#7 - Challenges working in tech as a parent during COVID

About the guest

Tara Bird, Engineering Manager (Squad Lead) at HelloFresh

Tara is an experienced software engineer and engineering manager.

HelloFresh is looking for Engineering Managers in NYC and other technical roles around the world. Check out their careers website at https://www.hellofresh.com/careers. Tara is conducting some research on a business idea targeted towards parents working from home, if you want to share your experience as a parent, please reach out to Tara on LinkedIn.


Being a parent is difficult. Being a parent with a full-time job at the time of COVID makes it very difficult. There are many challenges we all have to face when working from home. We're talking to Tara about her experience being an engineering manager and staying with 2 kids at home at the same time, and how she was able to make it work. There is also a fun side, since kids are active and creative they will make anyone smile.


John 0:13

Welcome to PragmaticLead podcast, your hosts are Alex Bachuk and John Masse. We have conversations with folks throughout the tech industry to get real world perspective on how people make things happen for their careers and businesses. Check out pragmaticlead.com for more content, just like this.

So today we have Tara Bird with us, Tara, we've worked together on a couple of teams. And we built some cool stuff together. So Tara, why don't you tell us a bit about yourself and what you've been up to?

Tara 0:49

Yeah, for sure. So I am a squad lead at hellofresh. And I've been at hellofresh for about two years now was a front end engineer, senior front end engineer and moved into the management role pretty recently just got a promotion back in July, I work on the conversions team. And, yes, so just learning the ropes of management.

John 1:10

Awesome. So Tara, you are really at the top of our list is someone to shoulder tap and talk to your career has been growing, and it's been really fun following your journey. So when we're talking about things to chat about working remote COVID, this has had a big effect on our lives. And you being a parent, as we find that even some folks reached out to us on Twitter, they're like, Hey, you have all this great stuff to talk about when like how to manage your life working from home? Or how to think about working from home or separating work life from home life. But what if I have kids? Right? How do I deal with that? What are some ideas or ways that we can problem solve, organize ourselves? So and you brought that up. Something for us to chat about today? And Alex, I know you probably have some personal stories and things that you can share as well. So being a parent during COVID, what's it been like so far? Like a high level?

Tara 2:03

Yes. So back when it started, it was actually pretty difficult for me, because everyone was dealing with the anxiety of like the uncertainty of just the economy. Like, people were starting to get sick. So like that general anxiety, but then having this additional layer of having to worry about working at home with my kids and also providing that child's care completely, because with the quarantine, you couldn't really have outside care. You couldn't do daycares anymore in our school. So like having your kids in your home while you're working has been extremely difficult. You are on video calls and your kids pop up on the screen and you're worried how that makes you have people look at you that way. Are you working as hard as everyone else? So just dealing with that and having to figure out how to split my time to make it work being a mom and also being at work.

John 3:00

I think that's literally happened while Alex and I have been recording a podcast right Alex? We had visitors.

Alex 3:07

Yes. My daughter likes sometimes to sit next to me while I have meetings, she draws like pictures. And then slowly you see her like face over the camera. She's like, Hi. She goes back which is like probably one of the best cases and like the worst is like they just both riding and fighting and there's screaming and like it's just yeah, it's crazy. But you know, I think it's for moms is it's different. Like for dads it's just you know, hey, we just gonna play there's no there's some noises for sure there are some distractions but for moms, it's different. I don't want to pretend that I understand that. My wife does most of the work and my kids gonna always want to spend more time with their moms. So it's I think moms are different.

Tara 3:57

Yeah, definitely. Like my husband's great he like helps out a lot but my kids tend to gravitate towards me more just constantly like always asking for something whether it's a snack or just Can you play with me and like having to shut them down be like no, no homework, no marking, you feel really terrible inside. Like, is having that I remember Actually, my daughter was playing with her dislike toy computer that she had. And I was like, Oh, hey, like, Can I play with it? And she goes, No, no, no, no touching. I'm working. I'm working.

John 4:33

emulating your behavior.

Tara 4:36

And no one wants to be that parent, you know, like, you want to be like the fun always wanting to hang out cool parents. That's just not the case. No more boundaries anymore.

Alex 4:46

there's a difference. Being a like at work if you're just programming if you're just at IC or you know you're just doing code and being a manager or tech lead right being a working with code programming, you always you can just go in the corner or you can just code while kids are playing or watch TV or something. There's like, the noises extra noises don't really bother you, when you're like doing some debugging or looking at the code. When you're a manager, you actively have to drive meetings you have to meet with people have conversations, and they're just not the same. So there's like definitely a difference in actually what you do for work, even though you work from home. Just curious, what's been your experience?

Tara 5:29

Yes. So going into them in general, I was put in some meetings all day every day. And like having to prepare for those meetings have to, as he said, drive those meetings. So my husband too, he when COVID started he. So he's, he works for a big four accounting firm. And so he has busy seasons. And that busy season usually lasts from January to April, and then sometimes extends up to June and last year to extend it out to June. So during that time period, I always take the lead at home with everything because he is working so many hours. And so having to do that at home. And being on meetings all day, I just popped my kids on the TV, do whatever I can survival mode, just to get some time to deal with being on computer all day talking to people all day that hopefully my kids not popping in too often or interrupting or distracting the meeting.

John 6:21

So as this stuff started, did you have like any pre plan or pre thought? Or have you just been responding to it? Same with you, Alex? Are you guys just responding to the events that are emerging out of your at home environment? Or do you have like, do you actually have a plan at all or?

Tara 6:38

No, you just have to adapt. I think that's just parenthood in general, just adapting to the new changes. When I first started, my mom actually was one of the lucky ones, my mom was able to help. And you know, she was in our trusted circle. So she would come help out when she can. And so I had that a little bit. And she just knew that Jeremy, my husband was very busy with work too. So like having extra support, but then she actually got sick with COVID. And so just like not being able to have her is like that support system for a few like for quite a while, it was really difficult and just trying to navigate through that. And then just like now my kids are actually in daycare. So that was a really difficult decision to make, because you don't want to put your kids in danger. And it was just we just knew that that was the right choice for us considering our both meetings all day. And there's no other way for us to really split our time. So just like figuring out what is available now in that situation. And adapting to it, I think is just learning how to navigate through it.

Alex 7:39

Yes, I had similar experience. And kids are people too, right. So every person is unique. And kids are you know, kids are different. Some kids can sit still can play and some kids cannot they want to run they have more energy. And my kids are having too much energy. So when we had the lockdown the when the daycare closed, initially, it was really hard because my kids, they need to play, they need kids, they need friends, they have a lot of energy. So were there like they were fighting they were playing. So it was really active at home. So first few weeks definitely was very challenging, because we were trying to adapt to the whole new experience the whole new thing, like working at the same time and I was starting a new job. I was switching the job right when the whole thing started was onboarding the new company going through all the initial meetings, learning, onboarding, things like that, while kids at home. So yeah, we had parents, too. So same, really lucky to have parents nearby. So they were really helping out. But it's still I mean, kids want to have fun with what their parents too. So they're they don't understand, like, Hey, I have a meeting, please. sit still for 30 minutes, or that just doesn't work like that. So they have their own rules. And they rarely listened to, you know, just don't come into my room. So yeah, so yeah, it was difficult for sure.

Tara 9:03

Yeah. And also kids, they're they're not understanding why they can't see their friends. They don't understand this new environment either. So having to explain that to them and not understanding why when you're here and they're in at home, why you can't play with them. It's also really difficult and trying to teach them boundaries. But like you said, kids live by their own rules. So

Alex 9:25

You have to adapt. There's no preparation. And in my experience for things like that, I don't think anyone was was ready to do face the new reality. And kids, kids in the same boat like parents kids in the same boat. We have to learn on the job, how to deal with the whole thing.

Tara 9:43

Are your kids in school yet?

Alex 9:46

Yeah. So daycare opened, I think it opened like early June. So we were one of the early adopters of the new, a new system. Wearing masks and everything. So because again, kids It was hard for them to stay home. All the parks were closed in our town. So it was like nowhere to go. So we had to adapt and take the risk.

John 10:11

What's it been like? Is it like are you guys weren't like stressed out all the time about it like how are you guys handling having your kids in daycare now?

Tara 10:20

It was really difficult decision for me. I was so stressed out the first week, I was so worried about it. But just like having been there, and they've been fine since and just knowing my daycare has been doing a really good job. Just put my mind at ease. But definitely at the beginning there. It was really, really stressful for me.

John 10:39

Did you have a selection process? Like how did you? Like, how did you guys determine like, which daycare? Or did you have a company we're already working with? How did you vet it out? Was there a discovery process?

Tara 10:52

So I had actually just moved to this area during COVID. So I had known that I was going to buy this house since December of last year. So I've been in contact with a bunch of different daycares. But daycares aren't easy to get into there's waitlist through the roof. So this is the one daycare that had some potential availability for my kids. So that's how I made that connection. And then, yeah, so just what was available, like you just have to deal with what was given to you.

John 11:17

Yeah. How about you, Alex? Like, how did you find out that there was a program going on, and then you guys committed to being early adopters,

Alex 11:27

so we already had daycare. And they closed for two, three months when COVID started, and then they were starting to reopen slowly with limited capacity. So we you know, we just use the same daycare, so it was no difference.

John 11:41

Were there any guarantees? Like, because I'm sure they have to be thinking about the parent, right? Hey, bring your kid here. No, I

Alex 11:50

mean, it's it's all it's all precautions, right? You just you take the temperature, kids have to wear masks and you know, all like sanitizing surfaces. It's a Yeah, it's all standard precautions that any store any facility does. And you just have to trust them that they do their best.

John 12:08

And you guys have your kids wearing masks?

Alex 12:11

The older one yeah.

Tara 12:14

My two year old has to wear masks.

John 12:16

And how's it keep with keeping their masc on? Because I see kids that can't even keep their shoes on?

Alex 12:21

Yeah, exactly.

Tara 12:25

Covered cover your nose? Why Why? Every single time.

Alex 12:33

Yeah, well, and that makes it difficult to write because you have to have a conversation with your with your kids, and you have to explain to you and they ask a lot of questions. And obviously this is one of the probably more difficult things for them. To understand why I have to wear a mask, you have to be creative. You have to buy masks with silly faces and animal faces, whatever. Right? So it makes make it a little bit fun.

John 12:55

Any, any mask recommendations, Alex? Tara, the kids seem to be drawn to is there like the roadblocks for masks or something?

Tara 13:06

Really, I mean, I think it's up to your personal preference, or you have like the disposable ones or you have the reusable ones. It's like really, my as my daughter picked the design so like we'll go into a store and she sees when she likes and we'll go with that. But other than that

Alex 13:22

Yeah, I've heard this from one person who works on my team that having kids at home is like being a manager of your kids you have to know what they like if they like cats or dogs or bears and like you have to know their preferences their taste and work with them. Like it's almost like being a manager you have to convince motivate them you know, it's it's, it's the same thing you have to know you have to get to know them personally and what what what drives them

John 13:52

in that hierarchy. Alex, who is actually the CEO

Alex 13:57

hopefully not me. I'm just doing what they tell me to do

John 14:02

so you're at home environment. So you're at home, obviously, if best-case scenario working from home, maybe you have a little office space to yourself. Everyone's got different workspaces. Has your home has the shape of your homes changed at all?

Tara 14:15

No, I actually don't even work at a desk. I've worked on but actually, I've worked on like one of those like black desks at my couch. But previously when I was living in Hoboken and our tiny apartment, the way it was set up is we had one bedroom and then then the living room and then our bedroom room with French doors. So it's like basic with Windows. So like our bedroom is basically in the living room and my daughter's room had a pocket door so to our bedroom. So her bedroom is basically in our bedroom and our bedrooms basically in the living room. So there was no privacy. And so my husband being on calls all day, there is no place to escape. And so what we had to do is whoever had an important call would go into the one-bedroom and so they have that quietness and the other person would take care of the Kids that call each other scheduled beforehand so we can figure out who gets priority for that room.

Alex 15:06

Yeah. And it's pretty important to highlight that it's a teamwork, right? You work with your husband, you have to coordinate, who takes care of the kids, and who has the important call, where to go. So it's like, and you probably have to do it coordinate that beforehand, like, Oh, I have this important call, like at this time. So you make sure that you don't have anything any conflicts in your schedule. So you have to coordinate, it's almost like you have this small team small company in at home, right? So you have to juggle both things at the same time. And like the space is also challenged as well. So yeah, it's it's interesting to look at this way. And I know everybody has to deal with that, to certain extent, even if you don't have kids, you still have to coordinate, make sure that there's no like two meetings going on at once. Because you can't really hear each other or cannot really hear the call. But with kids, it's definitely different. Makes it a little bit more complicated.

John 16:04

Well, I like you, since we've been chatting with you actually I think you set up a new, I don't want to call it a studio. Right. But you have what sounded like a private area that you established, or did did your house change at all?

Alex 16:17

Yeah, I mean, my younger daughter is now almost two. So a couple months ago, we decided to move them together in the same bedroom to sleep in the same bedroom. It used to be her sleeping area with with everything set up. So yeah, that freed up. It's like a half of a bedroom. So it's a pretty small room was enough for one baby to sleep in. So it's now it's my private office if you can call it this way. But yeah, it's pretty tiny. But it gives me that that privacy what Tara was talking about, it gives me four walls and the door. And it's, that's all I can ask for.

John 16:54

And it's I know, we're talking about difficulties, but have you guys had any like really fun moments? Like has anything been like, like that made you laugh, or that you were happy that happened?

Tara 17:08

I can't think of anything specific, like a specific moment, but actually, like the flexibility of the remote working and I think has actually been really helpful for me. Like now that my kids are in daycare, I don't have to worry about that childcare aspect as much. So now like I can focus on, like, I get, I don't have to spend an hour on the train or an hour commute. Now I get that time back with my kids and can make them a meal when when I was working in Manhattan, I would just like do something quick when I got home because then you bedtime. So just like having that luxury of more time in my day almost has been really great.

John 17:46

Yeah, I would I definitely empathize with that. I've been saving a lot of money. And I've been wondering how and it's because I don't drive by that Starbucks. If I pick up a coffee on my way somewhere, or right now what would be probably pumpkin spice. lattes, I'd be sinking all my money into Not a fan Alex? No, no, no. Too much. Too much milk.

Alex 18:07

Is it not? Too much pumpkin?

John 18:09

pumpkin. How about you Alex any happy accidents while working from home with the kids?

Alex 18:16

Yeah, I mean, when the first when we started working from home all of us like first it was I was really self conscious when you know, kids were running around and screaming and showing up on my cameras like oh, and like I have to like put up this face. Like I'm a manager has to be professional. Like I have to, like be serious about everything. Especially when I like how this conversation. We have to like motivation like we have to team up we have to finish this project. And my kids like running it running in and started like laughing at me or something. So it was it was gonna embarrassing me first but then I like just went with that. So I just started having fun, like, Hey, come on, come here, let's let's sit and let's have this meeting together. They were playing right. So it was just, you know, you have to adapt, you have to connect, just have fun, because there are no other options you have, right. And I'm actually been really surprised how creative my kids become with us. So as as they play outside the older one which is almost 5 now is telling her mom was like, I'm gonna go like to the bathroom or grab like a snack. And she comes up to my office just runs into my office and she just wants to like, either sit next to me or just like wants to be like on camera or something. So she finds a way to get what she wants just becomes creative. Or like while I have meetings, she's like pulling some of my documents and markers and my desk and start drawing and like putting on my wall. Like after the meeting like, like there's like so, so many drawings now. So it's like it's just funny like how they adapt around you and how they find a way to you know, just be occupied. Just find different things on your desk, under the desk, whatever, you know, just do something. So it's Yeah, it's been interesting.

John 20:10

Alex, you said something similar to Tara, a moment ago, around being self conscious about what your colleagues think about you and your work. When you have your kids popping up? Where do you think that comes from? Like, what's the concern that you think you have, or the pressure that you think is on you for that?

Alex 20:29

No, let territory go first.

Tara 20:31

So I actually read this article the other day, and it resonated so much for me. And so like, there's this concept of the ideal worker, a book, someone who can put in work, the extra hours is available all the time is online all the time when you need them. And then there's like, the good mom puts the family first, always before everything else prioritizes them. And the struggle for working mothers is that you can't be both, it's impossible to be both, right? So trying to fit that ideal be that ideal worker trying to get that promotion, which I got. But like, you feel like people, when they see your kids on the screen, you feel like they like to perceive you as someone maybe not working as hard. Because you know, you're you have to deal with your family, you're not putting in the hours as everyone else does. But really, like parents are working double-time, right? They're working at home, they're working at work. And they're probably even trying to compensate for the fact that they can't work all the time. So they work harder when they can, it's just like that. There's like the spice views where you just feel like you're as like a mother, you can work as hard as everyone else.

Alex 21:42

Yeah, and I just want to say it's everything that you said it's it's most probably applies to moms. And I think moms work extra hard because I don't have to do lunch. I don't have to do all that stuff that mom does. Right. So there's definitely an extra burden on moms and also like, being productive at work and being at the same level, just to self-conscious is that are you productive enough? At the same time taking care of kids? Because dads are not doing that? Maybe some but definitely not as much as moms, I think mom's definitely having extra hard time today to deal with that.

Tara 22:21

Absolutely. It's something that resonated with me that you said to you like our manager. And so when having your kids on the screen, I feel like trying to become a manager and trying to perceive myself as a leader and like, making myself seem like someone that's leading a team, having that it felt like it was hurting me and hurting my image. And it was more difficult to transition into that role. Because my kids were on the screen, it just seems very unprofessional.

John 22:50

So there's, it's like the almost like there's this. I mean, as leaders and the throw that word out there, when you're leading people, it's almost important to have to seemingly hold a persona, that we have it under control. And if people can see the things around our homes going on that seems anti control or out of control, or mismanaged somehow, is we think it's a reflection on ourselves or our performance, or our colleagues will pick up on something that we didn't intend them to. And that might have some ramifications on our careers. Yeah, definitely. I

Tara 23:25

completely agree with that. And you want to also lead by example to so like, like, maybe parent parenting is different. But it also likes, if you're not, you have to block off time in your calendar to dedicate time to your kids. And like, you want other parents to be able to do that too. But also like, like worried that your colleagues will think that you're not working as hard as them because you're doing these things is like a worry and on your mind when you're trying to work for a leader.

John 23:52

Well, not just a you know, for work, and I'm sure also for your family, I'm sure you're also concerned about your kids and their well being and then when you can finally put one thing away, you have to worry about the other. You know, thinking about that, just like that just sounds so stressful.

Tara 24:08

Yeah, and you want to be the best parent for your kid. And like Kevin said, Tell them you can't play with them right now. Or, or just the fact that you popping them in front of a TV, you feel like you're not doing enough for them constantly. It just is really difficult. It is really stressful. And there's a lot of pressure on moms to be the best mom or at least it's the pressure we put on ourselves. Right? So when you're not doing it quite up to par as you perceive everyone else to be doing blame yourself a little bit.

Alex 24:36

What Yeah, it's also interruptions, right as you have like as managers, right? You have a lot of meetings, you have to talk a lot. You have to listen a lot you have to pay attention, right? It's not just code or just doing work. It's It's It's human interactions, right? You have a lot of conversations. And as your kids are running in or asking you questions, it's just simply an interesting interruption. So because kids when they have a question that they don't wait, they just ask questions until you pay attention in your answer. So just simply being interrupted, is also has an effect. So what Tara was saying, Yes, completely agree and also just simply interruptions definitely, definitely.

Tara 25:20

And distractions as well. Right. So like, when you're in a meeting and your kid pops up, it completely detracts from the meeting. And yeah, can throw a whole wrench in it. So

John 25:30

I've seen that too. Even if they're muted. And we're in a kid pops up or pops up on the lap of somebody. It's, it's hard, like, Oh, hey, like, there's a kid there. And, and I missing someone telling me that we're gonna get billed for a whole bunch of stuff that we didn't pay for. Or we didn't actually use we're about to pay for. So, you know, I know we you know, you guys both have daycare now. What were the things, if any, that you could talk to you that helped carry you through that? stressful? emotional, right? Because we have we care about both things very much. So was there anything that you reminded yourself of? Or? Or was it? Did you just deal with it as you went? Like, did you get how did you manage that stress? Or was there anything that helped?

Tara 26:20

For me, I had a couple of things that really helped me one it I meditated a lot. Yeah, so that was huge. For me, I use headspace and that really has really helped to just like finding time for yourself is really, really important. Because there's now there are no boundaries, you're either always working or always with your family, you don't have the commute home anymore, where you just can just have a moment to yourself before you get home. And so you don't have that anymore. So like carving out time in your day to make sure you are having some self care things, whether again, that's meditation, or maybe like a gratitude journal, which has been really helpful for me. Or just like fun stuff like a facemask or bath, just 15 minutes, 30 minutes, whatever you can do. really helpful.

John 27:09

Alex, any, anything that you found helping you get through this stuff? It sounds like you didn't you're not really fronting the big parts of it, but it's still having an effect.

Alex 27:22

Yeah, again, I've been think for me, it's as difficult as for moms because I don't have to do a lot of the things that moms do. So um, I think I'm getting some like free pass. I'm just playing with kids and like mostly dealing with interruptions and distractions. So I don't think I'm not complaining. I'm not saying it's hard for me, because my wife does most of the work. But yeah, it's like Tara was saying, like, it's important to find time for yourself to do you know, some exercise or meditation or something just alone time thing, it's important to take breaks with, you know, from everything that includes kids work, everything, just go for a run, go for a walk, do something that, you know, doesn't require anyone else. So you have you can have that break, I

Tara 28:10

think it's important. Something else that I just thought of this one, something that you've touched on before planning is really important. As an engineer, you always want the most effective or the most efficient solution, right? And that's how I think of my home like, what is the most efficient way I can do the dishes every day? What is the most efficient way I can get laundry done and most efficient way. And the way that helps me is just maybe spending 15 minutes on like a Sunday just planning out your week planning out what meals will be eating, what dinners will be serving? Yeah, just planning really, really helps.

Alex 28:46

I'm curious, Tara. So like, we talked about self-being self-conscious and having kids popping up on the screen? Do you have any advice for other parents who go through the same? I'm not sure if you can to overcome that? Or maybe it's still an issue for you just curious if you have any advice for others?

Tara 29:09

Yeah, just giving yourself some slack. Right. I think that's a big thing. It's a lot of it's really internal. So just like one really important like, definitely your company can support you, my company has done that. They like hold workshops for self care, they hold workshops, specifically for parents, so they provide that support. And my manager is giving me some flexibility as well. But also like, just being able to, like internalize and understand that it's okay, if you don't do all the laundry today or spend that extra minute with your kid because tomorrow you might have more stuff to do at work. So just giving yourself some slack I think is really, really important. And just you'll lower your expectations a little bit because everyone's in it. Everyone's in the hole. Everyone's trying to get through it. So yeah,

John 29:57

yeah, but uh, you know, I can't help but to So if I could relate at all it would be in, you know, features that I've run into with my, in my professional development around imposter syndrome or, like presentations or giving presentations. For some reason, I just go so deep, and I take it so personally, is my message clear are people to people care about this? Am I wrong? And, you know, something that, that I noticed in conscious leadership is really interesting subject. And if you Google it, there's some really good videos. But one of the things that they talk about is prioritizing, being right tends to put us into what's called like a drama circle or drama, The drama triangle. But if we instead if we're thinking what they call above the line, the line being this meta object that we can maybe put a reference to some position that we're in, but above the line prior to so they say prioritizing curiosity and learning and for fitting what being right means. And so what that's led me into is, while I do have this inkling of my ego, and making sure my you know, I do have to maintain this thing, and it feels like a burden. Sometimes every time it arrives, it feels like a burden. But if I'm not really if I don't care about being right as much, and I'm, I find myself asking more questions, and really relying more on the people around me to make decisions, and to share the responsibility of what it is that we're trying to accomplish. And then the other the other part too, is incremental progress, today is the day that it's going to be the best day that it can be tomorrow, it can be a little bit better if I decide to spend a little more time on it. And then I prioritize, I've tried to prioritize my time based on the on the thing that I think is going that needs probably the my attention the most in that in that moment. But that's it's a long road to get there to start not internalizing the things about the world so much into start appreciating the world in the state that it's in. And that we're just participants in it. And whatever our perspective is, I think you said that Tara, I completely agree with you is, is give yourself a break, you're being the best person that you can be. And as long as you're promising yourself that each day, then the outcomes will be as as as good as they can be based on what you're trying to accomplish.

Alex 32:37

Yeah, yeah, I also want to add like it's it just that realization that it's okay, that your kids are just you know, making noise or interrupting you and just being okay, with distractions and interruptions. Just you have to deal with that, that's one, it's no big deal. It's just a two, three minutes of your in everyone else's time. And maybe it's even better because that creates a little bit of social, it's, it's like a break, like everyone's gonna, you know, it's, it's something that we can laugh about, right? So it's, it's, it eases that not an environment, but the whole dynamic and the conversation, right, so it becomes less serious. And that's what you want in any interaction, you don't want to be stiff and just all about business, right? So you want to have some a little bit of fun. So that creates that, just just realize that it's not a big deal. And a second, I think it's a great opportunity to do educate your kids later on, like look, I will have meetings, but if you have that good balance and playing with kids and then have time for work, it's a good I know like it dependent on the age of the kids. Let's like I think five-six and older I think it's a good opportunity to educate your kids look I have work and this is I need to be focus on the work and you can wait and then later on I will dedicate time and we'll play with you so I think it's a good opportunity to for education and also for you once you play with kids don't be on the phone Don't be on the whatever don't watch TV just actually play with your kids give them the attention. So I think it's it's actually just finding an opportunity and the whole thing right i think there's a there's a room for to use this whole situation to your advantage.

Tara 34:26

Yeah, and actually another thing that really helped get me through it is like asking for help and utilizing each other like at home my partner like asking for help and you just have that symbiotic relationship but also at work right? If I can't stay lead to help with a critical that we're having been asking someone else to cover for me and then I'll get like they're back at some other point in time. Like with a meeting that they can no longer make or just help each other out. Ask for help and turn the favor in the future. Whatever you can do.

John 34:57

That's a good segue into a question that's been on my mind. And you mentioned the company are out there, your hold, they're holding workshops. What content has been has been helpful?

Tara 35:10

Definitely. For me, I tend to forget to take breaks. And that thing I said about self care, I tend to not do that, which is why I tell other people to do. So just what like sleep stash, like, like how to get good night's sleep, just breathing and posture and just like nutrition. So be self care workshops are really, really helpful. I think people need to be reminded to do that. And so like having these workshops come up, they, it forces them to, like, do it. So, or at least remember, it's a little reminder to pay, take some time to yourself, here's some ways how you can do that.

John 35:46

And from, like, our colleagues, and being on a team, I have empathy for for the people that I work with. Is there anything that you see or anything, any team dynamics that tend to you said, having each other's back maybe a little more frequently? or looking for opportunities? Are there things that you could categorize that have been really helpful from like your team and the people that you rely on around you that you found? I don't know, is there been like, maybe new ceremonies or questions that you get asked?

Tara 36:20

Not really. But just like the normalization of being a parent in the workplace right now that all the parents are going through the same exact thing. There's a Slack channel for parents who are working from home, and we just share funny, like memes are funny things, because we all understand it like and ask for resources, people posting schedules for their kids, or what they're doing for virtual learning, or virtual school. Are they doing pause? Like, what are they? How are they handling and all these situations, so trying to find that group and work to really helps you maybe they're not on your direct team, like in my case, there are not a lot of people who have kids. So this is like the broader company, there is a Slack channel, and that's really helpful.

John 37:04

It's interesting. So companies, parents, creating little communities within the organization to share ideas and things that are learning. And it sounds like also having some fun with it.

Tara 37:16

Yeah, definitely. And utilizing like Facebook groups to their sons, a local Facebook group, like mom groups, that parent groups. So utilizing that as well, because everyone's going through it. It's just a lot of funny memes of moms with bottles of wine, because how else are you going to get through?

John 37:36

So curious if, if you had it your way, and you thought you could design the best working environment at home with your kids? What facilities would you have?

Tara 37:50

Definitely separation, like the designated area to work. And then like when you're in that area, no interruptions, it'd be really, really nice. Just like having that separation of work and home, because that's the hardest part, right? Not having those boundaries, or kids can come in whenever they want. But like, we're just creating those boundaries. So just creating your workspace and leave it. And that's when you're sitting in that chair than that you're working. So like being able to focus for long periods of time. That would be ideal.

Alex 38:22

I'm curious. So I think you mentioned something that not everybody has kids at work or any company and that's understandable. That's, that's normal. But so how do you manage that? Or how do you educate other people? How do you create those that mindset that, you know, some people do have kids and some people will be distracted, some people will not perform it to full capacity every single day. And they will need time off? They will need breaks, they will need some help? So how do we I know it's a pretty common challenge for many managers right now. And because we're all going through this, some companies more, some companies less, but it's a pretty common issue right now, or just a challenge. So how do you think about this? Or how do you approach this?

Tara 39:08

It helps with me as my managers been really supportive. So just understanding that, one, it's been really difficult to have to, you're in a difficult position working from home with kids. And he understood that from the beginning and so like providing me the flexibility understanding that, hey, I might need to block some time off on my calendar to take care of my kids during these times. Just allowing parents to have that flexibility. And something that's really been helpful that I did was just set boundaries, right. So like, announced, like, Today, I'll be working. I'll be online from eight to five or eight to four. So I'll be available during these hours. Just setting those boundaries. So people understand when you're working and when you are your band pair, having those distinct times of the day.

Alex 39:54

Yeah, and that's important. And Does everyone understand that? No stigma about this, push back.

Tara 40:07

That's what I was nervous at first and not communicating that was really difficult. And I think setting that tone and making it normal has been really helpful. And there has been no push back. So so that's been really good and people understand them. And then, as long as hitting the deadlines, doing my work, they're committed when I like, have those dedicated work times, I think it should be fun, right? So like, as a manager, making that known to your direct reports, you can have this flexibility, and I understand what you're going through would be just extremely helpful.

Alex 40:40

Yeah, I think it's important for all managers, whether we have kids or not, it's just to make sure that people, people understand that, you know, they're people with different needs at home, some have kids, some have parents, some have sick family members with them, pets, whatever, right, we all have something going on. And as we work from home, there's always going to be something that we need to think about other than work, so it's not going to be only work. So just have those either conversations or expectations that you know, not everybody is going to perform at their best all the time, I think it's important to remember at all times.

John 41:23

Yeah, sounds like you have a great support group around you. I hate to think that there's, there's those of us out there that don't have that support, we still they still have a manager, someone still trying to push everything they can or squeeze everything they can like when they're imagining productivity. But for that person, they have to be suffering tremendously. Or they have to completely ignore one whole side of their life. And inadvertently, possibly putting other things at risk. More so than then we might have thought or they might have thought.

Tara 42:02

Yeah, and you have to think there are also people who, like my kids aren't in school yet. So we're not, I don't have to be a teacher, right, their parents at home that have to teach their kids during the day, because school is not in session, you can go into the school. So they have to basically act as like a teaching assistant during our thing during lesson plans at home, while also being a parent while also working. And there's also families out there with maybe special needs that they don't have that support, because of like, you don't want outside help because of the quarantine and the virus. So you just got to think there's also a lot of people out there who also have it is way harder to so it's just providing them just some sort of just understanding where they're coming from and that empathy and allowing that flexibility, I think can go really far.

John 42:51

So being very much so app-driven, and taking advantage of technology, it's definitely in our wheelhouse. We've all been writing programs and managing teams, has there been any, like new apps or new technology out there that you guys have rallied around or found, like, more interesting or more useful than, than before? For instance, like I imagine something like maybe like a family calendar, or like zone time or using colors and interesting ways around the house. Yeah.

Tara 43:25

I was gonna say I had this really, really fancy app. That's actually just a weekly calendar. That's a whiteboard on my refrigerator. And that helps so much.

John 43:33


Tara 43:34

yeah. Got on Amazon. It's a whiteboard. It's a magnetize. So you can put it on your fridge and every week just update all our schedules, so we understand who can work when who can help here who's doing pickups and drop offs, that stuff.

Alex 43:50

For me, it's been Disney plus. No, it's every time we have me and my wife we have a meeting at the same time. I think we had yesterday like at the same time, half an hour we have a meeting at exact same time and it's really important for both of us. We can't really move them around. What are we doing Disney Plus, it's like half an hour. Kids are occupied in the work and watching them over the shoulder like Is everything okay, so that's been definitely a big help.

Tara 44:22

Youtube Kids is a big thing for my Iris fossa.

John 44:27

Awesome. Okay, so has you touched on this a little bit earlier Tara and in wrapping has this changed your mind about working from home at all or what it means?

Tara 44:40

Um, I think if given the resources and opportunity to have that support and that childcare while you work, I think it's it's wonderful like you'd be able to get your time back rate. So not having to do that community more having a flexible work hour, I think can help In the future, when we're not so worried about not having childcare and not having daycares open anymore, I think it can really be really helpful for a lot of parents to have this flexibility in the workplace. Like, during the day, if you need to take some time, then you just fill in those hours later on at night, when the kids are asleep, just providing that flexibility would be great. I think it would make productivity go up way higher.

John 45:27

Yeah, I would agree with that. And this is gonna, it'll be my last question. But if you were talking to a CEO of a company, or someone who was trying to understand how to connect with the people that have complex home lives, especially right now, whether they're teaching their parenting, and they're managing, or they're trying to write code, or whatever it is that they're trying to accomplish throughout the day, what would be something or some ideas or some things that you would ask them to consider to introduce to their company for the general well, being of those individuals,

Tara 46:05

I think, um, first of all, that CEO can take my kids for a week, and but I think, um, like a work from home, Saipan would be really helpful to build out just an area for someone to work, whether that's just a desk or block desk, in my case, or even just an external monitor, or just a nice office chair, I think that can do wonders. For resources, like the workshops that I mentioned, these are, and something that my company has done as well that I haven't utilized. But there's a lot of, because hellofresh has a lot of distribution centers, there's, there's people who cannot work remote. And so they're providing some childcare through Bright Horizons, like offering that support in that sense, as well, backup care, whatever they can do to support parents. I think that that's really a good idea.

John 46:59

Awesome, thank you, Alex, any thoughts on that?

Alex 47:02

Yeah, I just wanted to get your final advice to all the parents in to be parents soon. They work in, you know, for a company in their state home. How do they got to have these conversations with their manager? How do they think about those maybe in any final advice to those people?

Tara 47:26

Yeah, definitely. Communication is key. So your manager is not going to understand what you're going through unless you mentioned it. So I would say like during like maybe one on one event, you might be having just mentioned, things are a little bit tougher at home, it could just start maybe with like one or two occurrences, hey, like tomorrow, I need to sign off from one to 2pm to make my kids launcher and see how that goes. And just iterate off of that and just push for that flexibility as much as you can. And as a manager, just providing the support to your direct reports in that sense, and understand that their home environment may not be easy at the moment. So have that empathy and flexibility for them.

Alex 48:07

Yeah, that's good advice. Thank you.

John 48:10

All right, Tara, do you have anything you'd like to share with everybody you have anything going on? You'd like people to know about?

Tara 48:16

Yeah, for sure. So the first thing hellofresh is hiring. Check out our website, we have tons of open roles all over the world. In our New York headquarters, we are looking for an engineer manager. So check that out. Just go to hellofresh.com go to the footer and check out the career site. Also, I'm starting to conduct some research on a business idea targeted towards parents working from home. It's still in the early stages, so I can't reveal too much about it. But I would love to hear more about other parents and their experiences working from home and what their childcare situation is. So reach out to me on LinkedIn. Because I'd love to hear your story. You can find me Tara Bird Engineering Manager at hellofresh on LinkedIn, so check with me. Awesome.

John 48:57

Oh, that sounds great. Tara. Cool. So we'll make sure we include those in the show notes. So if you're listening, please take a look at the notes and pragmaticlead.com page associated with this for more information. Thanks a lot.

Tara 49:10

Awesome. Thank you so much for having me.

John 49:14

Thanks for tuning in to the pragmatically podcast. If you found this conversation interesting or helpful. We would appreciate your feedback. If you want even more content like what you just heard. Check out pragmatic lead.com if you have a story to tell, send an email to pragmaticlead@gmail.com and someone will be in touch. Thanks again.