About the talk
Kevin Stewart (Head of Engineering, Harvest)
Michelle grover (Chief Information Officer, Twilio)
Jossie Haines (Senior Director of Platform Engineering, Tile)
Yvette Pasqua (CTO/VPE)
Financial crashes are cyclical in nature and although we can’t predict the timing of the next crash, we know that they are an inevitability. Any financial downturn will materially affect the individuals in your team, So why do we spend so little time thinking about them on an organisational scale, and how can we do better to prepare for them?
And when a financial crisis does hit, what are the new situations that you’ll be put into, and what are the new skills you’ll have to quickly hone to handle them?
In this session, we’ll be discussing the preparations that you can make for your teams, the skills that you can start developing right now, and how to handle the difficult situations that will arise.
My focus is on building cross-functional and inclusive product teams for startups and enterprises. I have experience building and leading fully distributed teams that have successfully delivered consumer and enterprise Software as a Service (SaaS) applications throughout my career. My goal is to enable people to do their best work while delivering successful results for the organization.View the profile
I am the VP of Software Engineering and Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) at Tile, having grown the team by 40% in the last 4 months to 50. Have you ever asked your Google Home, “Ring my keys”? That is one of many partner integrations I’ve led with companies including Google, Comcast, Amazon, Intel, and HP. If you’re looking to buy a new Tile on tile.com, you’ve been powered by the e-commerce site that my web team manages ensuring we can bring in millions in revenue. I also drive the DEI initiatives at Tile including developing and implementing a company-wide mentoring program, people leader training, defining the yearly strategy and budget, and working within Tile’s Executive Team to ensure DEI is incorporated in all aspects of our business.View the profile
Yvette is the CTO of Meetup. She leads the engineering team with a focus on continuous learning, iterating, and using data to launch software that brings people together around the world to do what they love. Her team's work enables 40 million members in 187 countries to organize and build communities in real life. Those members have created over 320,000 Meetup groups who organize 12,000 Meetup events per day, which is a step towards creating a world full of real human connection. Prior to joining Meetup, Yvette’s career included leadership roles at startups and product development firms, most notably at Schematic, Possible, and AKQA. Yvette was responsible for leading the team who built Grindr during the first few years of Grindr’s most rapid growth.View the profile
Hello, everyone. This session is entitled looking towards the crash, preparing. The organization's game on Kevin Stuart and I'm head of engineering at Harvest. Today. We're going to the impact of financial downturn. When are we going to patients and Tammy, Fisher, tools, techniques and experiences. That might help you better support routine hands, senior director of engineering a towel, Michelle Grover Chief Information officer told you the task of traction.
How has the impact to the business? Communicated communicated to people, and how was it received? Sure, you might go to message for communicating about things like contractions, and lay off, strong and frankly, trying lots of things and I'm not working to a Communications and do those in small groups. I found that to a Communications things like small cute sister answers to questions. They might not feel comfortable asking and it's real time. It's not a prepared.
Talk of a hundred and fifty eyes watching you and watching your every move and you can really get into the details with follow-up questions as well and Trust in smaller groups in a more authentic way. Also created a safer environment for them to ask the hard questions. And I have a schedule 10 or 15 in a couple of weeks to keep the group small enough. But but able to get through all of your team's, it's a lot of effort. I think it's a hundred percent. What percent of the best way is to rebuild
trust with your team following, this kind of talk communication. Great, Michelle, what's been your experience? A similar in, in respect to take that train, to get to the director individual contributors are really making it. Okay for them to feel what I feel. This is such an unprecedented circumstance, that it didn't have a Playbook. So what we did is we spend a huge amount of time having kind of blind poster days and tons, and tons of happy hour just get together sessions that reminded people that it's really
okay to feel what you're feeling to deal with what the difference in to ask us. And we thought we heard a lot of time to after what is it? You need from us to make it easier for you during this time. And we also were just our own selves. I have a 40 year old son. You would pop in. I would let everybody know. They pop their that turd to Camp around, let them do what they would do that and I would owe my payment and just when I would be on with the icy, don't apologize. Albert leader takes making it okay for them to feel what they were
feeling be themselves and then come back like fiction. And now, let's talk about how we get work done. How we deal with this, how we work through this pain, communication. Credit Josie, what's been your experience with the impact of this Financial downturn in Europe? Hold on to it. Yeah, so, you know along with with Michelle and do that have said, you know, making sure you're reaching out to the I see, you know, we did a number of surveys, you know, one about how people felt about going
back to the office. Right? What are people, you know, challenges at home right now, but I'm actually looking at is, you know, now that school's are about to start like, is there something we can do for our parents who are going to have kids at home to help them write? Like this is a new situation and your team members need. Helen says, one of the things I value a lot about tile is we've always had a very transparent culture and I have one of the things that was really good is right. After, you know, we started it when, you know, covid happened in the downturn
happened back there. Other CFO kind of walk us through our financials at an all-hands, right? Hey, this is the state of where we are. Like. They literally show doesn't mean we're something people buy at retail. Right? So obviously that got impacted and they literally showed us like the charts of like we're how the numbers when you know where the predictions were. Like, you were very transparent with him. So I really appreciate it that Fantastic, so things were very different before coded. So prior to the
current Global pandemic, what effective methods of communicating organizational financial help if you experience got a free Panda so we can see what a difference was when we start the shop. Typical Financial Sarah, internal version of boost and just a little bit easier because you're working directly with product product is working with. Are we going in the right direction? Are we trying to nail product and returning after features? If so, we have close ties, made OK Aragon kpi, except for the part of back into the overall spider perspective. So
successful, communication for our organization. And Josie, how about you? Yeah, so, you know, I think it before the week late. Like I said, tile is in a retail business. And so, you know, we've always had a very transparent culture and I think that that's been great write-up are all hands are kind of share like, hey, it's Prime day, right? Have fun. Did we do compared to last year? I weighed. I think that's really appreciates having that transparency and
a private company. We don't have you no announcements for revenue and things like that. But we do feel, it's really important, especially during holidays, which is, you know, when we get the majority of our Revenue to be really transparent with our employees that you should get every All Hands which happens every other week or literally see in the chart. Like, how are you doing for the holiday. That's great. I need that photo of Usain pre-pandemic, as effective, methods of communication communication Organization for financial help.
I've actually seen it but not many as effective as in the Shell. Both said kind of regular Cadence all-hands Communications of Financial reviews, where question can the ass? And it could really be a dialogue. I think this is a clear sign of a high-performing company leadership. Team honestly, racially stronger and better at communicating why decision has been made and giving the contest thing is a huge part of being a The leadership team, actually not comfortable working with one another and high-performing teams themselves.
Xbox Chelsea, wanted to ask you. Why is it more important now than ever to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion for a financial downturn. Yes, so, you know, I feel like the end. I budget is for one of those things that usually end up getting cut. When we going to a financial downturn Kenya, especially with covid-19 more likely to go into diversity recession. If we don't address this. So 55% of the people who have been laid off our women and it, if you'd go to women of color, that actually goes even higher.
And then, if you look at the number of people who are hospitalized for covid in the US 33 per cent of those people are black, but yet there's only 13% black in the US population and you know it is and it's not just about being Equitable and feeling good two at diversity is costing the the the unfairness in the tech industry is costing is 16 a billion dollars per year on average and the heroes are actually get that number. So if you say that a thousand to lose somebody between productivity
lost having to replace them, recruiter fees, Etc. And then you take the fact that the numbers show that 37% of people who Leave Act leave due to and fairness. That was a number is actually a 16 billion dollars for a year. And so it's something we need to be focusing on even more now. I agree, your hair. What's your approach to dealing with known unknowns? For example, many parents will soon be facing the issue of dumpling work, and an unknown amount of additional responsibility for the children's schooling as we are. How do you bounce, empathy, and understanding for keeping the business moving
forward and how it's going to work at. And I think that's the first thing. The same situation you can emphasize if you're going through some things that they are going through as well and bring it out with them and set up to it. I think just as a leader is listen, listen, listen and listen to more just to be there for them to Start a solution with no offer that as a coach to deal with great folks. I work with that. It may take some time to process for some folks,
really get to know your people and give them the space and time. Tactical thing you can do is a manager and help keep things on track. Keep that is where I can see our goals. It's okay and working with things that are realistic and and work with them during the 2008 crash. What would have been gone forever? I make of the leader, kind of painting, the pictures of things will feel when you are more of a really helps keep your team motivated in a more realistic way. Thank you. So Josie, what are some of the more effective feedback loops that can be
created between the business and product development? You know, this is actually something I deal with on a daily basis because I do our partner integration the tile. So I actually work very closely with our business. And so, you know, I feel like part of my role is really kind of shielding. The engineers from some of the crazy stuff, the partners swamped and ensuring that it becomes sanity. Before I actually go take it back to her engineering to him. And so I really do think, especially now that we're all remote though. Having a good process for
when something transition from this, like ideation phase with, like business into actually, becoming a real product. Right? And says something we've been working on is actually having a processor, you know, during that like Beady ideation face, like Beady is really driving it, but they have a kick out, offer they include product. And, you know, then it went, it's really going to be something that yes, we've committed to delivering, then it really true. Listen to the product owner in engineering or driving it with a project manager and there's some Milestones there.
And so I think it's really bad having like a clear process, especially if you're bringing in new businesses on how you make that transition from something being like a prototype to. Okay. Now this thing is going to become part of the real product and how does it actually impact the rest of our business? Great. Thank you for that. So Michelle Knight expect that sales organizations are the hardest hit, during a downturn as prospects and renewal start to disappear. Are there things that engineering products and or support teams can proactively do to help their self. Yeah,
and actually great following Josie on this question. One of the things that we did is especially so you're my previous company. We did a lot of expense and travel and travel is not to our company's credit. They got everybody together. They said we know we're going to take the tip. We can take these initial trains from previous times to show what we can and can't weather on the expense eyes on the Travel side where we think we will see the differences and they they actually when you got sales, we got product, we had
support, we got all of our various organize organizations together and said, okay. This was our roadmap. Probably have to throw this out like what are the features and then the other thing that we did which was really interesting is really, really listen to cuss words and what they want. We really have sales. We have, it was a all hands on product. We looked at with support was getting in. We looked at with cells. When do we looked at everything? And we came up with even though people weren't traveling. What was the thing that they really need it in? And
that the time I on the TripIt team, and so we leverage TripIt and said, okay, will people are traveling, but they need to know about canceling. People are stuck places. Do you know where they are? So we we pivoted and changed our roadmap to actually accommodate what was going on at the time and what people were feeling and we gave away, you know, everyone needs. This is really important to them. It was a huge stress relief to have something that we can I save in your life. In a very, unorganized day
is like to have at least one thing that's going right and planning things for you. So just You can all shift you, but you can't keep going the same way that you work. When you really all need to stop. Listen to Custard with each other. And then redirect, what customers are asking for a particular moment in time. It may become a long-term business may not, but it definitely helped get everybody come in alignment, take some of the pressure. Credit, so Josie, when do schools have your teams has acquired during
the financial John turns and why? So I think the big one I've been focusing on is self-care. Right? I think it is so important and especially because we're remote, you know, we're at home. It's very easy to just stay on the computer. I very much encouraged my employees to set an end time when they're just going to shut down. All right, and, like, log off and really just have boundaries around their days. And so that's been a big one. I've really been focusing on because, if not, we're just going to get a
lot of burnt out people, right? And, you know, also just allowing people to have time to, you know, feel right and end up making it okay to talk about non-work thing, sometimes, even if it's a work meeting, Ray says, about kind of Shifting at, you know, what? Some of the things we do on it. They are. But you know, that's okay. And you know, I think I've also been encouraging people to learn more about how to effectively, right? And communicate because especially to move to more
asynchronous communication, that's effective when your remote first. You actually need to do a lot more writing. So I've been encouraging people as well to take notes and action items after your meeting. If you don't leverage technology, even you know, the suitable. Actually, if you have a paid Zoom plan, it'll actually if you do the cloud recorded a automatic transcripts for you, they're not perfect. But if somebody wasn't at the meeting if that's going to be a lot better than nothing, right? And so nuts about shifting, people's communication style. You know, what they
focus on to really be effective in today's world. Great. I create a little bit more to the more technical data science, and it doesn't say that I have to survive economic downturns. Yeah, I'm great questions into two big things. Kind of popped into my head. First is astonishingly typically do all the business intelligence and democratize access to that data is just so important in a downturn have to make some time and access to the data and high-quality way. It's
really beautiful thing is, there's people in engineered products and designers and customer service people and strategy. And really everyone looking at the same data, the same metrics, the same dashboard. I help I think it helps the same building. I think it helps them figure out what the right things to do for your customers are and is as Michelle mentioned, a lot and in her previous question is so important to listen to customers across functionally the business of
different opportunities. Significant change that, you know, you need to make during a downturn but I'm sure which ones to do and what a shame, our data science to ship their own teachers and their own improvements to their models and an improved or whatever metric they're going after about 5 or 10%. Well, but the really the right opportunities customers are often less forgiving right data science machine learning. Massively scale, their impact beyond what they could be doing themselves. Are there?
Yes, so what's interesting to me is I probably wouldn't have known this as much even though I I was just the way that they've been able to leverage, our individual developers leverage, our platform for a variety of things, but some of the ways that they have leveraged it, in some of the ways that we could have predicted users actually doing things for contact, tracing, all of these things that you do before work for top of mine. And now they are on these ways. Right? Like all the sudden to utilize all these apis as a communication platform that we are at the
top of the handle. These are math ways of getting out information to people. So that and then just all. So by extension, the tools that we already do is very different, a super small and simple example that I use its lack, a lot of us used black. Have you slack off? Pretty much. None of us put do not disturb on. I'm in a meeting. I'm not available person that has all of it everywhere and you could slap me as soon as possible moment that used to be okay, because I was traveling a lot or they were times that those were forced down
time. We don't feel forced at all times. This is now a thing in a large part of the conversation that like, my it team has had is explaining to people the teachers that already existed. And oh, by the way, have you thought about setting, you know, the pause Communications because you're in a meeting, have you turned on the calendar invite so, people understand where the elevation for that, that you're in a meeting? Like, these are such simple things using these other features in the pool that we were
Really worried about making sure that we do that. And then the other my other favorite one is there used to be a rule many many moons ago that if there was more than like a couple the Reds playing in an email you should take it out of threads and walk over to the person. Okay? Use that as take it out of the red set up as a maybe at this point. The communication is going to get some things I missed in writing like how you speak very much. I walked over and talked to someone. That's just thinking of how you use the tools, you already know how to use in a more effective way.
Has been really really important for everyone. Pray. How many organizations reach the layoffs and furloughs? As go to tools to control cash flow? What are some of the other two? Sorry, I think it cost for cars are people. I will talk about the most in the past has been frankly to wait too long to lay off or furlough the right amount of people leaving to have to do more later, which is the event as a well-intentioned leader. It's just, it's just so hard.
It's just you know, putting all your higher is really the right thing to do because some rolls are really in the necessary. For you to come to the downturn stronger are going to have a real benefit and really doing that cost benefit analysis and a quantitative way. I think it is important thing to do yourself and also teach your other leaders do. It's a good muscle to grow during this time. You don't think about like what roles has new hires the real strategic
or even just slowing down and then usually other companies or probably your software and it, which sometimes you have to value is in the moment. Terrenos Houston as they may be adding new features to acquire new customers and drive top-line Revenue, right? See if it's worth investing time to refusing to move as fast as you can with Clarity and focus about why you're doing that work. While you're doing that. Everyone's working on that project going to save some cost and you can even
and metric to, you know, save the mouse in the bottom line. Doing support the people working at the company, right? I think it was he mentioned. Cni budgets, getting cut. Like no way really experienced an awesome experience. Those tend to be smaller items anyway than all the ones I just mentioned and it was for last because he's really need to support more than ever in a downturn and if you can support them well and you're cutting their experience and cutting them professional development as soon as they
can anyway, and then you'll have a bigger problem on your hands are the best people leaving which is what you want to avoid during a downturn. So much truth in that thank you. So recently Airbnb went through some layoffs as well face on the downturn and they're right up on how they went about it and how far full it was. Josie. One reduction in force is unfortunately needed. What guidance can you offer for a junior humanely? What's up, be compassionate? Right? Like, you know, I've heard some horror stories of like, people getting laid off
and the other person, like, not showing their face on Zoom because like they were to him like humans. He were laying off like lead with empathy, write it like that, you know, consider the other person has a family, right leg has responsibilities, and this is going to be in a big impact for that. So, you know, make sure when you're communicating for the leader, but make this about that. Don't make this about the company of this point, right? Make this about the employees like how you are going to help them if you are right.
Like and yes, I do it in small groups. I don't put like a hundred people on a zoom call and just like let everybody off at 1. Try it. Like that is not going to work and, you know, be transparent if something like this might be coming up. And, you know, it is interesting. Like, HR leaders feel very differently about the sound that are like, no, I don't want to say a word until because then people might leave, but I actually thought a cheerleader in LinkedIn actually say that you know, she actually does tell people if she thinks the playoffs or a
downturn or something might happen just to prepare people, right? And be transparent and say, hey look we're looking at options, right? But this may be where it comes to an end. And I think that there's a lot of respect for that. And you know, that would make me want to stay at a company. If somebody is willing to say like hey things aren't going to be perfect. But we're going to communicate it clearly. That's great. And I love your answer because it's a perfect segue into the first question we have from the audience, which is what have you done to keep employees
interested in staying with the environment when we Source Michelle. The Compassion has a huge weight being very open, being very honest, letting them live in the moment and understanding that it is. Okay. To walk away from router, to change their time to accommodate it and also just kind of reminding them going. Kind of going back to what you had said. Reminding them that this too shall pass. I mean, we are living in the moment and it's much harder in the moment. I appreciate that a lot
of time job. They're going to be all these things that happen. And if you are a truly compassionate leader and Company are also doing some forward-thinking and strategizing around that as well, or even you can get hit some of your number. So you may need to give it and maybe now support is cute. Your support team is now taking way more calls than they were before. Are there people that we can instead of wearing tomorrow? Maybe we can try another role. You're in the best position to be able to transition them because they already know about your product. They might be able to
transition from one world to another. That people are very forgiving of a company where people actually Karen are looking for ways to take care of their phone. Do you have anything to add to that? I totally agree as a framework where managers are doing mentoring, some coaching some sponsorship. This is a time where you could really do a great thing for someone on your team, sponsorship offer them a pancreas or promotion yet, or maybe you can be a sponsor for them.
So we have one other question that's fairly similar to the previous one, but it's really specifically about and putting their business around the risk of future layoffs. So expect a downturn which then triggers thoughts of will, there be more? Will there be more? I personally was through in the.com era, having, you know, back-to-back layoffs, over the span of a couple of months, definitely nerve-wracking. So, what are some thought that you might have in terms of addressing some of these fears of employees about? Will there be more layoffs? Will I be in the
next round? Josie's near me. Yeah, I think it you know, it goes back to what I was saying about being transparent right and you know, when you're planning layoffs, like like beer is like a vet was mentioned earlier, try to make sure you're planning enough of a layoff. So you're not going to hopefully have to have another one in a month, right? Because honestly your employees like you the hit wants, right, like you might think. I'll let me lay off the minimum number of people now because then, you know, it's going to be okay.
Like it makes the hard cut because every conservative, right, like realize, how this is a downturn. We don't know where it's going to go, like, do conservative estimates and then be transparent with people, right? I'm saying, hey, we were trying really hard to not have another round of layoffs because, you know, we looked at it this way, this way in this way, when we did the first round and like be transparent. And if you do I have another one then you're going to have to have the conversation with them and be like, hey, why are we having this other round and say look we
is estimated the business was going to go here, but unfortunately covid lasted through the summer, right? Nobody could have predicted if that was going to happen or not. Right? And I think it's about, you know, on the similar to something simple. As one of the questions was earlier and your skills. We can help our employees gain. I think resilience is one of them, right? Like there's a lot of unknowns not just about layoffs, but about everything going on in the world today. And though, I think, if you help your employees with resilience, it'll help them with an ounce in
general. Credit. You can see three more questions. Disappear. So so I'd like to ask one last question, which is do you have any parting words for audience specially in this incredibly trying time? Something that might need help? Lift them? Or give them hope as we go forward. Start with a C. I really just keep coming back to as a leader, can take a picture of what the other side of things looks like for your team. But you first have to convince yourself. In order to be, you need to be
right when you tell that story story, written communication. There's never been a professional. It always feels like it's going to be I think it is really hard to do. Josie any Party Works. So, you know, I've been telling my team members, you know, there's so much we can't control right now. So let's focus on those things that we can control right? And you know for you, one of the things I've been taking a positive spin. As hey. Now I have I don't have to commute and that is like 9 hours of my week back every week. So what can I spend those
9 hours on that make me happy right now. Yes. I I don't ever want to do this to me again. Let you know and spend some time to think up with gratitude about the things that are going well because, you know, there's a lot going wrong in the rail. But like I said, there are some positive so I don't have to commute. I'm very grateful to that. Right? And so, you know, I everyday I like at the end of the day, I write three things. I'm grateful for it. That's really just Helps me with
keeping positivity during this time. That's awesome. I'm finally Michelle some parting thoughts. So what I specifically told like people I meant or as well as just my themes has give yourself. It's really okay and guard your Bissell help, what I find interesting. And I can say this is a black person in America specially with a lot of the things that on top of the break and I hear have a fine and I literally have to tell him, you will not look on news. You will not be on. I bet we're going to sit and play a game because the one thing I'd like to know, but there is such a thing as overload, and
not guarding your health and your mental health. You can't take care of everybody else. If you're down. You're sick. You're so sick. You can't take care of everybody else. So it's okay to forgive yourself for needing to take time for yourself. It's okay to say, I can't engage in every single thing going on cuz I just don't have the capacity and I can And that's okay. Like that is and we need to make a very, very clear delineation that it is. Okay to feel what you're feeling is, okay to not be happy all the time. That, you know, that's a feeling if you don't feel it and work through,
it is not a great thing. It will come back and some way that you are not prepared to handle. So feeling what you feel, and in, making sure that you guard your mental health and just take a nap time for yourself, is the best thing you can do for yourself and believe it or not. It will have major benefits for the company. So and everyone involved. So doing that for, you actually have benefits that are long lasting for everything. Those words definitely resume with me. I'd like to thank Chelsea Haynes, Michelle Grover in adult passports for contributing to this important discussion.
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