How DRW's Zach Malsom is still working

Part of an FIA series on people in the derivatives industry adapting to coronavirus challenges

14 May 2020


Zach Malsom, Head of Strategic Planning at DRW

zach malsom drw
DRW's Zach Malsom takes a "sanity break" with his son.

What’s one significant way coronavirus has affected your work?

When we decided to ask employees to work from home in March, I helped coordinate the efforts to ensure that our teams transitioned to this new way of working as seamlessly as possible. I’ve been able to witness firsthand the real resilience of teams at DRW and of our leadership. For the past two years, we’ve been developing our process for quarterly goal setting at a firm-wide level. The end of March coincided with our regularly-planned reflection and goal-setting process, however, all of our teams were now faced with setting team goals over Zoom from their home offices or dining room tables. Some teams needed to pivot, but for most, the goals they set for themselves were no different than if they would have been in the office. Our existing quarterly cadence helped teams quickly adjust to the new normal, all while empowering them to set impressive and aggressive goals and maintain our existing flow of communication. We didn’t miss a beat.

On a more personal level, my biggest adjustment is attempting to find a new routine. I think many of us are getting used to the constant flow of distractions. Whether it’s the news, kids, pets, roommates or a spouse, with so much going on right now it’s hard to have those larger chunks of hyper focused time that we had at the office. For me, I have had to accept these changes and figure out new ways to maximize my effectiveness, efficiency and output in this new environment.

What’s a typical day like for you right now as we “shelter in place”?

My wife works at a nearby hospital, so she gets up early and heads to work every day. As part of my new routine, I take advantage of this time I have alone before my son wakes up. I try to always treat myself with a great cup (or three) of coffee, and review my son’s school assignments for that day. My son and I start our work around the same time, and I check in on him throughout the day to make sure he’s focused when he needs to be but also taking sanity breaks. We keep each other honest on taking a full hour-long lunch break, which always includes a good walk or a game of NERF sword fighting in the back yard.

My wife comes home around 5:30 p.m., and we have time together as a family eating dinner, going on a walk, playing a board game or watching a movie. After my son goes to bed, I take an hour or so to jump back into work until I fully shut down around 10 p.m. As I’m sure many people can relate to right now, so much of my day is contending with distraction. I don’t have large chunks of time, so the time that I do have I focus on prioritizing well and figuring out how to do things in bite sized pieces.

What’s something that has given you hope for the future after this pandemic?

From a professional prospective, I am really grateful to be here at DRW. Our senior leadership team is just as engaged and energized now as they were a few months ago when we were all in the office. Now, more than ever, I see the importance of the markets and the role our firm plays keeping them well functioning and efficient. I’m very proud to be a part of it, and am constantly inspired by my coworkers as we take on interesting projects and complex challenges together. On a personal level, in a lot of ways I’m connecting more than ever with others. I check in with neighbors, friends and family every day. We are all being very creative in how we do that. People are pleasant, hopeful and upbeat, and it really feels that we are all in this together. There are terrible things happening right now - I don’t want to downplay that, but I really see people persevering and staying positive through this crisis.

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