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2020: The year everything changed

In this special episode of Technology Untangled, business leaders reflect on managing during the pandemic and the opportunities—both personal and business—to make positive changes.

In 2020, the pandemic changed the way we work and live—and many of those changes will be lasting, according to business leaders.

From a workplace perspective, the shift to remote work has transformed businesses and their IT organizations, accelerating technology initiatives from enhanced collaboration capabilities and security to automation via artificial intelligence and machine learning.

"We work now in a massive distributed enterprise where [employees'] homes are an extension of the architectures from edge to cloud," says Antonio Neri, president and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. "And so the ability to connect all these endpoints in a secure way and provision services to the employees is going to be critical."

At a more personal level, business leaders like Susie Wolff, principal of the ROKiT Venturi Formula E team, say shifting gears to more work from home has demonstrated "there are more efficient ways of working and doing what we do," helping us as individuals achieve a better work-life balance.

"[It] showed me a way of living which is more sustainable because I don't need to travel as much as I normally would have in the past. And I think that's something I'll most certainly carry forward," she says.

That's not to say we won't ever return to the office and gather around the watercooler, given "the office is so fundamental to what we do and how we do our work that as soon as we can get back to that collaborative working, I think we will do so," says Ed Williams, EMEA president and CEO at Edelman, noting that is particularly true for creative organizations. But like many others, he sees businesses settling into a hybrid workplace model, where employees work both on site and from remote locations, enabled by a new generation of technologies.

In this special episode of Technology Untangled, Neri, Wolff, and Williams explore how the hybrid workplace will likely evolve, along with the strategies their organizations implemented as the COVID-19 crisis unfolded and how they and their teams are adapting.

Where do we go from here?

While the immediate future remains uncertain, they say one thing is for sure: The events of 2020 have brought about changes—both personal and business—that will affect us for many years to come.

Edited excerpts from the podcast, hosted by Michael Bird, follow:

Michael Bird: I think it's safe to say that 2020 wasn't the year that anyone expected. Anyone have global pandemic on their bingo card? This year has had a huge impact on everything from society to business, to where we work and how we live, and it's led many to reevaluate the world around them and what's important in life.

I myself have spent much of 2020, like many others, unexpectedly working from home, trying to figure out how to stay physically and mentally healthy whilst the world around me was rapidly and, at many points, unpredictably changing. And our organizations are no different. They have all had to adapt to this rapidly changing environment in order to survive and hopefully thrive in this new normal.

So, how did they do it? Well on this very special episode of Technology Untangled, I'm really excited to be joined by three senior business leaders: Edelman's EMEA president and CEO, Ed Williams; Hewlett Packard Enterprise's president and CEO, Antonio Neri; and ROKiT Venturi Formula E's team principal, Susie Wolff. I was speaking to them about what happened in 2020, how they reacted, and what's next on the horizon for 2021. I'm Michael Bird, and this is "2020 Untangled."

The long-term effects of 2020 are going to be felt for many years to come, and at the end of this year, it's impossible to quantify just how much society and our organizations have changed. I think it became clear to all of us pretty early on that communications would be critical. So, with that in mind, I called up Edelman's Ed Williams to hear what 2020 looks like for them.

Ed Williams: My name is Ed Williams. I am the president and CEO of Edelman in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. I'm a former media executive, at Reuters and at the BBC, and I was a journalist many years ago, before the Internet.

Bird: Edelman is the world's largest communications consultancy, which traditionally sees them advising clients, brands, and institutions on a whole manner of things. And it was in January 2020 when Ed Williams first understood that a crisis of colossal proportions was on our hands.

A worldwide crisis unfolds

Williams: I was at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, and there was a late meeting put in the diary that was available for people to go and listen to the director of the Wellcome Trust talk about the coronavirus. And this went in quite last minute, and I was sort of intrigued, as I say, as a former journalist.

It was a very small room and it was a very small audience, and it was primarily media from Southeast Asia. This was not a big room and this was not a big topic, but it was very clear when you listened to the director of the Wellcome Trust that this was a very big problem.

Bird: Now, like every other organization on the planet, Edelman faced the challenge of tackling a problem which, although we understood a pandemic threats in a conceptual sense, we had never really prepared for.

Williams: I certainly in my career—and I've been working for, you know, a quarter of a century now—in the crisis scenario planning sessions I've done, in the simulations I've done, a global pandemic has never come up. There have been plenty of other business continuity issues involving kinds of terrorism or rogue members of staff or economic crises, but we've never actually simulated a pandemic, the likes of which we've now experienced over the last eight months.

Tackling challenges on multiple fronts

The biggest challenge first, obviously, was around logistics, because if you think about, our business is a talent business, our business is all about people. And the magic of our business actually is when those people come together, it's the environment in which they do work together, they collaborate, and they create things. It's the kind of collision of ideas, this sort of serendipity of the office. And so the biggest challenge, first of all, was how do we respond to a virus which means people need to work from home?

So, we're going from a dozen or so big offices around Europe, Middle East, and Africa to 1,200 offices as our people scatter to their homes around the region. And so the business continuity piece of that is really significant: How do you keep the business in good shape? How do you keep confidence? How do you create an environment in which people want to pull together, particularly when people are scared as well? How do you create a culture where people are kind? So the mindset piece was significant as much as the kind of logistics.

Bird: So, how did it feel to be steering the ship, especially at the beginning, through such a turbulent time?

Williams: My whole career has been in and out of the news industry one way or another, either reporting on news either as a news editor or as a consultant and an executive on the inside of big news stories and on the decision-making side. And this was a huge story—I mean, this is a generational story. And so the journalist in me and the adrenaline that came from participating in this really got me through. I mean, look, professionally it was very challenging, and like many people, my life at work isn't everything to me. I've got a wife. I've got a son who's eight, who was out of school and was trying to do remote learning on platforms online. I've got my family. I've got my friends. So I had all of those pressures as well, but I was able to compartmentalize it. And particularly in, I would say, lockdown No. 1, the adrenaline of it and essentially the fact that we're in an extended crisis I think really got me through personally.

Bird: The most successful pandemic response strategies saw organizations acting decisively and rapidly with crystal-clear communication, and Ed points to a few decisions that he made that were critical to him in those early months.

Communication is first priority

Williams: The first was to immediately change our rhythm of business. So the way I was running our region, which is one of the largest regions in our network, I would be talking to my senior colleagues once a week. I would be doing a longer conversation once a month.

I moved from that to a situation where we were talking three times a day, and that would be myself, my COO, my CFO, and our head of people. That rhythm of speaking three times a day we continued for the first three months such that nothing fell between the gap, every issue was addressed, and we were able to move really at pace.

I also immediately set up a WhatsApp channel for all of the market CEOs in Edelman. So the CEO in Africa, in the Middle East, in France, in Germany, U.K., Ireland, Brussels, and Amsterdam and Spain and Italy and so on and so forth, you know, certainly in the first three months, it was a very effective way of getting information out and getting very quick response on issues.

The second thing, sort of in parallel, really, was to create a business continuity task force. And that business continuity task force was looking at how we can provide a framework and a standardized way of looking at each market and offering the operational support that they needed so that we didn't have a whole range of different ways of coping with this crisis, so that all of our employees experienced Edelman in the same way.

The third thing I did was I looked at our existing strategy, which was around integrating our business horizontally. And rather than pause, I said, we're going to accelerate that. Because in a world in which we don't have a dozen or so offices, we've got 1,200 offices, we can drive horizontal integration across times zones, across geographies, at a real pace here in a way maybe it would have taken longer to do when we weren't working remotely. And that has been a tremendous success.

And my colleagues, when you talk to them about what's the kind of positive legacy of COVID, I think many of them would say that they know the business better than they've ever known it before, they know their colleagues better than they've ever known them before, and they're really excited about the work.

The fourth thing, I would say, Michael, is in a crisis, there's no such thing as overcommunication. So I decided very early on that we needed to massively increase the cadence of our employee engagement and our employee comms. So we immediately started a digital newsletter, and we increased the frequency of our all staff town halls. I created a Q&A session where a range of leaders would be online and staff would literally ask them anything. And we were very open and very transparent about the financial situation so that no one was left in the dark. All of the data I've seen in terms of staff feedback suggests that that led to staff being highly engaged, reassured, motivated, and feeling like we're all pulling together. So that communications piece, that employee engagement strategy, was absolutely vital.

Bird: Is there anything, any practices, that you have adopted since the beginning of March that you think will continue when everything gets back to normal?

Hybrid workplace: The new normal

Williams: Yes, absolutely. I think we're now going to be operating in a kind of hybrid way. We've got five and a half thousand people working at Edelman. Everyone now has experienced the power of virtual working. Everyone has experienced the power of being able to convene across geographies, across time zones.

If I think about my business, you know, work that comes our way, problems that clients need to solve, involves a kind of pitch situation. Pre-COVID, we would do that in person, and people would fly around the world and we'd arrive and we'd spend three or four days in advance working up the pitch. You obviously can't do that anymore.

There is a discipline now that comes with virtual working that requires much greater levels of production, much greater levels of clarity of thought of what your contribution is, and much better choreography of thinking and the presentation of your ideas. And I think that absolutely is something that we will take forward.

The other thing that comes from COVID I think will be a legacy is the broader notion that we need to get on planes and fly around places. I mean, obviously human contact is incredibly important when you are working so closely together on clients and in a business and that obviously there is no alternative but to meet people in person. But will we see a reduction in business travel as a result of COVID? Definitely. And that's not purely based on a desire to manage the bottom line. We've recognized that the technology now can really enable close work with people in other countries and in other times zones as well.

I am not an advocate and I don't believe this is fundamentally going to change the office environment in creative agencies in the management consultancies, you know, public affairs, public relations, communications, advertising agencies. The office is so fundamental to what we do and how we do our work that as soon as we can get back to that collaborative working, I think we will do so. The idea that you're going to simply straight-line the experience of COVID in perpetuity I'm afraid I don't buy.

And also, Michael, the other thing I don't buy either is that this is the end of cities. For the last 500 years, the direction of history has been towards cities. Why? Because that is where power resides: political power, economic power, business power. It's where jobs are, it's where careers are made, it's where people make their fortunes if you're Dick Whittington, and that's not going to change. So to quote Bill Gates, I think we will overestimate the effects in the short term and probably slightly underestimate them in the long term.

Bird: Thanks, Ed. I think a lot of organizations would echo Ed's sentiment about remote working. And while video conferencing can't replicate the chat around the coffee machine, some of the givens of the pre-COVID work environments, such as national and international travel for meetings, have been thrown into sharp perspective.


Tech's role in business continuity

Of course, COVID-19 isn't the first global pandemic in history. But it is the first that we have lived and experienced in this modern technological world. It's impossible to imagine what would have happened if some of the things that we take for granted—like the Internet, smartphones, Wi-Fi, and cloud computing—weren't around.

Tech companies have played an important role in ensuring business continuity for organizations worldwide. So, to hear what that looked like from the inside, I called up Antonio Neri, president and CEO of my employer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Antonio Neri: Hi, how are you doing?

Bird: Very good. Thanks. How are you?

Neri: I'm doing great. Thank you.

Bird: Antonio has been with Hewlett Packard, now Hewlett Packard Enterprise, since 1995 and has a unique understanding of the industry. Originally from Argentina, he started his career with the company in the customer service department in Amsterdam. During his 26 years at the company, he's been part of everything from research and development to global business strategy and positioning HPE as an innovative market leader.

Antonio has overseen big changes at HP before, after the company split into Hewlett Packard and Hewlett Packard Enterprise in 2015. But despite his wealth of experience, just like for the rest of us, the pandemic came as a total surprise.

Neri: I actually was traveling through Europe when I started getting all the reports and news about the situation in China, and then we saw the first few cases elsewhere. And as I came back, obviously, the situation deteriorated quite rapidly. And then, by the beginning of February, we had a whole different kind of process in place. So as a company, we quickly acted and we established a framework that allowed us to really engage customers, partners, and employees through what we call assess, address, and adapt, which is the process we used through the last nine months, and we continue to now focus on the adapt side of the house.

Bird: And what about you as a person? How did you feel when that all happened?

Neri: Well, obviously it was distressing. My first thought went to the communities and our employees and how we keep them safe. And then in an arch of three weeks or so, we had to send everybody home and make them productive. So one aspect of that was the safety. The other one was how we kept them productive. And then as we went through this process, we learned a few things, right? You know, physical and mental health became essential. And we, as an organization, established programs in place. And then personally, obviously, you know, I had to take care of my family but also, at the same time, take care of myself.

In June, unfortunately, I contracted COVID, which was a unique, personal experience. Although I will say, I was a lucky one because the symptoms were not as strong as many other people got.

Bird: So what's been the biggest thing that you've learned in 2020?

Lessons learned in a challenging year

Neri: That unfortunately we are not prepared for these types of situations. You know, one thing is the business side, which obviously had tremendous disruption to our supply chain and it took us almost four months to recover from. And I'm super-proud of what we have done as a company. But the reality is that, while we had excellent crisis management processes in place, we were not prepared and resilient to deal with these type of situations. And that's something that obviously now we have incorporated in what we call our enterprise risk management practices.

Then, the second part of that thought went to how we help the communities because obviously the communities were significantly impacted. Whether it's to provide the equipment or monetary aid, whatever was needed, we stepped up as an organization, and also our employees themselves stepped up to provide support and volunteer hours to help them as well.

So I think we learned quite a bit. We are much better prepared now for the future, but we are not out yet, right? So, we are still waiting for the vaccine. The good news is, we have received very positive news and now it is all about planning and deploying the vaccine as quickly as possible.

Bird: What was the most challenging thing this year, do you think, from a business perspective?

Neri: We entered the year already with some challenges, right? So microeconomic uncertainty, geopolitical tension, and then the pandemic was added on top. And then we had to deal also with some natural disasters, hurricanes and wildfires and so forth, that unfortunately was on top of the crisis.

But again, I am incredible proud of how we react as a company. It is the character of Hewlett Packard Enterprise; it is core to our purpose. But needless to say that the supply chain was the biggest challenge and then dealing with the cases across the world—and we had more than 500 cases in the company, and unfortunately, we had a handful of deaths as well that we had to deal with it. And that's very distressing as a company. You always want to do the best you can, but it's never enough.

In addition to that, obviously we had a very challenging political year in the United States and social injustice that, obviously, we repudiated and we have taken actions ourselves in term of inclusion and diversity.

Bird: So do you think 2020 accelerated any changes that were going to happen anyway, whether within HPE or across the industry at large?

Lasting changes in business, the workplace

Neri: Absolutely. I mean, 2020 is a year not like any other. The changes we saw are permanent and lasting in my view. A couple of years ago, I stated that the enterprise of the future will be edge-centric, cloud-enabled, and data-driven. Unfortunately, through the pandemic, those are thoughts that have been validated.

Think about it: We work now in a massive distributed enterprise where the homes are an extension of the architectures from edge to cloud, where the home is now a micro-branch. And so the ability to connect all these endpoints in a secure way and provision services to the employees is going to be critical. So I think the workplace of the future has changed dramatically and has changed totally, in my view.

The good news is that we have the digital capabilities and IT capabilities to be able to provide a whole new experience to everyone, whether it's employees and enterprises at large or the opportunity we saw early on with the transformation of the edge.

So, for me, while on one end it's a big challenge, on the other end it's a great opportunity for a company to capitalize on the massive digital transformation and the amount of data we are generating because, obviously, data is the new currency. And if we can provide those insights to customers faster, that will accelerate their own business objectives. So big opportunity, but obviously the key here is to ensure we have resilient IT capabilities in place and empower this new workforce.

Bird: And what's on the horizon for HPE in 2021 and beyond?

Neri: You know, by nature, I'm an optimistic individual. I always look to the future with that optimism that we can change the world and we can change businesses. When I think about our portfolio, we have some phenomenal innovation already in the market and more coming. We have a clear vision to be the edge-to-cloud platform-as-a-service company. We provide cloud-native secure, seamless connectivity with our Aruba portfolio, which I think is winning big in the marketplace. We already have more than 65,000 customers, more than a million devices under the platform and growing, and we are gaining share.

Then our strategy there is to incorporate edge computing and 5G, which are requirements that customers are asking us for. So I'm very bullish about the business. And with the acquisition of Silver Peak, it completes the entire portfolio inexperience.

And then on the core business, the pivot to a consumption model is accelerated. Customers want to preserve liquidity and want to have one consistent consumption experience, and GreenLake as a flagship product clearly has a tremendous momentum in the marketplace with the growth rate that we have experienced the last few quarters.

'Tremendous momentum' going forward

But it's all about delivering an experience that's a differentiator for those workloads that stay on-prem and yet provide a through hybrid operating model that customers are looking for. And then we have our software portfolio with HPE Ezmeral, which really is delivering tremendous performance, particularly in data-intensive workloads. And last but not least, we talk about AI and machine learning, and HPC is the backbone for that business.

We have tremendous momentum. I mean, I'm so pleased and enthusiastic about the business. And as you know, we have won many of the large exascale businesses that were on the table of opportunities, and we are now on a journey to build and deliver those systems, which not only will improve the U.S. as a force of innovation but also accelerate research in many areas.

Bird: Antonio, thank you so much. It was an absolute pleasure to speak to you.

Neri: Well, thank you very much for having me today.

Bird: Antonio Neri there, CEO and president of HPE. Antonio spoke with positivity and confidence about the ability to provide customers with what they're looking for—the reality being, of course, that our individual and business tech needs have changed dramatically over the past year. There's a well-supported theory that says that innovation thrives during difficult times, so tech companies are in a unique position to provide that backbone of support during 2020, but also to shape what the future looks like when the world returns to normal, or something like.

For large tech organizations like HPE and communications organizations like Edelman, a major logistical challenge was to create some semblance of business as usual whilst overseeing a huge international workforce working from home.

For other industries that rely heavily on physical in-person events—say, for example, Formula E racing—the pandemic threatened business continuity in a really tangible way. To find out more, I called up Susie Wolff.

Susie Wolff: My name is Susie Wolff, and I am the team principal of the ROKiT Venturi Formula E racing team.

Bird: Susie is one of the biggest names in racing worldwide. She's been a champion for women in sport at every level and a powerful testimonial to encourage the growing global enthusiasm for Formula E racing.

The Formula E race season began as usual in October 2019 and was due to continue right through to summer 2020—that is, until COVID 19 appeared slap-bang in the middle of it. Like everywhere else, big changes were instant. The E Prix races due to take place all over the world were canceled in New York City, Paris, Rome, Sanya, London, Jakarta. And so, as team principal, Susie's first thought was her dispersed global workforce.

Adapting to a new set of rules

Wolff: The initial response was for the safety of the team. Of course, there was huge disappointment when you start to hear a race has been canceled and that has a big knock on effect because we had a lot of organizational partners attending events planned, obviously that preparation and build up to the race locations.

So, from that perspective, it took a lot of change internally to manage the situation, but my first focus was on the safety of the team, and that meant, because we have different team members in different locations throughout Europe, making sure that everybody was safe, were with their families, and there was nobody at risk. And certainly when we started to get a bit more visibility as to what COVID was and what the implications were, we then as an organization had to adapt to the new sets of rules in terms of how to go racing and how to carry on with our business. And that was also very challenging because we had big plans around obviously going racing and suddenly being told, racing's stopping. And having no visibility as to when it was restarting was certainly difficult.

Bird: Because, I guess, unlike the F1 season, you were midway through the 2019/2020 season.

Wolff: We were, which was a big benefit. We'd had half the races done. We knew how many races we had to do to complete the season. There were certainly a lot of discussions with Formula E management and the FIA about how do we finish your season without putting people at risk, but obviously finishing on a high and making sure that we were providing the best spectacle possible for our partners and for the brands that we work with and represent.

It showed you the power of the collective, because obviously we needed to find that very fine balance of safety first, making sure that everyone who arrived to put on the last races was testing in the correct way, was being looked after within the bubble. We were obviously having to comply to quite strict health guidelines in the country we were racing in. We ended up finishing the season with nine races in six days, something which I've never experienced in my 25 years in motorsports. And that as a team was something which we very much had to prepare for and something which I don't think we'll ever experience again, thankfully, because it was a huge challenge.

But in the end, we managed it and everybody was in the same boat. And it's incredible that when such a situation like a pandemic hits, it's that collective effort which in the end is required to overcome it.

Bird: So, what has surprised you most about your team and the way that they've been able to react and adapt during 2020?

Wolff: I think the first and foremost part is the fact that we ... being based in different locations throughout Europe but having a headquarters in Monaco, we very quickly were able to adapt to not being able to travel. We all downloaded the app that we needed to in order to do video conferencing, and that's something which certainly shocked me initially because of how efficient it is.

Of course, you can't beat the human element and standing around the coffee machine and talking about the latest session in the simulator because out of that conversation comes more than would come out of a video call. But it still allowed us to feel connected as a team. There were some video calls when I did my team talks with 30 people on the line, and it's still that technology that allowed us to be connected.


Discovering new—and better—ways of working

It showed me also from my perspective, not being Monaco-based, I don't need to take a two-hour flight every week to Monaco. I don't need to jump in my car to drive to Heathrow airport. And so it also showed me a way of living which is more sustainable because I don't need to travel as much as I normally would have in the past. And I think that's something I'll most certainly carry forward.

And finding the balance. It's clear you need the human element of the team being together, but I do think as a team we've seen that there's more efficient ways of working and doing what we do. That's something that I want to carry forward and make sure, even when the pandemic is over, that we're always looking at efficiency. We're making sure that we're making the best use of our time and making sure that we are up to date with technology, which is so quickly evolving, but making sure that we are on the cutting edge.

Bird: What's been the biggest thing that you've learned from 2020 as a team principal?

Wolff: As a team principal but also as a wife and mother: Live in the moment. It's always great to plan ahead, it's always great to be organized, and certainly in a situation where I'm a team principal of a team, it's very much about forward planning and knowing what our goals are, where we want to get to.

But it's also about realizing, OK, this is the present situation. Yes, we can think there's a race happening in six weeks. If it gets canceled, we're going to have to cope with the situation. And that adaptability is something I've certainly become much more accustomed to because I was someone that liked to be very, very organized, to an extent where I'm a little bit OCD. And that control was taken away from me on the professional side and on the personal side, where in the end, I was at the mercy of what the governments were telling us was the correct thing to do. But that also forced me to then live much more in the moment, not always thinking of what's coming but actually enjoy what's happening right now. Be part of the journey instead of always focusing on the end result.

Bird: So, on a personal level, then, how has 2020 been for you?

A time to reevaluate priorities

Wolff: 2020 has been challenging, and I'm using that word challenging a lot, but I think it really sums it up. There certainly will be some big positives from 2020. I've never seen my husband so much, which could be seen as a positive or negative, but thankfully our marriage is in a good place. It's very much a positive, and it's also allowed us to reevaluate more our lifestyle and what our priorities are. And certainty that quality time as a family was something that we've grown accustomed to now and something that we don't want to give up completely when the world returns to normal.

The biggest challenge was simply managing the team through a very difficult time. And when I say managing the team, we're not a huge organization. I have a lot of respect for people who have to manage huge organizations with thousands of workers, because that's a huge responsibility to shoulder. And even in our small organization here at Venturi, I felt a real responsibility to somehow make sure that we would survive economically and obviously that uncertainty, which hit us all in the midst of the lockdown, in not knowing if it was ever going to return, particularly in that season, more than thinking too far ahead of the future.

But I think that was the biggest challenge: Just managing the team and making sure that obviously they felt that as much as everything was out of our control, there was someone who handled the ship, making sure that we were going to survive.

Bird: So then, on the flip side, what do you think has been your biggest success this year?

Wolff: My biggest success was being able to put my work-life balance much more in perspective. I love what I do. I'm very passionate about what I do, so I don't see it as a job; it's something I take huge enjoyment from. But it also allowed me to reevaluate how I do my job, how I can be more efficient in my job, which in turn, can give me the time to be a better wife and mother. And certainly the time that we had as a family is something which I realize is so precious. It's not something you can buy. It's not a goal that you aim for. It's simply being in the moment and enjoying being with the people you love. And it sounds so cliche, but the best things in life are the ones that don't cost anything.

Bird: What are your top predictions for 2021—for the team, for Formula E as a sport, and motorsport as a whole?

Plans for 2021

Wolff: I think there's a lot of positivity in the air now, and people are not as fearful as they used to be. They see the light at the end of the horizon. I certainly feel a lot of momentum from all of our partners who are saying, OK, let's get going, what's the plan for 2021?

So I think 2021 will be a normal race season, touch wood. That's what we're all hoping for, and there's certainly a huge commitment from the Formula E management to pull it off as a normal season. And we as a team have a very clear target: We want to get into the top eight in the team championship. If we can get into the top six, we have overdelivered, and I love overdelivering. I'm super, super excited to think of 2021. I'm very much looking forward to celebrating the new year, because that means if 2020 is behind us, we can look back and say, "My goodness, what a year." And that we can look forward with so much positivity.

Bird: I don't know if you at New Year's kind of reflect on what you think is going to be happening the year ahead, and I certainly wasn't predicting this for 2020. So knowing what we know now, what changes are you going to make in 2021 for the Venturi Formula E team?

Wolff: We've already made quite a few big changes. We have a new driver lineup. Norman Nato has replaced Felipe Massa. We have internally done quite a few changes to optimize the performance of the team. And I think moving forward, it's about just focusing on our efficiency and adaptability as a team.

There may be curve balls that are still coming; we've got to make sure that we are going to cope with those in the best way possible. But I think we all feel quite refreshed from the fact that we had quite a break from racing. I think it also made us realize that we love what we do. We had months of not racing. We had months of not being able to be as a team on the road together. And I think it also made us realize that, hey, we are so lucky to be doing what we do, a job that we love, and let's get back to it. Rock and roll.

Bird: Thanks, Susie! Challenge and adaptability are words that came up pretty frequently when I spoke to all of the leaders for today's episode. For many organizations, 2020 has meant making some incredibly difficult business decisions, and as the ensuing economic fallout continues into next year, no doubt there are more challenges around the corner.

The potential of individual, collective change

But the overriding message from Ed Williams, Antonio Neri, and Susie Wolff is one of hope. The world of work has changed, and some of that might be permanent, even if we're not willing to get rid of the office just yet. But the individual changes have perhaps been even more profound. We're all seeing our positions in society a little differently. We're appreciating our colleagues, our loved ones, the people that have guided us through this year, and just the little things in the world around us. Who knows what 2021 will bring, but that is a pretty powerful way to see in the new year,

You've been listening to Technology Untangled, and I'm your host, Michael Bird. A huge thanks to Ed Williams, Antonio Neri, and Susie Wolff for taking the time to talk to us. And you can find more information from today's episode in the show notes. This episode marks the last in the current series of Technology Untangled, but be sure to hit subscribe in your podcast app and keep an eye out for a brand new season of Technology Untangled in the new year.

Today's episode was written and produced by Isobel Pollard and me, Michael Bird, with sound design and editing by Alex Bennett and production support from Harry Morton and Alex Podmore. Technology Untangled is a Lower Street Production for Hewlett Packard Enterprise in the U.K. and Ireland. Thank you so much for tuning in, and we'll see you next time.

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Containers: Big innovation in a small package

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This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.