12 Boston Tech Leaders on How Their Teams Are Coming Together Right Now

April 1, 2020
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The coronavirus has upended the lives of people all across Boston, and those who are fortunate enough to still be working are adjusting to a new normal, one in which their home also serves as their office and, for some, their child’s daycare center or school. The way people work has also changed, with all in-person interactions replaced by video chats, messaging apps and email. 
 
It’s a stressful and lonely time for many, and things may get harder before they get better. Yet even as many of us struggle to navigate the uncertainty of it all, many more are finding ways to lift each other up. We recently checked in with leaders from tech companies across the Boston area to see if they’ve encountered any bright spots during these dark times and were greeted with story after story of teams coming together and connecting in unique and thoughtful ways.

How are you and your teams coming together? Share your story using #UnitedWeTech.

 

We know this has been a trying time for everyone. But as your team has adapted to new working conditions, have you found any positive takeaways from this experience?

Humanyze’s leadership team has an open-door policy around the office, so it’s common to see all kinds of informal meetings taking place over a cup of coffee or in any of our open spaces. While we can’t replace in-person collaboration, we’ve found that we can continue to have similar informal meetings through online chats and video. The leadership team has expanded our scheduled office hours through Google Hangouts, where employees can stop in with social or business questions. This has helped us keep information flowing and collaboration active.

We are also seeing real leadership among members of our team — including from some who are not in formal management positions. Many employees are rising to the challenge and helping their colleagues succeed during these confusing times. And some teams have even started to host virtual “coffee hours” in the morning to keep morale high.

 

What lesson do you think your team has learned from this and how will you carry it forward into the business once things return to normal?

The biggest lesson we’ve learned is that there’s power in collaboration. We’re a workplace analytics company, so we’ve been leveraging our own tools to understand the impact remote work is having on our overall organizational health.

So far, we’ve found that online coffee meetings are helping employees jumpstart their day in a way that feels familiar and almost natural to how they typically work at the office. We’ve been inspired to formulate new ideas to keep employees engaged, like establishing Humanyze Happy Hours. With this new initiative, we’re excited to bring the whole company together for informal conversations (last week we played trivia), which we hope to keep doing when employees return to the office — along with regular morning coffees and open-door office hours.

While at first it was a bit odd to have our dogs barking in the background or kids enter the room, remote work now feels authentic. It helps us appreciate our colleagues as whole people as opposed to just how they are in the office, and it brings a greater appreciation for the many things our teammates are juggling. With that said, I plan to work on being that much more mindful of the conflicting priorities we all face on a daily basis.

 

We know this has been a trying time for everyone. But as your team has adapted to new working conditions, have you found any positive takeaways from this experience?

One of our guiding principles is “always have fun,” and I was worried that enforcing a work-from-home model might hinder some of our culture initiatives and make it difficult to have fun at work. While we’ve had a fairly flexible work environment, many team members have grown accustomed to working in the office with their peers and even engaging in extracurricular group activities like a weekly Dungeons & Dragons game or our FullFunnel Fitness group, which explores a different fitness class each week. To my surprise, our culture may actually be strengthened by this extended work-from-home period, as team members have created weekly virtual “costumes not optional” happy hour chats, engaged in virtual yoga classes with their peers and held various other fun virtual gatherings.

 

What lesson do you think your team has learned from this and how will you carry it forward into the business once things return to normal?

Perseverance and creativity. As an outsourced sales and marketing provider, our clients rely on us to keep their pipelines full of qualified opportunities, and while it can be exceptionally challenging during uncertain economic times, our failure to perform can have significant ramifications for our client partners. As such, our team has learned to persevere through tough times and work together to deliver creative solutions that produce pipeline despite economic uncertainty in many markets.

 

Emily Fisher
Talent Projects Coordinator

We know this has been a trying time for everyone. But as your team has adapted to new working conditions, have you found any positive takeaways from this experience?

A silver lining for our team has been the ability to quickly adapt to 100-percent remote work, both for us and our customers. We created a new offering called “Cybereason Remote Workforce Protection” to help organizations secure their new, evolving-everywhere office and to ease the burden on IT and security teams. In this time of uncertainty, it’s important that we stick to our mission and reverse the adversary advantage by empowering defenders with ingenuity and technology to stop cyber threats — regardless of where you’re working from.

 

What lesson do you think your team has learned from this and how will you carry it forward into the business once things return to normal?

The COVID-19 outbreak forced us to quickly flip the switch when circumstances changed. It’s empowering to be a part of a team that can overcome adversity. We will carry this experience into our future endeavors with the confidence that we can turn obstacles into positive outcomes. Although we are facing many challenges, this has been a win that we’re proud of.

 

Tiffany Mosher
Head of People

We know this has been a trying time for everyone. But as your team has adapted to new working conditions, have you found any positive takeaways from this experience?

There have been at least two silver linings for me. The first, oddly, is that I feel more connected to my employees, which I think is due to the fact that everyone is stepping up their game around communication — from daily virtual standups, virtual happy hours and virtual board games to daily Slack encouragements and sharing, much more frequent company meetings and daily email communications. The second is reconnecting with so many area CPOs to discuss the latest trends, share ideas, brainstorm and support one another in these especially extraordinary times.

 

What lesson do you think your team has learned from this and how will you carry it forward into the business once things return to normal?

That there is no such thing as over-communicating, and that when we are all back to the office in a more “normal” workplace environment, we need to communicate like we did while we were all virtual.

 

Roy Schoenberg MD, MPH
President and CEO

We know this has been a trying time for everyone. But as your team has adapted to new working conditions, have you found any positive takeaways from this experience?

I’ve seen a surprising surge in the positivity and energy in how people are interacting and communicating. Perhaps because of the home setting, the frumpy clothes and the barking dogs, people feel the interaction isn’t forced office grind but a choice we are making to come together and continue to do what we signed up for. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the telehealth industry we’re in has suddenly been thrust into the role of saving the world — but still, that personal coming together is an amazing feeling.

 

What lesson do you think your team has learned from this and how will you carry it forward into the business once things return to normal?

With the risk of plagiarizing someone who said this before, “Yes we can.” The last few weeks have been demanding in every way and, yet, can arguably be nominated as the most productive we have ever had. In terms of purpose, they have also been the most meaningful we have ever had. No matter how you look at it, the last few weeks have set the bar as to what we can achieve by combining our very individual efforts (from baby rooms and kitchen corners) and making amazing things happen. We now know what we can do, and this will be carried through when normalcy returns — and probably make for some interesting war stories from Amwell elders around a bonfire in the decades ahead.

 

Lori Russo
Senior Director of Talent Acquisition

We know this has been a trying time for everyone. But as your team has adapted to new working conditions, have you found any positive takeaways from this experience?

COVID-19 has provided our team — and all of Salsify — with a shared experience. We have had the opportunity to see each other in our homes or even in our pajamas. We have shared in the struggle of poor Wi-Fi connections, or watched a coworker's child running in the background of a video call. We are going through these challenges together, which has given us a new perspective and appreciation for all of the people we work with.

 

What lesson do you think your team has learned from this and how will you carry it forward into the business once things return to normal?

I think the biggest lesson we have learned is empathy for one another. Getting a sneak peek into our co-workers’ home-lives has reminded us that at the end of the day, we are all human beings doing the best we can. I think this perspective will allow us to not only be more willing to share our own personal experiences with our teams but also be more perceptive to hearing other people’s challenges and inspire more flexible solutions.

 

Matthias Leitzmann
Director of Talent Acquisition

We know this has been a trying time for everyone. But as your team has adapted to new working conditions, have you found any positive takeaways from this experience?

We always were a close-knit group, navigating through hyper-growth and overcoming all sorts of startup challenges as a team, but these recent weeks have brought us even closer — we’re turning into a very large family! A lot of it has to do with all of us working from home now and the heavy use of video throughout our days. By having been invited into each other's homes virtually — often with children scurrying by in the background, curious pets peeking into the camera or teammates sharing a virtual lunch break together in their respective kitchens — one can't help but feel closer and more connected.

 

What lesson do you think your team has learned from this and how will you carry it forward into the business once things return to normal?

I think the word collaboration will have a whole new meaning to many of us in terms of what level of collaboration is possible and the means by which it can be achieved. In a way, this crisis has not only demonstrated how amazingly resilient and creative people can be but has also broken down traditional barriers to collaboration and opened up a whole new perspective on how, where and when we can solve problems as a team.

 

Marran Linsky
Senior Manager of Support & Validations

We know this has been a trying time for everyone. But as your team has adapted to new working conditions, have you found any positive takeaways from this experience?

Smack in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak, PaymentWorks is meant to be moving out of our flagship Waltham office and joining the tech community in the Back Bay in Boston. We all had to gather our belongings from the office at separate times so as to avoid spreading the virus. We still don’t know when we will actually be able to begin our journey to Boston. Video conferencing has allowed us to get to know each other better, meet our coworkers’ dogs, cats and children and see a little of each other’s home lives.

That said, it doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate or help our community in the process. By doing a company-wide virtual happy hour — which will be held on what would have been our official last day in Waltham — we will be able to bring our employees together to reflect, reminisce and celebrate. More importantly, PaymentWorks was able to donate all of our old office furniture to a local school dedicated to special education.

 

What lesson do you think your team has learned from this and how will you carry it forward into the business once things return to normal?

This time has taught us that even though we miss the daily interactions in the office, we can work together just the same as we ever have, and maybe even a little bit better. Even in tough times, it’s always important to be able to help our local community. We hope to continue to be an active participant in our community, no matter what is going on. Every little bit helps.

 

Elizabeth Fierman
VP of People

We know this has been a trying time for everyone. But as your team has adapted to new working conditions, have you found any positive takeaways from this experience?

I worried that being remote would lead to people feeling isolated, teams losing their vibe, work happening in silos and so on. It’s been so cool to witness the exact opposite happening. Teams are intentionally and consistently finding ways to learn more about each other as people and not just as coworkers. New hobby-focused or fun-only Slack channels, virtual team lunches and happy hours, choosing to video rather than sending a Slack or email, the list goes on. The result of this meaningful, frequent and intentional interaction is quickly changing our culture in a really positive way.

 

What lesson do you think your team has learned from this and how will you carry it forward into the business once things return to normal?

We are definitely ready to be back in an office together. When we get there, I hope we don’t take those passing moments of in-office interaction for granted. It can feel like you’ve done enough relationship-building just by sharing the same space with your coworkers. This experience has taught us that sitting in the same room with each other isn’t nearly as valuable as purposefully getting to know each other. We all know that when people are happy at work, they do good work. We anticipate this being great for both our people and our business.

 

Matt Quinn
VP of Engineering

We know this has been a trying time for everyone. But as your team has adapted to new working conditions, have you found any positive takeaways from this experience?

At Alignable, we’ve built a small business network with more than 4.5 million members across North America. We’ve leveraged this network in the past few weeks to gather powerful insights from our members on how the virus is impacting their businesses. The results are sobering, but there are many positives emerging as well.

Many businesses are thriving due to the incredible entrepreneurialism and creativity within our network. Restaurants are pivoting fast towards takeout and delivery. Small brick-and-mortar shops are quickly figuring out how to sell online. We also launched a resource page for small businesses to help them continue to thrive through this challenging time.

 

What lesson do you think your team has learned from this and how will you carry it forward into the business once things return to normal?

We’re a startup, so a lot of what we do is based on quick conversations and face-to-face, real-time decision making. When we shifted to working remotely this became a lot harder and we’ve been leaning heavily on Slack and Notion to stay connected. We learned fast that writing things down helps us to ensure alignment and continue to move quickly. We’ll continue this good practice when this is all over and we shift back to an office setting. 

The other thing we learned is that we all miss the interpersonal interactions that happen in the office. A video call just isn’t the same. When things get back to normal we’re committed to encouraging great relationships within the team, even as our staff gets bigger. This is a truth we knew before; however, this time at home has accentuated its importance and the need to put the right mechanisms and reinforcements in place as we grow.

 

Joe Spinelli
Founder and CEO

We know this has been a trying time for everyone. But as your team has adapted to new working conditions, have you found any positive takeaways from this experience?

For the team here at HaulHub, the silver lining has been recognizing the unexpected value in the things we do. Over the last several months we’ve worked with our customers to build an app that allows them to electronically submit official construction paperwork to their state's Department of Transportation. Initially, our focus for this product was on increasing productivity through time and cost savings, but in these times of social distancing, we’ve realized the additional value that our DOTSlip product provides is allowing submission and approval of paperwork with no human contact. It’s an unexpected benefit we’ve discovered that we’re happy to provide to our customers.

 

What lesson do you think your team has learned from this and how will you carry it forward into the business once things return to normal?

At HaulHub we’ve always been a customer-centric business, but this crisis has really driven that home. Our customers are large material producers, contractors and transportation providers that build roads and infrastructure. Many of them are now required to check in with every employee daily to make sure they aren’t ill or haven’t potentially been exposed to someone who is. Next week we’ll be releasing a new, completely free app that allows companies to perform these health and safety checks for all employees each day, without requiring any face-to-face interaction or handling of paperwork. It’s a brand new requirement that just arose and we’re planning to have the functionality in their hands within a matter of days. That kind of ultra-responsiveness to our customers’ changing needs is something we will continue to focus on going forward.

 

Jessica Demmer
Director of Demand Generation

We know this has been a trying time for everyone. But as your team has adapted to new working conditions, have you found any positive takeaways from this experience?

We’ve been able to use our own product to provide data that the public wants and needs around COVID-19. In times of crisis, knowledge and data become more important. As a leading mobile data provider, we want to help businesses get the mobile insights they need to prevail throughout this time period. We’ve been doubling down on creating free content that is very valuable and helpful to businesses. So far, their responses have been very appreciative.

 

What lesson do you think your team has learned from this and how will you carry it forward into the business once things return to normal?

Communication, creativity and positivity are key to persevering through challenging times. Our team is making sure to over-communicate and use creative problem-solving to get through this hard time. Working together to navigate this new normal and excel in these conditions will only help us in the long run.

 

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