Leadership in Uncertain Times, Part I: Advice From the Austin Tech Scene

by Quinten Dol
March 25, 2020
austin tech coronavirus empty streets
Photo: Shutterstock

When a business selects its leaders, a “proven ability to lead an organization during a global pandemic” is not a traditional prerequisite. 

But as the novel coronavirus rattles families, healthcare systems and economies across Austin and the wider world, that’s exactly what executives and team leads are being asked to do. During times of crisis or heightened uncertainty, traditional leadership qualities — communication, influence, team- and culture-building, decisiveness, resilience, problem-solving, curiosity — become more important than ever. 

One thing we can learn from this unfolding crisis is that none of us — as individuals, professionals and companies, but also as communities, nations and economies — are an island. It’s a reminder that, as with all things, humanity is in this together. 

In Part I of our series on leadership in uncertain times, we checked in with leaders across Austin tech to learn how they and their teams are faring, how they’ve adapted and what advice they have to share with other leaders in the Austin area. 

 

 

As a leader, you are the person who people in your company turn to. Who are you looking to for motivation and support? What advice do you have for other leaders who are walking into a world of uncertainty?

I recommend talking to other leaders in their networks and being open about the issues they are facing. I have an executive coach and mentors who I speak to on a regular basis and they have been so invaluable during this time. I am also on a CEO council and we have had multiple calls about how to attack the issues in front of us. 

For most of us, the goals we hoped to hit this year are not going to happen. The faster you accept this and set new goals for yourself, your company and each department, the better. This was no one’s fault. Adjust your goals to the new realities and be excited about them. It is important to inspire your teams to achieve these new goals.

 

Austin is a strong tech community. How do you think we can help each other in times of uncertainty?

Stay positive and celebrate little wins. I send an email communication every day to the whole company, our department heads meet virtually with their teams every morning, and I have a virtual town hall/happy hour every week as well. Clear, real communication is important and has been impactful.

 

Over the coming weeks and months, what concerns are you anticipating from your team? How are you addressing them?

There are always concerns around uncertainty, but one of our core values is to embrace challenges. We encourage all of our employees to be a part of the solution in solving problems, to ask endless questions until you have your answer, to take measured risks and to be completely transparent with one another.

Over the next month, we know that we will be faced with challenges such as working remotely and not being together on a daily basis. At FloSports, we already had a flexible work-from-home policy that allowed employees to own the decision of whether they work from the office or their home office. This transition is a bit easier for us because we had the technology to support it from day one and we were able to execute on that piece quickly. The hard thing to solve for is staying connected, so we are having daily touch points at all levels of the organization. The secret to success for us will be to refocus our goals to support the new environment we live in today, be quick to transition and pivot to them, communicate openly and transparently and, finally, stay connected. 

 

As a leader, you are the person who people in your company turn to for answers. Who are you looking to for motivation and support? What advice do you have for other leaders who are walking into a world of uncertainty?

Datical is composed of people who are driven to make a difference every day, striving to make an impact in the lives of our customers and within the company. We don’t shy away from challenges — in fact, one of our guiding pillars speaks to just that. We live by the principle “run to trouble” and encourage our employees to tackle challenges head-first in an agile and innovative way. I have been inspired by the individual ownership each person has taken this week as so many changes are underway. My advice to fellow leaders is to encourage your employees to be flexible in their approach to new problems. This is a time when every individual can have a big impact.

 

Austin is a strong tech community. How do you think we can help each other in times of uncertainty?

As we distance ourselves physically, it is important to stay connected to our community. Austin has always had a heavy focus on supporting local businesses. It is important that we don’t lose sight of this as so many of them will be negatively impacted in the coming months. Let’s keep the community around us as vibrant as we can by continuing to buy goods and services, even if it is in a different way than we’ve purchased in the past. Be creative, be generous.

 

Over the coming weeks and months, what concerns are you anticipating from your team? How are you addressing them?

Both COVID-19 and the economy are top of mind, and it is an appropriate time to be concerned. We are encouraging our employees to protect their families by giving them the flexibility to work in a new and different way. We are defined more by our actions during tough times than in good times, and I’m proud of the way each of our employees is balancing personal needs with those of the business.

 

Andy Hoang
Chief Executive Officer

As a leader, you are the person who people in your company turn to for answers. Who are you looking to for motivation and support? What advice do you have for other leaders who are walking into a world of uncertainty?

Since we’re a founding husband-and-wife team, we actually rely on each other quite a bit for support and motivation. I think the biggest thing for us is to acknowledge that we ourselves don’t have all the answers and just be as open and transparent as we can. I believe honesty and trust are the best traits to demonstrate to your team during times of uncertainty. 

 

Austin is a strong tech community. How do you think we can help each other in times of uncertainty?

Now is really the time to come together and help one another by offering whatever services we can to not just the tech community but our local community as well. Be kind and supportive in any way we can.

 

Over the coming weeks and months, what concerns are you anticipating from your team? How are you addressing them?

One of the biggest concerns is isolation, since everyone is working from home and quarantined in their homes. We try to address this by trying to still do fun things we did while at the office. One example is our Thursday Happy Hour, which we fondly call Thirsty Thursdays. We’re still encouraging our team to make their favorite cocktail or mocktail and join the party via Zoom. The goal is to still have some sense of normalcy and build community.

 

Nathan Terrazas
Team Lead

As a leader, you are the person who people in your company turn to for answers. Who are you looking to for motivation and support? What advice do you have for other leaders who are walking into a world of uncertainty?

For support, I lean on my spouse. Motivation? That is all on me. My advice for other leaders is to continue practicing your daily routines and habits during times of uncertainty to help normalize your environment. Also, it is okay to be vulnerable and ask for help during tough times.

 

Austin is a strong tech community. How do you think we can help each other in times of uncertainty?

I think a simple way for us to help each other is to just reach out to peers and ask how they’re doing. Other advice I have for the broader tech community is to control what you can control. There is a lot of noise out there right now, but we cannot control that. What we can control is our work effort and our mindset during tough times.

 

Over the coming weeks and months, what concerns are you anticipating from your team? How are you addressing them?

I think job security is a concern for a lot of professionals right now. But our product fills a huge need for customers, especially during times of social distancing. So our message to the team is one of resilience. Many companies are struggling due to external factors, but ePayPolicy continues to grow as a result of the hard work our team puts in every day. 

 

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