Weekly Calendar View – March 7 – 11, 2022
Monday, March 7th, 2022 – “Are you going to remember to check-in on the CC (Covid Check) App?”
I recall I woke up early on Thursday morning, March 5th, 2020 for my weekly therapy appointment in the Medical Building on 17th Street, the one right in between Locust and Spruce Streets. It was a cold winter morning, and my lungs were heavy with anxiety and irregular breathing as I walked briskly from my row home in South Philly. I always enjoyed the walks to my therapist’s office before work. Everyone else was off to work and I got to selfishly spend that hour expressing my anxieties and opening up about topics that were the demons that kept me from falling asleep at night. As I walked into the building, I could feel the small beads of sweat collecting on my forehead. Was I sweating because the office was warm or was it from my anxiety due to the start of a new virus that was taking over California? As I got on the elevator up to the 17th floor, I thought about how in a week I was supposed to fly to California for a business trip and I felt my chest tighten. I swept the sweat from my brow and stepped off the elevator.
It’s been just over two years since I canceled my business trip to the Natural Products Expo – the largest gathering of exhibitors in the natural and organic products word, with over 40,000 people – due to COVID-19. This was an annual work trip, and one of my favorite ways to not only find new employer relationships to foster but also try new food products. I wonder if anyone else feels like we were in another dimension of time during the Great Reckoning? Like the stock marketing crashing, I feel like I was going into a Great Recession due to the coronavirus pandemic when the world changed forever as we knew it. I am now set to take my first business trip since March of 2020. I will be traveling to to San Francisco to conduct Digital Health business development outreach for my office of MBA Career Management at The Wharton School. Traveling for work is not how it is used to be, getting travel approved, scheduled, and the overall act has mutated due to organizational and cultural changes from what has occurred since 2020 (Morgan, 2006). Due to the world being virtual for so long, many corporations were not spending the money to travel, but as a Relationship Manager and a C Quadrant HBDI thinker, it is my professional and personal mission to show the employers whom I work with that I care about them (Herrmann Global, LLC, 2020). Tomorrow, I will head to the airport, early as usual, to check-in and get screened. This morning in our team meeting many of my colleagues asked me how I was feeling about traveling for work for the first time. “Are you going to remember to check-in on the CC (Covid-Check) App?” and “What are you most afraid of or looking forward to?” To the last question, I said I was afraid to travel again, but also to wear real business clothes – although many of the companies were business casual, if not casual in dress code, and I was most looking forward to networking with people in person.
During my 10 AM Staff Meeting, office team members Zoomed from their respective spaces and we all Zoomed (oh yeah, Zoomed is a verb now with a whole new meaning – thank you Merriam-Webster) from our remote work settings. Our office culture has shifted since the pandemic, although some aspects remained the same. While our culture has remained feminine, our uncertainty avoidance has grown weak due to the innovations our team has had to produce to adapt to our students’ diverse needs (Hofstede, 1984). I rarely have gone into the office since my role can be done remotely, but I am averaging going in a day or two every two weeks for some meetings. We can have one-on-one meetings, but we never meet as a group in our conference room like we used to before the pandemic. Being virtual has become so normal and team members are still hesitant to be in an office, especially coming out of cold and flu season.
During our Zoom call, I could not help but let my mind wander to imagining what my flight would be like tomorrow…
Tuesday, March 8th, 2022 – “I am in control of what I allow myself to give power to today”
To me, 2020 was a blur – one moment, I am in Atlantic City celebrating my friend’s wedding and partying in a packed room. Next, I was running around a casino – filled to the gills with people drinking and carrying on. Then the next week I am afraid of the man coughing beside me on the 48 bus while I am on my way to work. By the end of that second week in March of 2020, I was working from home like many others around the world. At first, I sat curled up in a chair all day in sweats, hair in a messy bun, no makeup, and was waking up at 8:30 AM to start my day at 9 AM. I could feel what we were going through as a nation, and it was affecting me personally. As we adjusted to work from home and realized as an organization that it would be more permanent, I bought a desk, a proper chair, and two monitors to take back my work setting. In the end, I was working better remotely than I ever did in person and I could not believe it.
Today I leave for San Francisco, and I cannot help but wonder how I will feel getting onto an airplane again. I have been able to control my work setting for so long, and become aware of what is important to me as a professional – remote work, which has been supported by my managers (Eldred, 2020). From the flexible work hours granted to our whole team and a new cultural understanding of when we need to be in the office, all of these scenarios were now familiar to me, but flying was not. Thinking of what I have learned in therapy and my graduate courses, I know I need to coach myself on being in control of my new environment today. The Flow of Power is often used for new hires in an organization. Today, I feel like I am taking a flight for the first time which means I need to understand my situation – first flight in two years, lots of anxiety due to cultural changes. Next, I need to have an internal dialogue with myself – understand everything will be okay, there is a vaccine and I have a mask for extra protection. Lastly, I decided weeks ago what action I would take – I chose to book the trip and fly across the country (Barstow, 2020). I have to make sure I am in control of what I allow myself to give power to today, just like I did at the start of the pandemic. And like that, I am in my seat on the plane and we are in the air.
Wednesday, March 9th, 2022 – “Please state your name, preferred pronouns, and how you identify.”
Don’t forget the civil unrest – the Black Lives Matter movement was reignited in the thick of a global pandemic, due to the persistence of racism in many American cities. In late May of 2020, a father, a husband, a son, and someone who was so much more named George Floyd was held down on the ground by the knee of a policeman in Minneapolis, Minnesota for eight minutes and forty-six seconds and died. Even amid a pandemic, we flooded the streets with our signs, our voices, and the reckoning that was stirring the nation on the brink of an internal revolution. All during this, we had Joe Biden nominated as the Democratic hopeful and in August we saw him select Kamala Harris, California Senator, as his running mate, making her the first female, black, and South Asian woman on a major ticket in the election. All of this was going on while “murder hornets” invaded Washington State like a bat out of hell. It seemed like everything in American culture was being challenged in one way or another.
I landed safely yesterday, it felt like a normal flight, but just with more hand sanitizer and small bits of anxiety filling my chest every time someone coughed. After I got off the plane, I used the Covid-Check App to make sure I was good to go. For those who are not familiar with the Covid-Check App, it was one of the first main implementations of the Biden-Harris administration’s Covid-19 Taskforce to make travel feel “normal” and “safe” again. In reality, you just let the government know why you are traveling if you have felt sick, and after the trip, you log how many people you believe interacted with you. The best part is the app tracks where you are in case of another outbreak – I hope you catch the sarcasm because I really do not like this part of the app. Honestly, this app is not much different from the PennOpen Pass app at the University of Penn launched when they wanted to go back to hybrid learning in August of 2020. It is funny thinking of politics globally and in a work setting, and why certain protocols are implemented. From interacting with colleagues who work at international MBA schools it was interesting to see how each program overcame the resistance of worrying about what the students would think about how our programs were reacting to the pandemic. At first, there was fear, which was legitimate because we did not want to lose money as a university and students still needed to enroll. Then there was support – I remember when I emailed and called every Wharton alum I knew in April of 2020 to try and source jobs for our students still seeking employment. Finally, there remains transcending the “curse of talent” also known as our students (Eldred, 2020). As someone who works directly with our employers, when students say they want roles and do not take them, that makes me look like a bad person. This is why I am conducting in-person outreach across the country, to rebuild relationships firsthand.
It doesn’t matter how many emails you send or Zoom meetings you attend, now that Covid is under control, people want to meet in person. I believe this is due to all the cultural casualties that occurred in 2020, like Zoom fatigue, and how we now view important cultural norms and in return the importance of resisting negative office politics. Today, when I walked
into my first office building for my meeting, after the person at the reception desk asked me my name, they followed with, “Please state your preferred pronouns and how you identify.” I replied, “Thank you for asking, She/Her/Hers and female cisgender.” Oh, did that surprise you as a reader back in 2020? We are in San Francisco, for one, but also everyone was now making sure their pronouns were in their email signatures, LinkedIn names, office badges, and in this case my guest badge for this building. Even in my office at The Wharton School, we conducted a Gap Analysis to see where we were lacking due to the cultural casualties and now unacceptable cultural behaviors. We looked at our current state at the end of 2020, we used 2021 to implement new actions from how we interact with one another and our students, and now in 2022, we continue to restructure to ensure we are keeping up with the future state of corporate culture (Vanderslice, 2020). It seems to me since 2020 we have done more work on the environment and culture at work than the actual work we are supposed to be working on at work.
Thursday, March 10th, 2022 – “The Black Panther & Notorious RBG?”
The West Coast has never been the same since the deadly wildfires destroyed most of California and Washington State in August of 2020. We saw the world burning around us in more ways than one, not to mention we lost two heroes in the span of three weeks, the “Black Panther” Chadwick Boseman and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG). Although one fictional and one real life, both were influential to the lives of many. At this point, it seemed like anything else that could and would happen wouldn’t be a surprise. When our then President, you know the one, ended up getting the coronavirus in October, many people said RBG’s ghost had it out for him. Thinking about their passing, you realize how many people looked up to them as either heroes, storytellers, or just as people they could relate to through their roles. 2020 giveth, 2020 taketh away.
As I try to sleep on my flight back to Philadelphia, my mind keeps thinking about all of the interactions I had with alumni and employers yesterday. For as scared as I was to go on this trip, I needed to get away from the remote world for a bit. One thing I realized I missed from working remotely is storytelling. In graduate school, I was taught that everyone is the protagonist of their own story, and this particular phrase resonated with me on this trip (Greco, 2020). I listened to the stories of employer partners and their struggles over the last few years of trying to go hybrid, back to remote, and back to hybrid. I listened to the triumphs of alumni at our happy hour, while overhearing old friends seeing each other for the first time in years and sharing personal tales. When we see how others interact, we listen to their stories, we see our own stories within their stories, and therefore become more invested in who they are (Greco, 2020).
The last employer I met with yesterday was located at an old warehouse building near the Embarcadero that overlooked the Oakland Bay Bridge. Once I got up to the 7th floor, I was greeted by Sean, the recruiter and alumnus I was meeting at the new biotech firm. As I walked through the hall to his office I noticed lots of pop culture art on the walls including pictures of Hulk Hogan, Marge Simpson, and recently departed Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the style of Andy Warhol. When we got to his office, ironically enough there was a Black Panther life-size cut out beside his window. Before I even sat down I said, “The Black Planter & Notorious RBG? For a biotech startup, you all love pop culture and American icons!” His laughter was warm and genuine. He explained to me that after working from home and coming back into an office, they wanted the space to feel fun, playful, and inviting. I knew exactly what he was talking about. When many of us began to return to work in the fall of 2021, companies across the world were sending out “pulse” surveys to see what we needed to feel better about returning to workspaces. Many of us used our stories to influence our work settings for what we needed to feel “normal”
(Greco, 2020). “Organizations, like organisms, are ‘open’ to their environment and must achieve an appropriate relationship with that environment if they are to survive” (Morgan, 2006, p. 38). At Wharton, if we didn’t have any events scheduled, we were now allowed to dress casually, as long as it was neat, and work different hours since many of us were on altered schedules from being remote. As we wrapped up our meeting, I thanked Sean for his time and willingness to meet in person and he walked me to the elevator. Before the elevator door shut he looked at me, crossed his arms over his chest, and said, “Wakanda Forever!” and I laughed, nodded, and replied, “Wakanda Forever.”
Friday, March 11th, 2022 – “And like that *snaps*, the world turned upside down”
As the nation waited with bated breath for the 2020 election results, the world continued around us. There were still innocent people dying from a pandemic, others innocently getting slaughtered by police officers, and those who continued to pass from natural causes. On Saturday morning, November 7th, 2020 it had felt like our national spirit that had been dying inside of us for almost four years was reborn. To quote Hamilton: An American Musical by Lin Manuel Miranda,
“Tens of thousands of people flood the streets, there are screams and church bells ringing. And as our fallen foes retreat, I hear the drinking song they’re singing; the world turned upside down.” (Kail, 2020).
I was with my boyfriend, now fiancé, at the time when we heard the news. We were in shock. The Biden-Harris ticket had won and it was due to Philadelphia and our large turnout of mail-in ballots. Together, we left our apartment, hopped in his Jeep Grand Cherokee, and drove down Broad Street to City Hall. Blasting music with our moon roof and windows wide open, we cheered at the top of our lungs, we waved to people on the sidewalks holding Biden sides, banging pots and pans, and all while wearing masks and trying to remain socially distant. It felt like I was Nick Foles in the 2017 Eagles Superbowl parade driving down Broad Street on that 70 degrees day in November, and it was the first time in over nine months I felt human again. The next day, Sunday, we learned our beloved host of Jeopardy, Alex Trebek has passed from his long battle with cancer. But, alas, life continues and stops for nothing or no one.
Since the winter of 2020, Wharton has instituted the practice of allowing us to log off by 3 PM on Fridays. I had forgotten it was Friday due to my travels, and the only reason I remembered was because of my therapist appointment at 8 AM. It was a warmer morning, and I forgot how much I enjoy the walks to my therapist’s office before work. While everyone else was logging into work, I get to spend an hour working on myself and my relationships. Recently, I have been working on a flip chart of my goals for the next few years because I was looking to leave my role at Wharton. Initially, it was a dilemma that I wanted to leave, but I realized with being able to work remotely I could work anywhere in the world. I began the chart by seeking clarity of my values, my level of energy in wanting to find a new role, and clarity on what my purpose would be while I searched (Eldred, 2020). I have spoken with my manager at work to try and figure out if she could integrate her position or her power to assist me in aligning my goals internally to meet my intent of a promotion. Unfortunately, due to office politics, there was nothing available for me to continue my journey at Wharton for the time being (Eldred, 2020). I know my work is beginning to be affected by my eagerness to leave and it reminds me of this quote from The Army Crew Team,
“Any slight change in the racing shell affects the whole boat. Often, when one person changes, the seven other people try to respond in different ways. It is important not to respond. Instead, teammates need to trust each other, to trust that the person out of rhythm will correct himself. You need to trust that none in the crew will be the weakest link of that crew, and that instead the weakest link will be found in the competitor’s boat.” (Snook & Polzer, 2004, p. 4).
My manager trusts me, my fiancé trusts me, and most importantly I trust myself in deciding when I am ready for my next step. Like the Army Crew team, I do not want to affect my whole team by no longer being one-hundred percent invested in my role. Before I become the weakest link I have to remove myself from the metaphorical boat I have been rowing with the same team for almost four years.
So much has changed since 2020, yet has stayed the same or returned with slight modifications. You know, the only reason why my trip this week was approved is that it’s the last one I will ever take while employed at The Wharton School. If you would have told me in January of 2020 I would only travel for work one more time and it would be in 2022 I would have laughed in your face. Now, thinking of the interactions I had this week with employers, alumni, the TSA agents, my team, fellow airline passengers, and with my internal thoughts, I am thankful for what 2020 taught us and taught me about myself.
Barstow, A. (2020, November 5). Systems and Structure. Presentation given at the Foundations of Organizational Dynamics class at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA: Unpublished.
Eldred, J. (2020, October 29). Understanding Power And Politics In The Virtual Age. Presentation given at the Foundations of Organizational Dynamics class at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA: Unpublished.
Greco, J. (2020, September 30). Leading From Strength II (a.k.a. Greco Stories .pptx). Presentation given at the Foundations of Organizational Dynamics class at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA: Unpublished.
Herrmann Global, LLC. (2020). Explore My Results. Retrieved November 10, 2020, from https://journey.herrmannsolutions.net/thinker/hbdi-digital/four-quadrants
Hofstede, G. H. (1984). Culture’s consequences, international differences in work-related values. London, England: Sage.
Kail, T. (Director). (2020). Hamilton: An American Musical [Video file]. United States: Walt Disney Pictures. Retrieved 2020, from https://www.disneyplus.com/movies/hamilton/
Morgan, G. (2006). Images of organization. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Snook, S., & Polzer, J. T. (2004). The Army Crew Team. Harvard Business School.
Vanderslice, G. (2020, October 20). Organizational Development & Change (Praxis Consulting Group, Inc). Presentation given at the Foundations of Organizational Dynamics class at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA: Unpublished.