July 7, 2020 - COVID-19 is caused by a virus, but racial injustice and inequity is a human-origin disease that has been eating our communities like a cancer for hundreds if not thousands of years.
As a company founded in 2017 with a strong culture that lists Be Inclusive as one of our six core values, I have assumed that Mission is largely free from racial inequality and injustice. We have a strong commitment to diversity, and we have made meaningful progress with women holding 27% of management and leadership positions, and over 29% of our team identifying as a racial or ethnic minority.
But one major learning that has already become clear to me is that racism is not just an attitude or a viewpoint or individual action. It’s at its most powerful and negative when it’s a system, or it’s integrated into our systems and societal norms in a way that is not always clearly visible. It’s even sometimes built into the hero stories told to us when we grow up.
Real change to address racism and racial injustice requires us to look at our systems and ways of doing things and identify all the ways that those systems harm or suppress people based on race. We need to identify how the system may not be set up to support African Americans and other minority racial groups - and figure out and take action on changing the systems to remove those inherent, systemic biases leading to injustices and inequality.
At Mission, we don’t shy away from reviewing every aspect of the way we run our business. We are dedicated to eliminating any inherent racial basis or systemic racism. We are also committed to affirmative action to address racial inequality.
Because we all need to be in listening and learning mode to really hear and understand and identify and eliminate embedded racism, I invited our African American team members to write about their thoughts and feelings on racial injustice and this pivotal moment - and we are all grateful for Tim and Ony sharing here:
I once walked into an establishment in the beautiful state of Montana. As soon as I opened the front door to step in, a Caucasian male shouted at the top of his voice: “WHO’S THAT NI***A!?”
This was my first direct experience with racism in America. The manager eventually came up to me to apologize but sadly, the racist individual wasn’t even kicked out of the establishment. This occurrence really hurt me, not because of the racial slur but because my work colleagues who were at the same establishment didn’t say a word. They stayed silent.
In Houston not too long ago, a group of friends and I were having dinner at an awesome restaurant. I was the only person of color within the group. We were all very well dressed. After dinner, we made a reservation at another establishment. As soon as we arrived at the new location, everyone was allowed in except me. No reason was given by the door personnel as to why I was denied entry. Even so, my friends stayed silent.
Many people know the challenges people of color people face in the USA. Most have stayed silent for many years but after the death of George Floyd, a lot of Americans of all races have said enough is enough. No one is staying silent anymore because we are all human and everyone deserves to be treated equally by law enforcement, corporations and the government.
Most Americans feel a sense of safety when they are around the police. However, for me as a 32-year-old African American with a clean record (never even received a speeding ticket), I’m very ashamed to say that I am afraid of the police. This statement resonates with many African Americans across the USA.
About 3 months ago, my best friend (James) who’s African American was approaching a stop sign. He came to a complete halt, signaled and then made a right turn. After the right turn, he was pulled over by a police patrol vehicle. The reason for the stop was “Failure to stop at a stop sign.” We all thought it was a joke at first because the vehicle was 100% stopped at the sign. To our surprise, the officer was actually serious and eventually gave James a court date.
It was going to be an easy case to beat, so we thought. Simply request for the dash cam video from the police patrol car and the District Attorney (D.A) will clearly see the vehicle indeed stopped at the stop sign.
Upon reaching the court a month later, the D.A instructed James to plead guilty and pay a $400 fine. Wait, what?
“I’ll kindly like to see the video evidence,” James said.
In response, the D.A mentioned that it may take weeks to months for the tape to be available so it’s best he just plead guilty, pay the fine and move on. James knew he was innocent and wanted to prove it. Reluctantly, the D.A accepted his request and consequently set another court date to review the video.
On the next court date, the D.A played the video to James and you wouldn’t believe that the recording started from after the stop sign and not before. Where was the rest of the video? “That’s all we have” was the response from the D.A.. The video leading to the actual stop at the stop sign was totally edited and deleted from records. Now, the D.A informed James that he has two options, take a plea deal by paying $270 plus community service or go on trial which was going to cost him thousands of dollars. James, an innocent man, had to take the plea deal to save legal fees.
Racism has always been prevalent in America. The only difference is that now, it’s being filmed. I am very appreciative of all the people and organizations of America that have recently shown support to recognize that people of color deserve to be treated better, given equal opportunities and provided with equal justice. The people who are silent and complicit in the face of racism are causing so much damage, and now is a time where we can’t be silent anymore. This is a time for everyone to step up and be agents of change.
I never thought that in 2020, I would have to have the same conversations with my children that my father had with me in 1992, and that his mother had with him in the 1960s. Racism has been a recurring trauma in my family since we were brought from Africa as slaves to Virginia. Each generation has been more hopeful than the last, but we are still always met with disappointment.
Institutional racism has cost my family dearly. Whether it be the loss of our genealogy and origin stories due to chattel slavery, the loss of generational wealth due to redlining, denial of jobs or loans, or the loss of life due to racist policies and practice, the scars of racism still mottle our backs.
Now, we are at a crossroads. Black and other marginalized people in this nation are once again on the frontlines of a struggle for our rights, our dignity, and our humanity. Time and time again, our demands to be seen and treated as fully realized and equal people have been set aside and ignored. We have protested, we have sat, we have kneeled. We have sung, we have made art, we have boycotted, and we have been arrested. Still, the roots of institutional racism wrap around ours and keep us from thriving as we should.
At this time, we cannot be the only ones out there. White people, especially white men, must listen and be the agents of change today. I can tell stories, but the stories of your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors, your employees are the ones you need to hear. Why? Because we all have them. It’s time for you to ask with an open heart and open mind and truly listen. Listen to the pain hidden behind the resignation that this is “just the way things are.” Listen to the fear of being hopeful for change. Listen to the squashed dreams, the abandoned goals, or the stacked odds that had to be overcome simply because of the color of our skin.
After you listen, you need to act. Lift where you stand. Intervene. Protest. Donate. Advocate. Vote. Let me type that again in manner more appropriate to its importance:
Use your vote to amplify the voices that have been ignored for hundreds of years and generation after generation. Use your privilege (that’s not a dirty word) to advocate for those that do not have the leverage to advocate for themselves. DO NOT ACCEPT that these things have to be this way. They can change, but Black and other marginalized people in this country do not have the power to change them. It is going to take allyship, advocacy, and action by the people who hold the privilege and the power in order to make real and lasting change for the benefit of ALL.
May 8, 2020 - As the calendar turns to May, life remains far from normal. But I continue to be impressed with how well the Mission team has adapted, collaborated, and served our customers under these extraordinary circumstances. Mission has always embraced a distributed workforce. Pre-COVID, more than half of our employees worked remotely. Now, of course, all are out of our offices – and we have decided to remain 100% remote for the remainder of 2020. To that end, we have launched employee stipends to cover internet, home office needs, and employee wellness. While we are in a fortunate position to adapt to this change in workstyle, I very much look forward to the day I can see our team face to face again.
I do think the biggest challenge with a remote workforce is maintaining communication. We’ve made sure not to lose sight of that. I’ve instituted weekly 30-minute all-hands meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page with key initiatives and company objectives. We also hold virtual watercooler meetings, midweek meditations, and happy hours – it’s important to have easy ways for the Mission team to remain close outside of work activities.
On the business front, we are seeing more customers migrating to (or seeking to optimize) AWS. Mission added 16 new customers in April, many of which want to become more efficient with their AWS spending. Another new customer trend we’ve seen is SMBs looking for expertise setting up and optimizing remote work solutions like Amazon WorkSpaces.
Our 24/7 Cloud Operations team’s critical incident resolution continues to be very strong, with average ticket responses coming in at just under five minutes (and with 100% of incident response times falling within our SLAs). Additionally, Mission’s Managed DevOps Team logged a 95% customer utilization rate. We stand ready to assist your needs and have the ability to adjust to new or unforeseen challenges.
In April, I mentioned our team's ability to pivot as needed to meet critical deadlines and/or new projects. I wanted to highlight that we have quickly and successfully helped one of our customers in the fight against COVID-19. Mission quickly assisted on an AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF) implementation, combined with several log-metric dashboard visualizations and analytic reports. These dashboards and reports help provide critical and real-time data around COVID-19 confirmed cases, symptoms, and even food delivery requests for those in need.
I am continuing to schedule CEO Office Hours 1on1’s each week to discuss any aspect of a customer’s business and to provide guidance or assistance. To schedule a time, please visit my Calendly Page here.
We are happy to announce that we added a new Mission team member to our Business Operation Department. Steven O’Dwyer joined Mission last week as Cloud Analyst and will be working remotely from his home in Virginia. Steven brings extensive Cloud Optimization and Analysis experience to the team and has already begun working with customers to help optimize their AWS infrastructure and spend.
April 14, 2020 - The last two weeks since my CEO Update on March 31 have been bonding, challenging and energizing for me and for our Mission team. With coronavirus infections and deaths accelerating in the US where most of our people and customers are based, we’ve continued to ensure that our team can work safely and productively from their homes, and we’ve provided extra flexibility to support their families with the new personal responsibilities arising from the health crisis.
In the first week of April, Mission’s leadership decided on “One Big Thing” to focus our team - and deliver for customers and AWS in Q2 2020 - Operational Excellence. Our leadership and managers quickly refined our Mission business operating system, and agreed on specific Objectives and Key Results for Q2 that will maximize our engagement and support for customers in this time, and ensure the healthy ongoing operation of our services and business. We’re tracking well against all these OKRs, and our customer satisfaction scores and feedback has remained high.
Our 24/7 Cloud Operations team’s critical incident resolution was 45% better than our SLAs last week, and average ticket response time was 3 minutes. Also, 100% of incident response and resolve times fell within customer SLA’s. Additionally, our Managed DevOps Team logged a 94% customer utilization rate. We stand ready to assist your needs and have the ability to adjust to new or unforeseen challenges.
Earlier this month I mentioned our team's ability to pivot as needed to meet critical deadlines and/or new projects. As you may know online gaming continues to be very popular as many of us are spending more time than usual at home. I wanted to highlight that Mission has quickly and successfully helped one of our customers in the GameTech Industry launch a new game in a fully re-architected production environment. The environment takes advantage of modern AWS Auto-Scaling, provisioning and configurations via Terraform that resolve many common performance issues in the gaming segment.
And to further support leaders at our customers during the coronavirus impact, I am continuing to schedule CEO Office Hours 1on1’s each week to discuss any aspect of a customer’s business, and provide guidance or assistance. To schedule a time, please visit my Calendly page here.
Mission welcomed a new Customer Success Manager to the team last week who will be working from Austin, Texas. We also onboarded a new DevOps Engineer who will be working from Maryland, as well as new Solutions Architect working from Los Angeles. I’m excited to welcome these new members of the Mission team, and they are already working hard to support our customers in this challenging time.
Mental Health Wellness Tips for Quarantine — Our friend and management consultant, Eric Crews, Founder and President of the Crews Consulting Group has provided a comprehensive list of tips for keeping spirits up in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis.
March 31, 2020 - Mission’s leadership and Board of Directors have been very proactive over the last month in seeking and integrating the latest information on COVID-19, and protecting our team and business as the pandemic has impacted people and businesses globally.
On March 12, I published a blog post updating customers and stakeholders about our planning and preparedness to ensure our business-critical services continue uninterrupted. Our team has been working 100% remote since March 19 and all our systems and software to enable remote work have been fully operational and reliable since then.
We worked on an updated 2020 plan for our business over the last two weeks, and made some smart adjustments to ensure that we are deploying our team and resources to areas of increased customer demand. With teams needing to rapidly shift to working from home, we rapidly scaled up our Amazon Workspaces capability.
Our customer’s goals for managing and modernizing their AWS infrastructure are our #1 priority, and our Customer Success team, and Cloud and DevOps Consultants and Engineers stand ready to help with any urgent need.
AWS has created Eligible Impacted COVID-19 Business Use Cases to help provide specific business solutions for customers. We have summarized the most impactful updates below.
AWS Online Tech Talks for March: Join AWS for online presentations led by AWS solutions architects and engineers. AWS Online Tech Talks cover a range of topics and expertise levels, and feature technical deep dives, demonstrations, customer examples, and live Q&A with AWS experts.
Mission and AWS are keenly aware that in many cases successfully navigating a remote workforce and culture are essential during this climate. We have included links to an important upcoming webinar and helpful links focusing on transitioning and thriving as a remote workforce using AWS Services, especially Workspaces. We would love to have you join us for the webinar!