Product Research Through Culture

Behzod Sirjani and How Slack Humanizes Work


At the heart of anything we create should be an essence. A veritable joie to vivre that serves as the foundation and the direction for what we bring into this world. Often times, we fail to recognize the minutiae that play a significant role in guiding massive bodies of movement.

Culture is something that is often difficult to summarize succinctly. It’s a constantly evolving body, it never remains stagnant and evolves based on the inputs and subsequent reactions of its participants. 

A handbook is something that can only take you so far. To create something that resonates requires research and it requires a comprehensive game plan to dissect and put forth into action the learnings. But comprehension is not to say that it becomes a regimented and sterile process.

Researcher and photographer Behzod Sirjani has dedicated his career towards the understanding of culture. It has come through the lens of both social media, at Facebook and more recently with remote and digital work at Slack. The interactions we’ve engaged in online have changed significantly from our face-to-face communications of the past, and as such, we now see our peers much differently.

Our access to their interests, their views, and how they interact is on full display. These cultural nuances, through  Sirjani’s role as Senior Researcher at Slack, present themselves as key determinants of how digital work culture moves forward. The inclusion of photography has also given him an added tool to force him to observe and be present as things play out around him.

The speed of culture is unlike anything mankind has ever seen. To not understand it, is to our disadvantage as we must remain diligent and focused on building the tools that uphold the necessary ethics and interests befitting of the countless people it touches.

“I think some people feel now a higher pressure because we have so many metrics around engagement, clicks, and you care about who people like this person is following this person and I feel some people haven’t given themselves permission to play.”

— Behzod, on how we’ve lost the ability to “play”

From the TrainerRoad ride hosted by Rapha.

“I’m a cyclist. I think about this a lot when I’m biking. When someone passes me or I pass someone, I try really hard not to make a judgment about it because I have no idea how many miles they’ve ridden. I have no idea what’s going on in their life. So me being ‘oh I just passed someone,’ it could feel good because yes I was moving faster but maybe they’re a hundred miles in and I started riding. So that doesn’t actually mean anything.”

— Behzod, on how we’ve lost the ability to “play”

Portland, Oregon.

“I need to go and find that. And it’s OK that I’m leaving this good company… I may go work at an objectively less-good company in some people’s eyes but I’m going because I need to learn.”

— Behzod, on one’s need to continue the journey of learning

A shot from the Heritage SF concert by The Center for Asian American Media.