New job? Welcome to lockdown! – Satish Mohanty

I was really happy when I was offered a role within SSP’s India-based offices: I had heard about this company from my friends and knew this was a good place to work.

My first day started in March 2020 with an induction where we were told all about the company – who the founder was, the kind of products SSP develops, all the varying departments and their roles – plus many other things. Afterwards my manager introduced me to the team. Though I started the day both excited and a bit nervous, I soon discovered that everyone here is really helpful as the environment here is quite friendly. We also went on a tour and I discovered that this company cares about its employees and ensures that there is a balance between work and fun. 

During my training I learned many things about the nature of my work and my teammates – but just as I was beginning to get the hang of my work, and was about to be assigned my first task after settling in, COVID-19 started spreading with alarming intensity and Gurugram was among the worst hit places in the country. As soon as we had confirmation that the situation was serious, managers cascaded down that we were all to start working from home as per the government guidelines. This would be my first time working from home ever and I was not very familiar with my work yet – nor was I sure whom to contact in case of emergencies as I had only just joined here. Needless to say it was daunting.

I faced quite a lot of challenges at first – power cuts at home, and my system freezing in the middle of work to name two. It felt like a task to even wake up in the morning: it was tough preparing myself mentally because, even though I was at home, I still had to maintain a rigorous routine and work equally (if not more) hard. It’s human for the mind to wander when there’s no one to supervise us so it was sometimes difficult to remain focused and work around the office schedule. Even at home, I felt eyes on me and the need to prove myself: I had no other option to find my focus and to keep working hard to pass probation. I would get frustrated at times due to the power cuts, slow internet, or remote access dropping out – these things were out of my control yet deadlines couldn’t budge regardless. I established workarounds: whenever it seemed like there’d be a power failure, I would ask neighbours to use their Wi-Fi or ask my brother to turn on his hotspot; when there were network connectivity issues, I moved to work out on the terrace for better reception. Slowly my problems started decreasing. I also regularly kept in touch with my seniors and team leader so whenever I faced some issues at work, they were on-hand and happy to help despite their own busy schedules. I had also attended our first online AHM (“All Hands Meet” – a companywide meeting) during this lockdown which was a new experience for me; it was very good and had interesting content.

Now looking back, it hardly seems like months have already passed and the word “lockdown” is now just a word to me as I’m quite used to this way of living now. At first it felt like I was trapped at home and would get really irritated over the inability to go out and do what I liked. To cope, I made sure to follow my hobbies at weekends (writing and singing raps) to cheer myself up. Now I’m accustomed to the lockdown, I wonder if it’ll be easy to slip back into my pre-lockdown life – the life that I once thought of as normal. This question is always looming in my mind: when the lockdown lifts and offices open, will I still want to go out? Whilst entertaining these thoughts, I received a call from my manager: my probation period had finally finished, I’d passed, and I was now a permanent employee. This was the much-needed silver lining/good news I’d been hoping for – the end-goal I’d been working so tenaciously for.

My journey as a new starter at SSP has been nothing less than a rollercoaster but I’m glad that even when I was low, I managed to pick myself back up again. I’m so happy that this company gave me a chance to showcase my skills and I’m positive that I will keep giving back  to each and every aspect of my time in SSP.

Satish Mohanty,
Software Engineer

Hold on, we are in it together

Lockdown in the life of an SSP Internal Account Manager

When we received the communication on Monday 16 March that from the following day we would be working from home, the air in the office was permeated with a few different feelings. There was the excitement of avoiding daily commutes, the worry of having to get our essential office equipment set up to work at home and for those of us with children, the balance of having to home-school at the same time, (how would that even work?). So a real bag of mixed emotions and thrown in thoughts of how we would deal with missing out on all those little moments and office interactions that we wouldn’t get to experience with our colleagues for the foreseeable future.

As we undocked our laptops and collected our plants, we knew that times would be especially testing for our brokers, so we arranged a call for the following day to decide how we could best reassure our customers that, whilst the world is rapidly changing, SSP’s support will always be a certainty. We agreed that nothing is quite as reassuring as a phone call; we rely on e-mails because they can be picked up 24/7, however with most of the world confined to their own four walls, we knew we would all need the reassurance of human interaction. In a team effort, since 16 March, Account Managers and Internal Account Managers have touched base with more than 600 customers, with some wonderful conversations shared.

We don’t want to dismiss the gravity of the situation, with many people dealing with family and friends being impacted by COVID-19, we know it is a time for supporting those who need to make their loved ones their main priority. However, we cannot help but notice that as the world is revolving at a much slower pace. Our customers have also had the time to tell us more about themselves on a personal level – how they miss their manicures, how they took on meditation to avoid burying the kids in the garden, what colour they are hoping to paint their walls and the excitement of being able to buy flour and rice for the first time in five weeks… We’ve listened to heart-warming stories of holiday memories and future plans for places to see once the travel ban is lifted.

Now that we have been at home for around eight weeks, we can honestly say that, for many of us, things are starting to get easier. Along with our children, we have gradually got into more of a routine, getting used to those two little (and very annoying) words, “I’m hungry”. We have mini social calls between ourselves and the wider team to keep each other motivated and sane and look forward to a lunchtime walk in the sun. Our COVID-19 help-page has also offered great support to our customers, providing handy hints and tips on how to better their working-from-home lifestyle and get up and running on the software easily!

“SSP’s Remote Working webpage has assisted in making our transition seamless and effective, contributing to overall business continuity. The guides and videos are a huge help!”

Alan Ferraz, Mainstay

Every call we have had has been gratefully accepted and we have had wonderful feedback regarding how easy it has been to use the SSP system on a brand new laptop (remember those? They’re like gold dust!) Or to simply take the office PC home, connect it to the internet and start work where it was left off without having to waste any time.

“We’ve been delighted at how nippy our SSP system has been, even on home broadband! The company’s productivity during this time has continued to be very high and SSP have truly assisted with that. We’ve not had any issues with our system, and it is reassuring to know that, even during these uncertain times, we are with a software provider that can and will fully support our business.”

Lauren Turner, Rentshield

We are truly cherishing the opportunity to provide some much-needed stress relief, whilst supporting our brokers with any training needs they may have, including promptly delivered remote sessions from our helpful trainers.

““SSP continue to deliver exceptional Customer Service and Training, whenever we need it. Even when that’s a late Bank Holiday afternoon!”

Bryony Sherlow, G A Puttick Insurance

Supporting you in your journey to success is at the centre of everything we do. We know that these are tough times, but we are in this together.

Laura Beasley, Hazel Hand and Silvia Petrini
Internal Account Management

Information security: stay safe in work and at home

During this current situation, with many people working from home, there has been a rise in the amount of malicious online activity, with scams, spam and malware all on the rise. Sadly, at times like these, the bad people get ‘badder’.

We all have to keep our guard up right now. It is crucial that we are all aware of the different sorts of threats we may encounter – at work and at home – so that we can spot them and know how to deal with anything that looks suspicious.

The people that run these scams rely on you doing something (clicking a link, opening an attachment etc) for them to work.

So remember: if in doubt DON’T CLICK and stay HEALTHILY SUSPICIOUS

Phishing

Phishing is an attempt by scammers to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by disguising themselves as a trustworthy source (for example, your bank) in an email or other electronic communication.

We’re seeing a huge rise in phishing attempts – and they are not just related to COVID-19. 

Phishing attempts can be very convincing so it is more important than ever that we are vigilant to potential phishing emails.

Remember: 

  • don’t click on or open anything if you are in any doubt
  • remain healthily suspicious of unexpected or unsolicited emails, no matter how credible they look, especially if they have attachments or links to them

If the communication looks like it’s come from a trusted third party (such as a customer) then contact the customer directly to check if it is a legitimate communication.

Credential breaches (“We know who you are”)

Credential breach emails are those which claim to know not only your email address but also your password – and often this is correct. They usually come from when you have used your work email address to sign up for a service (such as public Wi-Fi) and your details have been stolen.

First of all it’s important to remember that the information in the credential breach email is all they know. Anything else they claim to be able to access or do is untrue. They cannot access your work network and they cannot access your home network. But they will try to get you to click a link or send details or money WHICH YOU SHOULD NEVER DO.

Don’t forget: these scams rely on you doing something (clicking a link, opening an attachment etc) for them to work. So don’t!

These emails can be alarming, which is what the hackers are relying on. But they are relatively easy to deal with so stay calm and report it immediately to your security or IT teams if you have them (even if it’s not work-related), otherwise mark the messages as Junk or block the sender.

Hoaxes and myths

Alongside these genuine threats, it’s also very important to be mindful of any hoaxes circulating on the internet or via social media. Often shared by people trying to protect themselves and their loved ones, this sort of misinformation can be damaging and do more harm than good.

How do I know if it is misinformation?

The simplest thing to do is be vigilant and check the source. If the story has come from a reputable news site then it’s more likely to be genuine. But if you don’t recognise the source then think twice about sharing it with others.

A simple web search would also help you to see if it’s a story that has been widely reported and therefore is more likely to be genuine.

Remember:

  • just because something has been shared widely, doesn’t make it true
  • don’t be tricked by people claiming a story is reputable – anyone can write “it was announced today on BBC News,” but that doesn’t tell you anything
  • don’t use the ‘better safe than sorry’ excuse – you can’t make someone safer by protecting them from something that doesn’t exist!

Hints and tips

Here’s some basic hints and tips to help you and your loved ones stay safe online.

Remember: if in doubt DON’T CLICK and stay HEALTHILY SUSPICIOUS

  1. Report it
    If you receive anything that looks suspicious, report it immediately to your security or IT teams if you have them (even if it’s not work-related), otherwise mark the messages as Junk or block the sender.
  2. Don’t worry
    Genuinely don’t. Hackers may have some of your user credentials but they probably do not have your ‘secrets’ or anything else they claim to have.
  3. DO NOT click on any links, open any attachments or respond to the sender
    The people that run these scams rely on you doing something (clicking a link, opening an attachment etc.) for them to work. So don’t!
  4. Review your passwords
    Everything we access is password-protected and chances are you use the same few passwords for all your logins. Now’s the time to check and change them and use a password manager if you can.
  5. Make sure you have appropriate Anti-Malware installed, it’s turned on (!) and up to date
    Have a look at av-test.org for what you can run for free, at home.
  6. Update your browser
    You know when you open Safari, Chrome or Firefox and that annoying reminder pops up, to update it, but you ignore it because you’re busy? Don’t. Update your browser today, (including the plug-ins for Flash and Adobe etc.)
  7. Check your active sessions and permitted devices
    You’ll find these in the settings of Facebook, Twitter, iTunes or whatever you’re using. Check them out and close ones you don’t recognise.
  8. Enable multi-factor authentication
    If you haven’t enabled multi-factor authentication in WhatsApp, Gmail or whatever you use, then go to the settings and set it up. You’re already using it for internet banking and it’s no different.
  9. Do not use your work email addresses to register for external services
    Unless it is wholly relevant and appropriate, do not use your work email addresses to register for external services, mailing lists or to get through a credential wall (like airport Wi-Fi). Instead set up a new email address and use it only for registering for external services.

Q&A: Kids ask SSP’s COO about COVID-19

On Monday 24 April 2020, four parents of very inquisitive children (picture young Karen from BBC’s Out-numbered) virtually joined our Chief Operating Officer Jim Sadler for a morning discussion on the coronavirus and lockdown through their eyes. 

Jim took off his proverbial COO hat and became ‘Professor Jim’, dealing with marvellous questions ranging from what will happen at Christmas, holidays, Santa socially distancing, school, through to symptoms like “COVID toes”. Organised by Georgia Peglar and Hannah Parson of the SSP Marketing Team, it was an exciting opportunity for the six children to interview our COO (though they perhaps didn’t know it) and the responses all around were chuckle-worthy.

Georgia and Hannah have split the Q&A into two parts; Part One containing the kids’ curious questions, and Part Two where Jim does some quizzing of his own. There’s Jim (COO) and his two daughters, Amandeep (Project Manager) and her daughter, Rachel (Marketing Manager) with her two sons, and Claire (Head of Keychoice) with her daughter – all curious to interact with people they otherwise wouldn’t meet as they live in various parts of the country. 

So if you’re also perplexed by some of the questions your ‘cherubs’ are spouting about the impact of lockdown/coronavirus etc., these answers may just be able to help you out – and those without children may gain a little understanding of the challenging (yet comical) questions that the working-from-home parents may be experiencing! 

Have fun!

Part One

Part Two

Looking after our people… it’s the little things

Well this is all a bit strange isn’t it?

Here at SSP, as with many other companies, our people have had to deal with the sudden shock of working from home full time and all the challenges this comes with. All while struggling to make sense of whatever normal looks like at the moment.

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Ramadan celebrations continue amidst coronavirus lockdown

The holy month of Ramadan began on 23 April 2020. It’s the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and observed by Muslims worldwide as a time of fasting. It also involves congregating for longer extra prayers (Tarawih), sharing meals as a community, practicing self-discipline, sacrifice and to show compassion for the less privileged.

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Furloughed but not forgotten

This article is written by Zing365, a training partner of Keychoice.

Many businesses have taken advantage of the Government’s furlough scheme, to receive some financial support during these challenging times. With the furlough portal (Coronavirus Retention Scheme) going live, should we now be looking at ways to support those staff members that have been furloughed? Indeed, they are still part of the team and will, hopefully be back to normal working in the near future.

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