This pandemic has changed business as usual for the foreseeable future. To survive and thrive while balancing work and home life we need to change our schedule while also maintaining a routine. Work when the house and the business sleeps. If you do that, you can get lots done without distraction. Then when the kids wake or when the phones start ringing, it will not be so overwhelming. Put everyone on a new routine.
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 my series about how women leaders in tech and STEM are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laticia Brice.
Laticia Brice is an IT Expert specializing in Computer and Networking Technology and Remote Tech Support. She is passionate about empowering others to DIY Tech. She has founded an Online IT Academy where she teaches people how to become a Computer Technician completely online. Laticia loves having brainstorming sessions with friends, loved ones and creatives to help them go from Idea to Income or pivot their business to serve their clients online during this lock down.
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?
Inhigh school my favorite subject was Maths. I loved that it had rules and once you knew the rules, you could solve any problem. I wanted to be either a Teacher or an Accountant. A series of events changed that path. One of them was the introduction of computers to the curriculum. After my first class (and Tetris game) I fell in love. Then all of my attempts to go to college went awry, so after graduation I found myself working at a Law Firm. That was the beginning of my 7-year career as a Legal Secretary.
Growing up it was almost always a struggle to put healthy food on the table but I was determined to do better in life. In 2000, with a baby on the way, an opportunity came up for me to attend Technical College. I decided to take it. I moved to a different country and started classes two months after my son was born. After graduation I moved back home and got a job as a Computer Technician, gained experience, built up my client base, started a side hustle, taught computer repair, and moved to a large corporation with better pay and benefits. This enabled me to start my own IT business from my savings, completely debt free.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
The most interesting thing that has happened is pivoting to serve during the Covid-19 lockdown. I decided to offer Remote Tech Support. When I did this I was able to do what I enjoy. Helping people with technical issues while also empowering them by teaching them as I resolved their issues. I helped a mother of three, that runs an online motherhood magazine, fix a somewhat complicated email sequence to meet an impending deadline. She was offering her audience free activity sheets and calendars to help their children get less screen time while they are on lockdown.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m excited to say that my Online IT Academy is open for enrollment! I teach people (from the newbie to the tech enthusiast) the skills to become a Computer Technician. Generally, I aim to serve students that want to learn a skill that can generate a very good income and now, because of the current time, I am serving people that have been laid off and have decided to use this time to invest in starting a new career. So besides the obvious, this will help people who feel stuck in a rut with their current employment opportunities and limited salary. They will be fast-tracked to a world of opportunity in the IT Field.
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?
I am a firm believer in talking about what I am going through with the persons I trust. Because of this, over the years there have been countless persons that have helped me along the way.
One such person is the lawyer that gave me a job just as I was graduating High School. At the time, I was nearing the end of senior year and bussing tables to help myself and my mother who was talking care myself and 4 other kids on her own as an Auxiliary Nurse.
This lawyer gave me a job with no experience and he and his Legal Secretary trained me and advised me and because of that, I flourished. When I left home at 17, I was able to take care of myself and eventually ended up at one of the top law firms in The Bahamas. This was where I was able to observe how the IT department there operated and fell in love with the IT Field all over again. I left that law firm and went to school to become a Computer and Network Technician.
I have known this lawyer for almost 30 years and throughout the years I went to him for advice. When I first transitioned to the IT Field, I remember talking to him about my dream of opening a computer company. I don’t remember exactly what advice he gave me but I still have the book he gifted me on Entrepreneurship.
Eventually he went from mentor to client and even today he still calls me when he has a tech related issue or question.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. 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 in STEM during this pandemic?
My biggest family related challenges at this time is not being able to have physical contact with my family. Being worried about whether they are being safe or are in harm’s way. Some of my family members have been laid off, including my son who lives with me, and so I worry about how they will support themselves if this pandemic continues to threaten the normal operations of life much longer. A number of my family members are also at high risk of infection.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
My son is 19 and asthmatic. He does not like staying at home and would much rather be outside exercising, playing basketball and working to care for his responsibilities. So of course we have had debates where I reason with him about why he needs to stay indoors. Young people believe nothing can touch them. I’m grateful that he is listening to the stay at home order and also helping around the house as I work.
When it comes to missing and worrying about my immediate family members, being the tech geek in the family, I have arranged for weekly zoom calls so that we can all catch up at the same time and chat, play games, share photos, etc. They have turned into mini family reunions and have been a blessing because I have reconnected with close family members I have not seen or spoken to in years.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
My biggest work related challenges are fighting my superiors’ and colleagues’ urge to continue to work as normal. I am considered an Essential Worker because I work for the local utility company. When this virus reached my hometown, I happened to be fighting a cold at the time. I was asked to stay home for two weeks. When it was time to return to work, and since then, I have had to constantly fight for my right to physically distance myself. While there is a schedule in place to alternate work from home and onsite work that I appreciate, there are still too many instances of non-compliance with the social-distancing order. For instance, as a technician, on a daily basis I may have to visit a user at his or her desk and lean over their shoulder or sit in their chair and use their keyboard and mouse. My colleagues are also still meeting together in conference rooms and offices because it’s easier than doing it virtually.
As a utility company, we are still allowing consumers to come into the office to pay their bills. This worries me because of the risk of having the public enter the administrative building where so much staff works. It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to continue to refuse to walk over to that building to help staff.
As a woman, difficulties are compounded because my opinions and professional advice tend to be dismissed and undervalued.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Before this pandemic ever came about, I have been the go to person within my department to make it a practice to resolve IT issues remotely. As soon as I learn of a new remote service that we have acquired, I learn it and begin using it. As a result, I have become extremely efficient at remote assistance. So now with my new schedule of working from home, I can offer the same high level of service whether I am sitting at my desk in the office or on my bed at home.
Another way I have addressed the challenge of persons wanting service done in person, is I try to empower them by helping them to see that they can also take a role in resolving and/or preventing their own issues. I do my best to teach them best practices. I send them how to documents. I walk and talk them through how I am resolving their issues so that they can understand (as best as possible) what’s happening. I do my best to remain patient with them and instill confidence in them and their ability to help me help them as we go through the troubleshooting steps together. Many persons are afraid to really touch the computer outside of turning it on and logging in and working. I have walked a remote client (with no previous experience) through the steps to disconnect her computer, open it up and reseat an add-on card.
Within my department, I am an advocate of doing things remotely and calming frustrated users to the point where I can get them to work with me through the troubleshooting process. This cuts down the need for me to physically go to that user to do it all for them. I also do what I can to share knowledge with my colleagues who usually default to in person rather than remote support. This helps them become more comfortable giving remote assistance and keeping the risk of spreading this disease down.
I have also been doing my part to ensure the staff can work from home by getting them all set in the virtual environment. Once they can work efficiently from home, there would not be an urgent need for them to come into the office on a daily basis and risk infection or infecting others.
When it comes to my professional opinions being discounted, I don’t let that stop me from expressing myself when necessary. It usually becomes evident that I was right soon enough. Also my hard work, knowledge, expertise, attention to detail and quality of work have served me well and gained me respect.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
This pandemic has changed business as usual for the foreseeable future. To survive and thrive while balancing work and home life we need to change our schedule while also maintaining a routine. Work when the house and the business sleeps. If you do that, you can get lots done without distraction. Then when the kids wake or when the phones start ringing, it will not be so overwhelming. Put everyone on a new routine. If you can sort out mealtimes, schoolwork, playtime, homework, entertainment and chores before your boss starts sending out task lists and meeting invitations this will help you stay balanced and be efficient as possible as a mother and an employee or business owner.
Depending on the age of your kids, and whether you have a partner, you can share the chores and responsibilities. In my household, it is just my teenage son and myself. While sometimes it is a struggle, for the most part he works with me. I go to the grocery store and he brings in the grocery, sanitizes everything and puts them away. He cleans the kitchen and I cook. If I am too busy, he will cook. Whomever cooks, serves the other by preparing a plate for them.
For homeschooling parents, you may find yourself dealing with online resources you have no idea about or helping with schoolwork you are certain you never did when in school. My advice to you is to read the manual, guide, instructions, and/or the FAQs. This will go a long way to answering your questions and empowering you to successfully navigate the new world of online learning and homeschooling your children. You must also get comfortable asking for help and researching solutions online (Google and YouTube are excellent research tools).
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place for long periods with your family?
A Spiritual Routine
One of my main strategies for sanity and serenity is maintaining a spiritual routine. Daily prayer, bible reading and meditation on what I read. Weekly Family worship routine. Twice weekly virtual meetings with my congregation where we do bible study as well as hear encouraging bible discourses and are constantly reminded of God’s love.
Virtual Meetings with Family
It brings so much joy and fosters connection to see the smiling faces of your loved ones. It’s a wonderful time to catch up on the latest, play silly games, tell jokes, laugh, and support each other emotionally.
Working towards your goals
If you never had the time before, now is the opportune time to reexamine your goals, visions and dreams for the future. When we are actively working towards a goal, this gives us a sense of well-being. When we accomplish our goals, this brings fulfillment, personal development, pride and a sense of self-worth.
Give each other space
While you want to do things together as a household, it is also a good idea to give each other some space on a daily basis. Everyone needs time alone for personal reflection and meditation.
Virtual Community Service
The Bible says that there is “more happiness in giving than in receiving”. While we may not be able to be physically present, we can still serve our community virtually. When you regularly reach out to persons online and via telephone to offer hope, encouragement, comfort or other practical support. This not only helps them but it also helps to solidify your own faith and hope for the future.
I have been availing myself of co-working sessions with my biz-besties on a daily basis. These have been instrumental in helping me to stay focused on accomplishing my goals, staying on task (and off social media), and keeping me accountable.
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.
5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis
We have a loving promise from God
For those that view the Bible as a reliable source, there is a promise there that says that one day, no one will be sick. (Isaiah 33:24)
We have gotten through pandemics before
We have evidence in history that shows that although the world was rocked by pandemic in the past, life eventually returned to normal. We just need to hold out until this one passes.
People are resourceful and are finding ways to adjust
Humans are highly adaptable. Every day we hear stories of how persons have responded to this crisis. I have seen heartwarming videos. One of a teenage boy executing a choreographed Tik Tok routine with his grandma (she at her front door and he from the driveway). Another of small children going to the homes of the elderly in their community and singing them songs of hope while holding signs with loving words written on them.
If you think outside the box, you can pivot within your business
With a little bit of imagination and creativity, almost any business can pivot to serve their customers online. Service based businesses like hair salons and wedding designers have pivoted to teaching their clients how to serve themselves with online training.
Connecting with people and family virtually.
I have become closer to my family and made connections with women in business and tech all over the world. I have had virtual co-working sessions and masterminds that have greatly helped all concerned. One woman in Spain in the wedding business, went from despair to excited when we talked about the idea of virtual weddings and teaching brides to set up their own design for their weddings this year. A semi-retired art teacher went from worrying about eviction to taking her art classes online and is now creating an online course.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to your family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Visit with them virtually on a regular basis.
Talk with them about what they can do to survive and thrive during this pandemic.
See how you can share resources and knowledge.
Find out what each one needs and offer practical assistance.
Pray together. Exchange comforting scriptures from the Bible.
Avail yourself of government assistance and help your family members do the same.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Hard work (and determination) leads to success
When I am working hard, I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself or lament my situation. When I work hard I accomplish great things, feel fulfilled and motivated to keep the momentum going. Accomplishment boosts my confidence which then spurs me on to accomplish greater things and keep a positive mindset. Determination keeps me going when the way forward seems daunting and insurmountable. When I work hard and remain determined, I set a good example for my son. He has a living testimonial that he too can do hard things and not give up.
How working hard (mixed with determination) has been relevant to me in my life
My high school days were not very stable. I was moved 4 different times. I had to sit important exams from one school at another school. I had to change my major three times because of change of schools and curriculum, but in the end I was awarded a Prestigious Student Award from our local Chamber of Commerce.
All my attempts to attend college after high school were thwarted so I joined the workforce. When the opportunity presented itself to go to Technical College there were a number of obstacles. I was married and very pregnant. I did not have the first dollar to pay for it. I had never even owned a computer before (or during college).
I didn’t let any of these obstacles deter me. I was determined to put myself in a better position in life. I applied for and received multiple scholarships. I worked hard in my classes and maintained a 4.0 GPA. I built my own computer after finally entering the IT Field. I went from a junior technician to a business owner working hard to help others fast track to becoming high-earning IT Experts.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!