Goodbye to 2020!
With 2019 being a great year for us at The Data Shed, we were looking forward to getting our teeth into 2020. We’d had a busy year with some exciting results in terms of new business, new recruits, and a couple of awards thrown in for good measure, including being listed in GP Bullhound’s Northern Tech Awards. We had a clear plan for how to build on this success and had set ourselves some ambitious but achievable targets for the coming year.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, as we all know, it all came crashing down pretty quickly. The shadow of COVID started looming almost immediately, and as a business built on data interrogation we watched closely as the data emerged from those countries hit by the virus before us. It became clear in early March that things would have to change at The Shed if we wanted to keep our staff safe whilst maintaining business as usual as much as possible for our clients.
We decided to get our staff working remotely in early March, before the official lock-down, and with that came a huge learning curve.
Working from home for us is a challenge that many will recognise: multiple meetings, too many hours of work to fit into any normal day, kids at home needing care and attention. Coupled with this we needed to look after the wider family that is our team. At first it was chaos (particularly juggling home schooling)! But we quickly found ways of working together and maintaining our collaborative ethos despite the geographical distance.
We’ve managed to keep our team spirit alive by adjusting our management style, giving plenty of support, and trying to have some fun along the way. We’ve had online quizzes, Shed Hoodies (Shoodies™), beer tastings, and sourdough baking classes. Our Shedders have risen to the challenge and together we’ve had our most successful year to date. We’ve taken on new staff and supported existing staff with L&D, brought on new clients entirely remotely as well as a major global project; November 2020 was our busiest month since the business began.
We’ve all been disappointed to miss out on physical networking but we’ve been able to participate in several online events. This was a bit of a milestone for me – having just got used to speaking in public, suddenly the goalposts were moved so that I’ve now had to learn how to speak to a public that I can’t see – it’s still something I’m not used to. I hadn’t realised how impactful the instant feedback you get from an audience’s body language is!
We started the year by winning the Small Business award at the Business Desk Business Masters, and ended with another win at the Yorkshire Post Excellence in Business awards. A personal highlight for me was being Highly Commended by the Institute of Directors at their annual awards, something that I know my dad would have been very proud of.
So, despite the bleak outlook at the beginning of the year, it’s not all been bad. We’ve been forced to rethink so much of what we took for granted, but in turn, that’s shown us how resourceful and resilient we can be.
Part of that is down to how we’ve worked together – our team of Shedders has been such a source of strength and inspiration to me as we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t in this new world, so I want to give a huge shout out to them.
We held our online Christmas party last Friday, starting with a murder mystery game and continuing with a variety of beer and wine tastings, plus a cocktail-making masterclass, courtesy of Kate Hutchinson at Secret Events. It was not only a fun evening (with a few stragglers finishing at 4.00am…) but we also held The Shed Awards, celebrating individual and team achievements throughout the year.
The awards weren’t decided by Ed and I, or the senior team at The Shed, but by last year’s award winners, and you could really see how delighted people were that they had been recognised and celebrated by their peers. I can honestly say that watching the awards was the best professional hour of my entire year.
I won’t name all the winners but must give a shout out to the Shedder of the Year, the amazing Sallie Holt. Sallie has been brilliant since the day she started, and as a remote Shedder for part of the week, she was instrumental in helping the team to adjust to remote working with her hints and tips.
Our clients have also been so supportive – together we’ve had to adapt to meet new challenges, and our commitment to working as a team with our clients has never been more crucial to our joint success.
Then there’s the wider Leeds tech community that has characteristically pulled together, sharing information and support, helping each other get through this catastrophe of a year. As part of the steering group for the Leeds Digital Festival, it’s been great to see how the tech community put on not one, but two, successful Festivals this year.
And finally, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the unshakeable partnership with my co-founder, husband and our CTO – Mr Thewlis has been a rock (just don’t tell him I said so). And The Cheerleaders – a group of incredible women who are always there with knowledge, experience, strength and humour. A very special thanks and big love to them – they know who they are!
With the New Year just days away, there’s still some uncertainty about what it will bring. But whatever is ahead we can be proud of what we’ve achieved in 2020, and use what we’ve learned to make the best out of 2021.
Just to bring the year to an easy conclusion, this week we’ve collected a puppy. What could possibly go wrong…
Happy Christmas to you and yours – may your festive season be relaxing and 2021 bring better things for us all.
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