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In this episode of COVID Chronicles, our host, Brian Dykstra, interviews an illustrious panel of guests on their experience in managing change due to the disruption of the global 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic.
The panelists, Jim Meyer, Col. Tanya Estes, and Matthew Dunlop share their thoughts on the current situation and the impact it is having on their respective industries. The panel reveals how the transition to working from home progressed for their respective organizations - the roadblocks, learnings, and improvements they'll take away from this experience.
Brian asks thought-provoking questions to panelists to covering:
- The transition to remote learning
- VPN and licensing load issues with working from home
- The setup of the humble home office,
- Virtual coffee 1/2 hour
- Loss of 2 quarters for retail
- New innovations to bring customers back to retail
- Common COVID pitfalls; and
- The benefits of synchronous communication.
This is a light-hearted conversation between security specialists with a nuanced undertone reflecting on the advantages and drawbacks of the fall-out of COVID-19.
Panel Jim Meyer, managing director of Coordinated Response, offers a view of the pandemic through the lens of a disaster management consulting firm which covers a broad vertical of industries. Jim has a wealth of experience in disaster management, consulting, and policy.
Colonel Tanya Estes is the Core Program Director for the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Col. Estes has had a long career in the US Military and offers a novel insight into the impact of COVID-19 on the higher education sector and the military.
Matthew Dunlop is the Chief Information Security Officer for performance fitness brand Under Armour. Matthew offers a unique perspective on the pandemic from a global business that operates in the retail, fitness, and mobile application space.
Brian Dykstra is the host for the Cybrary COVID Chronicles. Brian is the President & CEO of Atlantic Data Forensics, with over 19 years of experience in the DIFR/IR space. Brian deals with clients across a variety of verticals and has a broad perspective on the impact of COVID-19 in technology. Brian has lead several Cybrary courses on digital forensics and Evimetry; these can be found at cybrary.com
Brian Dykstra: Okay, welcome to the second episode of the Atlantic Data Forensics COVID Chronicles. Episode two - we made it a whole two weeks. So we're doing well. With me today, I have an illustrious cast of folks here, and I'm gonna let them introduce themselves, starting with Jim Meyer.
Jim Meyer: Hi, I'm Jim Meyer. I'm the managing director of Coordinated Response. We help our clients develop a coordinated response to cyber threats. We operate mostly at the governance level, reviewing policies, doing security and risk assessments, helping with contingency plans. We do get down in the weeds when we're doing a review. So I'll look forward to talking with you this morning.
Matt Dunlop: Alright, Matt Dunlop, I'm the chief information security officer at Under Armour. We make shirts and shoes as well as we have a connected fitness line of business, which a lot of you are familiar with the app, MyFitness, and MyFitnessPal, et cetera. That's pretty much it.
Brian: All right. And Matt jumped out of line, but Colonel you're next.
Matt: I didn't know what the line was!
Col. Tanya Estes: You jumped out a line!
Brian: Left to right. Can't follow directions…
Col. Estes: I know him. So I'm Colonel Tanya Estes and I'm in civilian clothes today. I am the Core Program Director for the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the United States Military Academy.
Matt: Brian, you're muted.
Brian: Oh great. I'm muted. What I was saying was, and an attack helicopter pilot.
Col. Estes: That is true. The only bummer is that we don't have any Apache station here at West Point. So my flying nowadays has been confined to civilian flying, which I do as well. So, but yeah, I miss the Apache that's for sure.
Brian: Yeah. All right. Anybody that's ever seen one of those EDA tanks, but it's a nice thing. All right. So straight up here, we'll just start from the top of the questions. I'll start with you, Jim. So you're in the planning of other people's disasters or recoveries from disasters, things like that. Hopefully, a bunch of the folks that you helped plan actually saw this coming. I don't know a whole lot of my clients that had pandemic in their IR plan, but a few of them actually did. And a few of them had actually tested it over the years. So it is a workable thing, but why don't you go ahead and tell me what's going on in your industry and what your company and everything else?
Jim: Well, a lot of what we do involves interviewing employees of the organization, reviewing documents, sometimes getting a demo of a firewall ruleset. So, we can do all of that remotely. But one of our clients was planning to start a response plan program with us and they want to defer it until we're there in person. And sometimes that does help, I mean, you can actually understand the culture better if you're there in person. We were supposed to be in Chicago on May 16th, but on Thursday before that, the client closed their office entirely. And we started doing the interviews and document sharing remotely and May 16th they're up and running. And they'd have been the entire time doing security assessment or risk assessment. And they're still managing the work, what they have to do for their members and their clients.
Brian: Hmm. What about the rest of your clients? Did some of them have that as part of their plans? Had they already tested that?
Jim: That's a good question. I know that a lot of them have half their staff working remotely now. So they've been able to respond. I think the big angst we all have is the remote access secure enough? And in fact, one client literally had us consult with their service provider, as they migrated to remote access and then strengthen the security of that remote access. So, most of our clients seem to be responding well.
Brian: Matt, Colonel, did you guys have any problems with the security of your remote access during the startup? We had several clients that they were not prepared for their entire workforce to go remote.
Jim: One client had to make some adjustments for certain people who really never had used remote access, but I haven't heard of any problems so that they seem to be doing well. And when we have access to our client's sites, it's very secure; VPN and use virtual machines.
Brian: Gotcha. Any comments in there?
Matt: So I'll just say that we made some good security choices early on that really helped us. We had taken a zero-trust approach for our entire infrastructure, a couple of years back which really helps streamline the transition to work from home. For us, it wasn't so much, do we have the technology in place to work from home? Most of the stuff we've been dealing with is just to build trust in technology. It took a while to help people understand that it's not WebEx, it's failing. It's the fact that you have a 2008 modem connected to your house for Internet. Then there was also a brief run, in the beginning, of random work from home apps that people discovered, that thought that would be better than the corporate proof tools that we had in place. And so once we were able to kind of get everybody to trust in the technology and just get comfortable working for home - cause for a lot of people, this was the first time they'd ever really worked from home. A couple months later it's a whole different situation where everyone's really embracing it and everyone's trusting that technology and it's become the new norm for us.
Col. Estes: And for us, we actually really lucked out. This past year we transitioned from the defense research and engineering network, which we traditionally been also known as the DREN, which allowed us to have some freedom as a military organization. Cause normally a lot of sites would not have been able to be accessed in a typical military network. We moved from the DREN to Office 365 using an open network. The big thing that we do of course is we still require VPN login - VPN tunnel for pretty much everything that we're doing that has to be behind any kind of protection. So that was already in place. And then again, we didn't know this was coming, but the fact that we had transitioned to 365 actually worked out really well. Everybody's been able to use MS Teams for a lot of meetings. And when we're dealing with cadets, we're primarily using Blackboard collaborate or canvas. And it's been actually pretty straightforward. Now, luckily, I'm from the department that deals with this, I'm a computer scientist. So delivering content to the cadets remotely was new for us, but not as challenging as I think it was for some departments. I'd say for us, we chose to deliver most of our content synchronously. Whereas other departments tended to move towards asynchronous delivery of content. So that was just kind of a choice often made based upon what was best or easiest for that particular discipline. I think one of the biggest challenges has been classes that have labs. So for example, our electrical engineers have really struggled because you gotta be in a lab where you can hack hardware and the cadets don't have access to that. So they've been very creative about using simulators to simulate circuits and the things that they need to accomplish. But again, for us, it's been pretty straightforward and we're actually continuing to deliver content remotely. I think even we're seeing the opportunity as a way, like when cadets are away from the Academy, instead of them having to miss class, they might be able to attend remotely, or even if nothing else, we provided recordings that are done asynchronously for them.
Brian: Right. And did any of you experienced loading problems? So we had two kind of serious problems that we saw with clients. Largely one was capacity, right? So they just either hardware, license wise, whatever it was for their remote asset solution. They'd never planned for all 8,000 employees to be doing that at the same time. The other piece - and it was weird to me because I don't think that way I'm so used to everybody having a laptop around me - a lot of large, large companies, they don't - they're small desktop computers, things like this. So some of them resorted to actually just boxing people's computers up and sending them home with them with some idea that somehow they were going to be able to hook that up and make it work at home. So the aftereffect we saw that was HelpDesks that were trying to get themselves set up to operate remotely. We're just getting flooded out with people who are like, I don't know what this cord is for... It's blue... Where does it go? Trying to debug that sort of thing in an environment that they couldn't see. Everybody's home environment; completely different. I don't know if you all experiencing that sort of -
Col. Estes: Well, chime in on that one. Yeah. We definitely experienced that here because the decision to not bring the corps cadets back from spring break meant that none of them, except for a handful had their laptops. So literally they're tactical officers - these are actual army officers who were in charge of kind of the daily welfare of a group of cadets, about 120 of them - literally went into their rooms, boxed up their computers, and shipped them. So that was one big piece. The good thing is being Office 365, they were able to join things, even if they just had an iPad or cell phone, they were able to do a lot. That was good. We did do some load testing. For example, when we gave a final exam. We call a term end exam and it was to 530 people on Blackboard collaborate with monitoring, and so we did some load testing on that to make sure that that wasn't going to absolutely kill the system. The other thing we did run into is that we didn't have enough licenses for BlackBoard monitor - respond to slap down browser monitoring. We'd only had I think a couple hundred licenses. But luckily we were very quickly able to get in touch with those folks and we got it increased to where we could do 530 all at once. So yeah, we definitely ran into that, but again, fortunate and that we're off the DREN and we were able to kind of bring your own device in a lot of cases.
Jim: Well, it's interesting. I just finished taking a course at community college in networking and my course was all online. But most of the courses are in person and in the middle of the semester, they had to switch. We used the lockdown browser that you mentioned, Blackboard and I did not see a capacity problem. I was very impressed, very impressed. This is community college of Baltimore County and they've got five campuses. So, I mean, it's not a small footprint.
Brian: Yeah, they're a big operation there.
Jim: You have to talk to network engineers. You have to understand them. They don't speak English. So you take a course in networking. Now I can talk with them.
Brian: I love the hardware, guys come on.
Matt: But I think for us, I was involved in some calls early on with a lot of the other retail industry and there were some challenges across the board, but you were talking about Brian with desktops and no VPNs.
Brian: And a lot of the vendors stepped up too; Citrix and a lot of the other vendors just went, "Look, we're just shooting licenses out to you. We'll catch up with you later."
Matt: Yeah. And so that was a challenge initially. We had laptops across the board, so we didn't suffer from that. And the other thing that helped us is a lot of our applications are SaaS applications. So that being the case, you don't need VPN to access them. So we were able to just limit the VPN access to those that yeah needed it for critical business functions, and so it helped ease the burden on the VPN. Plus like you said, a lot of the vendors have been really lenient on license agreements and thresholds and things like that are helping customers get past their license agreements. One of the interesting things that we've started to see recently was, I mentioned earlier we have the whole connected fitness side of the business with the MyFitness and the MyFitnessPal and things like that. And we started exceeding our thresholds for our web security applications. I mean, it doesn't impact anything cause we're just upping the thresholds. But I mean, it's an interesting trend because as folks aren't going into the stores and folks are starting to visit our eCommerce sites more and folks are starting to be more active because they're at home, they're using our tracking apps more. And so we're seeing record numbers of enrollments in MyFitnessPal and MyFitness. And we started these healthy at home campaigns where we give free workout ideas for folks to do at home. And so we're seeing just that huge volume has exceeded any of our estimates. So it's just a kind of interesting trend you see across the board.
Brian: Yeah. There's a lot of unexpected consequences of; that's question two - we'll get to that one though. Colonel Estes, since you're sort of representing higher education here, what's going on with higher education? Where are you guys going? What are you planning?
Col. Estes: So from the perspective, well, one thing I will chime in that Matt mentioned that we've seen as well, has been that a lot of vendors really have been pretty generous about things. One of the other things we ran into was cadets didn't have their textbooks and we had readings out of the textbooks and you'd reach out to publishers and they're like, here you go, here's free downloads. Because we could prove that we've purchased the textbook at one time. So that was something that was really great and generous of them to be able to do a big thing. There was the security element; one publisher gave us the PDF and said, please try not to let this get out. And so we made it a read-only on the cadets' networks so they could get to it, use it, have it as a resource, but they couldn't distribute it. And that was a good thing. And sort of taking a lot of pictures and stringing them together.
Brian: Sort out your good vendors from your bad vendors, right? Some horror stories from others, where they went to the vendor and said, "Help me out" and the vendor went, "Send us a bunch of money."
Col. Estes: But I think the good news for us from the higher education perspective, I've not only got my own perspective, but I've got a daughter who's going to be a junior at Berkeley. Now she's technically a junior; finished her last final the other day. And to hear what different college kids are going through at different universities compared to us. So some of the big things that we've seen has been some universities have chosen to go to pass, fail, or at least give their students the option to choose, to go pass, fail, or to choose, to stay with letter grades based upon the challenges presented by this remote learning environment. We here at the Military Academy chose not to do that. However, we have had cadets who have had some really difficult situations in their home life in terms of not having bandwidth, we've had parents lose jobs, that the cadet is having to provide for/help take care of the family. So in cases like that, we've given them the opportunity to withdraw from a course or to take an NC and then complete it at a later time when they're in a better situation. And we actually had a few cadets come back because their situation was so challenging. They were able to get an exception of policy, to be physically located at the Academy and reduce the burden for their families, where there's a lot of kids and two parents without a job and trying to provide for so many people. But what we've seen across the board is - if you've been watching the news, of course, some institutions have already chosen to go remote already in the fall. We have not made any decision like that, we are currently working multiple plans for the future. So I kind of mentioned a little bit earlier we've had some talk about, normally at West Point, we only have 18 people in the average classroom, which is much smaller than what you're used to at a typical university. That's just the way we are and the way we're structured. We're talking currently about potentially having half the number of students in a classroom. So perhaps you'll have nine physically at a classroom designed for 18 and the other nine might be in the barracks working remotely with the same class. So there's been talk about that. One of the big things that we see if we go that route is going to be the need for high quality - I mean, I'm just talking with my computer speaker right now - but high-quality audio-visual, the possibility of having a room's rigged to be videoed, where the instructor can perhaps just push the button and the video begins and then they don't have to have a person in there doing the video sessions. So there's been talk about that. One of the other big things we've done from the remote perspective, - a lot of instructors were using laptops primarily - so a lot of our instructors have requested like the Wacomms where you can actually draw using that. And we've put in several orders for those and literally been piloting using those because it kind of provides a more interactive environment with the students. One of the biggest challenges also has been that interaction, so we've all been very quickly learning to use the tools that are provided and collaborate in Teams, raising your hand, smiley faces, or unhappy faces, ff you understand or don't understand something that's going on, using polling, just to keep them involved in the conversation. Because as we all know, it's very easy to hit mute and turn off your video and kind of do that, so we're trying to keep it as interactive as possible. And as I'd said earlier, our programs that really need that physical in-person presence for things like labs, where you actually have to do something physical in the classroom. We're trying to come up with creative ways to still get the educational content of that interaction without having to do it in person. So a lot of looking into simulators that are out there for, you name it, physics, chemistry, electrical engineering. Well, anyway we can simulate - you mix these particular chemicals and you get this particular output or this particular third chemical - we're trying to find the best ways to do that. I think here at the Military Academy, they've been very creative about that and I don't expect that to change. That's probably kind of what we're looking at right now in the future. And I guess a positive note that I mentioned earlier is that, yeah, we have cadets that are on various sports teams and clubs. And a lot of times they would miss class because they're competing against Navy or wherever. And they would just miss that class and there wasn't really a whole lot they could do to make it up. The good news is we've all had to become experts really quickly delivering remote content. And so we've all said, I guess a good benefit of this is that we plan to probably continue in some fashion to be able to deliver content remotely. And the other aspect is, as Matt could recall, having taught here at the Academy, we get snowed in pretty good once in a while. And we'd have instructors stuck on the other side of the mountain and you're quickly scrambling to cover down. This now opens up a whole possibility to take care of people in that situation. So instructors don't have to risk coming in on a bad weather day to teach. They can still deliver the content. And also for those cadets, whether they're sick, in the hospital, on a trip; now they're going to be able to have a way to get that content. So that's a big upshot of this whole situation.
Brian: Are you doing synchronous or asynchronous content?
Col. Estes: Primarily, we in our department, who primarily been doing synchronous content and the feedback we've gotten from cadets is that they prefer that. I think partly what it's done is it allows them to have a more normally structured day where they feel like there's some structure to their life beyond, being at home and then being around siblings and family members. And most of them have appreciated that other departments have gone to asynchronous. It's really dependent on the topic being discussed. And so as computer scientists, it was like, oh yeah, no brainer, we're going to do this online. But other departments have made very different decisions based upon their discipline, and even down to the individual instructor, there have been some departments we've talked to where some instructor chosen to teach synchronously and others chosen to teach asynchronously. So it's been a bit of both here and watching my daughter go through it. Most of her events have been synchronous through Berkeley, running the gamut from political science to physics has generally stayed, for her anyway, synchronous and my department head would prefer that we keep it synchronous as much as possible based on that feedback.
Brian: Yeah. We're going to be talking to some independent schools here in the next couple of weeks and the ones that are the most successful right now chose to go synchronous path. Parents like it, students like it, it's just a happier thing.
Col. Estes: Especially here at the Academy where the cadets are so used to an incredible amount of structure, they're not used to an unstructured situation. I think again, they appreciate knowing I need to be somewhere at this time and this time and this time. And then it allows them for when they do have white space to plan it appropriately based on the places that they need to be and need to do it. It keeps them having a routine. You know, the guys still have to shave and they gotta wear a nice collared shirt. It just keeps them in that slightly more disciplined mode than they would if it was totally asynchronous.
Brian: Yeah. All right, Matt, we're going to get to you. What's going on in the retail sports - I don't even know what to, how to completely describe it, cause it's more than sports; it's retail, sporting lifestyle area.
Matt: Well, not lifestyle, they focus performer.
Brian: Oh, I'm gonna have to write that down. I'm never going to remember that.
Matt: Yeah, it's just a funny distinction because Under Armour has really taken a stand to not follow the whole lifestyle trend that a lot of the other fashion industry's gone and really focused our technology and our business on the focus performer; functional workout clothes that are helpful in improving you as an athlete, you know? Regardless, as you could imagine, we've taken a pretty huge hit. I mean, I think every retail industry, except for like groceries has taken a hit and it's expected when with all the uncertainty that's out there people aren't looking to buy shirts and shoes or they're looking to buy toilet paper and milk.
Brian: Alcohol. I heard liquor sold a lot in three weeks; up like 700%.
Matt: That's true. Alcoholics.
Col. Estes: The commissary just got toilet paper. I'm just saying, anyway.
Matt: Surprisingly our eComm numbers are up and people are actually shopping and I think it's because people are more active at home. Our numbers aren't what they were before, but, like I said, that's expected. It's good to see that the consumers are still thinking about maintaining fitness and using the time to be more active. I think it's funny. - I'm usually out in the neighborhood running and see people I've never seen before, and I'm like, I didn't even know these people lived in this area, which is a good thing. It's a good thing that people are getting outside more. It's unfortunate that a pandemic had to cause it, but an overall improved lifestyle. One of the things that Under Armour has done - that was one of the reasons when I retired from the army I was really passionate about coming to Under Armour - was just its mission and its value system. And we're not selling shirts and shoes, but we're still actively involved - we're not selling as many anyway, but we're still actively involved in helping the community. I mean, we have our innovation cell that immediately got together and designed masks that we could print out on our equipment and send to healthcare organizations throughout the country. And we're making gallons, we're making face shields, putting together PPE to ship out. We are allowing the Maryland Emergency Management Association, MEMA, to leverage our distribution houses for shipping of their goods worldwide and using our shipping network to help facilitate that. So, just lots of cool things that make you kind of glad to be part of the team that are happening despite the fact that the retail numbers aren't where everyone would hope they'd be and I think it's going to be some time before - well, what is normal? - but before things start getting back to normal because -
Brian: We get to what normal is going to be.
Matt: Just because it's going to be a slow awakening, you know?
Brian: So this is my favorite question. Question number two. I'll come back around to you, Jim. But what was the unexpected thing that you didn't see coming with this whole transition and how did you solve it?
Jim: Wow. I mean, to be honest, everything's unexpected; having to adjust how we work with our clients having to adjust what we do day-to-day. I haven't seen my business partner in person in months and this is a guy that I'm always working with either here or on the road. We joked about renting an RV so we can drive out to the client site in Chicago and sleep in the parking lot. So it seems like it's a constant adjustment. I did want to make a remark in this notion of synchronous and asynchronous. As we've said a lot of what I do could be done asynchronously. I can send a letter to the client. They could answer the questions when it was convenient or here's the latest version of the assessment. They'll review it in their own time, but there's a value in synchronicity. There's no question about it. And Brian, you do take tabletop exercises. So do I, even if you do it in Zoom, you're missing something. If you've got everybody in a room, big, big round table, they see you when you start frowning and you'd say, I wonder, what's wrong? What am I not seeing? And you lose that, cause you got too many screens with too many people. There's high value in synchronicity. And I think for the cadets, some of it is that they talk to each other about that base class. And I didn't understand this, Oh, here's what we need to do. And you kind of lose some of that. No. So everything is disruptive, but the good news is I'm of the right age. So I can go in during the senior hour.
Brian: Yeah, no, we did a large scale TTX for client full day one. The first time I'd ever had to deliver one completely virtual like that, I mean, usually, there's some aspect of a few people dialed in or something like that. And it was brutal because we had over 50 participants, just timing to get everybody on. And then invariably somebody to have a question for Department X. And that was when they dropped offline unexpectedly. So we're trying to get there and like you said, you can't really look at a person's face; I don't think they get it and they don't feel like they can ask a question either.
Jim: I just was supposed to be at a conference last week, three days on. Cybersecurity and security and audit. And we did the whole thing remote. They recorded it in advance. So I'm watching myself present and the audience is, and this was on a product called On 24. They're asking questions in the chatbox and you can't keep up. I mean, its not the same. Brian: No. Yeah, I do a lot of speaking engagements and I really dislike doing it now because I'm staring at my own PowerPoint, listening to myself in my own headphones. I can't see any of the 300 people that are logged in. And I know somebody who's got a question and none of my jokes are funny because I didn't think they were funny, to begin with. It just doesn't work. And then I have to do it -
Matt: Brian, that doesn't really have to do with the situation we're in.
Brian: Without that feedback, it's an impossible situation, but Colonel, what about you? What came up that you were just blindsided and how'd you handle that?
Col. Estes: I think the one I'm dealing with it right now. We had cadets interacting probably more - we have an honor code here, as you probably know, cadets will not lie cheat or steal or tolerate those who do - and when it comes to documenting assistance that you received from others, it's always really clear cut. You know, anything you get from your instructor, your textbook, you don't have to document, but if you get it from somebody else, you've got to document it. We had a lot of cadets having these group chats and group conversations, and I think in some cases, they lost sight of the fact that, Oh, the instructor's, not here, we need to document this So a little bit of nudging in that regard to kinda remind people like, Hey, you know, this still applies. And just because you're having this conversation via FaceTime or Zoom or whatever doesn't mean that doesn't apply. I think some of the other surprising things have been, even though I have got a great team and we love interacting in person a lot, it doesn't always happen. I work at a department of introverts, I'm one of the only extroverts and people tend to kinda get in their offices and do their work. And so we've had like a lot more, I don't want to say forced conversations, but somewhat where we're like, it's very easy to just have a quick online meeting than it is to have a meeting in person. If that makes any sense, it's less painful for people. So I find that my faculty we've all been interacting a lot more frequently and that's been a good thing because there's been trends we've noticed among the cadets in their work and in solutions that they've provided to various problems that we might not normally have caught or discovered in the past. And we were able to like, say, Hey, are you seeing cadets do this? Oh yeah. I am seeing that. That's weird. And then another instructor says, Oh yeah, I showed him how to do that. Because partly the other thing that's happening is cadets can still - we record every class and they hang and they stay up there and cadets can access any of those they don't have to be in that section to watch another instructor's content. And so that's been kind of interesting because it's like you find out that they're watching somebody else's videos and getting this idea that you didn't put out, but then you're like, Oh, that's okay. At least it came from one of our folks, so that's been kind of a surprising thing just that, you know, they're picking up things that you may not be aware of because you didn't say it in your classroom, but then you find out they're watching somebody else's videos and that's been kind of useful. But also, like I said, we've been troubling at times. We've had to like double back and make sure everything was okay.
Brian: You think it's going to long-term build a better, more rounded officer, potentially with a lot of different voices?
Col. Estes: I think so one of the things that we always tell the cadets here is we tell them we encourage them to get help from their instructor. We call it additional instruction or AI, and sometimes you'll have a cadet where the instructor-cadet relationship it's like, for whatever reason, they don't feel comfortable approaching the instructor, or they don't feel comfortable that they're not getting what they need from that instructor. And so we've always made it pretty open, Like, hey, if you need to talk to somebody else because you might get it better from someone else, do that. And I think because we have all these recordings hanging out there, it's really easy for a cadet to say, Well, let me see what major so-and-so had to say about the topic. And that's a good thing. I will say that one thing we're talking about doing is kind of changing our approach to things like, Well, how do you cite assistance that you might've gotten by watching another instructor's video? Or how do you cite properly a conversation where you don't remember exactly what you got? Like keeping track of these things, maybe you say, Hey, if you're going to talk with your friends, record it so that when it comes time to turn in your work, you know who you got help from, things like that. So that was a little bit surprising. In retrospect, it makes sense that that happened, but it was a little surprising from our end for that.
Brian: It's definitely interesting and unique to your industry. Matt, what about you? What was the bus that came out of the dark?
Matt: So, first I have to ask Tanya, how are they doing beast this year?
Col. Estes: How are they doing? Oh, how are they doing beast?
Col. Estes: Well, there's a lot of different con ops; beast barracks, by the way, is it's roughly the equivalent of basic training for soldiers, which they have been doing basic training throughout this using social distancing. I mean, you see drill sergeants with the mask on yelling at soldiers. It's pretty funny. They're making it happen we're going to be doing the same thing here. We will have beast barracks, there are some plans in place that if we have someone come in with any kind of symptoms or anything like that, they're obviously going to be isolated and cared for. As we're bringing back the cadets, we're bringing them back in waves and making sure that they're self-isolated for at least a couple of weeks prior to them co-mingling with one another. So, beast is going to be shortened. There's just nothing we can do about it. Buckner, which is the second summer training also greatly shortened, but we are still planning to have training events. There's only been a few things that have had to be flat out canceled. And those events, like my daughter's Naval ROTC, and she's supposed to be on her summer cruise right now, which she's really bummed about it, on a real Navy ship. So a lot of the Razzies ROTC is, have just canceled much of their training for the summer. In our case, we picked the things that we could allow to slip or have alternative events to replace them that would still meet the requirements. Not to the same level, but at least still meet the intent of why they have that training event in the first place. So, I'm not as involved in those con ops because I've been literally focusing on delivering academic content, but I've tuned in to them and I hear things. And so that's what we're hearing. I can't remember what our day is going to be, they did move it to the right reception day; the day our new cadets first show up. But they're working at Matt. And again, I'm sorry, I'm not one of the big planners, but it's out there.
Matt: I suspect after the first 14 days and they can forego social distancing since they don't interact with anyone, but each other anyway. That's right.
Col. Estes: Well, there's not already one joke that I saw posted on Facebook that it said, Yeah, step up to within six feet of my line. So yes, social distancing for the cadet and the red sash was up to within six feet of my line.
Matt: Yeah. So I think as far as - to answer your question, Brian - I think as far as the things that were most unexpected for me were the fact that I realized how horrible my office situation was, because my previous X number of years, I couldn't take any work home, so I really didn't have a good office. And so what you can't see is behind the camera, my laptop set up on a bar. So you might call that a win. I don't know.
Col. Estes: I don't know that's a bad thing Matt, I mean, I'm five feet from my bar a.k.a refrigerator.
Matt: My second monitor is sitting on top of a case of beer. So, it's not all bad, but I've been anyway. Other than that, for cyber folks, it wasn't a big transition; we work remotely all the time. What it did was it allowed us to forgo the commute. And so the one thing that we are lacking though is our team is a really close team and there's a lot of office banter that goes on. Cause we have our own isolated workspace, badge entry, all that kind of stuff, so free discussions going on in there all the time. And so, I really didn't want to miss out on that. So one of the things I started doing, as soon as we started working from home was I implemented a number of virtual coffee hours, or virtual coffee half hour, multiple times a week, just to keep up the ability to have the office banter. I think that's been a really good thing to just keep and the team keeps telling me that they really appreciate that. And they mentioned to other people and people are like, wow, that'd be a great idea because we're losing touch with our team. But one of the interesting side effects that I noted was I have teams in multiple locations. I have the corporate team that sits in Baltimore. And then we have the connected fitness team that sits down in Austin with the engineers. And while we have a great relationship with them, they're always kind of not as integrated into the team. And so this actually has caused the entire team to work a lot closer and get to know each other a lot better because now we're including that team in our virtual coffee breaks and things like that weren't normally included in before. And so, I just thought that was an interesting side effect of working from home is it's actually pulling the team closer together as a whole.
Brian: Yeah. The office thing that you brought up, it's interesting. So in larger companies, for your senior executives, your more senior management, things like that, the work from home office, not a big deal, right? They've got a room for that. They've got equipment for that, but when I've talked to some of the people at the lower end of the employment ladder, they're newer employees, things like that, they don't have that. You know, there's three developers all share in a two-bedroom apartment. And they have to switch who gets to sit at the kitchen table for a zoom meeting or something like that. I had an employee of my own come in last week and ask if he could take his chair home. He and his wife both work, his wife would assume the office and has been sitting on a stool for the last four weeks. It never occurred to me. I was like, Jeez take anything you want. But some strange environments out there that people have had to work out of home and things like that.
Col. Estes: Yeah. That's been one thing I'm missing my work chair. I'm sitting on a dining room chair and I really ought to swap it out. Cause it's like your back is uncomfortable, more so than it would be normally. So, yeah, that's been a silly thing that I probably should have picked up my chair.
Brian: Yeah. Just little things that you don't think about that the other complaint -
Matt: The great thing about the bar is it can double as a sit-stand desk.
Col. Estes: Is that the only great thing about it, Matt?
Brian: Again, this is all right. Let me move on to my favorite question. Well, I don't know if it's my favorite question, kinda like two better than I like four, but going back around to you, Jim, future for your industry, your company in particular, what's it, what's it look like? You're muted Jim.
Jim: We had that special one of our clients when they were asking us, when did we think we'll be able to fly again? And I scratch my head because I haven't seen good things, although the airfares are really low, the question of safety is a big issue and you can get into a hotel, is it being well taken care of? How do you know? So that's a concern and a challenge. Again, getting back to some form of synchronicity is still is a challenge. Okay. I did want to make a mention, I have a friend, who's an engineer at electrical manufacturing company; a defense contractor. And when you brought that up, Tanya, about the electrical engineering lab. They have half the team works Monday, Wednesday, the other half works Tuesday, Thursday, and anybody can skip if they want to just come in at night and work at night so that they keep as much distancing as possible. And I think maybe that's what we would see is; instead of having 30 people in a room for a conference, maybe we just go and have four people and we keep the distance, so we know that we can synchronize, but keep the groups smaller. So that's what I'm thinking.
Col. Estes: That's a great point, Jim, that might be a way forward for us. It's hard to say at this point.
Brian: Yeah. I've been using that as my barometer question for people is how long is it going to be before you're willing to stand in a room of 50 people again? Hmm. 50 that's a lot of people.
Col. Estes: I don't know. A lot of it depends. I mean, we're being on post here. We're very socially isolated normally. So it hasn't been that - we've all been kind of existing for the last two months in this little bubble here, getting together with 50 people who have been here for the last two months. Yeah. I'd be totally comfortable doing that. Doing it with people from the outside, not so much because we're right outside of New York city where this has been really hard hit, right?
Brian: Yeah. What about the company Jim, company? Uh, gonna survive its way through this. You and Jim still gonna get the bus and travel around.
Jim: We certainly hope so. We've got a pipeline that looks pretty good for the next six months. Although one deal we expected to start next week has been postponed indefinitely. Not for this reason, but just for the changing priorities.
Brian: So you guys don't know this, but Jim's partner is also Jim. So, Jim and Jim.
Jim: Our clients call us the Jims
Brian: Jims show up and then they leave and you have excellent policy. That's how that works. Colonel, what about for you - the Point is going to survive no matter what.
Col. Estes: Yeah, I mean, this isn't going to change. As I've already said there's going to be changes. And I think the good news is we're going to take everything we've learned from this and continue to put it into practice in the future. So heaven forbid, there's a round two which people are forecasting. The good news is we already know how to deal with this. It's not going to be this, I think we got hit the first time and this was all brand new for everyone. I do know being a member of the military when I was down at Fort Rucker, they actually had a plan for a pandemic. And I was involved in a run-through of that. And I look back and this is like 10 years ago. And so it was kind of comical that then went through this, and we actually had this happen. So, you know, I think that now we know what this looks like, we know how we handled it in this instance. It will not be as difficult to simply say, It's pandemic again, roll out what we did in the past. And I think there's a lot - I think you're going to see - from a military perspective, we're going to make sure that we have the PPE on hand for everybody, and I think every organization is going to do this. So that if this happens, that we've got that stockpile to go to protect people that need to be protected. I think you're going to see much more medical surveillance just in general. The kind of the joke is, the cadets get sick and it goes through the core like wildfire, and then we as instructors catch it, we take it home, kids get it, they take it to school, it mutates at school, they get it back to us. And it's this vicious cycle. Whereas we would jokingly say a lot of times the cadets, Oh, you're sick, here's your C pack go away, go to quarters. I think there's probably going to be a little bit more surveillance when you see somebody come in with a fever, we see somebody come in with certain symptoms. We are living with a population here that is the least impacted for the most part. You're talking about college kids, very healthy college kids. We have nobody here pretty much that we know of with a preexisting condition. I think the biggest danger is faculty members who might be in those high-risk categories and also family members of faculty who might fall into those high-risk categories. And that's going to be something that, again, if you're one of those people, perhaps you're teaching remotely more often than in the classroom, but again, we just don't know yet. This is all kind of pre-decisional.
Brian: What about general higher education itself? I don't know how much you interact with other colleges and universities, but I mean, I think there's going to be a kind of a huge sea change in what goes on. I'm not sure that a lot of smaller colleges are -were kind of on the ropes anyway - necessarily gonna survive this.
Col. Estes: And I mean, we've heard rumors, I'm not in a lot of contact with a lot of other universities right now, but we have heard stories that some of the smaller universities are going to struggle to make it through this. I would believe that the community colleges will probably continue to do pretty well, especially because if you can stay home and be near your family, maybe get that remote content. I think the biggest challenge for college students, again, watching my own daughter go through it has been the loss of that experience. So one of the big things is you all know that college provides is that transition from being a child to being an adult and paying your own bills and renting your first apartment and furnishing your first apartment and all of those, those things that you do in college. I think that could be a dangerous thing to lose from a generation that oftentimes you've heard the stories of the kids staying in their parent's home longer than usual and not learning how to drive, which hasn't been completely true. I mean, I haven't seen it with kids around here, but, the loss of that, I think would be difficult to deal with going forward. My thinking is that most universities that are able, are going to have a hybrid approach. They'll have in-person content and online content. We've seen a lot of universities already delivering whole degree programs remotely. I would expect you'll see even more of that than ever because now they know how to do it. They've had to do it. They had no choice. But below the college, below the university level, a lot more people I know locally are going to homeschool their kids for the next few years. They've said, Hey, we got this figured out now. And I like having my kids here, I don't have to worry about them getting sick. So that's another interesting side effect that I've seen in the neighborhood here. A lot of people homeschool their kids here, but I'm hearing talk about more and more doing it in the future as a result of this.
Brian: Interesting take alright. Matt retail performance, fitness enhancement of key, whatever it is. If you have lost that already, where's it going?
Matt: It's really hard to say where it's going, I think retail obviously will survive because people are going to go back out and people will still want to look their best and people are gonna exercise and will still want it to perform as you know. Either as somebody who's just trying to improve themselves overall or just somebody who's a high-end performer. So there's going to still be that need and there's still a need now. What's going to be more interesting is what happens to the retail landscape in general. Are malls going to survive? That's a huge Petri dish of people - people I don't know, and it's going to be a long time before people want to go to mall again. And then on the flip side of that, there's so much really cool technology that's getting put into the retail space, things like virtual changing rooms where you can go in and it'll show you what the outfit looks like without putting it on, or foot scanner that will take your shoe and fit you to the best possible size. You just things you can't do online that hopefully will cause people to go back out and cause people to go to the stores. Cause, I think that's where you just get the full experience of the goods and products you're trying to buy. From a corporate perspective, I think we're going to continue to see the cloud presence grow. You're going to continue to see more and more things moving out you're going to see more eComm expanding more of our people leveraging things like the fitness apps. Even from an internal work perspective, you're gonna see companies starting to evaluate who really needs to be in the office; the innovation folks, they need to be in the office because there's specialized equipment that they need to mess with. Different functions don't need to be. IT doesn't need to be in the office, for the most part. Cybersecurity doesn't need to be an office for the most part. And you start kind of asking yourself, well, we want to get back to the office cause there is a lot of goodness that Tanya mentioned with just collaboration among peers and there's also you go to the coffee machine and you have a conversation with Jim or Sue that you meant to catch up, but you haven't gotten with them, and so it's a great opportunity to talk to them about something that was on your mind versus setting up a deliberate meeting that you have to have with somebody. So a lot of those conversations just aren't taking place. There will eventually be that push to get back in the office, but how much and how often and who all goes. I think it's going to be things that you really have to consider. Cause if you're going to the office, at least for now, you're putting on a mask, you're anxious about distance from people. And then by the time you're starting to consider all these different things, in lunch, your coffee, who's touched the coffee stirs, can I wipe down the coffee machine, who prepared my meal. All those things start to become a distraction from progress and getting things done. It might be more distracting and less productive to get people back to the office for now than it is to have people just continue to work from home. And so those are the kinds of discussions that we're having within Under Armour, what makes the most sense for productivity to bring people back?
Brian: So we had the CISO of Levi Strauss on last week, and he specifically mentioned the impact of basic week two losing quarters. Two quarters just cut out of the calendar where sales just were anemic and how they weather that and it was just going to have to be, and there was potentially not a great third or fourth quarter coming.
Matt: Yep. More than the same, we're in the same situation and it's the reality you have to face. And it's really unfortunate, but well we're all seeing it, the smaller companies are struggling and having a hard time surviving. We are fortunate enough that we're a big enough brand, known globally. And I just feel so bad for a lot of these small companies, especially the ones that are just getting started that are going to suffer from this.
Brian: And that's what they said to, Levi Strauss 150+-year-old brand, we're going to be here tomorrow. It's not going to be a problem, but there's smaller players, big players that are going to disappear in this and to some extent, they were almost looking at - not being morbid - but they were looking at it as a buying opportunity. There's an opportunity to absorb some of those good ideas and good companies, in this time, if you're a big company with a bigger nest egg behind you. So, all right. Well, I greatly appreciate all of you taking an hour out and spending time with me today. I was supposed to say this upfront. I always forget it is the 22nd of May, 2020. So, when we go back and watch these later, people will be like, what are they talking about? Pandemic, never heard of it? Thanks all for being here. I may call on you later as we have interesting mixes and matches of people moving forward. I really appreciate it.