected through the Rocket.Chat platform, various channels dedicated to interests, video meetings, and much more. Although Rocket.Chat has been a virtual business since its inception, we invest in a yearly team gathering, which we refer to as “The Annual Summit.” During this time, we bring all our employees together for 1-2 weeks to get to know one another, spend time together, enjoy meals and conversations, brainstorm, and go on adventures to build memories and team camaraderie.