Reflection is a common occurrence around this time, as we bid farewell to one year and look ahead to the next. Usually, these reflections are based on learnings, successes, and hopeful predictions of what’s to come. Also usually, the year we’re reflecting on doesn’t feel like an entire decade condensed down into a single trip around the sun.
While people and businesses often tend to view every year as critical or pivotal in some way, 2020 was in every way. Massively devastating forest fires, a global pandemic, polarizing division, social unrest, economic uncertainty… 2020 laid it all out and then some.
Despite all of this, we can of course still take stock of our learnings and successes this past year and we can certainly still make hopeful predictions of the future. We also count ourselves extremely fortunate to be able to do so as it’s a privilege that many don’t have at this point in the year.
Staying Connected and Productive in 2020
Even though 2020 was a unique and challenging year globally, it was also one of immense growth for MentorMate. We, along with the rest of the business world, went to a fully remote working model this past March. Since much of our work is already conducted between U.S. and Bulgarian colleagues over Google Meet, we were able to make this switch fairly easily. We were even able to share some of our remote work learnings from over the years to hopefully make the switch easier for other companies.
There is, of course, a loss of human connection that comes with this change but we’ve managed to stay connected with one another in a number of ways. Virtual happy hours, employee lounge, weekly lunches, games, and even a remote employee retreat all made our physical distance seem much closer. As the pandemic progresses and we continue to wait for a safe return to an office environment, we’ll continue connecting any way we can.
Delivering Success For Clients
At the core of everything we do is our mission to deliver world-class results to our clients and 2020 was no different in that regard. In total, we delivered 117 projects. Several of these included solutions designed to directly combat the effects of the pandemic from testing registration software to IoT-enabled cleaning machines to apps designed to help people safely return to work.
Nearly 650 and Counting
Now, we couldn’t deliver these world-class results without a world-class staff. In order to keep up with our increased business demands, we put a lot of effort into boosting our workforce this year. And that effort paid off.
Between our full-time employees, Partner Network contractors, and DevCamp participants, we’ve grown to nearly 650. As we approach our 20th year as a company, this is a huge milestone for MentorMate. For me personally, this is extra special as I can distinctly remember hiring our very first employee back in the early days. Seeing how far we’ve come as a company since then is truly remarkable.
Growth Beyond Staffing Number
When we talk about growth, people’s first thoughts are often of revenue and the number of employees. And while we did have success on both of those fronts, we also grew our expertise and depth of knowledge in several areas, mainly design and cloud services.
Our experience design capabilities continue to be a huge area of expansion for us. Since joining MentorMate in late 2019, VP of Design Denny Royal has entirely rethought what design services we’re offering clients. From foundational research and strategy to product, behavior, and service design, we now offer comprehensive design services to our clients all from a human-centered approach.
As we’ve expanded our design services, we’ve also expanded our design team. We’ve added several positions to our Minneapolis team including a Design Producer and Director of Design and hired top-tier talent in Bulgaria. The onshore/offshore combination has allowed us to offer our clients exceptional design while still delivering on similar value as our custom software offerings.
MentorMate’s Cloud Center of Excellence has continued to be… well, excellent. Cloud & DevOps Manager Daniel Rankov and team have continued to amass an impressive amount of AWS and Azure certifications. These certifications are a huge value add for our clients as they equip our CCOE team with the knowledge and experience to help them take a more cost-effective and secure approach to cloud computing.
Looking Ahead to 2021
Making predictions of what’s to come is always a mixture of optimism and educated guesswork. If 2021 is anything like its predecessor, that mixture is sure to skew mostly to guesswork, educated and otherwise.
As we enter our 20th year, we’ll continue to grow alongside our clients. We’ll continue seeking out and hiring the best and brightest minds in Bulgaria along with developing budding talent via our DevCamp program. In 2021, there will also be a focus on growing our Partner Network with top-tier technical talent outside of Bulgaria.
With multiple vaccines on the horizon, there’s a strong hope of conquering the pandemic in 2021. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a return to how things were pre-pandemic. We’ll continue to work remotely until it’s safe to return to an office setting and even then, we’ll be in some sort of hybrid at home/in-office model for a while. We also won’t be forcing anyone to come back into the office until they feel comfortable to do so.
In terms of the business sector, it will likely continue to evolve as companies return to offices in a post-pandemic world. Will business travel ever fully return? It’s tough to say. On the one hand, video conferencing and remote work have proven that we can remain productive without being face to face. On the other hand, there’s a certain level of connection that you can’t get from a computer screen.
Overall, I think high stakes business trips will persist while lower stakes business development travel will take much longer to recover. As for MentorMate, we in the U.S. have missed traveling to see our Bulgarian colleagues (and vice versa) and will plan for some trips when it’s safe.
What about on-site work? If our experience is any indication of trends, software is more needed than ever as the world adapts to transacting remotely. In my opinion, the pandemic blasted through most all remaining vestiges of “tech resistance” in every corner of the economy, ostensibly portending a productivity boost.
As I’ve already noted, our plan is to work with a hybrid of on-site/remote work post-pandemic and I imagine many other businesses will follow suit. Other companies will become 100% remote indefinitely. Others still may return to business as it was pre-pandemic and conduct all of their business on-site.
On the medical front, I do think that the pandemic has spurred a new level of speed, collaboration, and sophistication in drug discovery that will stand us in good stead for the next inevitable pandemic.
In closing, our theme is to Exit the Pandemic Stronger. It might seem cliche or trite, but it is true and important. There is no alternative to keeping on keeping on. The only options are how well we do it. My biggest hope is that the medical research acceleration prompted by the novel coronavirus will herald the beginning of the post-pathogen world. By virtue of the flexibility of tools and techniques blossoming (think machine learning designed antibodies and the like), that would be truly remarkable.