Jessica is the founder of Arkadium, a software development company which produces all the games that come preinstalled with the Windows operating system.
In 2014, the majority of her 150 software developers were located overseas. Specifically, 100 of her developers were based in the Ukraine. In March of 2014, the Russian Federation annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea through a military intervention, where Jessica’s development operation was located.
The events represented an existential threat to Jessica’s business. Approximately 80% of the revenue of Arkadium was connected to the work being performed by her team in the annexed region. Overnight, that part of Ukraine had become another country. With tanks in the streets and under threat of silence, her entire development team now found itself in the danger of a war zone.
Communication lines were cut off and Jessica could not travel to the region because they were not issuing visas to American citizens. Then in December 2014, the United States sanctioned the region, making it illegal to do business there. The money in Arkadium’s Ukranian bank account disappeared, and it was no longer possible to send funds for salaries, nor take code out of the region. The government institutions then closed over the Christmas period creating a 4-week communication blackout.
Faced with the prospect of losing her entire company, and the perpetual risk to the safety of her employees, Jessica set out to relocate the office and all her employees to a different city, under a cloud of uncertainty, the danger of war, and unprecedented restrictions.
A location was identified in Krasnodar, a different city in mainland Russia. 45 employees chose to stay in their homes and leave the company and 55 employees chose to relocate. This required obtaining new Russian passports, finding homes, and establishing operations for them in a new office. The company lost 5 months of productivity in the process.
During this period, Jessica demonstrated decisive leadership driven by the genuine care for the people who had helped her build her company. She gave employees a relocation bonus, the ability to stay in a hotel for multiple weeks, help with money towards leasing new apartment, and a stipend to support trips home to see spouses and family members left behind in Crimea. With the help of the leadership team she built deep relationships of trust over the past decade, they navigated an unprecedented set of challenges and deep uncertainty to successfully execute the safe relocation of her team.
In Jessica’s words: “The hardest part was the lack of control I felt over the situation. You can think of contingency plans, but no one teaches you how to deal with a completely crazy and events rarely seen in human history, when the country you operate in undergoes a bloodless coup and becomes another country. There is no playbook for events like this.”
The company rebounded in 2016 and managed to achieve the highest annual profit and revenue results in their 16-year history.
Jessica has distinguished herself by demonstrating exemplary resilience to overcome seemingly insurmountable, once-in-a-lifetime challenges, in the face of potentially catastrophic consequences to her staff and business.