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In this series, current Putnamites share their experiences about life at Putnam in the age of COVID-19. In our conversations, these Putnamites discussed leadership’s rapid and proactive response from the outset of the pandemic, the different ways in which they and their colleagues have continued to strengthen their bonds, and how Putnam is supporting clients on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19.
Can you please tell our readers a little bit more about yourself—your background, your role at Putnam, how long you’ve been with the firm, and where you’re located?
Well, it’s fair to say I’m still relatively new at Putnam, having started here as a Senior Associate Consultant back in March 2020 after transitioning from another consulting firm. Maybe I should say, “way back in March,” considering all we’ve all been through these past months. I live in New York City – home since graduating from Vanderbilt in 2017 – which brings me full circle. Though I grew up in Los Angeles, I was born in New York; we lived only four blocks from my current apartment.
You gave a nod to our new reality. How has the ongoing pandemic been for you? First, have you been staying safe and healthy? What was Putnam’s response like?
I’m pleased and proud to say that Putnam has shown incredible foresight in its response to the pandemic. Early on we were given a realistic timeframe of anticipating a return to work target of next summer (with the opportunity to come in early if desired). Facing reality head-on has allowed many employees, new and old, to proactively plan for the pandemic and adjust their lives in a positive way.
Personally, like most, I have been hiding away as much as possible during COVID. Although I have always loved New York for its sheer energy, the rush of people and the constant pull to be out and about, I’ve discovered some unexpected new activities this summer. I’ve spent the majority of my free weekends camping and hiking, finally heeding the call to roam a bit outside of the city –and (in case my parents read this) I was also fortunate to be able to work from my parent’s home back in LA for a time.
At what point during the pandemic did Putnam transition to remote work? How did the firm facilitate the transition and what kinds of resources, directives, and support were Putnam employees offered?
Putnam proactively transitioned to remote work in mid-March. Coincidentally, this was also my first day on the job. Yep, stressful, considering how many unknowns there were back then. And yet, although we were all in uncharted territory, I found that it was very easy to acclimate. That’s a testament to the team here, the quality of the people.
While the entire company was transitioning its culture to a fully virtual environment, so many of my new co-workers, most of whom I had not yet had the chance to meet in person, reached out on my first few weeks for Zoom coffees. That meant a lot, got me fired up to make a good impression. After six months of working together so closely, it’s hard to believe that we still haven’t met. Zoom bonding – it’s real!
How would you describe leadership’s handling of the pandemic? What was communication like, what sort of directives were issued, and how did the firm’s response and actions affect your experience of the pandemic?
Despite all the negative emotions that come with this pandemic, my work has never been a source of concern. As mentioned, leadership took swift action and set expectations for a Summer 2021 in-office “reset.” Then they got busy making sure that the here and now was properly addressed, our new status as a remote workforce that still needed to be in lockstep on projects, with our thinking, keeping all the efficiencies and benefits of actually working side-by-side. To ensure the energy and focus stayed strong, our leadership team has held regular firm-wide meetings as well as checking in on a more direct, one-to-one level, keeping everyone updated on company status and – as much as possible – addressing and answering any questions that are swirling about to keep us all on the same page. More than ever, transparency and daily communication is critical, not just with clients but internally as well.
What do you believe was the key to Putnam successfully navigating the unprecedented turbulence brought upon by the pandemic?
I’ll double-down on my last answer: Exceptional leadership and communication. Although I started my job in the first few weeks of the shutdown, I never felt isolated or alone. Which is a pretty amazing statement. To have a new job feel like a reassuring anchor when the ground is moving beneath you, that’s a pleasant surprise to say the least. Frequent updates, firmwide meetings, and individual check-ins at every level have ensured that we are never left in the dark. Plus, having a lot of smart, interesting, and pretty cool people to bounce thoughts off of doesn’t hurt.
One of the elements of life at Putnam that consistently stands out is the firm’s outstanding firm culture—in fact, Putnam Associates ranked No. 3 last year in Vault’s Best Consulting Firms for Firm Culture. Given how integral culture is to your firm, can you please tell us how the pandemic has affected that? How has Putnam worked to preserve the core values of the firm’s culture, as well as an overall sense of connectedness, while everyone is working remotely?
I couldn’t agree more – it’s nice to know, from the inside, that the reputation is real. Putnam’s culture has been an absolute highlight of my experience. Beyond the positive attitudes of my co-workers, additional effort was taken to ensure a cohesive and seamless transition – activities ranging from virtual Happy Hours to diverse speaker sessions, video workout classes with my team to firmwide health challenges… it all helped to keep us active, engaged, and ultimately even closer together. I’m in touch with a lot of friends both in this industry and across industries, and judging by what I hear of their experiences, Putnam’s focus on culture definitely has us ahead of the curve.
As a life sciences consultancy, Putnam is in an interesting position in that many of the biopharma, diagnostic, and medical device clients you work with are likely to be on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19. Without divulging any confidential information, can you talk about what that’s been like? Are you involved in any projects with clients that directly pertain to the pandemic? What sorts of issues and opportunities are you encountering? How is Putnam serving clients that may be working to develop a vaccine, more efficient testing, or any number of pandemic-related initiatives?
I feel tremendously fortunate to have joined Putnam at such a pivotal time in the world, being given this opportunity to take a deep dive into the life sciences industry, to be part of the professionalism, the thoroughness…. I’ve always felt like it’s such an important area of study; there are so many interconnected factors from emerging science to our evolving culture so, yes, it’s an amazing feeling to be right on the cutting-edge of such critical studies and discoveries. Sometimes it feels like it’s all anyone can talk about – and I’m working in the thick of it all day, but I can’t talk about it!
At Putnam, as a brand new part of the team, I was given the incredible opportunity to hit the ground running on high profile cases, which included contributing directly to the effort to develop, manufacture and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine. I’ve always felt the work we do in the pharmaceutical industry is essential, but with the relentless impact of the virus, my time at Putnam this year has taken it to another level. Needless to say, there’s plenty for me to think about on those camping trips.
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