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“Have the mindset of being fun and delightful.” With Penny Bauder & Tina Fitch

We’re trying to be as creative as possible while keeping our costs incredibly lean so we can still be standing at the end of this crisis. It’s almost liberating to know that the future is uncertain, it gives us license to act ‘outside the box’ and consider design and product options that we may not […]

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We’re trying to be as creative as possible while keeping our costs incredibly lean so we can still be standing at the end of this crisis. It’s almost liberating to know that the future is uncertain, it gives us license to act ‘outside the box’ and consider design and product options that we may not have before, all with the mindset of being fun and delightful, as well as useful and reliable, for our users during this time of need.


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 Tina Fitch

Tina is the Co-Founder and CEO of Hobnob, a virtual event organizer that helps you gather your offline groups online effortlessly with group video chat, invites, RSVPs, reminders, ticketing, and Spaces for private group planning. She previously was Founder & CEO of Switchfly, the premier B2B2C travel eCommerce platform used by the most recognizable airlines and credit card loyalty programs in the world including American Airlines, JetBlue, LATAM Airlines, American Express, and Mastercard. Tina’s from Hawaii where she has built companies from her farm with her husband, two daughters, and multiple animals.


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’m from Hawaii, but have lived in a lot of international cities. The more I traveled, the more I realized my goal was to return home and help build more jobs, income opportunity, and innovation in Hawaii, leveraging our amazing design talent, entrepreneurism, and sense of community to create amazing technology products. We have a unique worldview in Hawaii, and technology allows us to share that globally while having low environmental impact and protecting our natural resources.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

Well, although we’ve had celebrities and amazing brands use our event platform, the real ‘stars’ of the service have been the folks on my small team, responding to some huge ups and downs, particularly in recent weeksWe could have never anticipated that just as our event invite and planning system was profitable and scaling, we’d face COVID-19 and a moratorium on the real-life gatherings that our users came to Hobnob for. They could have hung their heads but our team was even more passionate about helping our members feel connected with their favorite people during this challenging time in the world.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We quickly pivoted to be the most efficient and beautiful way to organize virtual meetups. We’ve always been about facilitating authentic connections with people in real life — but we knew we had to help people feel close, even when they’re physically apart. Our event invites can be sent by text, email, or shared via social media, and connect people instantly through either a free video chat service that works with just a web browser, or using their their own Zoom account, hangouts, FB Live, Instagram Live or whatever they like. We’re even helping organizers collect fees and guests can send gifts through the service.

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?

A mentor and friend throughout my career is Kathy Misunas. She achieved incredible success as a technology executive when, frankly, there were few women recognized in the field. She was CEO of SABRE, the Global Distribution System that — at that time — was the largest data network outside of government. She was also the CIO of American Airlines and the CEO of Reed Travel Group, and sat on the board of Canadian Tire. She was a director on the board of my first tech startup, Switchfly, and continued to support my other business endeavors. But, more importantly, she advised me to put as much focus on my personal life and fulfillment as my professional accomplishments. Hearing that from such a successful executive was impactful. The guidance and advice she gave me along those lines helped me not only be a better leader, but a better parent and wife.

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?

It is so hard to face the incredible scope and scale of COVID-19’s impact on our business, the lives of colleagues, friends, society as a whole — and yet turn around and give hope and love to the people who need it most, your children. In the early weeks of the pandemic, when the world was being assaulted with terrifying news and financial stress, I had to measure the mood and influence I was having on these young souls without necessarily hiding everything from them.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

My children have helped me as much as I’ve helped them. By reminding them to focus on what they can be grateful for, it forces me to do the same.

Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?

If you’re goal driven, and focused on action, the unclear duration of everything from the social distancing to the financial devastation is disconcerting. It’s both freeing and frustrating to know that your best laid plans may have to be tossed out tomorrow because we can not predict the future path of COVID-19.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

We’re trying to be as creative as possible while keeping our costs incredibly lean so we can still be standing at the end of this crisis. It’s almost liberating to know that the future is uncertain, it gives us license to act ‘outside the box’ and consider design and product options that we may not have before, all with the mindset of being fun and delightful, as well as useful and reliable, for our users during this time of need.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

I feel like the best advice is that there is no “right” way of doing things. What works for me may not work for someone else, and vice versa. I see too many parents trying to hold themselves to such a high standard, not giving themselves space and time to accept that no one is going to be performing the same as they were before this crisis. Some days, I tell my family that I really need to focus on work, because it’s in all of our best interests to help my team and company survive and thrive. Other days, I drop everything to ensure my kids are happy because that will have the most long term meaning and value for them and me. But there is no perfect ratio of time allocation.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place for long periods with your family?

You absolutely need to carve out time for ‘meeting’ with friends virtually, for all the real talk, jokes, and tears. I’ve actually found that since *everyone* is so vulnerable right now, I’ve had some of the most authentic, moving conversations I’ve ever had — with friends, family, and colleagues.

I’m really blessed that we live on a farm and have room to roam. Nature is a great calming force. We’ve become enamored with a flock of baby chicks with their mama hen on the property — taking a moment to watch them literally drops the blood pressure and brings my focus back to the small and simple wonders of the world.

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.

  1. I’m hopeful that the whole world will be a more empathetic place after this.In a scenario where ‘judgement’ is taken out of the equation, as there’s such widespread personal and professional struggle — we all realize that judgement is inconsequential. Understanding what someone else is going through is the root of compassion.
  2. We are reminded to cherish our relationships. And to drop the b.s., no one has time for that. Cut to the truth, all the raw reality of it. Your connections will just be that much stronger for it.
  3. I love that the universal WFH standard has put family life at the forefront. In some companies, it used to almost feel taboo to talk about kids or your life outside of work, especially in leadership positions. But when the CEO’s kids interrupt your Zoom meeting to ask for snacks, or someone’s cat steps on the keyboard, or a dog is barking incessantly in the background — we can all laugh and embrace that sense of normalcy, of realness. I hope that transparency never goes away.
  4. It has been awe inspiring to see nature heal itself. As we are forced to take a collective pause to help mankind, the earth seems to be exhaling. I hope that as we emerge from the pandemic and evaluate areas of improvement for our government and health systems, we’re motivated by the knowledge there is still time and ability to reverse some of the damage we wield on our environment every day. We can create action plans to address the climate with the same urgency with which we responded to COVID-19.
  5. I believe in the resilience and adaptability of humans. As a parent, it is hard not to mourn the loss of “norms” and traditional rites of passage in their lives. But at the same time, I am certain that kids will figure out ways to gain from this experience, and that adults will be inspired to improve themselves and the world around them.

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?

I definitely believe in just making yourself available to listen to people’s worries, and offer a safe space to hear without judgement or trying to “solve” their problems. But I also think that sometimes some basic conversations about other topics can bring a sense of calm. Ask about their favorite books, talk about a movie you just watched, perhaps watch one of your favorite performers together online. Human connection and gratitude for the simple things that give us joy can give us needed respite from the news, and do wonders for our hearts and minds.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Growing up, my dad always told me something that I now know is attributed to Buddhist philosophy: Don’t compare yourself to others, because there will always be someone better, and there will always be someone worse. Just focus on being the best version of what you can be.

How can our readers follow you online?

Twitter: @TF808

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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