Catherine Ouellet-Dupuis – GSoft
The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated industries and businesses around the world, but at GSoft in Montreal, business is booming. Not surprising, when the entire company is focused on enabling smarter workplaces, and directly helps employees who work from home stay connected to the office.
When the coronavirus crisis forced GSoft to move to a remote environment, the transition was smooth, allowing GSoft to stay in the game as a provider of important tools helping companies stay connected during times of crisis.
“We haven’t had to lay anybody off,” says Catherine Ouellet-Dupuis, the company’s chief legal officer. “And in fact, we’re still hiring because we believe there’s a market and opportunity to help other companies during this crisis.”
Being ready for the unexpected
Officevibe and ShareGate are among the technological tools GSoft offers to enable companies to better draw employees together. But to earn the trust of clients, Ouellet-Dupuis says, such tools must meet the highest standards, particularly with respect to security and data protection.
GSoft has access to the personal information of the company’s clients and their employees, and that data is subject to the many laws and regulations adopted by states and countries around the world. The bulk of the Ouellet-Dupuis’ legal work at GSoft is to developing processes to conform to these standards that will give clients the confidence that they can trust the company with its data.
“We also have to ensure that our subcontractors and suppliers that have access to the same data also comply with the same standards,” Ouellet-Dupuis says.
A pandemic presents challenges
Ouellet-Dupuis says employees at GSoft had already been working at home several times a week as part of the company structure. When the office unofficially re-opens sometime within the next few months, employees will have the option of coming back, though Ouellet-Dupuis expects most will stay away until early 2021.
Despite the hitch-free move to remote working, Ouellet-Dupuis says there was some uncertainty at the beginning. The executive team had to look at different scenarios and solutions, while keeping an eye on clients, especially those vulnerable to economic downturns, like aviation and hospitality companies.
“Unfortunately, some of our clients went bankrupt, and others went remote and told us how our tools have helped them in this new reality,” she says.
One silver lining, Ouellet-Dupuis says, is the bevy of new industries and opportunities that can arise from a crisis like a pandemic, including telemedicine and remote working. These companies need GSoft, she says.
“We have to think of our products differently in this new reality, but when we design a product, we have to adapt it across a new working environment,” she explains.
Managing from a distance
While working remotely has its challenges, Ouellet-Dupuis thinks her group has unified since moving out of the office.
As an example, she says with in-person interactions, she had assumed people would reach out to hear when they needed assistance. Now, regardless, Ouellet-Dupuis is having meetings each day to make sure everyone is adjusting—working in a way that aligns with the company’s strategy.
“I feel like I have a much better understanding of where my team is going, how they’re doing and how they’re feeling,” she says. “It’s funny, but I think our team has never been more aligned, productive and accountable.”
She admits that while the company has been successful during the past few months, she doesn’t foresee moving to a 100 percent remote working environment when the coronavirus crisis ends. Still, weathering this experience has made the her realize that certain elements of remote working can be beneficial in the long term, like regular check-ins with employees and setting daily objectives.
“Accountability between peers and across teams is something we’ve learned greatly enhances our company’s productivity or creativity,” Ouellet-Dupuis observes. “It’s something that’ll stay will us for the long run.”
The journey from business to law
The daughter of entrepreneurial-minded parents, Ouellet-Dupuis says she always knew she wanted to continue in the family tradition—even if she didn’t know how.
She earned undergraduate degrees in finance and Chinese studies from McGill University in Montreal, hoping to work in international finance. While she did that for several years in Toronto and Hong Kong, it wasn’t fulfilling.
“I realized my mind was in sync with all the attorneys I worked with regularly, and the way I thought about business was similar to their views, too,” Ouellet-Dupuis says.
So, she went to law school. After earning another degree from McGill, she spent a few years as an associate at Stikeman Elliott, before finding her true calling as an in-house attorney at an up-and-coming company. She says she feels fortunate to work with the founders of GSoft, Simon De Baene, Sébastien Leduc and Guillaume Roy, because they’ve allowed her the opportunity to blend her business knowledge and understanding of the law.
Ouellet-Dupuis says the founders have always started from scratch to develop their company, its products and solutions to problems. It’s that creative mindset that keeps her engaged and excited for the future.
“The energy and enthusiasm they bring for the work is infectious,” she adds.
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