How Our Start-Up Is Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Interview with fieldX Founders

Entrepreneurs know that when starting a business, anything can happen. For many startups, these unforeseen obstacles mean certain doom. In fact, 90% of startups fail! 

As a new tech company, the odds were not in our favor at fieldX — especially when a global pandemic rocked numerous industries. We were adamant we were not going to be one of the businesses that failed, especially after such a successful proof-of-concept launch in January 2020. 

As an online platform offering critical soft skills training for the workplace, we’re dedicated to providing leading-edge training to learners wanting to stand out from the crowd. Part of what makes us different is how we offer learners the opportunity to apply for field experience micro-internships to test their new power skills. Well, back in March, it was time for us to put some of these power skills to the test. Skills like communication, empathy, and innovation. 

How are we doing? We caught up with Sharyn and Joey-Lynn for their honest advice on how startups and organizations can navigate uncertainty and how fieldX adjusted and rolled with the punches. 

What skills have helped you remain flexible as a start-up and business through this pandemic?

Sharyn: For me, curiosity, resourcefulness, adaptability, and coachability are crucial. I say curiosity because the entire industry that I have dedicated my career to pre-fieldX was shut down. I believe innovation is born from curiosity and agility so these two skills took the front seat. I say coachability because we’re in an environment now where there’s no precedent. There’s no looking for answers from the last pandemic. We are all in this for the first time, from CEO’s to interns. We’re like cowboys in the wild west. Everyone’s running to find their piece of land, and nobody knows the territory. Now more than ever, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the industry or the workforce. We need to be open to all ideas and solutions. I learn so much everyday from 21 year olds, now more than ever. Don’t assume that because someone is younger and appears less experienced that they don’t have a good idea in this current reality. It was college students on our team who felt isolated and came up with the idea for us to connect with industry leaders and icons. That’s how we decided to start Coach’s Corner. Without coachability, we as leaders wouldn’t have adapted quite this well to these crazy times.

Joey-Lynn: I agree with coachability. We’ve had to lean in and be open to learning from everyone. Communication has also been crucial. No matter how overwhelming things get, you need to be able to communicate and create a plan together.

In these unprecedented times, emotional and social intelligence are vital to having a healthy team dynamic and maintaining quality customer service. Empathy is at the heart of motivating everyone to work together now.

As a relatively new startup, what has it been like working through a pandemic? How did you approach it when it all started unraveling?

Sharyn: When this all started happening, I said, “I’ll be damned if we’re going to be roadkill because of this pandemic.” 

We really tapped into our team, but we also tapped into the skills we’re preaching. We’re literally being forced to walk the walk for ourselves, and it’s helping us develop a better product for learners, organizations, and universities. But it’s the hardest thing that either of us has ever done in our life, ever! It’s certainly been a test of patience and persistence.

Joey-Lynn: When I think of this in a reflective lens, it has undoubtedly been a patience and persistence test. I don’t think any of us expected back in March that this pandemic would still be here all these months later. It’s been an ongoing test of patience and perseverance as a business and being able to always look at what we need to prioritize right now. It helps we have a fantastic team who approach these uncertain times with a resilient mindset and willingness to explore creative and adaptive solutions.

What is one piece of advice you want to share to other startups?

Sharyn: I would say celebrate every little win, even if it’s a tiny one. It’s really hard, and it’s scary. If you can focus on what you’re doing in the moment, and you have a win, celebrate it! 

Joey-Lynn: I said this quote yesterday at our team meeting, and it was, “You don’t need to know all the answers. You just need to be courageous enough to take the first step and trust where it’ll lead you.” Sharyn and I have done that.

Sharyn: I would also have to add when you’re going to go into business with someone, imagine standing beside them on the front line, can you trust that person? Like, envision going through a pandemic with someone!

What is the fieldX platform’s role in helping us navigate these unprecedented times?

Sharyn: Joey-Lynn and the learning scientists have been mixing their learning potions to develop some really great learning pathways with engaging microlearning e-courses. Then, we also have the field experience part of the program. Hello, that’s my area! 

We went into this business thinking live events are the perfect place to practice these power skills, they are short in time and they are plentiful because they are a fabric of our lives. COVID really threw a wrench in that plan! At the same time, though, I am so proud of my colleagues in the events industry because of the incredible innovation coming out of these uncertain times. It’s this innovation in itself that is such a vital power skill to learn and expand on right now. We are adapting and evolving to continue offering field experience opportunities to learners through remote-based events and internships until the world gets better.

Joey-Lynn: In most traditional education and training environments, the emphasis has typically been on hard skills or technical skills. What we are doing is saying we can have a fantastic workforce when power skills (soft skills) are what lead the way. These power skills will get us through uncertain times and the obstacles we couldn’t have possibly planned for. That’s what we’re doing at fieldX: helping a new workforce to cultivate stronger power skills like empathy, adaptability, communication, resourcefulness, and critical thinking.

Ready to Power Up?

How can you unite your team to be safe and prosperous during this uncertainty? Essential power skills, like empathy and communication, can be the difference between success and failure. Set up your learner profile and start learning independently today. Or, reach out to us to see how you can use the fieldXperience online learning platform to effectively train and motivate your team, staff, or students. Together, we can be the difference between a workforce of superheroes and a workforce with no power. 

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