What do you see as the biggest learning moment/opportunity from the COVID-19 response?
In an average week, I spend a lot of time thinking about trying to make progress despite constraints. The shakeup and urgency created by the COVID-19 situation presented an opportunity to think bigger. I felt liberated to step out of the box and consider moving faster, accomplishing more, and being better. I am holding on to that feeling as we sort out what “the new normal” looks like.
As a member of the firm’s Primary Response Team, I worked with leadership and staff across our 20 offices. We were creating solutions in real time and training a large percentage of our staff members on how to engage with and successfully use collaborative tools. A change of this magnitude was not only a completely new experience for most of our staff, but it was also unlike anything I have encountered previously.
Thank you for your leadership during COVID-19. It felt like we were moving faster than ever before. How did it feel behind the scenes?
Controlled chaos might be the best way to describe it. Over the last few years our System Administrator and I have been quietly building and investing in our underlying network infrastructure. COVID-19 tested our rebuilt infrastructure, including hardware, software, processes, and staff comfort level for working remotely in a previously unimaginable way.
Infrastructure improvements go unnoticed for the most part and are not “sexy” in the way new gear is, so we felt validated to see the effort pay dividends and to see the employees recognizing that and showing their appreciation for those unseen efforts. There was also some uncertainty around if our everyday resources, such as our existing Virtual Private Network (VPN), firewalls, and networks, were prepared to support the load of an entirely remote workforce. We were glad to see those systems thrive with no need for contingencies.
Did you learn something about ECT employees that surprised you?
I was blown away by how readily our people adapted to a completely new way of working. I count these people as my friends, and I am extremely proud of how they pulled together to make this work for us all.
Did you discover new tools or resources that you haven’t used previously to help our employees work remotely?
There are a few things, not exactly new tools, but more like unsung productivity heroes. The one that people are most excited about is Office Lens. It is a free mobile app that lets people use their phone to scan documents. It is a Microsoft product, integrated to Office 365, which means that when you photograph the document you are “scanning” it can be automatically uploaded to OneDrive. It really makes processes, such as putting together receipts for expense reports, much easier.
We “leaned in” hard to our existing toolbox to enable communication and collaboration in this new remote workforce situation. There were a few initial bumps along the road, but now people are actively using the tools and developing a new level of comfort with them. Short term goals involve measures to get people excited about the potential of OneDrive. Long term goals involve implementing Microsoft Teams, it could change everything.
How did you juggle the need to virtualize ECT with personal and family life?
It was the wild west around my place for a couple of weeks. My wife and I have two elementary school-aged kids and we were trying to manage ECT’s response and transition. My wife’s schedule is even more demanding than mine, so we were stretched pretty thin. It felt very chaotic as screen-time restrictions were thrown out the window and bedtimes were forgotten, but we knew that the intensity of the moment was temporary. Schedules were created and adjustments were made, and life felt manageable again.
What is something that might surprise your ECT colleagues?
I designed and built my wife a 400 SF chicken coop, complete with Alexa integration and automation. I am a very adventurous eater, and I take no pleasure in telling you to reboot your computer.
When you’re not saving ECT employees from tech catastrophes, what do you enjoy doing?
So many things! If I’m working with my hands, spending time outside or travelling I’m a happy guy. I really enjoy building and fixing things. I like woodworking, welding, cooking, reading, and working on cars and boats. I like going on hikes, runs, and other outdoor activities with my family. I love, love, love the water. Here in Central Florida, we go kayaking down narrow spring runs, scalloping in the gulf, paddle boarding around lakes, snorkeling and lobstering in the Florida Keys, scuba diving and sailing. The best part is being able to share my passions with my kids. We took them to Paris for a week over Thanksgiving break last year, it was the trip of a lifetime.