Meet our Employee of the Year in Client Services – Manny G, Client Project Manager at BDS. Manny is no stranger to the limelight nor to our spotlight scene, with his second spotlight in two years – officially making him a spotlight record holder. We caught up with Manny to get an inside scoop to the secret of his success, his journey since his last spotlight, and how pivoting to a virtual landscape in light of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted his work.
Q: You have been nominated for the Employee of the Year Award in Client services, and this is your second Employee Spotlight in 2 years – how does that make you feel?
A: Super humbled and honored! It’s an illustrious class to be a part of and it’s been a challenging year on top of it, so I was very humbled.
Q: I can imagine a lot must have changed for you over the past 2 years since you last did an employee spotlight. Can you share what your secret to success is?
A: In some ways we were already prepared for this change as much of the content we create for client is already digital. So instead of getting slowed down like a lot of other teams did around March, April, or May last year when things started to get locked down, we were double, triple-time busy developing digital content because there was a huge demand for it. But another part of my role is the in-person training events where we help facilitate and drive content for our Master Trainers. That completely stopped for the whole of last year, so we had to try new things—new ways of reaching them that we wouldn’t have tried before. I think the key is to be flexible and open to the challenge. What we did yesterday won’t always work tomorrow, so a spirit of learning and openness to trying new things is critically important.
Q: A lot has changed indeed. Do you feel like the virtual world or the digital space is just as impactful as it was in-person because one could argue that you’re reaching more people now and can get the message to them faster?
A: I think there are pros and cons, I mean, there is something there that you lose of course when you’re not in person. But really, camera use has changed everything. I’ve been forcing myself to use the camera more often over the past few years on every Teams chat I am on just because I miss so much of the interaction. We call it “Words, Music, and Dance”. You may get the words that they’re saying, you can kind of tell the way they sing their music—they’re tone of voice, inflection. But without being in person and without video, you completely miss things like hand gestures and facial expressions. If you don’t use your camera during a video chat you miss so much of the meaning. You need that balance. We have invested in getting better camera setups, ring lights, video, live stream – we have done all that because that’s the best way to engage with people to make it close to that personal interaction that is missing. We could always make it better, but will it ever replace in-person? Probably not. There are things you lose out on when it’s not done in-person. However, there are things you can do to bridge that gap as close as you can and add that extra layer to make it as real as you possibly can.
Q: You used to travel a lot for work, so how has it been conducting your work in a virtual landscape due to COVID-19?
A: I have been with Microsoft, working on the client side and with different vendors, for the past 14 years. In every one of those years, I have travelled. Some years I traveled just over 150 thousand miles. But this past year I didn’t travel at all. We used to do two events a year, one in Asia, one in Europe. We would do in-person events, bring in people from around the world and convene in one place, really train them up and get them on the right page for which ever season or cycle it was and then send them out. We trained our Master Trainers around the world to cascade the messages out, and last year that model had to completely change. So now that part is what has changed, it is all being done digitally. We started off the last year with Virtual U, spearheading that with the BDS’ Experiential team, and have since hosted many webinars with our teams. We are in the process of ramping up another Train-the-Trainer event, again completely digitally. The virtual content we develop has ramped up in every way and I feel like we’ve evolved to where we would be in a few years down the road in less than one.
Q: What are some of the challenges or opportunities you have encountered this past year and how do you see them playing out in 2021?
A: I think you hit the nail on the head right there as far as opportunities. We don’t like to view things as challenges, but rather opportunities – challenges are just a new thing to figure out, a new problem to solve. All this is possible with the team’s effort, it’s not just me. We have a team that does all this, and we work very closely together. How do we figure out this new problem when it arises? For example, when we were informed that we need to do a Train-the-Trainer event and it needs to be completely virtual because no one can go anywhere— we still needed to make it impactful, engaging, interactive, gamified, and fun. Plus, you have to land everything you would normally do in person – but it needs to all be online. How do you do that? When someone is sitting at their desk and they can walk away or as we both had happen during this call earlier—when someone comes to your house to fix something or you have a delivery, or your kids need help. How do you keep people engaged when there is that disconnect? When you have all those distractions? We found that you must be even more engaging—over-the-top engaging, more interactive to really draw people in and make them want to participate because you lose something in camera. The energy level is diminished, so you must bring more of yourself to shine through that screen.
Q: Where do you see this whole process taking you in the near future? Let’s say COVID-19 just suddenly starts dissipating. Do you feel like there will be a balance with what you are doing digitally with the in-person experience or would you continue wrapping up more digital content just to be on the safe side in case something like this ever happens again – because you are investing a lot in the equipment, time, resources to do this?
A: I think there are things that just will never change. This is what we talk about when the say the new normal – I hate that phrase – but there are things that we are not going to go back to. We are very optimistic to what the future may hold, and we are preparing for what’s to come. There are plenty of benefits with going virtual – no jetlag, don’t have to leave your family, and all our participants can be more present. I have been working remote pretty much my entire career. I have held several roles throughout my career, but I have managed to do it remotely. That was always seen as somehow lesser to a lot of people and now I think the thought process around it has changed. People are not going to have to live in the same place they work anymore and working remotely is going to be much more appreciated because people were kind of forced to experience it and understand that there are some benefits, but there are also challenges that you don’t really see when you walk away from your desk and don’t come back until the next morning. Having conversations with people nowadays and they say, ‘I get it, I totally get it now.” It’s empowering to hear people understand that because I have been doing it for many years. In many ways my life has changed the least during this time.
Q: What is your favorite part about working for BDS?
A: There is a lot. I appreciate working with BDS and Microsoft – I believe in a challenger mindset, I am not a ‘go along to get along’ type of person. I think people hire you for a reason, to do your job and they hire you for your expertise – I appreciate people value and respect my opinion enough that sometimes they know I am going to push back, and I am going challenge their mindset. I want to be able to say, “Here is my recommendation and here is why,” even if they don’t always agree, we usually get to a better result that way versus just being a ticket taker, an order taker. I would not have been doing this this long if that had been the case – I have been with BDS about five years now coming up on six – if it had been here is what I need you to go do, so go do it. That doesn’t interest me. I like collaborative experiences; I like challenging work—getting in the weeds and really working out a problem together to get the best result versus just taking orders. I appreciate the fact that not only BDS, but Microsoft as well, empowers me and enables me to bring my best self to do that.
Q: Do you have a mantra for 2021?
A: There are so many, but I am trying to do two things this year or at least what I have been focusing on. As a team leader, I really want to elevate my team – we are all better when we raise up others – it’s not about accomplishing yourself as a singular goal anymore – it’s about what we can do together. The other one is not being afraid to fail. I think so many people are so afraid to fail that they miss out on opportunities to do great things because they are worried about failing. This is the time that people are looking for bold ideas on how we can move forward and it’s not going to be by doing things the way they were always done before. It’s time to think about doing things that have never been tried.
Q: Who’s the person or people in your life that you admire the most? Why?
A: My family, my team, they all inspire and motivate me to do what I do. That’s why the lack of in-person events has impacted me so much. I need that to refill my energy and drive my passion by my interactions with them. I’ve barely seen my father in over a year, for example. Like most people I need that social connection with the people I care about most. Luckily, I’ve been able to keep doing what I love—even more so in a lot of ways. It’s just different. And we’re all still adapting to that.
Q: If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play you, and why?
A: This is a tough one. I would have to say a balance between Jerry Seinfeld and Tom Hanks. I am not a comedian, but I do enjoy the limelight like Jerry, and I take my craft very seriously. I am a jovial person that is willing to try anything like Forrest Gump, so Tom for the acting part, Jerry for the light-hearted humor.
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