15 CEOs Reflect On Their Pandemic Year
Bosses from Moderna to Chipotle talk about their challenges and share lessons for the times ahead.
Bosses from Moderna to Chipotle talk about their challenges and share lessons for the times ahead.
Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. Chief Executive Chris Nassetta worked from home in Arlington, Va., with his wife, six daughters and two dogs for two weeks before returning to the hotel chain’s nearly empty headquarters for the rest of the past year. Sharmistha Dubey has been leading Match Group Inc. from her dining room table near Dallas. Herman Miller’s Andi Owen has her dog Finn to keep her company while working from her home office in Grand Rapids, Mich. Moderna Inc. MRNA 5.05% CEO Stéphane Bancel relishes twice-daily 30-minute walks between his home in Boston and the vaccine maker’s Cambridge offices, where he resumed working in August, so he can crystallize his priorities and reflect on the day. The Wall Street Journal photographed them and 11 other business leaders in their pandemic office spaces as they discussed the past year and what’s to come.
More than a year after the coronavirus upended the way we work, the business leaders said they have found that more communication, flexibility and transparency have been crucial in staying connected to their employees.
Heads of companies across sectors including finance, hospitality and technology spoke from their current workspaces about what they’ve learned from the largely remote year, what challenges they faced and what changes they plan to leave in place during the next phase of work.
Brad Karp, chairman of the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, predicted his schedule will remain less hectic after the pandemic is over: “Personally, I can’t see myself reflexively flying cross-country for an hour-long presentation or meeting.”
Bank of the West. Working from her home office in New Jersey.
“[To handle overwhelming Paycheck Protection Program loan demand], we got 600 volunteers signed up overnight that left their day job, learned how to do a PPP loan, and started to work day and night on that. If we were in the physical world, that collaboration would take lots of meetings to set up. But that happened within hours.”
Exchange operator Nasdaq Inc. Working from Nasdaq’s New York office.
“I don’t want to make permanent decisions in a temporary situation…. We want to be able to plan for the future, our employees want us to be able to plan for the future, and yet we’re in a temporary situation so we try very hard to avoid making decisions that we’ll later realize were not the right ones for the organization.”
Insurer Everest Re Group Ltd. Working from Everest Re’s New Jersey office.
“We’re built for responding to a typhoon or to an earthquake or to a hurricane or winter event or whatever it is. And so, yes, you look inward and then you apply a lot of those lessons to how you run the company.”
Job-search site Indeed. Working from his home office in Texas.
“I used to spend a lot of time on aeroplanes, travelling as a means of trying to stay connected to people. I was flying 200,000 miles a year for the last six or seven years. And sitting in this one room and just being on Zoom, I am more connected with everyone in the business than I’ve ever been––because everyone is in the same place. We’re all just squares on a screen.”
Vaccine maker Moderna Inc. Working from Moderna’s Massachusetts office.
“Because of the intensity required to save every hour, every day we could, we were literally working seven days a week non stop. And I realized that I have to be very disciplined … And so I had to actually make sure I was doing sport in order to stay healthy and to stay mentally sane.”
Online-dating giant Match Group Inc. Working from her dining room in Texas.
“In the Zoom world, you can get a lot of things done, but you have to ask for it. There are very few serendipitous moments. It’s almost as if there is a scripted narrative that we’re using in every conversation we have; it’s very transactional.”
Hedge fund Bridgewater Associates LP. Working from his kitchen in Colorado.
“We took a lot of steps to try to make sure we reaffirm the culture remotely, but there’s nothing like being together. So I think we’re all going to go back to work, hopefully this fall [autumn], with a sense that work is a real privilege. It’s a real privilege to be able to go to the office and be with your colleagues.”
Life-insurance company Metlife Inc. Working from his converted-closet office in New York.
“We like to think that there will be a better normal, hopefully, coming out of this. We’ve seen incredible levels of collaboration of people working in agile ways of innovation and experimentation during the pandemic. In a way, we had to move much faster than we normally work because that was the only way for us to deliver for our customers during the pandemic.”
Furniture company Herman Miller Inc. Working from her home office in Michigan.
“If we think about how we’re going to take what we’ve learned from this [year of remote work] and move it into the future, we’ve got to take a hybrid approach that’s good for the employer and for the employee … I think productivity in the future is going to be much more a measure of results, rather than activities.”
Event-ticketing company Eventbrite Inc. Working from her home office in California.
“The real shadow side to working remotely is that this [work-from-home] shift … has also revealed and greatly exacerbated inequality. We’re starting to talk more about that, in terms of how access to technology or balancing your home and work lives in this reality has been very challenging.”
Hotel chain Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. Working from Hilton’s Virginia office.
“The realisation for me was that I wasn’t really built for this. I’ve dealt with it like everybody else. I really like being with our people and it gives me a huge amount of energy. And I hope that when I’m with them—I can’t be with them all the time, obviously given the scale, breadth and depth of this organization—that I give them some energy…. But when I’m sitting here doing Zoom calls all day, it’s hard to really tap into that.”
Investment firm Wellington Management Co. Working from her home office in Massachusetts.
“Going through the pandemic is such a stressful situation, and what we’ve heard back from our employees is that in increasing transparency we took away a lot of the stress. That was a big lesson learned for me as a leader, that we needed to be stress absorbers for the organization.”
Law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Working from his home office in New York.
“Remote work, while initially liberating, can be exhausting. Waking up every morning and going to sleep every night in your office quickly becomes old. So does the lack of boundaries in a world without diversions. The workweek has taken on a 24/7 vibe, and, as a leader of my law firm, creating reasonable boundaries and worrying constantly about my colleagues’ mental health and stress have become critical priorities.”
Electricity and gas company Duke Energy Corp. Working from her home office in North Carolina.
“We have remarked over and over about what an extraordinary time it has been. But it truly has. I mean, it has threatened health; it has created loss; people have had issues with how to manage their work, their families, their schooling—just everything. And at the same time social unrest [and a] tough political season all coming together.”
Restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. Working from Chipotle’s California office.
“There’s just value in every four or five weeks getting everybody on the phone together, do a live Q&A. It’s really important for our kitchen manager all the way up to our executive team, directors, folks that are doing payroll to have the ability to hear first hand what’s going on and then also provide questions on what they’re feeling and how they’re being impacted right now.”
Produced by Meghan Petersen. Designed by Andrew Levinson. Additional reporting by Chip Cutter and Kathryn Dill.
Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: May
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Passwords aren’t enough to fend off hackers; these dongles are the best defense
Strong passwords are very important, but they’re not enough to protect you from cybercriminals.
Passwords can be leaked or guessed. The key to online security is protecting your account with a strong secondary measure, typically a single-use code. This is referred to as “two-factor authentication,” or 2FA, as the nerds know it.
I’ve written about all the different types of 2FA, such as getting those codes sent via text message or generated in an authenticator app. Having any kind of second factor is better than none at all, but physical security keys—little dongles that you plug into a USB port or tap on your phone during account logins—offer the highest level of protection.
Security keys have been around for over a decade, but now they’re in the spotlight: Apple recently introduced support for them as an optional, added protection for Apple ID accounts. Last month, Twitter removed text-message-based authentication as an option for nonpaying users, recommending instead an authenticator app or security key.
Some people are hesitant to use security keys because carrying around a physical object seems burdensome and they come with a $30-and-up added cost. Plus, what happens if they get lost?
I’ve used security keys since 2016 and think they are actually easier to manage than codes—especially with accounts that don’t require frequent logins. They’re not only convenient, but they can’t be copied or faked by hackers, so they’re safer, too.
Here’s how to weigh the benefits and common concerns of adding one or two of these to your keychain.
Many internet services support the use of security keys, and you can use the same security key to unlock accounts on many different services. I recommend two from industry leader Yubico:
Other options include Google’s Titan security keys ($30 and up). In addition to working with laptops and tablets with USB ports, these keys are compatible with smartphones that have NFC wireless. Most smartphones these days have that, since it’s the technology behind wireless payments such as Apple Pay.
Adam Marrè, chief information security officer at cybersecurity firm Arctic Wolf, recommends that your chosen key is certified by the FIDO Alliance, which governs the standards of these devices.
To add a key, look in the security settings of your major accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.). During setup, it will prompt you to insert the key into your laptop or tablet’s port or hold the key close to your phone for wireless contact.
Apple requires you to add two security keys to your Apple ID account, in case you lose one.
Typically, when you log in, you just go to the app or website where you’ve set up a key, enter your username and password as usual, then once again insert the key into the device or hold it close. (Some keys have a metal tab you have to press to activate.) At that point, the service should let you right in.
Getting those two-factor login codes via text message is convenient, but if you are someone criminals are targeting, you could be the victim of SIM swapping. That’s where thieves convince carriers to port your number to a new phone in their possession, and they use it along with your stolen password to hack your accounts.
Even if they don’t go to all that trouble, criminals might try to trick you to hand them your codes, by calling you or spoofing a website you typically visit. At that point they can use the code for about 60 seconds to try to break in, said Ryan Noon, chief executive at security firm Material Security.
Security keys protect you in two ways: First, there’s no code to steal, and second, they use a security protocol to verify the website’s domain during login, so they won’t work on fake sites.
You can also add an authenticator app such as Authy to your most important accounts, to use only as a backup. But once you add these secure methods, you should consider removing the text-message code option.
In the rare case that someone snoops your passcode then steals your iPhone, beware: The perpetrator could still make Apple ID account changes using only the passcode, and even remove security keys from your account.
The most important rule of security keys is to buy an extra one (or two).
“Think of your security key as you would a house or car key,” said Derek Hanson, Yubico’s vice president of solutions architecture. “It’s always recommended that you have a spare.”
If you lose a security key, remove it from your accounts immediately. You should have already registered your spare or an authenticator app as a backup to use in the meantime.
Start with your most valuable accounts: Google, Apple, Microsoft, your password manager, your social–media accounts and your government accounts.
When it comes to financial institutions, many banks don’t offer security-key protection as an option, though most leading crypto exchanges do.
Security professionals and tech companies widely agree that passkeys are the future. They’re a new type of software option that combines the high security of a physical key with the convenience of biometrics such as your face or fingerprints. Passkeys are supported across the Android, iOS, Mac and Windows platforms, and some of your favourite sites already let you use them.
You can create a passkey on Facebook in security settings by following the app’s instructions under the security-key option. Dropbox has a similar passkey setup. Once you’re done, you’ll use your face or fingerprint as a second factor, instead of a code or key.
Eventually, physical security keys could be what we keep safe in strong boxes, as backups for our biometric-enabled passkeys. Even then, you’re probably going to want to have spares.
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