Starting a new job during a pandemic

Hannah Poole, our newest hire into the people team, shares her experiences on joining Sensat in the middle of a global pandemic.

At the beginning of March, I was lucky enough to join Sensat’s People team. My first week was filled with the normal flurry of activity that comes with joining a new company, from meetings with each team to getting set up on various tools to my attempts to get to grips with the coffee machine. The company has the most welcoming culture I’ve ever experienced, and I ended the week very excited to see what my time at Sensat would bring.

Halfway through my second week, COVID-19 was a globally developing situation and required rapid response; we took the decision to close our office and transition to remote working. The issue was, we’re a small company, we haven’t worked remotely much and our culture centred primarily around the social interactions and facetime we got from working together in the office.

With all of this in mind and a two-day deadline looming, Leadership and the People team set to work researching how other companies like GitLab, Loom and Twist had made remote-first work for them and developing a plan for how to make it work for us. In just one day, we spun up documentation and policies on everything from how best to communicate in a remote environment to a remote wellness program to continue our culture.

Thursday night, it was announced that we would be going remote-first from Monday. Because we are a company made up of a variety of teams who need to function in different ways, we asked everyone to drop their work on Friday and work with their team to create a Team Charter, outlining how the team will work in a remote environment both within the team itself and within the company as a whole. If you’ve ever worked, well, anywhere, you know how hard it is to get people to drop their work for anything short of free pizza, so, as a new joiner, I was frankly amazed and inspired to see how all of our teams came together to focus intently on making Sensat function as a remote-first organisation.

To kick things off, Friday morning started with an all-hands meeting to go over what moving to remote-first would entail and to let people know how the day would run. Then, teams grabbed a room and got to work on their charters, determining what suited them as a team. After a break for lunch, we spread out across the office and hopped on a Hangouts call so that teams could present their charters, and we could all get used to large scale conference calls. From the engineering team’s daily sub-team stand-ups to the commercial team’s clearly defined support response times, each team shared the tools they would use to stay connected and cohesive while working remotely. We then codified that in our Wiki on Notion. All that remained was to close the office and give remote working a go.

While we’re not perfect, and we’re still checking in with everyone regularly to make sure that they’re able to be effective from their home workspaces, the past two weeks of remote work have gone more smoothly than I could have imagined. In fact, working remotely has even improved some aspects; for example, our Engineering team’s productivity has increased by 30%. Moreover, our agility as a startup has been a huge asset, for instance, when members of the team found that they didn’t have the home set up they needed to work effectively, one extraordinary member of the team ran a day of (socially distanced) deliveries of our office equipment to people’s homes!

On the culture side, we’ve had a whole host of events over VC that have not only served to maintain our culture but also enabled me as a newcomer to connect with people across the company on a personal level. Our events have ranged from virtual fitness classes to one on one weekly coffee buddies to our Friday pub quiz, which means there’s something for everyone to get involved in. While I can’t claim to be a gym fanatic, I’ve really enjoyed the camaraderie that’s come from our virtual fitness classes, and Slack games like “guess whose desk” has let me get to know a lot of my new colleagues virtually!

I won’t lie; it’s a strange time to be joining a new company. Yet, seeing how everyone at Sensat has come together to support each other both professionally and personally has made it an inspiring time as well. If anything, I’m even more excited than I was my first week about what my future at Sensat holds.

Hannah Poole

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