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Katherine O’Hara: “You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone ought to be”

A look at history brings confirmation that this too shall pass. Our pandemic lifestyles are temporary. Though we have a bit more time in this modified world, grasping that it is ultimately short-term helps keep one’s mindset focused on the future and positive outcomes. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives […]

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A look at history brings confirmation that this too shall pass. Our pandemic lifestyles are temporary. Though we have a bit more time in this modified world, grasping that it is ultimately short-term helps keep one’s mindset focused on the future and positive outcomes.


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 busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Katherine O’Hara

Katherine O’Hara is the founder of The O’Hara Project, a marketing and PR firm supporting Fortune 500, startups and nonprofits. Her career has earned her national and global experience and over 200 awards, including being named including Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Business Woman of the Year, Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs, NYIT Alumni Magazine’s “One to Watch”, and The New York Creative Hall of Fame.


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?

Ientered Penn State as an Architectural Engineering major. While I did well, I felt uninspired. I made an appointment with my advisor initially expecting a pep talk; he instead focused on my interests and strengths. I left the meeting enrolled in an Introduction to Graphic Design class that sparked my journey into marketing.

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

The O’Hara Project is located in Morristown, NJ, which has a bustling marketing scene in which firms that would typically be quite competitive have in fact become friendly. In 2016, the owner of a neighboring firm asked if we’d assist their development of a national campaign to find a living kidney donor for a family member. Marketing campaigns are typically a fast-paced and rewarding journey but this was the first campaign where the clock to succeed was literally ticking. In just a few months, the team was able to help find a donor, the family member had the transplant, and is enjoying a beautiful life today.

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

The best part about marketing is that you’re always in the midst of exciting projects.

We are working with the amazing team at Adaptive Training Foundation, a 501c3 organization that provides cost-free adaptive trainingto traumatically wounded, ill, and injured. The cornerstone of their services is a 9-week program called REDEFINE that considers both mental and physical barriers. ATF participants (we call them athletes) come from all over the country. They include individuals with amputations and spinal cord injuries that have gone on to defy all traditional physical expectations. Many go on to compete in competitive level sports such as Invictus Games, Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and training for the 2020 Paralympics.

We’re inspired by spreading awareness of Adaptive Training Foundation as we know they can help many people who cope with pain, stress and depressing by giving them tools to redirect those feelings in a positive way.

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?

Behind every successful businesswoman, one typically finds plenty of support. For many, that is the support of their partner. I couldn’t dream of having achieved my career successes without my husband being such a champion of my journey. Marketing is not a 9–5 industry. Beyond client requests that fall outside of such locked hours, after-hours are commonly the only time one can tend to day-to-day business needs. Add work trips and early-morning meetings, it falls on my husband to take on many home roles that I’m confident add to his packed day. From breakfast to bus detail to homework help to the multiple requests to get in the shower at night, he juggles the day-to-day of home life on top of his career to ease the demands my day faces. I’m fortunate and grateful.

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?

Like most families, stay at home orders put us in a bit of a jam. My husband is a teacher and had set hours to be online. They’d not so conveniently be the same hours our children needed to be online for their schoolwork. I’m also the primary caregiver for a health-compromised parent. These situations have had a significant impact on my day-to-day business efforts. My days now incorporate helping the kids with schoolwork and whipping lunch together to help keep them on schedule. Nurses come daily to help with caring for my ailing parent. This adds another layer of responsibility with hours spent maintaining a home that needs to consider senior care facility best-practices. I manage strict disinfecting routines, temperature checks and mandatory mask use and absorbed additional caregiving hours when one nurse tested positive for the virus.

The biggest family-related challenge I face as a business owner is time? Twenty-four hours are often too little for absorbing so many additional roles and tasks.

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

I’ve addressed this challenge with honesty. I’m honest with my clients about how my work schedule has shifted. I’m honest with my family on the assistance I need to allow the business to get the focus it very much needs. I’m honest with myself about human limits. I’m aware of how important it is to take care of myself and am far more forceful against outside influences that risk impacting my ability to keep things moving.

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

I’m not the only one with a restructured schedule. Clients and colleagues are equally facing modified schedules, which leads to tend to requests or project needs that previously would have been considered outside of traditional work-life boundaries. While my life requires my focus to include many household changes, my schedule needs to consider the needs of clients and staff.

I love this question. I’ve definitely found a few positive outcomes from life undergoing such drastic changes.

Retooling: Life can become a conveyer belt at times with the routine, ultimately making one blind to opportunities. My new schedule now finds time for me to work out consistently and permission to eat lunch away from my computer. Both have become a welcomed time for me to collect thoughts and take time for myself.

Relationships: Video calls have made our work and personal relationships healthier. Virtual happy hours have allowed me to chill with friends and stock up on laughter. Professionally, I know colleagues and clients on a more human level. We get to chat with each other’s kids, know everything about each other’s pets, and have a better appreciation for the lives we have all had behind the scenes.

Renovating: More time at home means more time to tend to things that our busier lives left on the to-do list. From cleaning out utensil drawers to refinishing our porch to cleaning out closets, we’ve used the time to bring organization and repair to our world. Looking around and seeing all the fixes has done wonders for keeping my spirits lifted.

Rejoice: It is easy for quarantine to make one feel like you’re on an island, but merely turning on the news offers a harsh reminder that there are many living far more complicated realities.

Relax: A look at history brings confirmation that this too shall pass. Our pandemic lifestyles are temporary. Though we have a bit more time in this modified world, grasping that it is ultimately short-term helps keep one’s mindset focused on the future and positive outcomes.

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

Honesty has been my mantra through this pandemic. Just as clients are honest with their restructured needs, working with them to find shared solutions provides the best project and relationship outcome.

With Zooming likely being the most used verb during the pandemic, it is no surprise that technology is a big help in addressing work-related challenges. From work-related apps that aid with organization to project-management tools to noise-canceling headphones, the right equipment is key to keeping our virtual worlds productive.

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

Having everyone on the same page is critical to making the best of working from home. We’ve all agreed on a weekly schedule that considers our individual needs and provides a healthy routine. When things pop up, and they often do, we work together to find a remedy. Communication has been key to our family and individual commitments running smoothly.

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?

I have found that a Jimmy Buffet quote has helped me stay sane. “Humor has bailed me out of more tight situations than I can think of. If you go with your instincts and keep your humor, creativity follows. With luck, success comes too.”

A good attitude makes you better prepared for finding solutions. A bonus is the positivity also makes you more enjoyable to be around.

Looking to laugh? Have some fun making custom Zoom backgrounds. I created a library of backgrounds that throw me into hilarious scenarios that help lighten the mood for everyone.

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 love this question. I’ve definitely found a few positive outcomes from life undergoing such drastic changes.

Retooling: Life can become a conveyer belt at times with the routine, ultimately making one blind to opportunities. My new schedule now finds time for me to work out consistently and permission to eat lunch away from my computer. Both have become a welcomed time for me to collect thoughts and take time for myself.

Relationships: Video calls have made our work and personal relationships healthier. Virtual happy hours have allowed me to chill with friends and stock up on laughter. Professionally, I know colleagues and clients on a more human level. We get to chat with each other’s kids, know everything about each other’s pets, and have a better appreciation for the lives we have all had behind the scenes.

Renovating: More time at home means more time to tend to things that our busier lives left on the to-do list. From cleaning out utensil drawers to refinishing our porch to cleaning out closets, we’ve used the time to bring organization and repair to our world. Looking around and seeing all the fixes has done wonders for keeping my spirits lifted.

Rejoice: It is easy for quarantine to make one feel like you’re on an island, but merely turning on the news offers a harsh reminder that there are many living far more complicated realities.

Relax: A look at history brings confirmation that this too shall pass. Our pandemic lifestyles are temporary. Though we have a bit more time in this modified world, grasping that it is ultimately short-term helps keep one’s mindset focused on the future and positive outcomes.

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?

Validate

There’s plenty to be anxious about and unlike other life events, no one is alone in feeling like life is amazingly different. Validating concerns and demonstrating how common it is can help one from feeling the world is only on their shoulders.

Redirect

Keep all mindful that this situation is temporary. A helpful redirect is to suggest that one focus on what they want their life to look like once this pandemic is over.

Don’t lose sight of yourself.

Make sure as you’re giving support, you’re not taking on taking on additional struggles to you’re already busy plate.

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

“You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone ought to be.
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

While it is human to “why me” at times, getting stuck in a mode of wishing for things to be different does little to bring healthy change. The reminder to put one’s backbone on daily helps keep me in solution mode.

How can our readers follow you online?

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kmohara

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/katherineohara/

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

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