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Maintaining a Sense of Urgency, Especially in Times of Uncertainty

Since its founding, DRW has brought together technology, research and risk management to compete at the highest level in markets around the world. Over the past two decades, technology has evolved at a rapid pace, creating significant opportunities for those who can respond and adjust quickly. That’s why acting with a sense of urgency always has been one of DRW’s core values, and a quality our teams live out each day. The recent challenges created by COVID-19 are unprecedented and unexpected. They have called on our teams to work together in new ways, to pivot quickly, and to boldly test new waters to ensure we can continue to actively and safely serve markets around the world. Below, members of different teams within DRW explain how they have benefitted from operating with a sense of urgency over the last couple of months.

_Brian – Director of Strategy for Cumberland, DRW’s crypto asset subsidiary
Thad – IT Desktop Team Lead
Zach – Head of Strategic Planning_

As DRW has worked to maximize the ability of our people to work remotely, what has been the biggest challenge for you and your team?

THAD: Providing and assisting users with new work-from-home technology has been an exciting challenge for my team. From creating new remote setups to demonstrating how to utilize the equipment, we worked quickly to take common requests and create a standard template to provide information to users.

BRIAN: Communication certainly proved to be the most challenging at the start. Hallway chats and desk conversations quickly turned into email and virtual correspondences. With the shift to text-based mediums, tonal and facial expressions were lost. Thankfully, we’re a firm that has always embraced technology – while you can’t replace the spontaneous chats, we are able to mirror some of the “in person” experiences through video chats and always-on communication lines.

How has your team managed priorities given this “new normal?”

THAD: Several projects have been put on hold while others gained renewed importance. At this particular time, remote management and support of our global assets as well as operating system upgrades have continued to be some of our top priority projects. Specifically, both of these areas have had a major impact on our ability not only to support DRW users, but also to improve our users overall experience.

ZACH: As market opportunities come and go very quickly, so do our projects and priorities – especially as we continue to navigate and adjust to a “new normal” working style. In the first couple weeks, as things were changing rapidly and new data was coming out from multiple jurisdictions around the globe, we had to be flexible to rearrange and refine our plans – sometimes on a daily basis. However, we had the right teams in place and if something was reprioritized, we adjusted, re-assessed and quickly moved on. We had to operate that way, but that is also in DRW's DNA.

Are there certain tools that you have found to be effective recently?

BRIAN: Cumberland has always operated as a 24/7 business, so we’re used to “hand-offs” to colleagues across the globe, which were driven by a rigorous daily communications process. That experience has certainly helped us make that transition more seamlessly, enabled by the tools that allow for quick but rich communication. That includes daily video conference calls for desk ad hoc discussions, office call forwarding to home, wireless headsets, and most importantly, experimenting with the technology to achieve the best call quality.

THAD: While we have a lot of beneficial proprietary tools at our disposal, there are three that have been particularly important:

  1. The system that manages our Windows infrastructure has allowed us to manage applications globally within minutes, deploy workstations, and provide some remote support. It is known as “Software Center” to our employees and provides applications when employees need tools or resources installed quickly and efficiently.
  2. The management system we use for our Mac infrastructure is similar to our Windows infrastructure management tool, as it gives us the ability to manage and deploy our Mac desktops and laptops as well as give users “self-service” to manage applications on their own.
  3. We rely on a proprietary system that gives DRW the ability to work with users remotely, especially if they cannot connect to the VPN. This has greatly improved our ability to respond to issues and work with users while minimizing downtime and frustration. This project quickly went from low to high priority after day 1 of employees working from home.

Why is it important to maintain a sense of urgency, especially during times of uncertainty?

THAD: Leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, we maintained urgency for modernizing and standardizing the environment to stay current with the technology. As the company continues to evolve, it’s important to always be prepared for supporting the demands that go along with the growth. Additionally, we need to ensure we can enable these systems efficiently and effectively. We look at common problems, plan for the unexpected, and attempt to find solutions to address those problems head-on. We don’t know what the next challenge will be, but we can strive to make the user experience as smooth and productive as possible.

BRIAN: As the youngest of four siblings, saying that I am hyper competitive is an understatement. My competitive nature drives my sense of urgency, and I believe DRW similarly shares a need for competitive-based urgency. As the market rapidly evolves during these times, we must do the same. Thanks to our teams coming together and the quick ability to adapt, we are in a prime spot to continue our role in the market during these critical cycles.

ZACH: These unprecedented times have shown us that by maintaining a sense of urgency we are able to continue high priority objectives, even if that means adjusting from the original plan. Projects can stay on track by shifting to goals that can be accomplished virtually. If you’re flexible, focused, and diligent in your work, adjusting to unexpected scenarios become far more manageable.