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Small business leader: Angie Lienert of Columbia-based IntelliGenesis

Angie Lienert’s been here before.

IntelliGenesis, the Columbia-based cybersecurity and data analysis firm she’s president and CEO of, has consistently been among the highest-ranked small Top Workplaces for eight years running. And Lienert received the small business leader award just two years ago.

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As a former Arabic linguist in the Air Force, defense contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton and BAE, and entrepreneur who founded her own firm in 2007, Lienert has seen and been through a lot. While she might not have been prepared for a pandemic, she did know how to adapt. And adapt is what she and IntelliGenesis did as the coronavirus forced them from their familiar offices into working remotely.

Lienert took some time to answer a few questions about how the pandemic has affected her company and her leadership:

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How has coronavirus impacted your workplace?

Our culture has had to evolve during this pandemic. Thanks to an amazingly talented team, we’ve moved our proactive culture to a mostly virtual platform. In the beginning of COVID through the end of May, we provided weekly activities to entertain, challenge and inform our employees in all locations: Maryland, Georgia, Texas, Colorado, Hawaii and Alaska. Those weekly activities included: newsletters, multiple technical training sessions for employees (and their children), trivia, karaoke, video games, breakfast with the CEO, book club, and private message reach outs. We also held regular podcasts and other company meetings. After May, when the restrictions started to loosen up, we offered socially distanced hiking, drive-in movie night, virtual escape room and more training. We consistently try to keep our employees engaged and informed.

What are you doing to maintain your workplace culture in an age of virtual meetings, social distancing and closed offices?

We are going to continue to be creative and challenge ourselves to come up with more exciting ways to keep our employees engaged until we can be together again in person. Currently, we are planning a virtual happy hour with a beer tasting event for November. This event includes all employees in all locations. We will provide the beer and snacks ahead of time, then on the night of the event, have the brewmaster online to walk us through the beers. In addition, we have adapted our annual Kids Holiday Party to an outdoor Fall Festival that follows social distancing guidelines and allows us to connect with our employees and their families.

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What have you learned about your workplace that you did not know, or perhaps did not appreciate, pre-COVID?

We have learned so much through this process. The biggest takeaway that I have is that my team is amazing. They have worked nonstop through this pandemic, although mostly at home, they took advantage of this time to get caught up on tasks they never seemed to have enough time to do before the pandemic, such as obtaining our ISO9001 Certification, revamping our travel plan, developing a lot of technical training and videos to go along with it. We will come out of this pandemic an even stronger company and team.

How has the pandemic and related issues tested you as a leader?

As a leader, I feel like I’m in control of the direction of our company. However, the pandemic reminded me that no one is truly in control. I had to take something that was uncertain and find the best way to remain strong and focused during this time. I feel like I circled the wagons and started making a plan. I chose to approach this pandemic in 30-day increments. Carving off 30 days at a time and developing a plan for strong and frequent communication, employee engagement, corporate support benefits, and safety equipment distribution (masks, hand sanitizer, etc.). The plan was evaluated on a weekly basis with the next 30-day plan in place and communicated ahead of time, leveraging what we learned from the prior 30 days and incorporating improvements and expansion for each 30-day cycle.

What are the lessons you and your organization have learned from the coronavirus?

We are a very strong organization. We did not falter at any point during the pandemic. We took care of our employees, their families, and our customers to the best of our ability. We used this bad situation and turned it into an opportunity to improve our processes, expand our training capabilities, and reinforce our employee-first approach to everything we do. I have learned that my leadership team can persevere through the biggest challenges thrown at them and I am honored to work with them.

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