Sara Hill - SVP, Southern US & Mexico, Enterprise Ireland
I work for the export agency of the Irish government, based in our Austin office, helping Irish companies expand into Texas and the southern U.S. through market research, connections, and business development activities. My role previously involved a lot of travel and events. Now, we’re more focused on helping companies through strategic introductions, relationship building and virtual meetings and webinars.
I hope people become more empathetic and there will be increased understanding that everyone has their own challenges--even if there's a global event, each individual's experience to that event will be unique. I also hope we collectively improve our hand washing habits!
Henrik Johansson - VP, Swedish American Chamber of Commerce in Texas; CEO & Co-founder, Boundless
We had to very quickly shift from playing mostly offense to both playing aggressive defense and quickly finding new offensive strategies. Our company has grown every year since inception, even through the recession, but this crisis is hitting our industry harder than anything we’ve seen before. We had to quickly cut costs, which was painful but necessary, and I think our employees all understood it was something that had to happen. Our team has also done a tremendous job shifting our product mix to support the new emerging needs out there, including PPE products, remote-worker needs, and supporting virtual conferences.
At the macro level, it’s been another proof point of how interconnected we are globally. We can’t succeed as a species and planet by building walls and pointing fingers. We have to work together to fight the greatest challenges of our time.
From a business perspective, I think many companies have a new appreciation for how effectively we can work remotely, and I think that will change work-from-home policies forever. I also think many employees have a new appreciation for how much they actually enjoy being around their co-workers. There has been a tremendous outpouring of kindness, and I hope that continues. Even though some are determined to spread a divisive agenda, I think that most people become their very best during a crisis like this. When it’s all said and done, I hope it can bring us all closer (while maintaining a safe distance).
Abdallah Mahmoud - Emerging Markets Program Specialist, City of Austin, Economic Development Department
My role and those of my colleagues have expanded due to the COVID-19 situation. Most of my colleagues have stepped up by engaging in the city's ongoing economic recovery efforts and programs. One of the city's global programs is an entrepreneurial and cultural exchange program, and as you can imagine, the exchange aspect of our program has been affected by the current travel restrictions. We understand the importance of such programs to our creative economy, and we have identified ways to implement more than 50% of our programming virtually. Thus, keeping our program active, and our creative economy globally connected.
The ever-growing importance and need for collaboration is the most effective tool we have to address global challenges that affect us all. Whether it is collaborating within the health industry or in the business world, we see people from all parts of the world coming together, exchanging ideas, and offering to support each other. I would be excited to explore how we may better use technology to overcome challenges and to deepen global connections and conversations.
Pablo Marente - Consul General, Consulate General of Mexico in Austin
Aside from increasing information to prevent contagion, we have changed our operations by reducing occupancy numbers at the Consulate and operating remotely to avoid contagion. Our role has not changed as our mission has always been to aid our Mexican citizens.
I hope we'll learn from this experience and that in the search for health there are no borders. We can all use the same solutions to avoid future pandemics and learn from complete and open collaboration of all countries despite the difference of philosophy and ideology.
Liz Wiley - Honorary Consulate of France; Partner, Grable Martin Fulton
As one of my clients with nanotech operations re-focused quantum dot/blockchain technology to authenticate COVID-19 testing and individuals’ control over their health/immunity status, I too pivoted. As general counsel, I pivoted to copy writer/public health researcher/international standards junkie and all while helping stranded French exchange students get home.
Technology is human-created; and it too is creative, compassionate and resilient.
Christine Wren - Global Liaison, Special Programs Lead, Austin Board of Realtors
At a time of fear and uncertainty, we needed to find new ways to meet with clients and maintain the health and safety of all parties involved. We pivoted quickly to offer free, live online education through ABoR On Air. We immediately developed our Stay Home, Work Safe Resources Kit (ABoR.com/WorkSafe), developing and sharing business-building resources, client FAQs, expert interviews, and wellness tools to make sure our members were informed, equipped, and empowered during this difficult time.
Professionally, I lived through 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis—events that reshaped how we look at the world, how we travel, and the level of security we've become accustomed to in our world today. So, pivoting to the virtual world was really about providing tools and resources to maximize our members' time.
The pandemic has been a worldwide "timeout," and my hope is that we apply the lessons of what "essential" is to our planet. Food is essential. Shelter is essential. Let's continue to innovate and collaborate around the globe.
Zuzanna Kobrzynski - Head of Foreign Trade Office, Houston at Polish Investment and Trade Agency
Regarding focusing on strengthening economic ties between Poland and the U.S., not much has changed. We're still getting many inquiries from Polish companies, especially tech, looking to launch their services in the U.S. On the U.S. side, we're still getting inquiries about the tech and business service sectors.
I hope we won’t see an end of an interconnected world. The COVID-19 pandemic is evidence of our interdependence in investment and trade. If the pandemic reinforces the notion that our real interest lies in cooperating multilaterally on important global issues facing countries, it will have served a useful purpose.