Imagine stepping into a new video game where you know nothing of the rules or the genre, much less have a strategy. You are paired with a random team of assorted players and you are responsible for their survival. As you press start, you feel tremors beneath your feet in the real world.
It’s an earthquake!
And your survival in the real world is dependent on you somehow learning the game well enough to survive in it within the next thirty minutes.
The story of Martha Delehanty joining Commvault
Martha Delehanty’s story of joining Commvault in the week just before the company went into global remote is much more dramatic. This is a story of grit, perseverance, and keeping not just your wits, but also your empathy around because the numerous people depending on you at work and at home really need it. This is the story of Martha’s amazing start with Commvault as Chief People Officer, and the journey the twain have been on throughout the rocky ride that’s been the year 2020.
This is one of the first questions I posed to Martha and her answer was atypical. She found her passion in working with people and large organisations through her experience of restructuring at a psychiatric institute where she was interning as an art therapist. She never got to like art therapy but found her calling in the disruption and sweeping organisational changes going on around her as the institute shifted from being federal to state-run. That experience provoked her interest in harnessing the capacity of people into making money and she went on to pursue an MBA to learn P&L for business transactions.
Martha spent nearly three decades working at Verizon and joined Commvault at what should have been an auspicious moment – the company had just successfully acquired Hedvig, had a very successful launch of SaaS-based data protection and data backup product called Metallic and were set to go full-swing into 2020. And then came the pandemic.
Perfect organisation, perfect role, great acquisition, fantastic launch of a startup into a legacy company – and the pandemic
What should have been a dream start to a new inning in her career turned into a quagmire of uncertainty as Commvault went into global remote within a few days of Martha coming on-board. Imagine being responsible for taking care of people and continuity of a business (that went remote overnight) in a global organisation without really having access to the ecosystem of people and relationships you would have available to you in any job. You probably don’t even know your executive team yet.
Martha was forced to make big, bold decisions quite literally in the dark as the pandemic situation unfolded with its own Pandora’s Box of uncertainties – knowing full well that her decisions might have second or third orders of impact that she simply could not gauge at this point.
Martha’s experience, put quite simply, was probably once-in-a-generation.
Martha herself takes a different approach. She reiterates that in a crisis situation, a lot of bureaucracy simply goes out of the window and decisions and people come together much faster than normal as they band together to survive. This included making tough calls such as voluntary reduction and global salary reduction while ensuring transparency in communicating with employees and supporting them in every manner possible.
Working with the wrinkles and remembering to smile
Once the remote paradigm of work settled in, it was time to deal with the fallouts. As Martha puts it, there was no longer the scope to put away the noisy dog or hide the misbehaving child on your lap during work in the new normal. People were dealing with anxiety, exhaustion, and burnout, trying to get adjusted to the new regime of work where the ‘off switch’ had all but disappeared.
In Martha’s case, it wasn’t just about finding the balance between the professional and personal (home-schooling and taking care of three children plus other responsibilities) that all of us struggled with, but also helping her team and the larger ecosystem of partners, integrators, resellers and customers find that balance and ray of sanity.
Shaping the future by not holding tight to the past
Martha is introspective and insightful when it comes to defining the future. She believes in helping people thrive during and going forward from the crisis rather than holding tight and praying for the storm to pass. After all, the past ‘normal’ we can’t help but hanker for at times – had its fair share of problems too. The pandemic has forced us not only into changes in jobs and relationships, but also into setting different priorities altogether. As Martha puts it quite profoundly, “A good day looks different now.”
Commvault has tried walking the path by enabling people to collaborate better not just at work, but in sharing home and social responsibilities, better channels of communication and resources through podcasts, having non-scripted courageous conversations around difficult topics (generally cast aside in professional environments as ‘too personal’), engaging communities in dialogue and participation, partnering more with mid-tier companies and the UN, coding challenges for young students, and something as seemingly basic as ‘story-time’ for kids of employees or keeping empty office canteens open for frontline workers and first responders at a local hospital and residents of a domestic violence shelter. In the process, hopefully, they are becoming more comfortable with being vulnerable and better partners to each other throughout the crisis.
Changing for the better and building value and relevance
Martha says we could all do with being a bit ‘less comfortable in our glass houses’ and accepting the reality we live in rather than living in a veneer of Instagram-like unreality. She is quick to recognise that even in the pre-Corona times, we were at a breaking point with an epidemic of stress, suicides, domestic violence, exhaustion, depletion and more.
She believes people officers right now have ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity window of influencing organisational processes for the better and creating an environment where people create value by thriving, not just surviving. Simple steps like assuming positive intention, partner mentality and community-enriching mindsets can go a long way for businesses to stay relevant and create sustainable value in a world that’s (hopefully!) long since passed the grasp of the pandemic.
- Be sure to tune into my full podcast conversation with Martha Delehanty
- For more information on Commvault solutions visit: http://bit.ly/commvaulthomepage
- For more information on Metallic visit: http://bit.ly/metallic-io