Recovering from COVID-19: “We must be brave”

We speak to slicedbread project manager Jennie Strickland-Grogan (pictured above), who came down with COVID-19 while in the middle of a major client project. She is now recovering from the virus and wants to spread a message of hope.

Monday 9th March was a big day for slicedbread project manager, Jennie Strickland-Grogan: it was the first stage of go-live of the company’s sharedo case management system at Australian law firm Hall & Wilcox, so after months of hard work it was no wonder she was feeling exhausted.

Strickland-Grogan, who is based in the UK and working in the UK during go-live, said: “From Wednesday night I became really fatigued and instead of supporting the go-live I went to sleep. I thought I must be really tired from the project.”

It fairly quickly became clear that this wasn’t just exhaustion: both Strickland-Grogan and her husband had contracted COVID-19.

The reason Strickland-Grogan is talking to me is not to add to the growing fear surrounding the virus, in fact, quite the opposite. She is getting over the virus; she continued to work on the go-live; and she managed to look after her children. She tells me: “I lived through in the last week what a lot of people are about to experience,” adding: “The one message I want to send out is, it’s possible, be brave.”

It was somewhat ironically Friday 13th that Strickland-Grogan, who is otherwise healthy, realised she was sick, and she tells me: “On Friday night I started to get chest pains and my husband Pete, who is asthmatic, had a temperature. The main symptom was that we both had breathing difficulties. It was nothing to be scared of but walking up and down the stairs and talking can make you feel out of breath.”

Strickland-Grogan says that her children, who are two and seven, must have had the virus, although they haven’t displayed symptoms. “We haven’t kept away from them, so I assume they have had it,” she says.

What helped her to get through the worst of it was having a routine at home, where Strickland-Grogan and her husband created a shift of two hours on, two hours off.

I spoke to Strickland-Grogan on 19 March and she said at the time: “We’re just at the end but it comes and goes. We’re day seven or eight and will have a couple more days of symptoms and will have to self-isolate.”

The go-live, in which Hall & Wilcox’ workers’ compensation team in Brisbane went live on sharedo after two years of planning and preparation, was a success and Strickland-Grogan is full of praise for the firm’s client solutions director Peter Campbell and client solutions architect Linda Stanford. The team focus became very “people-centric” and Strickland-Grogan says: “Peter and Linda have been amazing, and this project is an illustration that you can be brave. We are already moving to phase two.”

Technology is key to successful remote working and Sharedo enables Hall & Wilcox to see how occupied the team is and who might need more remote assistance. Three days after go-live, the firm moved to the majority of its people working from home. Despite the lack of hands on support, the workers’ compensation team are all up and running on sharedo remotely and Stanford says: “We are amazed with the progress they have made.”

Clearly Strickland-Grogan is lucky that she suffered the virus more mildly than some and, as a growing number of countries impose quarantines to enforce social distancing and infection rates rocket, there is certainly no intention to play the virus down. The virus has shown that in many cases it cannot be beaten, with all of the human tragedy that entails.

But Strickland-Grogan says that it’s important to spread hope and stay positive, commenting: “The virus has shown us that we have to be resilient. We need to be brave. For a couple of weeks, people will be reeling. The UK is in massive shock. People are going to be concerned about and looking out for their staff, but we have to look beyond this first six to eight months.

“If we stop innovating, we will let the virus beat us and if we stop doing projects it will beat us. That’s not the mentality of this industry.”

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