Hard to believe but I am writing my second “Year in Review” post with the cloud of COVID stubbornly and annoyingly hanging around. This has felt very much like a year of rethinking past norms, leaning into strong values, willingness to embrace change and demonstrating resilience.
I use this post to chat about what happened at the Brain in the past year, what we were thinking about, what mattered to us. Here’s my (somewhat long) list:
By the time Sept 1/20 rolled around, we were 6 months into the pandemic and the vast majority of our industry did not operate their camps. Uncertainty was high and vaccines were a far-off dream. Anecdotally and through team surveys, we could see that folks were not 100%. Who was? Our most important job was to care for our people. We provided more time off, we made “flexibility” the word of the year, we worked hard to create fun moments for virtual engagement and, most importantly, we created space for folks to be themselves, define their own needs and know that it was ok to not be 100%. I am really proud of the way our team approached a tough year and showed incredible support for each other. It made a huge difference.
One year ago, in the 2020 Year in Review post, I said that “stability in service” was one of our goals for 2021. We knew it would be a challenging year for our clients and we did not exactly know how it would play out… but, we did know that we would be needed and that our clients would value stability from us. Well, it was an odd year. The Fall was much quieter than usual as camps and schools delayed opening registration, waiting to see how things might play out.
Then, as if at the flick of a switch, the camp world activated and we had an incredibly busy first 6 months of 2021. All of that support we normally provide in the Fall was squished into the Winter and Spring…and there were lots of changes to manage as folks revised their camp offerings to meet their local needs and restrictions.
I can be honest with you – our team was stretched thin and it was stressful at times. But, we delivered on our mission for the season, “stability in service” and that is truly a testament to the incredible quality of people that are part of our front-line team.
As part of our 3yr strategic plan (released in early 2020), we had identified a specific goal focused on our internal inclusiveness and belonging. We wanted to be better informed and more proactive. The events of Summer 2020 had a large impact on our team members and the company as a whole and gave that goal some urgency. We have been slowly, steadily and humbly working over the past year to be better educated and to tackle specific items one-by-one. I do not write this here to claim any expertise or credit. We have a roadmap for our DEI path and we have been sincerely working on it. It has been an important initiative for us over the past year and will continue to be so for the next one. There is no “end” on this initiative, just a need to focus and improve in the near term.
I mentioned the strategic plan above. Well, that plan had a general roadmap for feature development. The pandemic hit and that roadmap took a backseat. In Spring 2020, as a company, we brainstormed features that we believed our clients would need during a pandemic, features that might save them money or provide quicker, more effective communication with their customers or simply help with the unusual new tasks that arose during this odd time. We remained focused on what we called the COVID Features through early 2021.
We don’t expose this often to our clients and the outside world but I want to share with you that we made it pretty hard on our product and development teams – shifting priorities, designing and planning features without enough time, developing with tight timelines to meet specific client timing needs, etc. Hats off to our development and product crew for delivering so reliably during this time!
I have written in this space in the past about our focus on growing our team internally, offering new roles to those across the company who may be ready. We said goodbye to Michael, our long-time CTO this Winter. As with any big departure, you have an opportunity to rethink things and we restructured our development team, resulting in the following lovely movements within:
I would point out that each of these folks started with us in very different roles, learned along the way and moved their careers in these different directions based on their specific interests and passions and the company’s accompanying need. Well done.
If I am honest, we did not just focus on internal growth, we also hired externally – Wilson joined us as our first DevOps Lead, Daniel and Witold as software developers and Paul, Hayley, Sharmylae, Mark and Saidbh in Software Support.
What office? We have not been in the office since March 12/20. Like most companies that could, we simply transitioned to work-from-home. As our lease expires, we will be releasing half of our space and remaining extremely flexible regarding if and when folks want to come back to the office. Sure, working alongside someone is lovely, striking up a random conversation, chatting about a particular issue in-person. But, so is saving a 90-minute commute, having more time with family, moving to a town that suits one’s personal interests and budget. We have learned a lot about what matters in the past year and remaining flexible around the role of an office is one of those key learnings.
Did you notice that we have a new website? Thanks to our team of pros (long-time designer, our web development company, and copywriter, Maggie) and, internally, Luke for all of the hard work. It was a months-long, large project with a tonne of details involved. Hope you like it!
We cancelled BRAINSTORM, our in-person user conference, in 2020 and, again, in 2021. In the Fall, we ran a very successful virtual user education series. Hundreds of clients participated in almost 20 sessions hosted by Brainers, clients and external camp experts, with the goal of enhancing their use of CampBrain. Initially, we thought that this would be an “ok replacement” for the much-loved in-person BRAINSTORM. In the spirit of change and re-thinking, we recognized some of the benefits of this virtual experience – no cost to attendees and low cost to us, no travel, accessible to all clients, ability to attract different speakers – and decided to run it again in 2021, branded as the CampBrain Academy. Don’t be surprised to see us alternate between the in-person BRAINSTORM and the virtual CampBrain Academy in the future.
We are not clear of the pandemic yet and it is not likely to end in the next season. Like we have been doing, we will continue to be flexible, learn and adapt, with a very clear focus on our team and our clients.
On the product side of things, you will see our enhanced approach to gender options in the coming months. On the less obvious side of things, we are also working hard on our technology stack and infrastructure, making sure that it is up-to-date and efficient – we play a long game and there are no shortcuts when it comes to our system infrastructure and performance.
As you plan for 2022, please know that we are here to support you and be your partner in camp and tech.
With gratitude for your partnership,
Love your Software,