Resilience, Adaptability, Flexibility: Why We’re Thankful for 2020

This year is certainly one we won’t soon forget. With so much change both to our personal and professional lives, so many of us have—and continue to—work hard to find the balance we once took for granted. The integration of home and work has become normative, and although this has presented many challenges, it has also provided us space to pivot where needed for the sake of ourselves, those we love, and those with whom we work.

Less than ten months ago, I started with FortressIQ as the Head of Customer Success. My entire onboarding process was virtual. Now, as we finish up this year, I have yet to meet my colleagues—or our customers—in person.

As our primary customer champion, this has been disappointing since face-to-face communication is often the gold standard for relationship building. I do miss the opportunities to meet those we work with in person. However, as I reflect on this past year and how we have pushed into a new normal, I can also see how we have embraced this challenge. Working virtually has enabled us all to move forward together, including our customers, suppliers, partners, and internal team.

Building all of these new relationships over a 13” laptop screen has not been easy, and this makes me even more grateful to our customers, who have made this leap to video such a seamless transition. We are working harder than ever to keep all of you safe as we communicate, and to keep our relationship with you as strong as possible.

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I am more cognizant than ever that 2020 is unlike any other year. I’ll be sitting down at a mostly virtual table this holiday, enjoying the company of family and friends over video chat. Likely, many of you will be in similar situations, trying to simultaneously navigate technology, family, food, and perhaps some online holiday shopping.

And because it’s standard practice around Thanksgiving to express gratitude, I want to do so here even as I continue to pivot across our many new norms. First, I’m thankful for our essential workers—those who put their lives on the line so that we can seek safety and peace as best we are able. The healthcare, grocery, delivery, and other frontline workers are nothing less than heroes.

Second, I am thankful for our internal team, who continue to strive to deliver excellent products and solutions while building ongoing relationships with our customers. More than ever, we are putting increasing resources into enhancing and improving how we work virtually. We’re also offering more understanding and flexibility on a personal level to our employees and partners, being responsive to the challenges, needs, and scheduling conflicts of each person.

And, to ensure that we continue to prioritize the needs of our remote workers, we’ve reinvested in employee health and wellness. This includes a virtual 5K and other motivational (and fun!) challenges. We know that when our bodies and minds are healthy, our relationships are healthy as well, and that we work with excellence and joy. Going further, we also recently created a “culture committee” that surveyed our team to find out what they needed. As a result, we sent out care packages, instituted a work-from-home stipend, and enhanced our employee benefits.

Third, I am thankful for the resiliency and adaptability of all those we work with across our internal and external ecosystems. It has been truly inspiring to see how, even during a pandemic, people strive to—and do—work for the good of others and seek strong interpersonal communications.

As this year comes to an end, I am captivated by the word “empathy” and how critical it is to the flourishing of a company and all those invested in it. At FortressIQ, we continue to lead with empathy, embracing the changes as they come and deepening the trust factor among all those with whom we work. This is our highest priority.

So thank you for your understanding, adaptability, and continued support this past year. I am confident it has laid a strong foundation for the years ahead.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and those you love.

A Virtual Summer With FortressIQ

When we first started planning our summer internship program, there was no pandemic and thus, no social distancing requirements. Just after we kicked off the recruiting process, it was clear to us that the impact of COVID would extend into the summer and likely longer. Businesses started rescinding and canceling their internship programs, and we were seeing reports that close to 75% of summer programs were impacted, including planned remote workers. For a program like this, there are benefits for the students themselves as well as the company, especially given our size. Fortunately, we were agile enough to quickly revamp our program and deliver an entirely remote experience for our summer interns.

“All of my friend’s internships were canceled this summer, except for mine.”
— Thomas Reznik, Undergraduate Computer Science, University of Redlands

In total, we were able to bring on seven students for our premier virtual paid internship program. Because of the shift to remote work, we even have students participating from out of state. And our goals remain the same – to provide students the opportunity to learn how AI and technology applies in the real world while experiencing life at a San Francisco startup.

“At first I thought it might be a little different to work remotely, but it was no problem whatsoever after the first week of the internship. The experience is the same as working on site.”
— Mihir Patel, Graduate Software Engineering, San Jose State University

Recruiting & Onboarding
The process of recruiting students started and ended entirely online. All candidates applied digitally, and managers reviewed resumes and profiles to narrow down the list just as we do for recruiting full-time positions. Since so many companies had canceled their programs, we had a much higher volume and interest, with some candidates applying to more than one position.

“The interview process consisted of a preliminary call from recruiting, followed by a 1.5 hour zoom interview in which I spent 30 minutes talking to 3 different individuals from the customer success team. I felt super welcome throughout the interview, and I left feeling like I really wanted to join the FortressIQ team.”
— Binat Gousinov, Undergraduate Business Economics, University of California, Los Angeles 

Just as we do with our regular recruiting efforts, candidates that are selected for first-round interviews complete a phone screen with the recruiting team first and then passed along to the hiring manager for an additional phone interview. A second-round interview is completed over Zoom with the hiring manager and select team members. In total, we placed students in several departments covering customer success, data science, DevOps, security, quality assurance, and marketing.

FortressIQ welcome package for summer interns

“As I progressed through my interviews it became clear that the data science team was evaluating me on my approach to solving problems, not on what tools I knew how to use. The interview process taught me that the goal of a technical interview should be to showcase the way I think and the different techniques I use to solve problems, not necessarily whether or not I know how to use a specific tool or solve a specific problem.”
— Sam Truax, Undergraduate Applied Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley

Delivering an Online Experience
Summer internship programs offer an opportunity to learn and apply practical skills that would otherwise require the previous professional and technical experience. We wanted to make sure that even while working from home, our interns were able to get direct exposure to advanced software and programs used at FortressIQ. Working with team leaders and management, they were able to expand their knowledge and get their technical feet wet in multiple areas, including automation, functional testing, text detection, and machine learning.

“For the past three weeks I have been working on a project involving NLP [natural language processing], OCR [optical character recognition] text, and predictions. I have been working closely with my mentor and a couple of others on the data science team.”
— Seaver Dahlgreen, Undergraduate Electrical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

This experience has granted interns the opportunity to approach problems where the solution is unknown, which is a critical skill in academics and the tech industry. In addition to hard skills, the interns have also sat in on customer and team meetings, set up informational interviews with FortressIQ staff outside of their specific departments, and gained insight into FortressIQ’s mission and goals.

“While I would prefer to be working side-by-side with the rest of the data science team in the office, the remote internship experience has been excellent. My team has made it clear what I should be working on, and I can reach out over Slack whenever I need help. The positive atmosphere at FortressIQ has also allowed me to connect with other people outside the data science team.”
— Sam Truax, Undergraduate Applied Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley

For several students, this was their first time participating in a summer internship program. Although we wanted to give them a chance to work in the heart of downtown San Francisco, adjustments were made to figure out how to provide the best remote experience possible. The managers were incredibly supportive, holding daily check-ins, weekly meetings, and encouraging participation in our intern buddy program. The buddy program was designed to give extra support in the form of a department mentor, which provided more opportunity for formal and casual virtual facetime.

“From my perspective, FortressIQ is a great place to work remotely. The communication has been smooth and well thought out.”
— Hunter VanDyke, Undergraduate Computer Science, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga

Preparing for a Digital Future
This experience is unprecedented for everyone. As businesses across the world prepare for the unknown, I’m thankful that FortressIQ was still able to offer students an opportunity to learn and grow this summer. We successfully transitioned our strong and supportive culture to a virtual platform while enabling our interns to foster relationships with the FortressIQ staff.

“Everyone I’ve spoken with is always eager to talk to me, whether it be in technical advice, life at FortressIQ, or career advice. It’s also been fun to attend some online social gatherings, including a virtual movie night as well as the weekly Zoom water cooler socials.”
— Seaver Dahlgreen, Undergraduate Electrical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

Not only did we want to give everyone real-world experience in the B2B enterprise space, we also wanted to make it a fun and enjoyable summer for everyone. Our caring staff designed events to encourage more casual engagement, as well as created exclusive events for interns and their managers.

“Although I never met anyone face-to-face, I was able to build strong relationships and create a meaningful impact during this experience. Thank you FortressIQ!”
— Elizabeth Mitelman, Undergraduate Business and Marketing, University of San Francisco 

Over the last three months, our interns have been immersed in the exploding AI industry. Exposure to AI, tech, and startup culture has provided them with unique insights on what to expect after academia. I’m pleased to see that they’ve made such a positive impact in this short time. Their contributions to the company are known and visible, but I’m more excited to see such personal and professional growth in each of the interns. By creating such a unique environment to explore challenges and become engaged in helping us solve problems for the world’s largest companies, we were able to deliver something special with our first summer internship program.
Are you interested in career opportunities at FortressIQ? Click here to see our open positions.