I’m heartened by how much this crisis has reminded us of what is important. We can all gripe about being forced to spend time at home, but I’m grateful I can be with the ones who I love.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christy Johnson, an intrapreneur, entrepreneur, and strategist. She is currently building her fourth start-up, Artemis Connection, a boutique consulting firm. She was previously a McKinsey consultant, and before that, an award-winning economics and math high school teacher.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I was working crazy hours at McKinsey when my twins were born 7 weeks early. They spent about a month in the NICU, and our pediatrician strongly advised us to keep them at home until their lungs developed. Transitioning from helping Fortune 500 companies with their most important strategic concerns to staying at home required me to reorient my life dramatically. I craved intellectual stimulation and I missed helping people solve problems, so I picked up project-based consulting work. I loved the work and the flexibility it gave me. I became obsessed with the idea that there were lots of other talented people who wanted to provide high-level strategic advice without working 100+ hours per week. That’s what led me to start Artemis.
We started as a remote organization, which has given us the ability to recruit and retain talent wherever they are. Given the pandemic, it’s now one of our superpowers that we’ve learned how to work effectively without sharing an office.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
A few years ago, we started a certificate course on women in entrepreneurship with the University of Washington. I was a teacher before I went to business school and became a consultant, and education is still a core part of my identity. I was an adjunct professor for a course on business development, and I noticed that a lot of my women students were really interested in entrepreneurship, but there was no program dedicated to helping them start their own businesses. We set out to create our own under the auspices of the UW Continuum College’s Professional & Continuing Education department. The course explores the fundamental principles of entrepreneurship and walks students through all of the major aspects of founding and running a business. I love mentoring future startup leaders and helping other women to explore this path.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We’ve spent the past year researching how to work effectively while remote, which turned out to be well-timed! We just released our report: Navigating the New World of Remote Work: Best Practices and Strategies for Overcoming Common Obstacles to Remote Success. We drew on our own experience as a remote-native organization, focus groups with 16 companies across 7 industries and expert interviews, and extensive research. Our goal was to share what we had learned to help strengthen companies who are now operating remotely at a scale they never expected. We’ve found that remote organizations can be more successful, as long as they put in place the right systems and processes.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband has been one of my biggest supporters and champions. Not only does he take care of our kids when I’m traveling (or running up against a deadline), but he also pushes me to think more strategically and check my weaknesses. I have a tendency to say yes to everything, and he is great about reminding me to prioritize my time.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
Thankfully, I had a lot of practice working from home before the pandemic, but having my three kids at home and managing their schooling at home has created a new set of challenges.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I started a “parent co-op” with other parents I know to help all of us (and our kids) learn together. We created a ton of great lessons and projects for the kids, including around the stock market and entrepreneurship. We’ve also invited expert speakers in to help the adults manage. We get together weekly to learn and discuss. For example, we’ve had conversations with psychiatrists on setting boundaries and fostering resilience, with education experts on talking to kids about race, and with a school board member on partnering with teachers.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
Like everyone with family responsibilities — as parents or other caregivers — it can be hard to focus when everyone seems to need my attention at the same time.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I try to work in sprints and map out my day ahead of time. My calendar has time carved out for replying to emails, sending thank you notes, etc. I’ve also become a master at working with my kids running around. I had to learn to feel comfortable with them making noise in the background, but I think it’s actually an asset. We’re all people with lots of different responsibilities in our lives, and there’s no reason to pretend that our home/family selves don’t exist just because we’re at work. One of our top tips for managers to foster a productive remote workforce is to ensure that employees with family members at home don’t feel the need to apologize if one appears during a video call. Constantly feeling torn and anxious leads to disengagement very quickly.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
We created a report with lots of great advice and best practices! You can check it out on our website at https://www.artemisconnection.com/navigating-the-new-world-of-remote-work/. Through our research, and our own experience, we found that it is critical to establish and maintain boundaries. Set up times when you’re off the clock, and don’t check email or Slack during those times. Schedule brain breaks. And if you can, log off completely for at least one day of the weekend.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
One of the most important things I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is how critical it is to take “me” time. Burning out doesn’t help anyone, and unfortunately, we’re seeing much higher rates of burnout at many companies because so many of us are working more hours and trying to manage homeschooling and childcare. I make sure to carve out at least an hour a day for exercise or relaxing. I’ve also started going for long walks while on phone calls. It’s so important to spend time outside, especially during those few days a year when it’s sunny in Seattle. And even though I can’t travel, I’ve been taking off a few days every month this summer to spend time with my family and be completely off-line. Getting away from the day-to-day refreshes me to be able to refocus when I log on again.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- I’m heartened by how much this crisis has reminded us of what is important. We can all gripe about being forced to spend time at home, but I’m grateful I can be with the ones who I love.
- Experts have been predicting that remote work is the future of work for a long time, but too few companies were willing to experiment. Now that most of us have been forced to operate virtually, I’m excited to see how many companies will continue to give workers more flexibility after the crisis is passed.
- Crises like these are often powerful catalysts for innovation. At Artemis, we’ve relied on Zoom and Slack for a long time, but there are so many entrepreneurs newly motivated to imagine how to make remote work (and life) more productive.
- In a similar vein, this pandemic is going to transform many areas of our lives permanently. That means we have a real opportunity to rethink the status quo. For instance, I love travel, but it’s also a big time commitment and cost for our clients. Now that we’ve proven we can work effectively together over video conferences, I bet there will be a lot less demand for having consultants working on-site (and living in hotel rooms) Monday to Thursday.
- More of us working from home means fewer commuters on the road, which has been great for the environment. Cutting out the commute also saves employees money and time.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
First, just acknowledge that these are strange times, and it’s normal to feel stressed and anxious. Pretending that everything is fine doesn’t help at all. Throughout my career, I’ve found that being willing to be honest gets you a lot further than shying away from hard conversations. Second, meet people where they are. If a friend just wants to vent, that’s fine. Sometimes we just need to blow off steam.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead. I firmly believe that it is the responsibility of every one of us to make the world a better place. That’s why we built responsibility for giving back into our business model at Artemis. Each month, we dedicate 4.5% of our time to the sole purpose of changing lives, communities, and organizations. We do this through pro bono work, volunteering, and board involvement. We also donate 4.5% of our profits each year. We call this intentional philanthropic approach our 4.5% Promise.
How can our readers follow you online?
I’m on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/christy-johnson-0450813/ and Twitter at https://twitter.com/Christy77125020. You can also learn more about Artemis at http://www.artemisconnection.com.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Thanks for having me!