Social Distancing as a Mother, Data Scientist, and Community Contributor

March 25, 2020

For many, social distancing is a new and alarming concept. For me, it almost feels like a continuation of my life as a single-mother, technology and community leader. 

Admittedly, I am a notorious introvert.  However, at a time when many of us are asked to balance work, children, family or partners while hovering over one another in close quarters, I find myself framing this experience as an opportunity to learn new ways of being. If you’re wondering how to juggle everything, I am sharing a few tips I’ve curated over my years of working from home, balancing my children and contributing to community projects: 

Balance engagement, productivity, and well-being

It may feel productive to take or host six video conferences a day, however, this is not advisable. I know the goal is to demonstrate presence and engagement with your teams.  Do not mistake a full schedule as high productivity. You sacrifice your well-being and the teams’ creativity when being obligated to your desk the majority of the day. I learned from parenting 3 boys, sitting still for more than 45 minutes is NOT a good thing.  Instead, focus on shorter meetings with clear outcomes. For example, each of my team meetings, of late, are characterized by three aspects: 

Vida Williams, Data Scientist, Professor, Innovator in Residence and SingleStone Data Solution Lead office space during social distancing
  1. No more than 20 minutes in length. 
  2. One clear outcome established prior to the meeting. 
  3. Begin the meeting with one positive and negative of our current situation. 

Be human, see human

Lean into the human elements of our collective experience. See the realness of your teammates. My recent calls show me as I am: messy hair, t-shirt, occasional crumb ridden breakfast plates, my cute though rambunctious ginormous dog named Buddy, and various family members in and out of the frame. I am showing my team who I am and letting them dismiss the perfection of social media personas. We are messy humans, welcome to the world of really getting to know one another. Embrace you, and you will make others comfortable and enable their focus to be on their work, not their appearance. This alleviates tension in a time of stress and increases creativity with authenticity. 

[Safely] Go outside

The Earth is healing herself even while asking us to “go sit down somewhere.” This is an obvious one but bring yourself to take calls and work from outside. Even if it’s on your front porch or sitting next to an open window. Fresh air and the sun will boost your immune system, your state of mind, and your well-being. 

Take this opportunity to see an opportunity

Don’t dwindle on the unknown of our situation, instead, pick up paper and pen, check out that online class or watch that YouTube video about a new programming language. We will be appreciably changed after this experience. How can you seize this season of change to improve your own skillset, make life better for yourself and for your immediate community?  Me?  I am working on new neural net models, an area where I am really not very good. 

Learn the lessons 

Learning is more than math and testing, it’s also cooking, cleaning, playing, sharing, telling jokes, being creative, and learning about how the world actually works. What if education is FOREVER changed for the better because we all get involved in feeding, caring and educating our children collectively. At the same time, let your family into your work. Even if they aren’t too interested in your industry, your kids are interested in you, and you may spark a new interest within them.  Try to teach your kids as though you are their parent, looking up answers together, video chatting experts, taking online classes together on Khan Academy.  Tell them how YOU learned it back in the day. This latter one will give you good laughs, especially if you are recounting planets or oceans.  

Close Your Door

It’s ok to step away, close a door and take a deep breath, even if it’s in the bathroom.  Social distancing and close proximity for too long will drive anyone bonkers. 5 minutes and 10 deep breaths will be like a mini-vacation on a beach, you will be refreshed and able to communicate more lovingly.  

No one can predict exactly where we will be a month from now. But we can predict how this moment in time can, if we try, positively impact our approach to work and life. I have spent much of my career bouncing in and out of schedules that have me working from home, traveling, and everything in-between. Social distancing can be an opportunity. I encourage you to breath, take a step back and look at what opportunity you have been afforded. Be you, see others and practice patience.  

How are you working today? I’d love to hear from you via our “contact” link or drop me a comment below.

From one technologist to another, be well.  

Vida Williams

SingleStone Alumni
Vida Williams is a revered leader in the tech space. In addition to being the Chief Data & Diversity Officer at SingleStone, Vida is a professor and Innovator in Resident at Virginia Commonwealth University, a gubernatorial appointee, and co-chair of the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority, and an impassioned activist for data privacy. She has contributed to TedX, TomTom Festival, The Frontier Partners, and countless client presentations. Vida also volunteers her data expertise to non-profits, offering free workshops and consulting. She leads organizations through exercises that help them to identify areas of improvement, new and better ways of showcasing their impact on the community, and how to use their data to foster growth.