What I've Learned From My Team in a Time of Crisis

Written by Derek Vargas


Almost a month ago, I was notified that SparkOrange was named by the Financial Times to their #FT1000 2020 list of the Fastest Growing Companies in the Americas. Ranked #122. And I was sincerely at a loss for how to feel. 


I couldn’t bring myself to share the news publicly. Where it should have been something positive and to be proud of, in the face of the #COVID-19 crisis facing our team, their families, our clients and partners, and the world we share with everyone, it felt so empty, and so tone deaf.

I’ve always felt like I’m at my best in the face of adversity, or when working against ridiculous odds (surprise, I ended up an entrepreneur). Like so, so many in #leadership, I was working longer hours than ever to make sense of what was developing, processing news and contradicting information, and strategizing/planning/forecasting and doing everything I could to chart our course through this – all while trying to regularly communicate facts with complete transparency to our team, and, most importantly for me, trying to be the best, most supportive dad I can be to my two girls.

And I felt that I could not allow myself the luxury of pride that comes with recognition, no matter how esteemed it might be. Positive news – absolutely! But recognition? I couldn’t come to terms with that.

Then, slowly, my team changed all that.

It started with my co-founder and best friend Aliza Seeber, who is easily one of the best and most selfless people I know, dropping everything she was doing to help a small but impactful pop-up organization called ShoppingAngels put some quick technology in place that allowed them to quickly scale from helping others locally, to coordinating help for at risk people nationwide (major kudos to our partners at FormStack for the assist).


It continued with literally every person at SparkOrange jumping in to offer to do whatever they could to help each other, mornings, nights, weekends, or otherwise, amidst the newfound chaos of offices filled with babies, little ones, dogs, cats, and significant others.

It rolled on with our team members, giving of their own personal time, efforts, and money, started the #SparkHope initiative in an ongoing effort to support first responders, local restaurants, and local non-profits like David’s Refuge who have been impacted by COVID-19 (you can help them here!).

And it culminated with a little help from our clients, who have over the past month been showering our team with positive feedback, saying things like “…we wish we found you years ago!”, and “I could cry tears of joy – I never thought a partner could truly understand how we work…”

…and it all came together for me. I’ve always known and shared that our #people are our greatest differentiator, and that we have the best team ever, because, well, that’s the honest truth. And I have never been SO proud of them, of this company, as I am right now.

What they have shown and exemplified over these past weeks in empathy, in time & effort, in generosity, in self-sacrifice and work for the greater good, in humor and in candor, and in their commitment to excellence despite all that is going on around us.  This is what makes them great, what translates directly into the #success of our clients, and in turn, of our organization.

They’ve helped me to remember that I CAN afford myself the luxury of taking pride in something, especially if that pride is in them, in this team, and what they’re all capable of because of the amazing people that they all are.

As to the recognition? Well…it’s never been more clear to me that the recognition, and our team, are mutually exclusive. You simply can’t have one without the other.

And that recognition is all theirs. Thank you SparkOrange, for making me more #proud of this company, and who we are, every day.