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PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejada says we’re all experiencing more ‘interrupt work’

May 9, 2022, 12:40 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Jill Biden meets with Ukraine’s first lady, Northern Ireland backs Sinn Fein, and running PagerDuty taught CEO Jennifer Tejada about the future of work.

– Future of work. The software company PagerDuty was built to manage “interrupt work.” That’s what CEO Jennifer Tejada calls tasks that aren’t on your calendar at the start of the day. “It’s not the kind of work where you get up in the morning and you know exactly what you’re doing for the day,” she says. “It’s unstructured, unplanned, and generally comes at us in a time-sensitive manner.”

The digital operations platform handles a specific kind of “interrupt work,” automating incident responses to urgent IT problems for customers like Cisco and Zoom. But workers across all functions are seeing unpredictable work take up more and more of their jobs, Tejada says. And even if some jobs don’t tend to involve crises, the unpredictable schedule that comes with working from home and taking care of kids, elderly parents, or even pets, can make feeling interrupted a regular part of the workday.

Jennifer Tejada, CEO of PagerDuty.
Courtesy of PagerDuty

That presents an opportunity for PagerDuty. “Work going from being structured, and planned, and predictable to being unstructured and time-critical is part of this huge digital shift,” the CEO says. Managing unpredictable work is just one piece of that transformation.

The CEO and I spoke by phone a few weeks ago, just after the company announced its 2022 fiscal year earnings. (Revenue was up 31.8% year-over-year to $281 million, although PagerDuty’s stock is down 26% in the past year.)

Many CEOs would say they’ve gleaned insights into the future of work by navigating the rapid changes that accompanied the pandemic. But Tejada’s job positioned her particularly well to understand where the modern workplace is headed. (The chief executive has been at the helm of the company since 2016 and took the business public in 2019.) Her target demographic has long been developers, who have been responding to crises at any time from anywhere, well before remote work became the norm. She even tested out the popular idea of a four-day workweek over the past year by offering employees a “wellness day” once a month—soon finding that employees were more productive during shortened weeks. Some staffers used their fifth day of the week to engage in the kind of deep work that the rise of “interrupt work” makes so difficult.

Work over the past two years has been distributed by default, leading to the unpredictability of the current work environment. Now, Tejada argues, it’s time to address some of those challenges and make the workplace “distributed by design.”

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

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ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Mother's Day meetup. First Lady Jill Biden spent her Mother's Day in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, where she met with the country's First Lady Olena Zelenska. Biden's trip to Eastern Europe was on her public schedule, but her visit across the Ukrainian border was unannounced. The meeting marked the first time Zelenska has been seen in public since the start of the war and the first visit by an American first lady to a war zone since Laura Bush's to Iraq in 2008. CNN

- Crisis comms. The newsletter Popular Information reported that public relations firm Zeno, an adviser to major corporations and a subset of Edelman Holdings, advised its clients to stay silent on the Supreme Court's draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The firm suggested that the first company to "raise its hand" can become a lead story on the issue, and told clients that "being at the center [of the story] is not advisable" on the issue of abortion. The PR firm says this guidance applied to "the first 24 hours of breaking news." Popular Information

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- Irish elections. In elections in Northern Ireland this weekend, Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein overtook the ruling Democratic Unionist Party. Sinn Fein, which advocates for a united Ireland, is led by president Mary Lou McDonald. The party will now be able to nominate Northern Ireland's first minister. CNN

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- Primary to watch. Rep. Henry Cuellar is the rare anti-abortion Democrat in Congress. The South Texas representative is facing a primary challenge from Jessica Cisneros, who is in favor of abortion rights and first ran against Cuellar in 2020. The draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade has put a new spotlight on the race. New York Times

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ON MY RADAR

The scientist who co-created CRISPR isn’t ruling out engineered babies someday MIT Technology Review

How same-sex marriage shaped Joe Biden Politico

Newsrooms must reframe abortion coverage and the worn-out debate around the rules of objectivity Poynter

PARTING WORDS

"It's down to each and every one of us to support parents and carers, and all those who are raising children today."

-Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, announcing her patronage of U.K. charity the Maternal Mental Health Alliance. 

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