Thus far, the year 2020 has been anything from what anyone envisioned. While the entire world is collaborating to contain the pandemic, the ability to collaborate, communicate, adapt to change, and integrate the change with our work/life is what will keep us ticking.
e-GMAT has always been at the forefront of adopting technology, and it is not just because we want to. With two offices in India, one in Arizona, US, and remote employees in different time zones, there has always been the need to.
The very foundation of the company is based on remote work. In fact, back in 2009, e-GMAT v1.0 was developed by a team working with us over Skype halfway across the globe!
How did we prepare ourselves for current times?
Two things: The right tools and the right mindset
While access to the right tools is one thing, a company can only thrive if there is a strong work culture that embraces it.
Technology today allows for a very short cycle from inception to decision and deployment, especially in smaller companies. You may choose to purchase and Office 365 subscription, a Zoom premium account, a JIRA subscription, but what good is it if the workforce is just not ready, trained, or simply lacks the mindset?
Track Goals, it’s not the hours.
Proper planning and execution are bigger contributors to success than simply “putting in the hours”. At e-GMAT, we are big on goals and behaviors. We don’t watch when people start or leave, rather we measure what they deliver. Click here to learn about the behaviors, we value.
Tools such as Smartsheet, Trello, Monday.com are great for goal tracking. Visio, Mindjet MindManager are for collaborative thinking. The technology team can’t even think of a world without GitHub.
A word of advice – don’t try to work off too many tools. Pick one or two, master them, and use them company-wide.
As an example, Smartsheet is a very capable project planning tool. If you (and your teams) have developed a comfort level and expertise with it, stick to it. At e-GMAT we rely heavily on Smartsheet. In fact, we recently wrapped up a major hiring cycle with the entire project being run on Smartsheet.com! Almost all our internal projects and planning happens on Smartsheet, it has been so for over 5 years now.
Communicate Freely, Overcommunicate.
It is hard to imagine how we worked before Microsoft teams and Slack came around. Even with the instant messaging in place, there is a need to develop culture that inculcates free and constant communication. Simply enabling instant messaging across the board is no good if no one uses it.
Seeing updates from other departments, from team members, cross-communication between departments etc. gives the employees a sense of a company pulse and cohesion.
In a smaller company such as ours, we emphasize on dropping walls when it comes to communication. There is no reason for an individual contributor to hesitate before instant messaging the CEO directly if needed. Of course, professionalism asks you loop your manager in.
Get Face to Face
There is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting. Well, there is – a virtual face-to-face meeting.
Being a company that has its foundation in remote work, we have always invested heavily in technology. While Skype was the norm a few years ago, Teams and Zoom are now, our philosophy has remained the same – “let’s talk over a video conference”.
At e-GMAT we ensure everyone in the company has the right equipment and connectivity to be available to have face to face meetings not just internally, but with our customers and prospective employee as well, and this has been a constant theme for us in over 10 years of operation.
Helping a customer, conducting a hiring interview, talking to a prospective student or interacting with successful students; we’ve done it all over Virtual meetings!
While our day to day internal meetings happen on-camera over Zoom, we have a successful student interview program wherein our Founders Payal and Rajat spend time interacting with GMAT test-takers to learn about their journey firsthand. Here are a few examples of interviews conducted over on-camera calls.
Here are 2 YouTube Playlists of interviews we’ve conducted via video conferencing:
Collaborate! like I haven’t mentioned that already
Working remotely presents unique challenges, new tools like Microsoft Whiteboard, One note, Zoom video conference, Microsoft Teams / Slack help overcome that.
Office 365 has played catch-up with G-suite on real-time document collaboration (docs, sheets, slides). At e-GMAT we adopted Office 365 back in 2015, before which we were using Dropbox (and contemplating going to G-suite).
Microsoft has done a phenomenal job of keeping up with the times with their Office 365 offering. Together with Google, the two companies have a near duopoly in the document collaboration space. For most companies, the decision really comes down to who you are more comfortable with.
We’ve come a long way from emailing files to one another and maintaining version history on a shared drive. Office 365 (and G-Suite) have revolutionized co-editing and sharing a live document. The ease and efficiency with which collaboration can happen with the current tools available is remarkable.
While learning happens all the time – including when you are in a deep dive brainstorming session. Traditionalists see “learning” as the consumption of structured materials with trackable outcomes. Online learning resources offer just that!
Lynda (now LinkedIn Learning), Udemy, Pluralsight and Coursera are some of the popular platforms that offer a plethora of courses and learning materials. Being an ed-Tech company, we stress heavily on finding the right training materials and platforms and encourage our employees to set aside time to learn. We have used Lynda, Pluralsight and Coursera and found all of them to be equally good. Pluralsight and Coursera seem to be the platforms our technology team prefers the most.
In addition, we also invest heavily on developing training programs internally. This helps both in skill development and in knowledge transfer. All our internal trainings are hosted on Sharepoint and are powered by Microsoft Stream.
Technology and Culture – Our enablers
Modern technology is both an enabler and an inhibitor.
The rate at which the events have unfolded over the past few weeks is a direct result of affordable technology that enables a high number of viral load carries (us humans) to efficiently traverse the seven seas.
It is also technology that has enabled us to disseminate information at the speed of light and given us the ability to quickly adapt to conducting most of our business as usual despite being physically confined.
The world changed for a lot of us during the past few weeks, we as human beings will prevail. We’ve done it time and again and have all the tools we need to overcome