Smartsheet Overachievers find ways to pivot and scale projects in a pandemic

by Alison Clancy

Editor’s note: In 2020, we launched a new program for our most passionate Smartsheet ambassadors: the Smartsheet Overachievers. This elite group of customers aren’t just product experts; they are innovators, changemakers, and the ultimate Can-Doers. This is the fifth in a series of blog posts introducing you to our inaugural cohort of Overachievers as they share their Smartsheet wins, challenges, and tips.

It’s hard to find someone who didn’t have to change their way of working and find a new normal after the last year.

Smartsheet Overachievers Jennifer Greenough and Deanna Vandermeer were no exception, though perhaps their particular careers brought them closer to the pandemic shift than some.

Deanna supports more than seven different departments for Mesa County Valley School District 51, a K12 public school district in Grand Junction, Colorado.

And Jennifer, well, she’s the project and portfolio management head for PATH’s Center for Vaccine Access and Innovation (CVIA), a global team of innovators working to accelerate health equity so all people and communities can thrive.

Though COVID-19 turned their work days upside down, they found a way to not only survive but scale.

In a time before coronavirus

After finishing her Master of Business Administration, Jennifer became involved in a Seattle-based incubator and crossed paths with Smartsheet CEO Mark Mader during a presentation. The experience left an impression, and when it came time for her future employer, PATH, to choose a PPM tool, she thought back to that interaction. After a rigorous evaluation process and trial period, the organization started with 20 licensed users and has since grown to over 200.

Deanna says that her goal has always been to build as many resources as possible not only for her, but for all the departments in her district. “Once I fell in love with Smartsheet, I found I couldn’t get enough,” she says, and soon she was spending her nights and weekends watching videos, reading help articles, and taking courses in Smartsheet University.

Once Deanna’s free trial had ended, she put together an evidence-based proposal for leadership. She made sure to also gain support from her IT department and her executive directors by showing, not telling, the value of Smartsheet. And finally, she focused on training and supporting new licensed users once the district bought in, something she still does today. “I want them to know they can count on me,” she explains.

PATH’s COVID-19 Initiative Team (CVIT)’s landing page built in Smartsheet
PATH’s COVID-19 Initiative Team (CVIT)’s landing page built in Smartsheet

Turning work into dynamic work

Deanna’s drive to help others kicked into high gear at the start of 2020 when, like many schools, the district had to pivot suddenly to an online model. With teachers and students at home, Deanna used Smartsheet to build a process for teachers to ask for online support.

“I developed that by using DataMesh, which would connect our educators to the right support person through automation,” she says. “For example, if they taught middle school math, we’d be able to seamlessly connect them to a math content specialist.”

Thinking back to her goal of helping others, she must have succeeded since she says her HR department has now developed a dashboard that shares COVID-19 tracking for the area.

“I live in Smartsheet. It’s the first thing I open and the last thing I close at night.”

For Jennifer, PATH’s ability to respond nimbly to current and future disease threats was tested as they, too, moved online in 2020. Before COVID-19, her team had been busy managing projects around the globe. With COVID-19 pausing clinical trials and eliminating travel, projects were on standby. How could they pivot and reallocate resources while also making an impact on the pandemic?

The response was to stand up a COVID-19 initiative team and implement a Control Center solution, including a tracker and evaluation tool for new funding — all with Smartsheet.

“Everyone in our organization had real-time access and we enabled notifications on the sheet. This made information exchanges quick and allowed us to make timely decisions on opportunities so we could focus on the most impactful projects that fit with our mission.”

A photo of Jennifer after a trail run and Deanna at ENGAGE 2018
(Left) Jennifer after a trail run; (Right) Deanna at ENGAGE 2018

Looking ahead to the future of work

“My priority moving forward is to make sure people have the information they need to get the work done,” Jennifer says as she looks ahead to the rest of 2021 and beyond. Both Overachievers agree that those new to Smartsheet shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.

“Don’t fight with yourself too long,” Jennifer says. “I know a lot of us are ‘doers,’ but reach out to the Smartsheet Community or to your in-house expert if you have one.”

Deanna agrees and urges newcomers to try things out. “Don’t think of Smartsheet as just another spreadsheet. It’s a one-stop-shop for all your needs.”

“I guarantee that you’ll be able to do things faster and more efficiently in Smartsheet.”

While waiting for the effects of the pandemic to ease, Jennifer enjoys the outdoors with family, including trail running, hiking, skiing and being in her yard. Deanna is looking forward to going to the movies again and visiting Disneyland with her grandchildren. Let’s hope that day is just around the bend.

Meet the rest of the Smartsheet Overachievers, and make sure you join the Smartsheet Community to gain more tips from others like Deanna and Jennifer.