So it’s been a year

It was an extraordinary beginning. My first day at Vivaldi – on March 16, 2020 – was not like any other first days I’ve experienced. I showered, shaved and got ready for work – yeah – but I didn’t leave my house. I didn’t go to the office and I didn’t shake dozens of hands that morning.

13 months later, I’m still not at the office (but I’ve stopped by).

It’s still Corona Time. I still haven’t met most of my colleagues.

But I’m still with Vivaldi and I couldn’t be happier.

The Icelandic saying “Fall er fararheill” is true. It means a journey that starts badly is going to be great.

Here are some things I’ve learned:

Marketing: Doing marketing online is wonderfully cut-throat, deeply complex and an endless learning challenge. There’s always a new channel or a new problem-solving method to explore. At the end of the day, it’s still about your brand and who you are. It’s about reducing the distance between you and your customers, while distancing yourself from your competition. It’s about standing up for how you’re different. Daring to be different.

Management: As a working-from-home people manager, you lose most of the antennas you used to rely on. Yeah, you learn things on video calls and chats. But you don’t see the nonverbal cues. You can’t know for sure that people are doing OK. You can’t depend on small talk or the friendly nod across the room. The trick: build just enough structure to allow people to take care of themselves and each other – and then pile on the trust. Easy to say, hard to do.

Humanity: One year ago, I said it was hard to predict the impact of Covid-19 on humanity. Today we know (more about) the impact. One the one hand, there’s no way to underestimate the sadness and despair the pandemic has caused. On the other hand, it has opened our eyes. We have shifted our focus from cheap travel to rich experiences at home. We have learned that we don’t have to jam into office buildings. And we have learned that our survival this time depended on an organism made of cables, servers and wireless connections: the Internet. Most significantly, though, we have proven that we can truly change our behavior and rejig our relationship to nature. One day we’ll find that our continued existence on this planet depends on it. Big question: Will we go back to our pre-Covid behavior of opulent travel and consumption? My bet is that we largely will. Because we can.

It’s the first day and all I can say is: “Fall er fararheill”

Photo by Daniel Schoibl on Unsplash

Normally when you start a job you shower, shave and show up at your new offices with a feeling of untouched promise and opportunity. You don’t know exactly what the next few days will bring and there’s a sense of excitement due to that uncertainty.

This time is different. As I embark on my new role as CMO at Vivaldi today, I’m not showing up at an office. I’m not meeting anyone. I’m not shaking any hands or figuring out if the coffee machine is any good. I won’t get an access card, I won’t forget the eight new names I just learned and I definitely won’t test my new office chair.

This time is corona time.

Corona time is uncertainty at whole new level. I don’t know if I’ll see my brilliant colleagues in two weeks or two months – or more. I don’t know the impact of this crisis on my family, my new company, the economy or the world. We don’t know the impact it will have on humanity.

Humans in Iceland have a way of surviving and thriving. If anyone is used to embarking on challenging journeys, it would be them. So when Jon von Tetzchner, half Icelandic and CEO of Vivaldi, told me that there’s a saying on Iceland that goes “Fall er fararheill” I listened up.

“It means a journey that starts badly is going to be great,” Jon said.

That’s a spirit we all need in the time to come.