I started with SMLWRLD in March 2020. At that time COVID-19 was a buzzword that was slowly getting louder but had not hit the UK just yet, so I was fortunate enough to spend one whole week in the SMLWRLD office. During this time, I was able to meet some of the team in person and begin the onboarding process in the office. By week two the UK was in full lockdown, and this had sped up the timelines of some key projects, as intranets and remote working tools had become even more essential overnight. It was a trial by fire. Being new to SMLWRLD and without the usual comfort of colleagues across the desk who could answer all the little questions, I instead turned first to the SMLWRLD intranet and help site. This shift in onboarding was new, but had some unexpected side benefits, as I now had first-hand insights into what clients might need, and what the user experience was like for new users.
To this day I still have not met all my colleagues in “real life,” but using Teams and other virtual tools SMLWRLD has maintained a tangible collaborative and positive culture that even COVID-19 cannot ruin!
Fast times in furlough
Along with nearly 10 million others in the UK, I was furloughed over the summer, and it was quite an adjustment. I had just settled into my role as a project manager, and had begun to pick up more responsibility, when the news came. My initial response was to approach this new development with positivity, and I used it to upskill in HTML, as I had just made the shift from financial services to the new and exciting world of tech. However, as the weeks turned into months furlough did become quite unsettling. I felt like I was standing on a glass floor high above the earth, knowing that it should support me, but also able to see how far I could fall if it broke. During this time SMLWRLD kept up semi-regular social catchups and sent monthly updates which did help with feeling kept in the loop. When the call to come back to work arrived it was a welcome relief, and I was keen to stretch my mental muscles and be a contributing member of the team again.
Virtual collaboration and handovers
The call to come back to work came just as quickly as the initial furlough call. Within a week of being back at work I picked up and delivered a large project. Working collaboratively with developers and the client using solely digital tools was a new challenge. Utilising shared documents, many Teams calls and a team who knew the site well and were very open to answering my many questions was key. This project was heavy on delivery, with much of the usual admin taking place once we had met our deadlines. Being flexible and knowing when to change up our approach has been a core learning from operating during a worldwide pandemic, and I hope that these skills are maintained once things have returned to normal.
Career vs life and family
I moved to the UK two years ago from New Zealand, hoping to develop my career in a global setting and tap into the rich cultures and history of the UK and Europe through travel. However, after a year of yo-yo lockdowns, uncertainty, and unprecedented challenges I found myself reflecting strongly on what I valued most. From the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in March New Zealand has imposed one of the strictest measures in the world. Whilst these have been wildly successful, with COVID-19 all but eliminated in New Zealand, it has resulted in significant challenges for Kiwis living abroad who wish to visit or return. Being cut off from family, friends, and a large part of my support system with no idea of an end date has been incredibly difficult, and my mental health has suffered as a result. Early studies into the effect of COVID-19 lockdowns on mental health show that I am not alone, with increases in anxiety and depression being directly related to the stress caused by COVID-19. Whilst I have loved working at SMLWRLD it was time to put life, family and mental health first.