Why 2020 Might Be One of My Favorite Years banner image

Why 2020 Might Be One of My Favorite Years

To my core, I think of myself as a start-up junkie.  I’ve had the good fortune to have been part of six, including the running of my own.  On January 4, 2021, I will be celebrating TEN YEARS at Rapid7.  It’s been an incredible ride, having joined when we were just 75 people in three little offices.  Today, we are over 1,800,  public and global. Our current business is long past the start-up phase, but I’m still just as passionate as I was the day I joined. What’s continuing to keep me motivated? The fact that I feel that 2020 might be one of my favorite years at Rapid7 should provide some insight.

Way back in January of 2020, we brought 1,600 Rapid7 employees from all over the globe to Boston for a kickoff aimed at immersing all of us in a deeper understanding and execution of exceptional customer experience. Leading up to this kickoff, I had just spent several months working with some of my favorite leaders in the company creating a new delivery structure, spending many an early morning in meetings working through the intricacies and nuances so we were prepared for  the main event.

I’ve played a fairly big role in each of our kickoffs over the last decade, with each year upping the ante of what we attempt to pull off.  There are no words for the production value of this last one.  We brought together our love of music as a backdrop to immerse ourselves in better understanding - and ultimately executing for - our customers.  We had a live band on stage.  We assembled a diverse panel of experts sharing their insights.  We listened intently as we heard keynotes from notable speakers. We wove in a multitude of opportunities to learn from and engage with one another.  Oh, and getting to interview Leslie Odom Jr.(of Hamilton fame) on stage and introduce Lil Jon at our night event was pretty epic as well.

I left that kickoff on a high, ready to tackle the year.  I remember thinking at the time, how incredibly fortunate we were, to be able to have that shared time together, getting us aligned for the year ahead. Little did I realize at the time how incredibly important that feeling was.

Zoom ahead two months to March 2020. I remember the series of conversations with Corey (Thomas, our CEO) starting Monday, March 9th.  When early news of the “Corona virus” broke out, we quickly evolved from “you can travel applying your best judgment” to “pack up your laptops...we are sending everyone home for a few weeks” within a span of three days. By the time we sent our entire company to work from home that Thursday, we honestly thought we’d be back together by early April.

As for all of us, the early days were a tough transition. The majority of our people were not equipped to work from home. Of course, we were privileged enough to have access to computers and internet to work from, but the luxuries of home office setups were not had by many.  Add on top of that trying to parent, or be on Zoom calls when some were sharing a small apartment with roommates competing for quiet space. Like most humans sharing this experience, our people grumbled about the inconveniences.  That quickly shifted to health concerns as COVID swept through the world, and financial concerns as everyone had people in their lives facing layoffs and other monetary hardships.

So we did what we had been preparing for the nine plus years leading up to the pandemic.  We leaned hard on our culture.

I’ve been in a people role my entire career. I had an epiphany in my first job out of school that to scale a growing company, you had to both understand and embody your culture and its value if you are to have any long term success or healthy scalability. I’m not good at so many things, but of that one core element of business, I was adamant.  So with each start up I’ve been a part of, that’s the piece I’ve tackled first.  Once you have that nailed, you can build everything else around that solid foundation.  And yet, that assumption that I’ve built my career on was truly put to the test for the first time in thirty years during this pandemic.

Rapid7’s culture is focused on five core values. They are so much a part of who we are, perhaps sometimes we take them for granted.  However, they became omnipresent when we were all focused to work from home.

IMPACT TOGETHER.  We call ourselves “moose” and the duality of its name being both singular and plural has become synonymous with teamwork. With the playing field leveled with everyone at home and behind a camera, we found new ways to partner and deliver for our customers - and each other.  We found new ways to leverage our technology, and found creative ways to connect as teams and as a company. For a tribe that was largely centered around face to face collaboration, we found new ways to connect, whether it was through more frequent Town Hall meetings, Friday night virtual concerts, or daily announcements to keep everyone on the same page.

BRING YOU. The essential meaning of this value is about everyone feeling like we are able to bring our authentic selves to work so we can deliver our best impact. In the early days of the pandemic, we all apologized for the disruptions made by our children, dogs barking, spotty internet and the like. Very quickly, however, we embraced those challenges, and realized that every single one of us was struggling with something.  So we began to invite those “challenges” into the conversation.  Humanity took over, and barriers were broken down. We found that all those different elements of our personal lives that never usually felt appropriate for “work” soon bonded people together. Prior to March, we were pretty comfortable with our notion of ability to “bring you” to work.  Since then, I’d say we took that value to a completely new level.

CHALLENGE CONVENTION. This speaks to our innovative nature. We might be a bigger company now, but we still operate with the soul of a start up. Who acquires its  biggest company to date in the middle of a pandemic?  That’s right.  We did. Who gets out in front by creating a “Little Moose Academy” for parents of young children at home? We did.  Who finds creative ways to continue developing people and keep career evolution happening even though we can’t be together?  We did.  Starting the Monday after we were sent home to work and needing to onboard 34 people, I marvel at the ingenuity and creativity being driven by our holistic team. We have risen to the occasion in ways that cheer each other on to accomplish just about anything...and our bottom line is reaping the rewards.

BE AN ADVOCATE. The core of this value is about doing what is in the best interest of our customers - both externally and internally. Keeping that mindset in forefront of our work, we worked backwards from the outcome we wanted to achieve, and then altering our approach in this “new world” to ensure we were providing the best possible experience to deliver to that outcome.

NEVER DONE. This one is all about continuous learning and having insatiable curiosity. Over the last nine months, it’s also come to reflect the stamina and resilience we’ve all needed to embrace to aid us in powering through trying times. Without question, 2020 has been exceptionally challenging on a number of fronts, but it is remarkable to see how rather than complaining, so many of our people will focus on the positives about what they’ve learned, how they’ve grown, and how they’ve given back. The notion that we were able to transform our #rapid7givesback program to a virtual one across the globe during this time and our people were willing to give their time and energy to support primarily STEM and D&I programs is astonishing.

For most people, 2020 will come crashing to an end and be remembered as an epic dumpster fire of a year because of the chaos it created for the entire world. Of course, I am deeply saddened by the health, financial and other challenges this year has caused. And yet, I am the girl who finds the opportunity in the chaos.  I will remember 2020 as the year that allowed me to prove a theory created decades ago right, and see that culture - when it is organic, authentic and real - can sustain and navigate a company through literally any challenge.

Christina Luconi is Chief People Officer for Rapid7. Follow her on Twitter: @peopleinnovator.  Photo courtesy of Rapid7.