2020 Was Tough. These 3 Local Tech Leaders Were Tougher.

December 7, 2020

For many companies, 2020 has been a year-long masterclass in how to adapt. 

With stay-at-home orders, an uneasy economy and users’ rapidly shifting needs, leaders in tech have had to rely on sharp pivots to keep their teams focused and their products relevant. 

But with so much uncertainty, planning ahead wasn’t exactly straightforward, recalls Danielle Press, vice president of sales for travel booking company Hotel Engine.

“We spent many months thinking about the here and now, assuming the situation was temporary,” Press said. “Once we accepted that the environment was going to be different for longer than anyone wanted, we re-engineered our sales culture — how we onboard people, the tools we use and how we structure the team for the remote environment.”

Press and her team weren’t the only ones who made the decision to overhaul processes and shift product priorities. Built In Colorado connected with three local leaders who shared how they navigated this year’s turbulent changes and what lessons they’ll take with them into 2021.

 

Erin Commarato
Lead, Software Engineering

What they do: With scheduling solutions and advanced analytics applications, Healthgrades helps health system and life sciences clients cultivate new patient relationships, improve patient access and build customer loyalty. 

 

What's your proudest achievement of 2020? 

In 2020, my team had the opportunity to rethink and redesign the online appointment scheduling calendar for Healthgrades.com, which is the first stop for patients who want to book an appointment with a care provider. The new calendar includes an improved user interface with better adherence to our company style guidelines. Streamlined code that renders the calendar also improves the browsing experience for visitors to our website.

The new calendar design turned out to be a huge success! We saw improvements in the number of patients who booked an appointment with a care provider. The new calendar increased the conversion of a visitor to an appointment by 16 percent and while we noticed the number of visitors who clicked through the calendar drop, the number of completions increased by 87 percent! 

My team is very happy with the results that the new calendar design continues to provide. At Healthgrades.com, my team and many others work daily to create new ways to improve the patient experience on our website. 

 

What was the biggest challenge of 2020 for your company, and what did your team do to overcome this challenge? 

Like many other organizations, it was an adjustment for our team to go from a tightly knit group who closely collaborated in-person in our Denver office to working remotely for most of 2020 due to COVID-19. 
 

By periodically organizing planned team virtual events, we were able to recreate a sense of community and reinforce our team’s bond.” 


The loss of the in-person interaction was particularly tough for some team members, so we worked hard to overcome any feeling of isolation. By periodically organizing planned team virtual events, we were able to recreate a sense of community and reinforce our team’s bond. 

We learned that remote team outings are possible and have found that even small things like playing games over lunch can help offset any isolation. Additionally, Healthgrades organized a number of virtual all-employee events to encourage relationship-building, networking and information-sharing.

 

What's the most important lesson you learned in 2020, and how will you carry that lesson with you into 2021?

With all the challenges 2020 brought during COVID-19, I have learned to over-communicate, listen and take good notes. Remote work carries its own challenges and I believe it helps my team to know that I am not detached from them and that I care deeply about our health as a team. I believe these habits will be invaluable in 2021 and beyond.

 

Mia Ciocanu
Head of Risk & Fraud

What they do: SumUp aims to make it simpler for any business to accept payments. The SumUp card reader can connect to mobile devices for in-person transactions, while offerings like payment links and gift cards provide contactless options. 

 

What's your proudest achievement of 2020?

At SumUp, our customers are entrepreneurs and small business owners, so our greatest team achievement is that we were able to help our merchants keep their businesses running as the COVID-19 pandemic spread. 
 

We were able to help our merchants keep their businesses running as the COVID-19 pandemic spread.” 


We were already in the process of developing new products, but we were able to expedite their development and release them publicly faster than we originally anticipated. At the same time, we expanded the team to bring in different functions that previously had been run from other locales, which allowed us to support our merchants even faster than before. All of this growth and collaboration served our mission of empowering small business owners across the country. 

 

What was the biggest challenge of 2020 for your company, and what did your team do to overcome this challenge?

When it came to the pandemic, our team mobilized quickly and refocused all of our energy into one focal point: how can we help our merchants? Everyone in SumUp globally had the same objective, which made it easy to work cross-functionally in order to release remote payment solutions to merchants around the world. We were (and are still) obsessed with helping our merchants succeed, which is why we were able to make it happen. 

 

What's the most important lesson you learned in 2020, and how will you carry that lesson with you into 2021?

It’s important to remain focused on our vision. In our case, we focused entirely on adapting in order to keep our merchants happy, no matter the circumstances. 

Additionally, as a leader during these challenging times, checking in with my immediate team has become more important than ever. We’re all human, so whether it’s in daily standups or socially distanced coffees, sharing guidance, feedback and motivation with my team is critical. 

 

Danielle Press
Vice President of Sales

What they do: Hotel Engine is a platform that aims to make hotel booking for business travel seamless. The app makes billing, reservations and support easier for businesses to navigate, and Hotel Engine’s partnerships translate to significant savings on hotel rates. 

 

What's your proudest achievement of 2020? 

My proudest achievement this year is our team’s collective response to the pandemic. Obviously, being a company in the travel industry in the midst of a pandemic can be concerning. We pivoted our business at the peak of the pandemic, creating innovative technology to meet the market demands while staying close to where we can continue to grow the business. The team’s resilience and adaptability have been incredible. I’m so proud of Hotel Engine's success.

 

What was the biggest challenge of 2020 for your company, and what did your team do to overcome this challenge?

Our biggest challenge was the uncertainty of what was to come, which affected our ability to plan for the future. We spent many months thinking about the here and now, assuming the situation was temporary. Once we accepted that the environment was going to be different for longer than anyone wanted, we re-engineered our sales culture — how we onboard people, the tools we use and how we structure the team for the remote environment. 

It has been hard for a growing team to not connect in-person, but we have still found ways to thrive.
 

Once we accepted that the environment was going to be different for longer than anyone wanted, we re-engineered our sales culture.”


What's the most important lesson you learned in 2020, and how will you carry that lesson with you into 2021?

We have something powerful and unique at Hotel Engine. There are tens of thousands of companies who can run their business more efficiently because of Hotel Engine's platform and experience. Combine that with our technology and our people, and we have something truly special. 

I'm optimistic about next year, as we plan to double our headcount and move to  expanded new headquarters. In 2021, I will continue to make sure we stay close to our customers’ needs, keep our expectations for growth high and continue to invest in current and future talent in the company.

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