The COVID-19 pandemic forced a lot of change — mostly unwilling, but some welcome adaption.
In the last month of this year, we at Technical.ly have been diving into December’s editorial theme: lessons on resilience. What can this challenging and unpredictable time tell us? Remote work and distributed companies is one obvious lesson, but the pandemic also spurred new businesses, encouraged us to reflect on mistakes and helped us envision a better future.
Pivots happen because what you’ve been doing isn’t working anymore. Making changes, both professional and personal, can lead to even better opportunities, as Managing Editor Julie Zeglen wrote earlier this month.
So, we reached out to members of the Philly tech community and asked: What’s one thing you changed during this period and will you keep with you? And why?
Laurie Actman, the chief marketing, communications and program officer for the Penn Center for Innovation, said the pandemic has given her a deeper appreciation for her team — and one teammate in particular. John Swartley, the org’s managing director, led PCI with “support and compassion for the challenges we all faced personally” during the ever-changing conditions the pandemic presented, Actman said.
She was working at home while juggling three kids, virtual schooling and isolation.
“John set a very compassionate tone no matter what our personal challenges happened to be during this time, and as a result I found my work at PCI became even more engaging and valuable because it provided a sense of accomplishment and respite during a time when there was very little else we could control,” Actman said.
Cesium Director of Product Management Shehzan Mohammed said the biggest lesson came from trying out GitHub as a communication platform.
“Although we were doing it before the pandemic, our way of communicating proved particularly helpful as we transitioned to temporary remote work,” he said of the geospatial company. “By using GitHub to communicate transparently and openly across the team, we limit internal email and keep everyone on the same page when in-office interactions are scarce.”
Carolyn Mooney, cofounder and CEO of analytics startup Nextmv, said she’s found both personal and professional changes for the better. Like Mohammed, her team realized the value of upping internal communication and transparency, and learned the “importance of creativity in feeling connected in remote work environments.”
The team had some opportunities to connect in-person in Q4 of the year. Nextmv implemented a yearly stipend for employees to travel and work with each other, called Bunny Hops, that they’ll highlight going forward. (The startup’s mascot is a rabbit.) “Vaccination rates really helped us re-engage in person,” Mooney said.
On the personal side, the pandemic has been a great reminder to take care of herself from a physical and mental perspective.
“I started running over the last year and using walks as a replacement for Zoom on a few calls a week,” she said. “I also took on an exec coach, which has helped me gain perspective and become a better leader.”
And for Mark Switaj, CEO of healthcare ride booking company Roundtrip, the shift to distributed work has allowed the company to redefine collaboration and the team’s needs. They’ve since proven there are lots of ways to collaborate — through Teams, asynchronously through Slack, and in its Philly office with protocols in place.
“Collaboration is not one-size-fits-all, we overlay individual DiSC profiles to ensure we are aligning to how individuals and teams best embrace their working style,” Switaj said. (DiSC is a framework standing for dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness.) “If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we’ve built an incredible team that we can trust to get the job done no matter where we all are.”