#InThisTogether story - Hinney Lo
This article was originally posted on the Australian Government's 'Study in Australia' website, as part of their #inthistogether campaign.
Hinney was born in Hong Kong, but was drawn to Australia by the potential of living in a city with open spaces and a relaxed way of living. He began his life in Australia as an international student, completing high school in Brisbane before eventually making the move to Adelaide where he carried out the remainder of his university studies, completing a Bachelor's degree in Design Studies followed by a Masters in Design in Digital Media at the University of Adelaide.
In 2011, Hinney and a group of fellow students took steps to turn a final year university project into a legitimate business and established PixelForce. Initially the team worked out of a garage taking small graphic design and logo jobs at the start, but in 2013 we took the opportunity created by the new demand for mobile apps and moved into an office in Norwood where the business was given a new life.
What is PixelForce?
As of 2020 we are now a leading full-suite web and mobile app development agency that offers a range of services including development of websites and web apps, mobile apps, graphic design, and digital marketing. We’ve worked on over 100 projects and developed some incredibly successful apps including Wokinabox, Sweat, and EzLicence.
Our team is made up of almost 40 full time in-house staff, many of which are local graduates who studied and graduated in Australia as international students and wanted to stay in Australia. We maintain a strong and close relationship with local education institutes such as Navitas, University of Adelaide, Flinders University, and the University of South Australia. We are also recognised by Immigration SA as a trusted local employer and provider of employment opportunities for skilled migrant workers in Australia, with many of our current employees achieving permanent residency while working with us.
How do you stay resilient in the face of COVID-19?
The COVID-19 pandemic has put us in an interesting position.
For many clients, their app is (or has temporarily become) the core of their business - and many of the apps users do not have alternative options for the services provided through these apps. Social distancing has changed the way that business is currently being done and forcing us all to use options that minimize or completely eliminate physical or social contact with others.
We must try to remain in operation for the livelihoods of many people outside of our business. We can’t just look at the current problems that our clients are facing, we also have to look at the future and how this will impact on businesses in the coming months or years, and how we can help each other stay on top of things.
How is PixelForce approaching working from home?
At the moment the majority of our team are working from home, with only a few key personnel remaining in the office for essential operational tasks and server management that can’t easily be performed from home. Many of our team have had to cancel trips to see family and friends as a result of the travel restrictions and safety measures being put in place.
It really isn’t an ideal situation to be in, but a lot of our team make an effort to keep in touch and support each other as much as they can. We work together as a team, and we try to promote a culture where our team will treat each other more like family than coworkers. Under normal circumstances we are usually around each other for 8 hours a day after all, so for most of the year we see each other more than anyone else.
How is the PixelForce team adapting to the new lifestyle COVID-19 has brought?
For the most part it actually hasn’t been too difficult to make the adjustment of having most of the office work from home. We’re already a very digital business and for a long time we have already been using a variety of programs and workflow management tools to stay on top of our projects.
The biggest challenges have been more personal than practical. Working remotely is great for some and not so great for others, and maintaining consistent communication between team members can be a bit more difficult when you’re used to working in an open office where everyone is right there with you. The team has been overcoming this by checking in on each other more often, and if a problem is too difficult to communicate by words there are screen-sharing programs that can help them work together more effectively.
What workflows have you adapted to work effectively during the pandemic?
In fact, many of our team members have been working together successfully in real-time with shared documents for a long time, even before the onset of COVID-19.
The Google Suite is cloud based, and allows easy collaboration between staff members to work on a single document together. We can also delegate and track tasks with programs like Trello, and a lot of our staff use Slack to communicate and share resources with each other. These programs are all free too, which means they’re easily available to Uni students who are looking for ways to stay on top of things while they’re not able to work together in the same space. You also don’t run the same risk of losing any unsaved documents, or losing data due to hardware .
Our Business Development Manager pivoted his sales strategy to accommodate for COVID-19, and to give unique perspectives into who are striving in this economic climate. It is interesting to note that some people are wary of entering the game during this economic climate, but we are refocusing their outlook to beyond the pandemic and the opportunities that lie at that point in time. Businesses today have to not only survive the pandemic, but also new businesses that enter the weakened market afterwards. Despite the current climate looking grim, it will eventually disappear so businesses that enter the industry at this key point are entering at a prosperous time.
What personal projects are team members taking on?
Recently I have been dedicating a lot of my time to helping oversee the direction and development of EzLicence,” shares Managing Director, Hinney Lo. “It is the first project that PixelForce itself as a business has invested in, and that I have also invested in personally because of the great value it provides to the community. It’s a new learning experience, and very different from managing PixelForce. It’s a unique experience to be investing in a project myself rather than just working for a client, and it offers me a lot of great perspective on what a project is like as a stakeholder making high level decisions that eventually impact on what goes into the app. Outside of the office, creative outlets are still a great way to keep occupied and do something relaxing and enjoyable. I still enjoy designing in my free time, it’s why I got into this industry and I find it important to try and keep that passion alive. I’m currently planning a redesign and renovation of my home, so that’s something that I look forward to each day.
PixelForce’s #InThisTogether message
This current situation with COVID-19 is very concerning to all of us, and it’s true that it poses a lot of danger for a large portion of the community - but it has also brought out a lot of good qualities in the community as a whole. Once the initial panic and fear of the unknown passed, we have seen that people can work together and take care of each other. There’s a lot of generosity, people supporting each other, even businesses are working together to help make sure everyone gets through this. The community has really come together, and that’s something that we’re happy to see.