3 lessons tech leaders are learning from the pandemic

During the final day of our virtual Brainstorm Tech conference, we heard from executives from some of the world’s leading tech companies. They spoke on a particularly timely topic affecting a wide range of businesses: the coronavirus pandemic and its long-lasting impact. 

Some of the big names featured on Wednesday included Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s senior vice president of retail and people; Donna Langley, chair of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group; Patrik Frisk, CEO of Under Armour; and Jennifer Tejada, CEO of PagerDuty—all of whom gave Brainstorm Tech attendees an inside look at how the pandemic changed their strategies ahead. Here’s a look at some of the takeaways:

• While Apple has adapted to working remotely and shifted some of its products online, the company still thinks in-person collaboration and in-store experiences are best. O’Brien suggests there’s something special about walking into an Apple store and taking a seminar, learning about its latest devices, or getting tech help from its Genius Bar. It’s an experience that can’t be replaced.

• It seems that making movies has never been so complicated. Langley said that Universal’s crew of more than 1,000 people working on Jurassic World: Dominion took a total of more than 40,000 COVID-19 tests during production. On top of that, producers changed the way they filmed to avoid crowding too many people in one place. And due to the virus, company released another big-budget movie Trolls World Tour on video and on-demand the same day it hit theaters. Moving ahead, Langley said the company’s latest deal with theater chains to make the movie available for rent 17 days after release will strike a better balance.

• As people have adapted to their new lifestyles, they’re creating habits that could last well beyond the pandemic. That includes how they work out. Under Armour’s Frisk said he’s watched more customers take to running, biking, and other outdoor activities. And Brynn Putnam, CEO of home fitness company Mirror, said her company has benefited from the rise in people opting to work out from home as they avoid crowded gyms. But for fitness companies aiming to capitalize on consumers’ changing habits, one challenge remains: Can they provide a unique product or service personalized for their customers?

And finally, Box CEO Aaron Levie casually mentioned a random tidbit that revealed how Silicon Valley leaders have been navigating the crisis: They’re doing it together. Fortune’s Sy Mukherjee writes, “Evidently, there’s a special Slack channel filled with Silicon Valley types hashing out ideas and picking one another’s brains.”

Seems like this might be useful post-pandemic for a number of different issues. Diversity, I’m looking at you.

Danielle Abril

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