An Interview with South Geeks CEO, Julia Duran
Let's start with some personal questions. How are you and your family doing in the COVID era?
I live in Argentina where we’ve had the longest lockdown in human history followed by a million COVID cases, so we’ve been in coping mode for 7 months now. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions for everyone and we are trying to keep ourselves busy, to use the time to reflect, and to lend hands whenever possible.
Can you tell us about how you founded or joined this company?
I have a technical background in Software Development and for years I was one of the nearshore team members working for blue chip corporations and providing services to clients in North America and Europe. After some time in the business we identified some aspects that could be improved in the nearshoring business. For some months before launching we identified a set of ideas that laid the foundations of South Geeks’ strong culture.
We wanted to create a company that would build long-term relationships with clients and team members and that would focus on high quality, professionalism and community. Followed by some of the professionals we worked with in the past, and counting on the trust of some of my former clients, we started this very fulfilling journey.
What makes your company unique from others in the field?
There are many ways in which we are unique, but if I had to name 3 I would go with: we care for our clients deeply, we are very selective with the people we bring on board, and we run our business consciously.
Has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business and if so, how are you adjusting?
Of course! We are lucky enough to be in an industry that has not been as severely affected as others, but we have been impacted nonetheless.
Some of the areas that were more affected are:
- Teams and clients morale: people were touched in many ways by this pandemic, and it is now more important than ever to be sensible to our counterparts’ situations.
- We were already used to working remotely, so that hasn’t changed, but everyone accommodating having their families around (try coding with a 5 year old on your lap), struggling with connectivity and dealing with isolation has been particularly challenging. Our performance coach has been focusing on supporting the team through these experiences.
- Contact with clients: our service managers and myself used to travel to clients’ headquarters to make sure things were running smoothly, understand the clients’ pain points and to strengthen the relationships. Of course these days that’s impossible, so we are doing our best to stay close despite the impossibility of being there physically. Continuous communication is now more important than ever, and we are checking in more frequently. Also, we realized it’s not a matter of increasing communication, but also about communicating more efficiently.
- Sales: our sales were done personally. For us, even though we work remotely on a daily basis, we believe there’s a huge portion of trust that is built face to face. It’s really hard to convince someone that their project is going to be in good hands without looking at their eyes directly. Luckily for us, our clients are happy to provide references and some of this trust is still being built.
But it hasn’t been all bad, some good things that came with COVID are:
- Our clients are more prepared than ever to work remotely with more tools and most of their team members working from home, even local employees. This helps us engage better as part of the team as there’s now no difference between working with someone that lives 20 blocks away or in a different hemisphere.
- In these months everything seems to be moving slower, and with more time on our hands, we have been able to do a lot of housekeeping. We have had time to review our internal processes, implement better tools, think of our long term goals and many other activities that were sometimes overlooked while attending the urgent stuff.
What do you think are the major trends in your field?
We take pride in working on some projects that happen to be within popular areas in our field. We support several AI and Machine Learning projects, which has been a major trend in technology for years now.
Data Science and Data Engineering has been very popular as well, and our team of data scientists is now bigger and more solid than ever.
What are the keys to customer success and satisfaction and has that changed in the era of COVID?
For us, committing to do what we know we are proficient at, has worked wonders. We are sticking to building long term relationships and being conscious, open, honest and flexible. That hasn’t changed in the era of COVID.
Our challenge now is finding the best medium to communicate that.
How do you see your company ten years in the future?
In a decade, I trust our company will be more specialized, that most of our clients and team members will have been with us for 13 years (our company is 3 years old), and that we could look back in time and confirm that we were able to scale up in size without leaving our principles behind.
Also, ten years in the future I hope we’ll be able to look back at today and say: hey remember in 2020 when weather chit-chat was replaced by case numbers and lockdown policies for a BRIEF period? (brief being the keyword here).
Can you share some final thoughts?
As with many crises before us, I believe this is a good opportunity for transforming and growing ourselves and our businesses.
I digress with the popular saying that it’s good to stay positive through hard times. Hard times are… hard (duh) and you don’t need to keep smiling at every single curve ball life throws at you, but it’s good to take advantage of learning opportunities and get out of bad spots feeling stronger and with a fresher perspective- we have a good shot at doing that these days!
South Geeks CEO, Julia Duran
Website for South Geeks: http://southgeeks.com