By: Sheffy Minnick, Global Programs Manager
I have been working full-time for World in Conversation for two years now. Unless you are on the Global Team or a staff member, you have heard about me, but you don’t know me. You have never seen me walk through the halls of Pond Lab in the last two years and we have surely never grabbed a bite to eat at Lunch. You most likely don’t know what my hair looks like today or what I’m wearing because there’s never been an opportunity to see me. Just a couple days ago, someone said, “Oh you’re Sheffy. You’re the legendary name around here.” As heartwarming as that feels to hear, it’s also isolating because I am connected to the work ALL the time. You see, I work remotely, about three hours away in a suburb of Philadelphia. And this is my virtual story.
I left Penn State in 2012, but I couldn’t leave WinC. The mission, the people, and the work that we do is what drives my career development because I believe in all of it. When I left Pond Lab physically a few years ago, I was determined to stay connected and to find a way to work. The “universe” really listened to me because as I was going through this process, WinC was growing into a global platform. So instead of training Soc 300 in Pond Lab (which I did from 2010-2012), I got involved in training virtually. And as the global work has grown organically, it’s allowed for my work to be redefined. I don’t need to be in Pond Lab because I manage global partners and programming. So I work full time from home.
Home. It sounds very cozy, right? I wake up at 5 AM everyday to get myself together for my commute down the stairs. I complain about how cold the kitchen floor is but I never have to step outside into the cold really. I start my day at my own pace with a few emails here and there. Eventually my 3-year-old wakes up, and I take her to preschool. HOLD ON. Did I mention I am stay-at-home mom who works full-time remotely? Drumroll please.
I am checked into work all day from 6 AM – 5 PM with a few breaks to feed a toddler and visit the bathroom at the most inopportune time because she just knows exactly when I need her NOT to go. For the last two years I have found a way to be a mom and to manage my work. And I couldn’t be more grateful for this experience. I work with the most empathetic team that understands when my 3-year-old is standing butt naked next to me or putting stickers on my forehead while I am trying to listen in a meeting.
After having it all, it feels so rude to say, “BUT there’s ONE thing missing.” So, allow me to be rude please for a moment. There is ONE thing missing in my daily life. I am totally disconnected from my colleagues. I can’t knock on someone’s door to share a silly story or tell them how my weekend was. Nor can I receive this information. I don’t get to just walk around the office and see who is in and out. Unless you are on the Global Team and we use Google Hangouts, I don’t get the socialization of work. All of my meetings “get to work” right away and usually after meetings when people are making lunch plans, I’m deciding whether I want to eat that leftover toddler-infused- mac-n-cheese.
But then this week, my cool boss who is ever so tech-savvy and believes in a different type of work world found a way to gets us this Robot that we named Sheffelle. This past week has been transformative. I can connect to the robot from my computer and control the movement of it. I can “walk” to meetings in Pond Lab, and I can knock on people’s offices if I have a question. And I can even just catch up with my colleagues. I forgot what the rooms of our offices looked like! Just seeing the activity around the offices promotes connectivity for me. I can see more students, so I am not just a legendary name around the halls. I can talk to people, and I am also a real person. Ironically.
One of my biggest takeaways from my learning as a master’s student in organization development and leadership is that we must be willing to see how we can transform the work life, and then act upon that. The future is now, and technology is shaping how we work everyday. The future belongs to the organizations that are embracing new ways of being and are working with technology to do what seems impossible. I never thought I would walk through the halls of Pond Lab in University Park from Media, PA. And the thought alone just makes me feel uplifted. Who said robots couldn’t have feelings?