Earlier this month, business leaders based in the UK and US shared their insights with Foster MBA students on How to Best Approach Your Career After Coronavirus/COVID-19. Technology Management MBA alum Tim Cooke facilitated an online conversation with executives Deanna Oppenheimer and UK-based Chris Saul on their insights into how CEOs are tackling this terrain, as well as their thoughts on how the world might change as it resurfaces from this global pandemic – and what that means for business leaders of tomorrow.
Meet the Panel
An influential leader in financial services, Deanna has also been a trailblazer for women in tech, serving as senior advisor, investor, and board member to industry disruptors and firms that are changing the business landscape through technology. Familiar with time of uncertainty, Deanna was CEO at Barclays during the European Debt Crisis. Currently, Deanna serves as senior advisor to Bain & Co’s financial services and digital practice and to consulting firm West Monroe Partners’ technology practice. She is the founder of CameoWorks and BoardReady. In October, she was appointed as a Foster School Edward V. Fritzky Co-Chair in Leadership for 2019-20. This faculty position was specifically designed to bring distinguished business leaders to campus to share expertise.
Chris is the founder of Christopher Saul Associates, an advisory firm established in October 2016 to provide independent trusted advice to businesses at moments of difficulty, change or transition. Formerly, he was a senior partner with Slaughter and May, a prestigious law firm with offices in London, Brussels, Hong Kong, and Beijing. Throughout his career at the firm, he worked with clients such as AkzoNobel, AngloGoldAshanti, Barclays, Cemex, Deutsche Bank, First Reserve, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Huntsman, Morgan Stanley, Schroders, and Unilever.
Tim Cooke is a past-Partner and currently the General Manager at Cadence Preferred, a boutique marketing and sales consultancy catering to the high-tech industry. Clients include Intel, Amazon, Microsoft, Dell, AT&T, Nokia, Concur and Apptio. While at Cadence, Tim has been involved with several other start-ups whether as a Principal or on the board of directors. His latest focus is on the elder-care industry having co-founded Agape in Home Care which is on the front lines of keeping seniors safe at home during this pandemic.
Q and A with the Panel
What Are Your Concerns and Hopes During COVID-19?
Deanna: “Sequencing is a huge concern.” For example, “When does the health risk decrease enough that the economic impact can start to recover?” During the financial crisis, the solution seemed clearer. However, in this situation, “Health, economy, and environment are being impacted across the globe and all at the same time.”
“My hope is that you have to rise to the best of your individual self. This is the opportunity to follow your true North.”
“Innovation comes out of people during these times. What the city of Seattle breeds is entrepreneurs. And it was underscored by the Foster Dempsey Awards that you can innovate.”
Chris: “My first concern is the collateral health risk. We run the risk of not treating other illnesses during this time because people that have these illnesses are hesitant to visit our hospitals and healthcare facilities.” There is also the “long term damage to the economy and job losses. The third concern I have is the rise of populism and nationalism when the blaming of the other takes place.”
What gives me hope is the “true altruism” we are witnessing. “We must hope that this lingers into our post COVID world. People are more mindful of the social contract. I also look forward to the big and new ideas that come out of this.”
What Advice Do You Have for Leading During a Crisis?
Deanna: “I’ve led teams and big businesses through crises before. When we have a time of uncertainty, the good leaders go to great. They do this by communicating effectively, being authentic with their employees, and engaging in stakeholder feedback”.
Chris: “Leaders need to focus on three tasks during this time: set tone, do the brave thing, and be prepared to make tough decisions.” Chris continued that leaders who have taken temporary pay cuts for their employees or set up relief funds at their companies are setting a tone of selflessness and a helpful path forward.
How Will the World Be Different?
Deanna: “I think we all share concern about the future. I read an article recently that speculated if there would be millions of jobs without people and millions of people without jobs. What that indicates to me is that we have to have a concerted coordinated effort for this to not take place.”
Chris: “I anticipate a fallow period in mergers & acquisitions and distress-driven deals into 2021. Good leadership makes a difference and there were examples of this following the Global Financial Crisis. Like that crisis, the pandemic is emphasizing the social contrast between the have and have nots.” He hopes that people will continue to look after one another as they have during this complicated time and show true altruism.
How Should I Approach Career During the Pandemic?
“I recommend people focus on the positives of what you can do to contribute because you will be overwhelmed by the flood and the tsunami of what you can’t control in these types of situations. This is a time time to dust off previous skillsets or volunteer for tasks outside of your comfort zone. This is how you can rise above your peer group, help your company, and be a leader regardless of your title.”
–Deanna Oppenheimer, Founder, CameoWorks and BoardReady
Chris: “When working with people during tough times there are two keys things I suggest: approaching others with humility and valuing everyone’s opinion.” Chris also suggests keeping key routines to help with day-to-day structure to shape your day. Each evening, Chris sits at his dining table and outlines the 12 things he plans on doing the following day.
This event is a part of the Tech @ The Top Speaker Series. The Tech @ the Top Speaker Series showcases successful leaders, executives, and entrepreneurs from a variety of organizations.
Topics span leadership, entrepreneurship, globalization, social innovation, and business growth strategies.
An event brings students, alumni, and community members together to network and learn from the leadership philosophies and strategies that have transformed a speaker’s career, organization, and life.
The series is an important part of the MBA experience as it enhances the learning, reflection, and application of students’ studies. It is organized by Foster’s Career Management Director of Technology Management MBA and Hybrid MBA Programs, Susie Buysse.