--> Gill Blog: 5 Years Later: A Return to Where it all Began

Gill Blog

Saturday, February 11, 2006

5 Years Later: A Return to Where it all Began

Business development plays an important role in any enterprise. Over the past three years, I am often asked what the spark was that ignited my interest in business continuity and risk management. More times than not, I will tell the same story about being outside New York in a Connecticut coffee shop a day after the 9-11 terror attacks where displaced workers from Manhattan were trying to make heads or tails not only of what had happened the day before, but of what their futures would hold for them in an era of uncertainty that instantaneously dawned. I won’t repeat the whole thing, but if you are so inclined you can read the full details here.

As my trip up the Bosnywash corridor concludes, I thought an appropriate place to gather my notes and collect my thoughts would be in that same coffee shop where that first spark took place. On September 12, 2001 – the last time I was in Koffee? there were tables, chairs, condiment stations, and a bunch of confused people. On that day, the degree of on-site infrastructure required to carry out work remotely consisted of a laptop or two where someone may have been working on a Word document, a few cell phones, and for the really technologically-savvy, a Palm Pilot.

Five years later, I walked into a place that had been transformed into a place than not only oozed with atmosphere, but had now assumed another function that had clearly developed after I last visited: Koffee? had become a very efficient and productive workplace. More than half the customers were enjoying their latte or coffee while working on their computers, but almost all were working on web-based applications. The coffee shop has become a Wi-Fi hotspot, and now draws all sorts of people – students, business owners, salespeople – pretty much the whole spectrum.

Near the front of the shop, there was a gathering led by a casually, yet confidently dressed woman who was making a presentation to two others, whose interest was palpable given how feverishly they were taking notes. This meeting wasn’t taking place in a boardroom, but in leather chairs positioned right by a window with a decorative coffee table placed in the middle. On the other side of the window, another woman with a briefcase was tying her dog to a hitching post where it could have a drink while she came in for a brief meeting.

When I walked to the back of the shop where a large south facing atrium floods the brick and beam structure with light, there was a law student who seemed to be taking a break from reading a fairly substantial body of reading, to sit back turn on his iPod, and sip a coffee. Two tables over from our lawyer to be, I saw something that really caught my attention: a thirty-something knowledge worker conducting a live videoconference using a webcam and connected with three other participants. He was composed, mellow and appeared to be someone very much in control. It was truly an awesome site.

The last time I visited Koffee? nobody had any tangible idea of how the world would evolve particularly in light of what had happened the day before. It seemed somewhat ironic that this place, the place where many people shared a common experience of horror and chaos not so long ago, and wondered where the future would take us actually would deliver us this very place. What became a safe haven for people requiring human contact on a trying day actually was where the dust would end up settling. Making my return to original scene of the crime vividly showed how much actually has changed, and how resilient and resourceful we as human beings actually are.


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