2020, where do we even start? 

It was a year that many may not want to dwell on, understandably. But for us it was a year that showed the strength and resilience of our team, so we’re looking back at the positives we discovered and the lessons we learnt. 

Speaking to our Co-founder Kris Saxton and Director of Marketing, Emily Toole, we want to take a look at just how much the pandemic shifted both ours and our clients’ priorities and what decisions the team made that worked well. 

The beginning of lockdown v1.0 brought about some tough decisions for the leadership team. 

The biggest decisions including

The Academy

Our Graduate DevOps Academy programme: Our DevOps Academy has been running for years now, with 40% of our engineering staff having come through the academy. It’s been one of our greatest strengths, but we’d never delivered it remotely. Even with our flexible working policy, the graduates had always spent the 12 weeks in the office to easily collaborate on project work and get more of a classroom feel. 

So, pivoting to a fully remote academy (with only a month to plan it) gave us all pause, but the SLT voted unanimously to go for it.  We ended up running 2 in 2020 and have another 2 planned remotely this year. Total win. 

To see what the Grads thought, take a look at our latest video

The furlough conversation

We generally keep a team of highly skilled engineers with a wealth of experience to allow our clients to rapidly scale up if they need to for tight deadlines. An expense that is uncertain at the best of times, but seemingly more so in light of what was happening. Our founders were adamant that, while we continued to grow and it was financially viable, we weren’t furloughing anyone and despite initial worries, the team were firmly behind them. 


Co-founder Kris admitted to having real doubts about hiring fully remotely, initially wondering if this would introduce quality issues as the process just wasn’t the same. However our TA team rose to the occasion, growing the team by 40% in 2020, reducing our time-to-hire and leaving Kris (as usual) wishing we’d done it sooner.

A leadership team with shared values helped make those decisions easy, and having the whole team behind them meant the decisions paid off.

The Big Changes

Marketing Director Emily commented on the huge changes in how we did business development and marketing. Months of careful planning and campaign organising basically just flew out of the window. 

“There’s an obstacle in the way, how do we tackle this” K Saxton. 

Covid brought about new priorities for many, people have had to do in months what would normally take years as part of their survival. We believe all organisations ultimately need to become digital organisations to thrive, even pre-covid, but the pandemic accelerated the need to change and change quickly. Large organisations who were driven forward into this digital age by the crisis essentially had to do or die by accelerating their digital transformation. And for those large organisations within our client base, it was our job to help them. 

During a time of great uncertainty, people just want a safe pair of hands. One thing we’ve seen is that our clients want to work with purpose-driven companies they trust, and even more so in a crisis.  Things like having similar values and culture, which used to be secondary considerations, are now considered essential because of their role in building trust. We’ve always looked to be a safe pair of hands for our clients and build trust and intimacy – the strength of our relationships helped us to continue to provide a good service through challenging times

Operationally we were in an accidentally strong position, we weren’t optimising for efficiency and had a generously staffed ops team. This benefited us during the initial covid lockdown, getting work from home kit to people who needed it and providing extra support, especially to those with kids or dependents at home. 

Technology is naturally location independent, which is why we’ve always advocated for allowing our team to work remotely – in this instance though, anyone with an internet connection basically thrived. Just look at the success of the fast fashion industries, we may not have helped our clients migrate their apps as quickly as they brought out new ranges of loungewear. But we were pretty prepared for this new way of working. 

The main achievements of the year

“Sticking to our goals and still managing to achieve them, we didn’t panic and change everything.” 

Or in other words

‘We were handed a bunch of lemons, and we made lemonade’ 

Kris Saxton.

We stuck to the goals we’d set out and found new ways of making them possible. This showed the teams faith in our mission, values and in each other. 

If you were to look at the whole year as a chance to learn, we really learnt a whole bunch of new stuff we’re going to take with us post-pandemic. Remote academies, hiring and a whole host of new ways to do business development and marketing just being the start. This has brought an awareness of tools and platforms, opened our eyes to a new set of skills and strengths.

Both Kris and Emily agreed that the post-pandemic way of working for AL will be a blend of ‘before’ and ‘now’. 

We tested what we already knew, which is that people like coming together as part of a community to discuss things that matter. We’ve learned the benefits of working remotely, but also that a lot of us miss the office. 

And how did our people help us get through this infamous year?

“You realise the people around you are just genuine, authentic beings”

Emily Toole 

So, not quite as exciting as Netflix’s 2020 documentary, but an insight into how we made it. And now we’re applying those lessons learnt into 2021’s lockdown v3.0.  

For more information about how we worked during 2020 click here.

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