When we decided to create a new fintech platform in the middle of a pandemic, we knew we were throwing ourselves into something ‘challenging’ – to say the least. We weren’t able to get the whole team in a room together to hammer out strategies, celebrate good ideas and put bad ones to bed.
So, why did we do it during COVID-19? The rationale was overwhelming – in fact, especially so given the context. With limited job security and uncertainty around what the future would hold, ambitious young investors needed help diversifying their income streams and navigating the start of their investment journey now, more than ever.
baraka had to happen and it had to happen sooner, rather than later.
Our coders, developers, content providers, and management sat in different time zones, so we ramped up the remote working infrastructure and got to work building a business.
The time zone issue worked to our advantage – it meant we could achieve productivity for much longer than one working day, with an almost 24/7 operation, provided we had the right infrastructure in place. We wasted no time pivoting to cloud-based ‘desktop-as-a-service’ (DaaS) options, accessible from anywhere in the world, as well as virtualization tools and cloud computing services by using AWS as our trusted partners.
We also realized very early on that seamless communication was going to be the key to seamless operations – especially when the majority of our discussions were going to take place through a screen. We quickly adopted communications tools like Slack, Google Meet and Zoom, that have been essential in our day-to-day interaction as a team. It was important that we were able to communicate across multiple platforms because no matter how extensive our checks for efficiency, security and vulnerabilities were, you never know when servers might go down. Take the massive global Slack outage last week, for example – although we felt we were losing resource time, the team were able to quickly switch to other channels and minimize disruption.
Cybersecurity is another primary focus for CTOs right now, even those with CISOs in their organization. Data loss prevention is a priority topic in times like these – and one that we have all had to tackle urgently. Employees may be lulled into a false sense of security by using a firewall while working remotely – this does not, however, guarantee a network is safe. Since employees’ home networks are not corporate-managed, we can only assume these are as secure as a public internet. Therefore, extra measures have had to be put in place, such as ensuring all laptops used for work purposes have endpoint protection.
Finally, with a brand like baraka, it was really important that we created a positive company culture for our team. Feras and I don’t just believe in what we’re building, we really enjoy it – and we wanted to make sure everyone involved in baraka felt the same, even if they never met face to face. We hired proactive self-starters, because micromanagement isn’t part of our ethos, but we also let them know we were always accessible by introducing daily stand-up meetings and virtual town halls. The open two-way dialogue has meant that people don’t shy away from asking questions, which means we can resolve issues before they arise.
It has, by no means, been an easy ride but we’ve adapted quickly and shown flexibility and agility in the way we work. The way I see it, if we can do it in the middle of a global pandemic…imagine what we will be able to do when the world goes back to normal? Let’s hope 2021 gives us that opportunity.