2020 Good Riddance: An “Interesting” Year in Review
In this article, Catchpoint's CEO, Mehdi Daoudi, reviews how we went through 2020.
We gathered on February 10, 2020, for our Sales Kick off. We held it in Boston and, for the first time, had external speakers. We announced our president club destination. 2019 was a good year, and we were looking forward to 2020.
When I went to visit some customers in Europe in late February / early March, I noticed the nervousness of the folks on the plane back from Barcelona. Some were even starting to wear masks. I landed in NY; everything was normal.
Our winners for 2019, with a Catchpoint blue Away suitcase. Little did we know, those suitcases would collect dust in 2020.
We activated Catchpoint’s Business Continuity Plan (BCP) on March 5. I went home to Los Angeles for the weekend and had a ticket for the red-eye LAX – JFK that Sunday. I never took it and have not seen a plane since then.
Everyone, from friends to fellow CEOs, was jittery that weekend. I called an emergency meeting of our Business Continuity Principals, as rumors of the country shutting down were ramping up. A BCP does not necessarily assume the entire company will go remote, and I was not sure we were prepared and ready.
We decided to do a dry run with all our employees worldwide working from home on March 10. We ran a survey that same night to figure out what worked, what did not work, what else people needed… and since then, we, like many other fortunate people have been working from home or living in our work.
COVID-19: The Pandemic Hits
March 11, we told everyone to work from home permanently during the pandemic. Our focus was our colleagues’ well-being and ability to work with the same efficacy as they did from the office. Did everyone have the support they needed? Did they have the right equipment, chairs, monitors, and desks? We even got AC and emergency power backups for our 100+ employees in Bangalore.
March was spent reading and talking to other CEOs. Nothing prepared my leadership team or me to navigate a global pandemic. To be honest, my worst nightmare was, “What if someone died under my watch?!”
McKinsey, Deloitte, Salesforce and others published some excellent white papers. I dusted off my D2C2 model for decision making (Debate, Decide, Commit, and Communicate). The focus was going to be on “decide” and “communicate” more than ever. The best white paper I stumbled upon was “Weathering the Storm, Leading Your Organization Through a Pandemic,” and it was written in 2006!!!
Our board members Neeraj from Battery and Rajeev and the entire crew at Sapphire were just incredible in sharing real-time information, data, advice what other companies have done. My 10XCEO group also played a crucial role in discussing and sharing ideas on managing our companies, office culture, remote working…
We Adapt; We Evolve
It has been 10 months! It might take another 6-9 months before we can go back to some level of normalcy. But I think the world as we know it pre-COVID-19 is not coming back. We have learned new habits; we have adapted. We have evolved (that is what we do as humans).
Pre-COVID-19 number of trips per year:
Post-COVID-19 Zoom usage:
So how is it going? Well, I have mixed feelings. These challenges keep me awake at night:
- Not seeing people and our co-workers. This is my number one issue. We are a social species.
- Meetings via Zoom and lack of brainstorming capabilities of these technologies.
- Screen fatigue.
- Digital interruptions.
- Impact on families.
- Lack of social interactions for our children.
- Transition to an asynchronous company.
- Impact on our employees whose first job is Catchpoint. They lack the historical backbone. How can we create a vibrant, distributed company culture?
- This sense of “burnout.” I think it’s something else, but we have a hard time defining it.
At the same time, it’s not all negative. I have been amazed and proud of how the entire company has rallied around our purpose and kept going, and I mean everyone! We communicate more. Everyone is doing a great job at being reachable and available to help and answer questions. Everyone is going above and beyond the call of duty to make sure no one falls behind. We hire for a particular culture, and I believe that those traits have played a critical role, such as empathy, floor sweeper attitude, get shit done, and go to the moon.
In every crisis, there are always opportunities to step back and re-invent ourselves. We took this year to invest and remove our weaknesses, and we’ve accomplished so much.
- We have invested in our Learning and Development.
- We have acquired a company during a pandemic (Webpagetest.org).
- We launched our Employee Experience Monitoring solution.
- We hired some incredibly talented people now that we are not as bound to geographic locations as we used to be.
- We invested in our product marketing capabilities.
- We redesigned our entire sales processes to be pandemic proof and to adapt to how companies will buy going forward.
Heck, I even learned to cook:
“Poisson en croûte de sel” (fish under a ton of kosher salt)
And I even learned to be a hairdresser (my son did not talk to me for a few days). Never trust a bald barber…
Covid is a human catastrophe, first and foremost. The death toll, the impact on specific industries and verticals, and the impact on our mental health is huge. However, there are going to be profound changes out of this, as several things have become clear.
- The right to connect to the internet must be universal. I have always worried about the digital divide in the U.S., but it’s also clearly a worldwide issue. Every child must have a computer.
- New technologies such as 5G are critical.
- Remote learning both for children and adults is becoming ubiquitous.
- Security at the last mile isn’t a nice to have; it’s a need to have.
- Remote work needs to not just be for white collars jobs.
- Medicine and telemedicine are coming to the fore.
- Health is everything. We need to put greater emphasis on health. Encouraging people to be healthy is the first firewall against these diseases.
- It’s time to re-examine the purpose of the office and physical locations (do we need to be in big cities like NY, SF?)
- Customer and vendor relationships are more central than ever to businesses – but the ways in which we interact are changing, and we have to ensure that we can continue to work smoothly together, even when we are remote.
- Entertainment needs to transform in the face of the pandemic. How will Broadway and movies re-invent themselves in this new age?
In The End, We Have Come Together
As we reach the end of the year, I’d like to say thank you to everyone at Catchpoint for being the best and thank you to your families who supported you as well. A huge thank you to our People Operations, who transformed their living rooms into storage facilities to ship goodies to our employees. Thank you to our Corporate IT who went from managing 4 offices to 250+ offices.
Thank you to our customers who entrust us with their external observability needs. Thank you to our partners and vendors who allowed us to keep deploying servers worldwide. Thank you to the nurses and doctors that treated some of our catchpoint employees to make sure they are with us today.
Thank you to Battery Ventures and Sapphire Ventures for your priceless counseling and help. Thank you to the network engineers, Site Reliability Engineers, DevOps, internet infrastructure folks like Equinix, AWS, Azure, Google worldwide that worked tirelessly to make sure we can work, video conf, meet a doctor, entertain ourselves…
Thank you to the restaurants and food delivery services. Thank you to everyone working in the food delivery chain to ensure we have food on our tables. Thank you to the Postal services, FedEx, and UPS for making sure we got the “stuff” we needed on time and now for helping to make sure we get the vaccines.
I can go on and on… I have seen the beauty of humanity in my co-workers and everyone around me in this pandemic. It’s beautiful. Thank you!
And one final thank you to all the scientist that have been working 24×7 to find and develop the vaccine to COVID-19.
I have been doing an all hands every Tuesday since March vs quarterly or monthly. Let me conclude with the final slide with which we end our meetings:
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Hannukah!