Sarah de Castro, CMO of Comet, a super innovative company that helps brands meet the challenges of the digital economy.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sarah de Castro: It’s been a strange, intense time, but luckily we’re all fine. Although it’s been challenging, this last year has been quite rich in terms of family time and getting to know one another on a new level out of everyday routines. I personally feel more connected to my family and even the rest of humanity.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Comet.
Sarah de Castro: I officially joined Comet about a year ago, although I had been consulting with them for a good 6 months prior. I’ve been working in marketing and content creation for many years here in Paris. I went from being a journalist and moved into editorial, then marketing strategy and branding. A few years ago, I trained as a coach, and to bring these two worlds together; I was doing a lot around creating collective visions for company cohesion. I really believe the way forward is through shared value companies, wherein the competitiveness of a company and the health of the communities around it are mutually dependent. And this is really the model at Comet, so it makes sense to devote my energy there.
How does Comet innovate?
Sarah de Castro: Comet is a super innovative company on two levels; first and most obviously, we use a super algorithm to match tech and data freelancers and missions from large companies, beyond matching we find the right person for the job, we take care of them and the company and of course all the tiresome paperwork that can slow this kind of collaboration down.
Second, we are innovative because we take the whole ecosystem into account; a lot of freelancing is about short-term fixes. At Comet, we talk about ethical freelancing because while we do embrace an on-demand model and a future of work that is adaptable and agile, we also understand the health of our ecosystem is based on the well-being of our 9500-strong freelance community, so we really look after them in the longer-term.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Sarah de Castro: We were lucky enough to be one of the few that hasn’t been negatively impacted. In fact, the coronavirus pandemic has boosted freelancing in many ways. So many companies have been forced to embrace remote work, and in general, it’s proved to be super-efficient, so this barrier has been eliminated. The pandemic has also meant companies have had to fast-forward their digitalization, and as we are specialized in data and tech freelancers, the demand has remained high.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Sarah de Castro: The in-house team has been remote-friendly since we were founded back in 2016; we have team members all around France and at times all around the world. Yet, the crisis went from remote as a choice to compulsory remote. So this meant we were considering each team member’s individual situation and checking in and connecting with everyone to understand needs. We had to rethink how people work best as a team and also how to continue to build company culture from a distance. We also used the time to refine the selection of collaborative tools we use, to name a few; we are fans of Notion, Slack, and the Google workspace.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sarah de Castro: We have a few competitors on the French market, but they don’t really have the same positioning as us. Many use off-shoring as a way to keep daily freelance rates low, which is something that goes against our ethical stance. Also, I may be biased, but we stay ahead because our freelancer community is a top range; we know this because they are qualified by us and are continuously upskilling. Like in any business, staying in the game is about constantly over-delivering to your clients and keeping your ecosystem healthy and secure.
Your final thoughts?
Sarah de Castro: The work-scape coronavirus-19 pandemic has been gruelling and challenging, yet it’s pushed us out of our comfort zones and towards a future that can be brighter and more interesting. The democratization of remote work is a great example; when it’s done right with a healthy balance and conditions, we work fewer hours, are more efficient, and are less stressed. It allows more family time and eliminates inequalities in terms of inner-city housing. It’s the same with freelancing; when it’s done right, it allows for companies to be more agile and scale up more efficiently, and workers have more choice and diversity in what they do. We are still in the learning phase, and there are many hurdles to overcome, but the potential is there, and the new coronavirus-shaped world of work is definitely one I’m glad to be part of.