viernes, 13 de noviembre de 2020

From One Quandary to Another

I still remember the first crisis we suffered at Pronoide back in 2005. After the first two successful years of the company, suddenly we were left with no customers and no projects... We were a new development company, where even the maintenance of the software that we had created was commissioned to another much larger business. After six months of agony, the team was demoralized, I was bankrupt, and trying to keep the business afloat meant I owed money to my family, friends, and wife. The routine of withdrawing money from all my personal accounts and transferring it to the company account to pay the salaries. 

Fifteen years later, I look back on that crisis almost fondly. At that time we carried out almost any task related to the world of computing that was available to us. We tried to create new applications - which were never sold fast enough. I tried to be a Computer science judicial expert - but litigating is not for the ingenious -, or attempted to became an expert in personal data protection with legislation impossible to comply with..We even tried to set up wireless networks in Africa - with malaria vaccine included...And suddenly, without planning it, after a course on creating custom templates for MS Visio that I taught by chance - anyway, who needed a course in that matter? - we got into the computer technical training business. At first, it was just me, then Luis Ramón, and finally the whole company was transformed into a specialized computer training business for professionals. We changed from the development of computer programs, to teach computer programming; in 2005 by the end of the year, we have taught 4 courses and about 100 hours of training. Only during last year, 2019,  we taught 350 courses and almost reached 10,000 hours of training. We are not a large company, we do not have commercials, but we like what we do. There are 10 of us in the company - the vast majority of teachers - and about 30 collaborators.

Over these fourteen years, we have experienced other crises and difficult moments. Sometimes due to temporary issues, such as the economic crisis of 2008, others because of internal decisions, for example deciding to cover more technical areas of knowledge in 2013. Nonetheless, after every hard moment, we have grown as a company; in 2009 we hired many more teachers; up until 2014 Java had been our core, and in that year we left our comfort zone and began to teach courses on Big Data, DevOps and Front Development. Some years we have finished the year in the red, which I have always preferred to call an investment rather than a loss. Sometimes, I have had to take out personal bank loans to make sure the business survives. We were lucky, we could have been forced to close, but we have always grown after difficult periods.




So, what approach is Pronoide going to take in the coming weeks, months, or even quarters?  We are going to proceed completely normal, without haste. We are not going to fire anyone, we are not going to change the length of the workday, we are not going to make anyone take vacations, and we are going to continue assigning work to our external contractors without prioritizing the full-time employees. We are determined to take advantage of this crisis. Since right now almost all our courses are on hold - some are still being taught remotely -, we are making the most of this in many ways. First by accelerating the digital transformation of the company, which previously had been happening, but very slowly. Secondly, we are training our teachers in new subject areas, which before there never seemed to be enough time to do. This also means that in the future can avoid the problem that courses can only be taught by one particular teacher - putting an end to internal knowledge monopolies. Finally, we are creating a more agile methodology for managing our courses, which will allow us to grow more quickly when the situation goes back to normal.

Why are we taking this approach? Because we have trained our teachers for quite a long time to not give them full support when they most need it. Furthermore, we have worked hard to build our network of collaborators and so we are not going to allow it to crumble at the first sign of trouble. It is also so that we can continue to provide training virtually or remotely. Moreover, even though we will be in the red, we will be able to absorb the impact of the crisis. Many companies need our help in process of digital transformation, to learn how to move to the Cloud, to manage their systems, to create applications, and to lead their development teams. Because the companies and professionals that we train will recover and help others to recover. There Information Technology sector should never be cowed or cautious, now or ever.

I know that, in many other sectors and businesses, the prospects are not as rosy as in our company. All the more reason why at Pronoide we must be responsible and commit to our employees, our contractors, our families, the companies we work with, and even the society, which will have to start up again, as soon as possible, with many lessons learned and all in the space of a few weeks. 


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