Episode 119 – A Project Story: The COVID-19 Sprint

Episode #119
Original Air Date: 12.14.2020

30 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Marina Darlow

As the COVID pandemic began to unfold, staff at an Israeli hospital knew that clinical teams were going to be at high-risk and critically over-burdened. Thus, with the partnership of the Innovation Department at Assuta Hospital in Ashdod, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, AWS Israel, Israeli Ground Forces Innovation Lab, and hundreds of volunteers, the COVID-19 Sprint was conceived. This project united doctors and developers to find creative technological solutions to the medical challenges of the pandemic.

Our guest, Marina Darlow, was the Technology Projects Manager and Operations Coordinator of this COVID-19 Sprint. She shares with us the story of the multiple teams that went to work early in the crisis. When the call for volunteers went out, hundreds of engineers, designers, doctors, clinical staff, and other dedicated and talented people quickly responded, offering their services.

She offers sound advice for leading a team through uncertainty, while also leading it remotely. Hear about her biggest surprises and lessons learned as the coordinator on this extraordinary project. Remarkable things can happen when dedicated people join forces to work for a greater cause!

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"Nobody really knows what we’re doing. We are all improvising. We’re all doing it to the best of our ability. ... So in this case you’re not alone in being uncertain. And you’ll be just fine as long as you’re engaged. People make mistakes. We adjust, you know, like Agile methods. You do the best you know. And when you know better, you do better. And you’re very much not unique in this. All these amazing people that you work with, they operate kind of in the same mode."

- Marina Darlow

"Another lesson is that it’s completely possible to do this all remotely. And I think really everything else is .... evidence to what we knew already. You structure. You stay human. You create connections on a personal level. And that’s what really carries you over to the finish line."

- Marina Darlow

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The podcast for project managers by project managers. As the COVID pandemic began to unfold, staff at an Israeli hospital knew that clinical teams were going to be at high-risk and critically over-burdenedThe COVOD-19 Sprint project united doctors and developers to find creative technological solutions to the medical challenges of the pandemic.

Table of Contents

02:19 … Meet Marina
04:36 … The mission of the COVID Sprint
07:30 … Volunteer Response
09:45 … Marina’s Role in the COVID-19 Sprint
10:14 … The Multiple Teams addressing the Challenges
11:41 … Remote Collaboration
13:32 … Information Sharing
15:25 … Remote Leadership
17:09 … Encouraging the Team
19:08 … Technology Challenge for ICU Patients
22:08 … Patient/Staff Protection: Portable Tent
23:25 … Sharing Breakthroughs
23:54 … COVID-19 Sprint Timeframe
24:26 … Biggest Surprises
26:03 … Lessons Learned
28:51 … Hear more about the COVID-19 Sprint
29:56 … Closing

MARINA DARLOW: Nobody really knows what we’re doing.  We are all improvising.  We’re all doing it to the best of our ability.  And we’re all  putting everything we had.  So in this case you’re not alone in being uncertain.  And you’ll be just fine as long as you’re engaged.  People make mistakes.  We adjust, you know, like Agile methods.  You do the best you know.  And when you know better, you do better.  And you’re very much not unique in this.  All these amazing people that you work with, they operate kind of in the same mode.

WENDY GROUNDS:  You’re listening to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  To our listeners, don’t forget to claim your free Professional Development Units when you finish listening to this podcast.  I am Wendy Grounds.  In the studio today with me is Bill Yates.

BILL YATES:  Hi, Wendy.

WENDY GROUNDS:  We have a very interesting project that we’re going to talk about.

BILL YATES:  Yes.

WENDY GROUNDS:  It’s about a project that’s in Israel, which united doctors and developers to find some creative solutions to the COVID-19 challenges.  The hospital is the Israeli Hospital, Assuta Ashdod.  They knew that the clinical teams were going to be both at high risk, and they’re going to be severely overburdened when the COVID pandemic started to unfold.  And so they started the COVID-19 Sprint.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.

WENDY GROUNDS:  And our guest that we’re talking to today is Marina Darlow.  She was the technology projects manager and the operations coordinator of this sprint.

BILL YATES:  Yes.  Marina is going to share a lot of information with us.  Just how much they accomplished, how quickly; and how they brought together talent from the medical field, from hardware, software, technology solutions that is pretty mind-blowing.  There’s some abbreviations that we need to cover, too.  So I think everybody’s familiar with AWS, so Amazon Web Services.  Amazon Web Services Israel, specifically.  There’s also mention of the IDF, the Israeli Defense Force.  They were a part of this initiative with the hospital.  And also Rafael, the Israeli defense organization, so that gets mentioned, as well.

WENDY GROUNDS:  I’m really excited that we’re heading to Israel to talk about our project.  I have been trying to get many international projects, so this one is kind of exciting.

BILL YATES:  We’ve been to space; let’s go to Israel.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Marina, welcome to Manage This.

MARINA DARLOW:  Thanks for having me.

Meet Marina

WENDY GROUNDS:  You are from Israel, and I’m very interested to hear your story, why you moved over to the U.S., and how you experienced that as a career change.

MARINA DARLOW:  It’s been a while, actually.  We moved for my husband’s Ph.D., decided that the program he wants is only available at Brown.  And it was clearly an adjustment.  The culture is different.  I’m used to much more, was used to much more direct and abrasive, some say obnoxious, way of communicating.  So I had to temper down and learn to smooth the rough edges.

But it’s been a while.  And there’s a lot of opportunity whenever you move, especially when you move to a large market like the U.S.  So I get to do a lot of exciting stuff.  Now, funnily, I kept a lot of connections with my friends and colleagues in Israel, and this is how I got to participate in COVID Sprint very recently with an Israeli team.  And it was amazing.

BILL YATES:  Where are you located now?

MARINA DARLOW:  I’m in Boston.

BILL YATES:  Okay.  So the project that we want to talk about, so you were actually here in the United States, you were in Boston when that was taking place.  That’s fantastic.

MARINA DARLOW:  So the story there is actually even funnier.  I used to run my own gig for a few years.  And I was building infrastructure for small businesses, startup companies.  One of my clients is Israeli.  We had a wonderful engagement, you know, about a year back.  And then she called me in I think February 2020 and asked if I would be willing to advise her husband, who got recruited into this amazing project that was called COVID Sprint.  It was the beginning of the pandemic, and Israel was closing everything and gearing up to cope with the first wave.

So I contacted the guy, and this is how I heard about COVID Sprint.  And I said, “I want in.  I want to be a part of this, too.”  So he connected me to our founding mother, her name is Doris Pitilon.  And I became the coordinator in chief for the teams that were working on various solutions to meet the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic in Israel.

The Mission of the COVID-19 Sprint

WENDY GROUNDS:  So what was the mission of this Sprint?  What were the challenges that you were going to be attacking?

MARINA DARLOW:  So in the beginning of the Sprint, Doris identified that there are a lot of really talented people who were sent home because everything was closed.  So now we have access to these amazing resources, and people who are like product managers, engineers, doctors.  And instead of people sitting at home and grappling with uncertainty, we can harness their amazing brilliance to give technological responses.

So what she did, they assembled a team, all volunteer-based.  Started with a session to identify the key challenges.  And at the time it was the deficit of PPEs to provide better personal protection; remote monitoring of COVID patients.  There was develope a no-touch patient interaction as COVID is so contagious.  At the time, there was a major deficit in ventilation mechanisms.  We didn’t know how much we were going to need.  And then there was a general overburdening in hospitals. And we thought of like how do we help reduce it?  Because the people who were involved, they’re all in tech one way or the other. The solutions would be also technological.

So within less than 24 hours of the rallying cry, there were over 100 volunteers; within a week, close to a thousand.  And it was like, you sign up, what can you do, how much time can you dedicate, what are your specialties, what are your skills.  And then the teams are formed.  So we had 15 teams doing stuff from remote diagnostics to heuristic tests to ventilators to CPAP helmets and walking protective suits and all kinds of, like,  creating systems that support doctors’ solutions, like how do you diagnose a COVID patient?  And then how do you make a decision whether to keep this person at home or hospitalize them?

Now, this is an unknown disease. So they created an access to a database and made this interface where you plug in the symptoms and cross-reference them with the patient’s profile, the age and, you know, existing conditions, and smoking, stuff like that.  And it gives the doctor a score and says, okay, so this person is this likely to have bad situation in the near future.  This person needs to be hospitalized, this person is less likely to experience severe symptoms, this person can stay home, and so it could all be done remotely.

So there were all these solutions, and the teams worked.  They were all in their houses.  Sometimes when we talked about like PPEs or helmets, somebody with a special permission would go to the factory in order to bring it in their own car and then bring it to like the place that would seal the seams in the PPE or something like that.  But it was mostly remote.

Volunteer Response

BILL YATES:  I want to ask about Doris.  You mentioned her as the “founding mother,” I think.  You guys had such an amazing response of volunteers that have had all these talents.  They were hearing the rallying call.  I assume that was coming from Doris.  Was she really the instigator for this?  And where was she located?

MARINA DARLOW:  So Doris Pitilon, she’s the one that sparked the idea.  But she formed an alliance between the ground forces innovation lab of IDF; AWS Israel; Rafael, I don’t know if you’re familiar, but that’s the biggest defense contractor in Israel; and Assuta Ashdod Hospital, which is one of the most innovative hospitals in Israel.  So there were four major institutions that spearheaded this initiative together.  And the rallying cry, when it went out, it went out, you know, with the backing of all these institutions.

So it wasn’t just one person saying, “Hey, so we have this initiative.  Come in.”  It was like, “We are forming something amazing.  We have access to resources.”  All volunteered; right?  Rafael, all their teams, they volunteered.  Same with IDF.  Same with AWS.  There were many startups and just bigger companies that said, you know what, we’ll give you our technology.  Right?

So, for instance, one company that we worked closely with, it’s called Luminati.  And the project with them was harnessing cell phones and their sensors.  You know, you put your finger to a sensor, and it would measure temperature and blood pressure and all kinds of other vitals, basically.  So we worked with this company, and they were completely like, just come to us.  We’ll help you, we’ll give you people for free, we’ll give you access to some data, and it was incredible.  And it was that this is the kind of response that we got from everybody who volunteered.

BILL YATES:  The response is amazing.  What channels were you using to get the word out?  Was it mostly social media and networking?  How did you guys get the word out?

MARINA DARLOW:  So you know how there are six degrees of separation in the world?

BILL YATES:  Yes.

MARINA DARLOW:  Israel has two degrees of separation.

BILL YATES:  Okay.

MARINA DARLOW:  So I honestly, I think they had a website at some point.  I learned it through a friend.  I’m pretty sure that a lot of it was done just word of mouth.

BILL YATES:  But so rapid.  Yeah, you had a thousand people within just a short amount of time who were willing to give their time and their talents to it.  That’s amazing.

Marina’s Role in the COVID-19 Sprint

WENDY GROUNDS:  So what was your role?  What were you doing in the Sprint?

MARINA DARLOW:  So you can list me as an operations coordinator.  Basically my job was to make sure that the teams have a good framework to keep running their projects; that there is a connection between the teams when needed; and, most importantly, that the teams are connected to the resources back and forth.  So I was a project manager kind of above the entire initiative.

The Multiple Teams Addressing the Challenges

BILL YATES:  And for each one of those challenges, you’d have multiple teams that were attacking the problem?  Is that right?  How did you assemble those teams, and why did you have multiple teams instead of just one?

MARINA DARLOW:  So there are a couple answers to that.  The reason to have multiple teams is because we had enough volunteers. And it’s always a good idea to attack a problem from several angles, especially when you are operating in a crisis.  So we needed that, and we had the resources, so of course we did it.  The people who assembled the teams, really often it was like, oh, I know this person, this person.  They manage teams on a regular basis, so this is this person’s skill set.  So there are five other people there. There is a data scientist, there is a programmer, there is a doctor. And, by the way, each team had a doctor that would consult them.

So we left some of the team leads to assemble a team, some of that was by coordination.  Said, “So hey, so this team is now lacking web designers.  Who are the web designers?”  “Oh, here, we have some web designers in our pool.  Let’s connect them to the team lead.”  And people were really willing to participate.  We had people who it’s like, “I can do this.  I’m a dental hygienist.  Can I participate?”  Well…  But seriously, there was so much response.  And we just said, “Okay, so what do you need?”  We had channels.  Like they had WhatsApp channels and were like, “Okay, does anybody know a data scientist that specializes in this kind of statistical analysis?  Because that team needs it.”  “Yes, I know this person.”  “Okay, let’s connect it to your team lead.”  That’s how we did it.

Remote Collaboration

BILL YATES:  Fantastic.  Okay.  So I’m envisioning these people that are hungry to help out with a problem. And they have talents and skills, and they’ve been put together on a team.  They’re all remote; right?  Everybody’s in different locations.  How did you put them together?  How did they collaborate, given that it was a remote environment?

MARINA DARLOW:  So we had a few tools.  We had Kaltura.  It’s a video platform.  It’s really, really capable.  And we got it for free from the company that provides it.  We had Monday, Monday.com.  But again, we had it for free, so we could manage our projects in Monday.  And we did a lot of Google Docs, as well, to do backup stuff.  So it was an interesting phenomenon.  Everybody was online all the time.  And the bandwidth sometime would crash, literally.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.

MARINA DARLOW:  So we had to do backups, like we do in Kaltura, and we can’t hear you, great, let’s turn off our videos.  And then I would back up everything in Google Docs that would go out to the team leads and to the teams.  So I would have daily reports and daily action item lists for everybody to do this or that, and the team leads would obviously filter it down and detail it out to their other teams.  And then it would come back to me, and the report that’s been done. What are the challenges.  So basically that’s what we did.

BILL YATES:  And with Monday.com you guys were using a template that I think that organization set up a special template to help you guys attack the type of challenges that you were going to have?

MARINA DARLOW:  We did, but then we changed it.

BILL YATES:  Everybody’s going to customize it; right?  Yeah.

MARINA DARLOW:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  It’s like really, especially in this kind of a grassroots initiative, things change extremely quickly because you’re already a startup, and you’re like a startup on steroids, so you don’t know what you don’t know.  Things always change.  And you just adapt from day to day, sometimes like multiple times a day.  I was spending half my day in meetings and the other half I would make sure all the information goes to the right places.

Information Sharing

BILL YATES:  No, that’s such a key to success.  Especially, like you were saying, we were learning so much.  This is March timeframe?  March of 2020?

MARINA DARLOW:  April, yeah.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, March and April.  So, you know, we were learning something every hour about COVID that we didn’t know before.  So okay, you have multiple challenges, multiple teams on multiple challenges.  How did you share information across those teams?  For instance, one of the things I saw in an article about the COVID Sprint was a frequently asked question setup that was there.  So doctors were asked common questions about COVID that many of the researchers on the teams needed to know so they could go to that.  Physically, how did you guys set that up and be able to collaborate on so easily?

MARINA DARLOW:  I think the most effective means of communication was the rudimentary, WhatsApp channels.

BILL YATES:  Sure, the app.

MARINA DARLOW:  And another, I think another component that really made it possible was everybody’s readiness and everybody’s availability and alertness.  So people were really looking.  People were like, we want to know that.  And this is something that’s very hard to make systemically, this level of engagement and commitment.  It’s not enough to just put stuff on a website; right?  What you really need for it to work is for people to have the level of involvement that we had.

And then of course you know I made sure everything, like, sent out to everybody in my reports.  So it’s just a Google Doc, but people knew that they can always look there, and they can ask me or whoever for more questions if they need to.  And so that’s another key point.  If I was a team member, say I was a product manager for a remote diagnostic system, I knew that I could call my team lead or one of my peers anytime, day or night, and I would get a response quick.  So there is this people layer, I would call it “emotional investment,” that really made it all possible.

Remote Leadership

WENDY GROUNDS:  So you’re leading a team.  You’re leading this project through the COVID, through all the uncertainty of that.  And you’re also leading it remotely.  How did you change your leadership style to leading, you know, you’re here in the U.S., and everything’s happening over in Israel.  How did you overcome that challenge of leading a team remotely?

MARINA DARLOW:  Honestly, I don’t think I changed anything about the format of the meetings.  Like, yes, we didn’t have, quote/unquote, “cooler conversations.”  Yes, I couldn’t pop my head in and say, “Hey, could you do me a favor?  I just need this test run.”  So, but other than that, you’re on video.  You make sure to be conversational.  You try to bring in some warmth to the meeting.  On one hand, the structure has to be more rigid  because otherwise it’ll, like, fly out of the window.  So there’s clearly structure to each meeting, and structure to each interaction; right? 

So people know where to plug in the information that they need; but, on the other hand, around the structure, kind of wrap it in human contact.  You ask how your kids are doing.  You relate to the most recent personality quirk that you met.  And you try to add a layer to professionalism, but a layer of warmth, I guess.

We were, for example, I was constantly saying, like, “When this whole thing is over, I’m coming to you, and I’m taking you out for coffee.”  And, you know, and you try to add a little humor when you can, and you try to share and ask someone’s family happenings and what are you doing for the holidays because this is a world crisis, and we’re kind of in the same boat together.  I like the metaphor “in the same storm” because we’re all not really in the same boat, so be structured and be human.

Encouraging the Team

BILL YATES:  One thing I was curious about. Kind of on this topic of leadership, was just given the severity of this pandemic, you were really managing people in a time of crisis.  And team members can be overwhelmed by that at times. They can be discouraged if they think they have a breakthrough and it doesn’t work; if a technology fails them; or they just see the numbers rising, and they’re like, oh, man, this is only getting worse, it’s not getting better.  How did you encourage the team and keep them positive when things were going badly in terms of the statistics with the pandemic?

MARINA DARLOW:  So first of all, I never led the team.  I’m just a coordinator.  But that being said, you validate people.  You know, you make them feel that what they’re going through is completely normal and understandable, and that I’m there to help them get through it together.  I have to say specifically in this COVID Sprint, everybody was in kind of my mindset.  Everybody was like, okay, so it’s a setback.  We just keep trying.

But there was really this very strong sense of support, that we’re supporting each other.  And we have enormous respect and admiration for each other.  Imagine that, I got to work with the head of Innovation in Assuta Hospital, and with head of Innovation Labs in IDF Ground Forces, who just did a presentation to the chief of command in Israel.  And there were some, like, MacGyver-worthy stories there.  At some point it was like, ooh, the plate is heating up because the weather in Israel was beginning of April, and Israel is hot.  This is not working.  Why is it not working?  Well, we have a plate that’s heating up, and it messes up all our software.  What do we do?  How can we get dry ice in the middle of an expo?

So somebody found a chemist, and the chemist found dry ice in a lab, and they stuffed this dry ice into, like, disposable gloves and set the gloves on the plate, and then it worked.  You know, like you work with people like that, you can’t get discouraged.  It’s like you work with people who are so inspiring.

Technology Challenge for ICU Patients

BILL YATES:  So one of the things that inspired me as I was reading through the project description, one of the challenges was the ability to communicate with the families of ICU patients.  So you have someone who’s in ICU, and the family is not able to be in the room with them.  They’re perhaps not even able to be in the hospital.  So having some way that they can communicate with that family member in this time of crisis.  So can you describe this ICU technology and maybe how you guys got to it?

MARINA DARLOW:  So this is actually an interesting cultural aspect that I think is somewhat special to Israel.  Most people have their phones, devices, Internet; and it’s not a huge problem to mount an iPad next to the bed of a sick person, and have a hospital staff press the button and put the video.  However, in Israel, there is a big ultra orthodox population, and they are much more careful around all things Internet.  So for this population, it’s a challenge because they are really wary around this technology.  So you have to be systemically very sensitive to what the family even has, like do they have any kind of device that would communicate?

And I think the biggest challenge there was not only finding the devices, but it was truly framing a means of communication between a sick person and their family and finding the ways that would be acceptable within their religious worldview, and ultimately connecting the patient in the ICU to the family outside the hospital, in some cases allowing people to say goodbye.  We knew that was a challenge.  We knew that under normal circumstances the family would just come to the hospital because they will not use a smartphone, God forbid.  But what do you do when you can’t come to the hospital and can’t use a smartphone?

So we had to, like, very cautiously dance around and find a way where it will be acceptable.  And that’s what we did.  Not me personally, but the team.  So they worked for the hospital staff, you know, and adjusted to the hospital protocols on one side and to the family needs on the other side.  And ultimately they were able to find a way to make this connection.

BILL YATES:  Marina, that’s a great example of taking requirements and looking at it from both sides, the person who’s going to be able to actually use a device and then those who are going to be on the receiving end of that communication and making sure it’s meeting both needs.  That had to be a difficult path to navigate for the project team because, you know, I could see myself jumping to conclusions and making bad assumptions on that and not really thinking about the end-user, those families and their needs.

MARINA DARLOW:  Yeah.  It was, as I said, when you’re not part of this community, it could be baffling to understand why there is even a problem.  But there is, and it needs to be solved.  That’s what they did.

Patient/Staff Protection: Portable Tent

WENDY GROUNDS:  Were there any other of the challenges that stand out to you?

MARINA DARLOW:  There’s one that is COVID patients, as we all know, are highly contagious, but they still need to be treated.  And on top of that, the more severely impacted people, they need oxygen, so they need like a helmet or a mask or something to pump oxygen into their lungs because the lungs refuse to function.  So the challenge is that the existing helmets and the existing bed surrounding made it really hard for hospital staff, for a doctor, for a nurse to touch to the patient. Especially when we had a PPE issue.

So the team came up with this really cool solution.  They designed a tent that would go on top of the bed, and that would have these sleeves where a doctor could insert their hands.  So this way the patient could sit up.  The patient could, you know, scratch their nose if they need to.  And the doctor, on the other hand, would insert the hands into a tent without being contaminated, turn the patient, maybe feel the patient.  And that project just flew.  The hospitals were really excited about it, too.  So it went very quickly through the approval process and into the clinical trials. It’s now being implemented in a few hospitals.

Sharing Breakthroughs

BILL YATES:  How did the hospital get the word out to other hospitals and to the medical community for some of these breakthroughs that you guys had?

MARINA DARLOW:  So that’s a great question.  Israel established kind of a control center in the Sheba Hospital that coordinated various ideas that were flowing in because we were not the only initiative.  And they did the coordination to the hospital, and they helped route the right solutions to the right places.  Doris was involved, she was right there in this coordination center almost every day.

COVID-19 Sprint Timeframe

WENDY GROUNDS:  Can you tell us about the timeframe of this project?  So you started in March.  When were these initiatives ending?  How long did it take?

MARINA DARLOW:  So the first round took a little over a month when we had real prototypes, in some case already product ready for clinical trials.  Then there was a second round that took roughly the same time.  And then something interesting happened, like Israel reacted amazingly well to the first wave.  So many of the second round projects were frozen. But I imagine some of them got unfrozen.

Biggest Surprises

BILL YATES:  Marina, I know a project like this has to have a lot of surprises.  So we’re going to ask you just to think about some of the ones that are kind of front of mind.  What were some of the big surprises that came to you as a project manager on this project?

MARINA DARLOW:  It’s weird, it’s like there were no surprises, and then there was one constant surprise.  I think for me as a person who never dealt with any kind of pharma or medical devices before, a novel part was how much regulation we had to comply with. For good reasons, and how much coordination this really requires.  So every time was like, so we need to contact this person in this lab because we can only use this kind of plastic.  What do we do if we can’t use this kind of plastic because it’s not approved?  Do we know somebody who can help us with the process?  We have no idea.  We’re engineers.

So this I think was part of the challenges that many of us, not just me, weren’t really used to because people doing software usually do software for apps.  You don’t do software on a medical device.  And obviously many of these projects include hardware, and hardware is a little harder to get through the approval process for obvious reasons.  So that was like, who do we talk to?  I guess it was kind of out of my zone of expertise.  So I was in this position where on one hand I’m the coordinator, I need to connect people with resources, but this specific resource pool is not very well known to me.  So I had to contact people in high places and basically use my network and use everybody else’s network.  And it worked, eventually.

Lessons Learned

WENDY GROUNDS:  What were the biggest lessons learned for you personally on this project?

MARINA DARLOW:  It’s like with the surprises, it’s one big lesson learned because it’s such an experience, and it’s very hard to pick one.  I think the obvious one is when you have a team at this level of engagement, things that seemed completely, you know, out of realm of possibility suddenly happened.  The mountainous achievement that was this COVID Sprint, who would believe that it will take, you know, two months, tops.  That’s probably one big lesson.  Another lesson is that it’s completely possible to do this all remotely.  And I think really everything else is just, you know, just evidence to what we knew already.  You structure, you stay human, you create connections on a personal level, and that’s what really carries you over to the finish line.

BILL YATES:  But this was such an extraordinary project for you.  You know, like you said, you’re accustomed to leading design teams and coders with apps, and now this is software that’s going to be integrated with hardware.  And it’s something, again, we’re dealing with a pandemic, so the stakes are so high, and the level of urgency is unlike anything else.  So one of the quotes that you had on the website, Marina, I loved it.  It was “If I hadn’t witnessed it, I wouldn’t have believed it possible.”  And I can sense that from you, just the way that you guys overcame these obstacles and came up with solutions as you did is just short of a miracle.  It’s just amazing how everything came together.

MARINA DARLOW:  It’s true.  And I have to say another thing, as I’m thinking on your question, what is the lesson learned, really?  I think one of the most important things, and maybe it’ll help the project managers out there, when you are in a crisis, and when you work with these incredible people you hardly ever imagined you would work with, it’s very easy at first to be intimidated and get into the sense like I have no idea what I’m doing.  It’s very easy to doubt yourself, to shut down.  But the thing is, nobody really knows what they’re doing because this is an unprecedented situation.  And I’m sorry the word “unprecedented” got overused to the extreme since the beginning of the pandemic, but it doesn’t make it less true.

Nobody really knows what we’re doing.  We are all improvising.  We’re all doing it to the best of our ability.  And we’re all  putting everything we had.  So in this case you’re not alone in being uncertain, and you’ll be just fine as long as you’re engaged.  People make mistakes.  We adjust, you know, like Agile methods.  You do the best you know.  And when you know better, you do better.  And you’re very much not unique in this.  All these amazing people that you work with, they operate kind of in the same mode.

Hear more about the COVID-19 Sprint

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah, I can hear you’re so proud of the team and you’re so proud of all that was achieved.  And it’s our privilege to be able to share this story with our audience.  If they want to hear more about it and what you guys have accomplished, where can they find you?

MARINA DARLOW:  So I would encourage people to go to the website of this initiative.  It’s Covid-Sprint.com.  It’s all there.

BILL YATES:  Marina, this is such an inspiring story.  And just seeing all that you guys accomplished and the challenges that you took on, it’s remarkable.  So thank you for sharing this, and thank you for giving us kind of a shot of courage, too.  For there are times when we feel like, well, what can we do?  Or I’m only the project manager here.  I’m just trying to help people get the resources they need.  I don’t understand; you know, this is way overwhelming for me.  But you’ve inspired us and given us courage to step into it boldly and do what we do because amazing things happen.  So thank you so much for sharing that with us.

MARINA DARLOW:  Thank you for the kind words.  Thank you very much for having me and for giving some more visibility to this amazing initiative.

Closing

WENDY GROUNDS:  Thank you for listening.  The good news is you’ve just earned those Professional Development Units.  To claim your free PDUs, go to Velociteach.com and choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click the button that says Claim PDUs and click through the steps.  That’s all for this episode.  Thank you for joining us.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

3 responses to “Episode 119 – A Project Story: The COVID-19 Sprint”

  1. Avatar Sandy Kotes says:

    Excellent effort. Sometimes being remote can be more engaging if technology use us consistent with the team. A huge part of project management is communication. Keeping people engaged is the challenge. So video meetings are essential to keeping people engaged and on topic in my experience.

  2. Avatar Caroll Cavazos says:

    I found this to be interesting. I liked how she realized she had to make adjustments in her personal approach based on where she was located (Israel vs US).

  3. Avatar Gururaj Hebbar says:

    Found interesting

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