A year at SpotHero leading Engineering PT 5 – COVID-19

Now Covid-19 -> Not Scaling

March 2020 -> Throughout the whole US Parking sector, revenue dropped by 90% due to COVID-19 (Stay at Home Orders/WFH). As an Executive, we wrote revenue off for April, May and June. We worked our budgets to ensure we could still get to profitability in 2021/2022.

New Budget – cost reduction

We moved quickly to understand the implications to our business strategy i.e. get to profitability in 2022. We cut as much out of budget we could through areas like the 20 open roles for Engineering, expenses, etc. We had strong conversations with our vendors.


29 Engineers during March and April worked on 41 Projects to reduce spending with vendors and reduce our infrastructure costs. The results were astounding – we are set to save just under $600,000 for the rest of 2020. (Update – This is ongoing and we are still finding more savings.)


But the reductions were not yet enough. Thus we had layoffs across the company and did what we could to help those we laid off to find their next role. We reduced pay for all staff depending on their pay level.

Can Fewer Customers be an opportunity?

Rarely do you see everything just stop like this. We were a scaling startup, focused on growth, and while this was a shock to the system, it actually allowed us to step back and ask – do we really need this?


We got much more aggressive with changes that are hard to do whilst in scaling. For example, we were able to change all of our URLs to enhance how they work with Google Bots.

Now we ask the question “Is this the most efficient way to do this, rather than fastest way to do it.?”. We are doing much investigative work and comparing Vendors.

Going Full Remote

The US political situation was confusing (yes I am being nice). We are headquartered in Chicago Illinois. Both our Governor and Mayor were taking strong lead from WHO, CDC, etc and we followed suit in following our best medical professionals and yes I have to say it Science. We love our team and want to keep them safe and healthy.

  • March 6th – Started preparing Engineering Leadership for Full Remote
  • We already had 11 Engineers FT Remote so we collected all of their good practices and shared with the team
  • March 9th 2020 – Offered Remote as an option for staff
  • March 13th 2020 – Went Full Remote as a Team. Plan to be remote until at least July 30th. We will not be first movers in returning to the office

Adapting to full remote

Within Engineering:

  1. We were already using Zoom with remote staff and to conduct remote interviews. Now we do much more Zoom – much more!
  2. Solicited input through an Anonymous Survey of Engineering to see how people are mentally/emotionally doing, what are the challenges they are facing with WFH, COVID-19
  3. Cut out lunchtime meetings to let parents spend time with their children.
  4. Started weekly chat with the VP Engineering – in the beginning, there were serious questions but it has turned into a much more informal chat focused mostly on relationship building with the occasional question.
  5. Consistently reminding people to take PTO.
  6. New #homegym channel
  7. Leadership talking about how people are dividing work & personal life

Company Wide:

  1. Slack channel -> #company-wins to share our successes
  2. More Regular – Monthly All Team Zoom
  3. CTO went on Paternity leave. I Picked up our R&D Section (Labs)
  4. Closed Office occasionally to force people to rest and take breaks

Reflection

There was a bunch of things that we did not get to – Archeology, Data Health for Production Database, Full Rubrics for technical challenges, Contract Testing, building out the Platform Tribe.


But we Engineering and Product did a lot. I am really appreciative of the amazing team, and I/We am/are not done, yet!

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