The year of the “Pivot”​ — Six months without pants and now a virtual job search in the middle of a global pandemic…
  • Published on September 17, 2020:

By Mark Verone

There’s a lot of topics in here….Queue movie trailer voice-over guy: “In a land,” “In a time,” or “In a place”… 2020 feels like that blockbuster pandemic movie trailer that never ends because the theaters are closed and we can’t see movies on a big screen. Better yet, we are living in the Pandemic Movie that is 2020. Yes, I know some movie theaters are open, but there’s rules and getting butter on my face mask doesn’t sound appealing. Movie night is just not the same in our house as it is on the silver screen. Its OK but one thing we miss as a family is going to see movies in the movie theater. There’s something special about the smell of fresh popcorn and a darkened theater. These are clearly first-world problems. Don’t worry about us, we have a nice big screen TV, a Dolby THX surround sound system, plenty of microwave popcorn and snacks but its not the same as seeing a movie in a theater or a live show on a stage or a concert in a stadium or all the other things we haven’t been able to do this year except Pivot!

But, I will get to that later…

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Today, officially marks 186 Days without pants. I mean I still wear clothes, shower and shave. I just prefer wearing shorts or board shorts instead of pants. Why not? I haven’t been in an office since March 15th and all of my Zoom calls have been waist-up. I am not alone in this “no pants” game as people are choosing comfort over style. As early as March 28th, a few weeks into lock-down, “Walmart reported Increased Sales in Tops, Not Bottoms, As More People Telework.” In May, CNN reported “No one’s buying pants, but pajama sales are soaring.” I am guilty of making a “Tops” only purchase while working remote but I wear pajamas to sleep not for work even when work is at home. Like many others, I haven’t had a need to buy clothing for the past six months. 

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CBS News reported this week that “Dressing for success these days means “Athleisure” as more Americans seek out comfort wear and sales of formal attire have fallen off.” CBS reports, “Between March and July, overall apparel sales were down 34% compared to a year ago, according to Maria Rugolo, apparel industry analyst at NPD Group. By contrast, sales of active wear items, including leggings, sports bras and exercise shorts, rose. Sales of active shorts were up 3%, while sweatpants were also a hot seller, rising 2%, according to NPD’s data. Sports bras were the biggest winner, with sales up 7% year.” 

The entire fashion industry was turned upside down. Have you seen any fashion shows or runway models lately? My friend Whitney Gates has this awesome website called Emerging Atelier which is a digital magazine focused on emerging, innovative and sustainable global fashion designers. She recently wrote about the changes happening in the fashion world. Her article, “Why did we need a pandemic to change the fashion industry?” is filled with Whitney addressing the “speed” of the industry that demands fashion designers to create so many collections that end up wasted, may never make into a store or the consumer and how the pandemic has forced the industry to adapt out of necessity to sustain their business and promote sustainability from the negative environmental impacts. Fashion is having to Pivot to survive. In fact, we are all having to Pivot in some way. Pivot has become my buzzword this year. 

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For me, 2020 has become the year of “The Pivot” – my wife and I joke that we have been given a lot of lemons so we are just making lemonade. Six months of working remotely, two months where my wife was not able to see her regular dental patients, distance learning in the spring and fall, a summer that was strange, especially for my kids, because there was nothing to do and nowhere to go. And for me and many others, a layoff and job loss. Unemployment during this pandemic has taken its toll on a lot of really smart and talented people. We are all learning to Pivot. The Pivot is so important that Harvard Business Review wrote about it back in July with an article titled: “How Businesses Have Successfully Pivoted During the Pandemic.” The article explores how certain types companies will need to transform or go bankrupt and “pivoting to business models conducive to short-term survival along with long-term resilience and growth. Pivoting is a lateral move that creates enough value for the customer and the firm to share.” They mention how “some farmers and local stores are flocking to Shopify, the Canadian e-commerce platform, which has seen a boom in e-commerce activity at distances of less than 15 miles between sellers and buyers — a segment of the online market that behemoths like Amazon have traditionally neglected. Shopify’s key pivot has been to offer a comprehensive cloud-based bundle of services that help vendors manage expenses, pay bills, anticipate cash-flow problems, and optimize deliveries.” Not all businesses are capable of or able to Pivot and “Not all pivots result in good business performance.”

As you may have read or seen in the news, demand for inflight internet connectivity and entertainment services dropped along with air travel. After two rounds of furloughs and salary reductions, Gogo was forced to layoff 14% of its workforce which included myself and a significant portion of my team. I loved my job at Gogo as it connected two of my personal passions–airplanes and technology and we connected and entertained airline passengers. We built an amazing team of talented folks and I am thankful for my time at Gogo. Unfortunately, the travel industry has suffered incredible losses and it will take years for it to recover to pre-pandemic levels.

After 15 years in travel with Orbitz and Gogo, I find myself in a position where I also need to pivot. Pivot to explore other industries and opportunities where I can apply my leadership background and skills. Pivot to adapting to this new way of virtual job hunting and networking via email, phone, LinkedIn, social media and Zoom. Pivot to doing all of this without actual face-to-face human contact. This is hard for me because I like being around people. My favorite part is building teams and focusing on people.

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These days, I feel like Max Headroom on these Zoom calls especially when the connection is a little jittery and unstable. Yes, there is a Max Headroom version out there and I am having way too much fun with virtual backgrounds. I’ve collected a small library of options and even setup a green screen behind me because I am still a broadcast video nerd. 

The pivot to not being around people is challenging whether in an office setting, personal or professional networking or industry events. As an American Airlines, Executive Platinum flyer, I do miss airports and travel for business or leisure. I have traveled by air a couple of times during the past six months and the airports are deserted, creepy and much quieter than before. Staying home is like a punishment for the extrAverts which spell check says is spelled wrong. Unless of course you work in psychology because Carl Jung used an “A” instead of an “O.” The intraverts LOVE the pandemic. Its like a dream come true — “Wait-A-Minute – did they just say I am required to stay at home away from people?”

My youngest is a total homebody and would rather stay home anyway. Even before the pandemic, he would prefer to stay home. Its not that he is not social, he just prefers to stay home. Whereas my wife, my oldest and I are all extraverts climbing the walls itching to go somewhere or do something outside of the home and our yard. My wife Rachelle is a dentist and as a healthcare worker she has to leave the house each day and see patients in her office. Virtual Dentistry is not realistic although my youngest son wants to invent a dental robot. From spacing out appointments to investing in more PPE and air filtration systems, she has had to pivot too. I got to a point during the past six months where I would just get in my car and drive somewhere or walk around the neighborhood after realizing I hadn’t left the house for a few days. I became one of those people who couldn’t differentiate the weekends from weekdays. 

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This is an especially challenging for me and my fellow extraverts as we’re all craving human interaction beyond our Covid Bubble. My preference group from the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator Instrument (MTBI) is “ESTJ” which means “Extraverted Thinking with Sensing” making me “Practical, realistic, matter-of-fact. Decisive, quickly move to implement decisions. Organize projects and people to get things done, focus on getting results in the most efficient way possible. Take care of routine details. Have a clear set of logical standards, systematically follow them and want others to also. Forceful in implementing their plans.”

My DISC profile is very similar to the Meyers-Briggs where I am “IDCS” which states that my preference is a high “I” meaning I am social, persuasive, friendly, energetic, busy, optimistic more focused on people than tasks. This focus on people is hard when everything is virtual. My DISC profile says that “to me strangers are just friends I haven’t met.” But with COVID-19, strangers could be dangerous to my health – I wonder if the COVID lockdown has changed my perspective? Could my personality typing Pivot?

One of the highlights of my week has been participating in a Virtual Happy Hour each Friday hosted by friend and fellow advertising industry colleague Rob Beeler. For health and medical reasons, I stopped drinking alcohol a few years back so I generally don’t attend Happy Hours and when I do, I am drinking a club soda. Even when I used to drink socially at “in-person” happy hours or industry networking events it was less about the alcohol and more about the human interactions. The Friday AdOpsOnline Virtual Happy Hour is another outlet for networking and just connecting with people in the ad tech industry. For me, these Virtual Happy Hours are more about the conversation and seeing other people.

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During the virtual job search, I am trying to stay current on the various industry topics and there is a ton of FREE content and events out there. This week I’ve been attending the Brandweek Masters Live virtual event from Adweek. Thanks to Google, AdWeek was offering free passes for those who have been impacted by a laoyoff or furlough. Yesterday, I attended a riveting Zoom discussion on the the topic of Impostor Syndrome by Theresa Smith and Melissa Chapman. This was one of the best sessions I attended this week. After a job loss, it is easy to fall into the impostor syndrome trap of doubting yourself, losing confidence and worrying that you’re a fraud. For some people this might require a Pivot in your thought process to avoid the impostor syndrome. 

I am still surviving and spending a lot of time on Zoom – it is not the same as being together with people in-person but at least we don’t have to wear masks on a Zoom call. I also know winter is coming. I can feel the chill in the air on these autumn nights. I know someday soon I will have to Pivot once again and wear pants especially if I land an in-person, socially-distanced job interview or need to be in a physical office location. For now, I am ditching the pants until it gets really cold 

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Mark Verone is a Global Marketing Automation and Technology Executive with additional experience as a digital media expert with a successful track record of transforming marketing and business systems with breakthrough technology to deliver best in class results. Adept at agile marketing, lean operations, continuous improvement, and marketing technology systems. He has built successful global teams in digital media, advertising, video-on-demand, and content management. He is actively seeking his next opportunity: 847-477-8674

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