Managing your Data Talent: Challenges of COVID-19

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Last week MBN hosted our first Virtual Technology Supper Club for Data Leaders.

I managed to bag an invite on the good graces of our CEO, Michael Young under the proviso that I don’t start trying to pitch our business to a bunch of Data Leaders on a Zoom call.

If you’ve ever worked with me you’ll know that is almost a bridge too far, So I decided to put myself on mute so I can listen and learn…

The topic was how businesses are currently managing the challenges of COVID-19, specifically how to keep teams engaged and businesses running.

The round table consisted of a mix of Data Leaders within our community from companies such as TrustPilot, Aggreko, Merkle and Shark Tower.

Here are some of the key points I took note that resonated with my situation and helped me better understand what we are all going through.

Work Flexibility:

There’s no question that the current crisis has forced businesses to get good at working from home.

Some businesses were left completely at the mercy of their IT teams overnight to set up remote working, whilst others already had it in place for years.

The consensus was that things are obviously going to change when we go back to the “new” normal.

Working from home has, in many cases worked for the large majority of businesses who work within our industry.

Work is being done, confidence and trust of employees have been cemented due to the crisis, which will mean more opportunities for flexibility within the workplace.

What we need to be careful of is overworking, from my own experience and others in the group, it was hard to work within normal hours. I’m finding myself working later than usual due to the convenience. Structure needs to be put in place from the start to create a normal work routine.

Personally, I can’t wait to get back to the office! the social element and daily structure works for me, however, I can now see the benefit of flexible working once we get back.

Is Location really that important?:

Due to the newfound trust in flexible working and the ability, in most cases, to do a job without being “onsite”, the group discussed roles and geographic preferences.

The agreement was that location, in most cases, doesn’t matter. Roles that previously may have strictly required a “Senior Data Engineer” required to be located in Copenhagen, for instance, could theoretically be based elsewhere with infrequent travel if needed.

Unless there’s a specific job function that requires an employee to be on-site five times a week, I think we will see more roles being flexible on location. Instances such as barring a candidate to interview because they are two hours outside of an imaginary line which is acceptable as a commutable distance may be lifted. Remote working options should be the norm in the near future, or at least working from home once or twice a week.

Inclusion within your teams:

This was a big point, not everyone wants Beers at 4 pm on a Friday via Zoom or SKYPE.

Trying to make sure your team is all involved can really make the difference during these times.

Everything was discussed, from quizzes and incentives put on offer to increase productivity, to managers individually going around their team, to make sure everyone was ok from both work and personal levels.

The mental wellbeing of employees at this difficult time was mentioned more than once, keeping in communication and making your team feel inclusive will greatly benefit in the long run for both employee and employer.

It was good to hear ways in which the teams were engaging with their staff and making sure everyone was catered for.

Overall, a great informal way to share ideas and I was happy to be able to listen in and learn from the meetup.

So, If you are a Data Leader, and are interested in joining an informal meetup event to share ideas and help other peers in the data community then get in touch. We will be running these on a regular basis.


Author: Joshua Smith, Client Acquisition Lead