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“Map out a schedule.” With Penny Bauder & Megan Slabinski

The biggest challenge was switching overnight to working remotely full-time and leveraging technology to be an effective leader during this crisis. We’ve had to learn to use technology as more than just a business tool, but to maintain human contact. There was steep learning curve to staying connected and doing our best work without being […]

The biggest challenge was switching overnight to working remotely full-time and leveraging technology to be an effective leader during this crisis. We’ve had to learn to use technology as more than just a business tool, but to maintain human contact. There was steep learning curve to staying connected and doing our best work without being face-to-face.


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 Megan Slabinski the district president for Robert Half Technology, a global provider of highly skilled IT professionals. An industry expert with more than 20 years’ experience, Megan frequently speaks at events and is quoted on career-related topics. Since joining the company in 1999, she has helped thousands of individuals build rewarding careers and connected local businesses with the talent they need to be successful.


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?

Istarted with Robert Half during the dot-com era, right after graduating from the University of Washington in Seattle. Everyone I knew was getting a job in technology. It was all brand spanking new, but it was exploding and driving the local economy. I knew someone whose older sister worked for Robert Half, and after networking with her, I took on a hybrid recruitment and business development role in the company’s technology division. I had no formal tech education or hands-on experience, so I learned on the job and on the go. In September, I’ll celebrate my 21st anniversary with Robert Half Technology.

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

As a woman, especially a young professional early in my career, I was a minority in terms of both gender and age. The deck was stacked against me. But I had a genuine thirst for knowledge. I attended every networking or user group I could find, oftentimes three or four in a week, to immerse myself in the tech community and hear heads of industry and other speakers present. Afterwards, I’d seek them out and set up one-on-one coffee meetings to pick their brains about IT trends they were seeing. To this day, I always want to know what’s next. I don’t pretend to be an expert myself, but am adept at identifying the right people and getting them to share their knowledge with me.

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

Living in Washington state, we were among the first markets impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. I was quickly named to a global task force to get thousands of Robert Half employees working remotely in under two weeks. Simultaneously, we needed to address how this impacted our clients and candidates, and help them pivot to the “new normal.” Now, my focus is shifting to what the return-to-work phase might look like. None of us has been through anything like this before, so it’s been an incredible professional challenge to navigate. You might say this is the ultimate hackathon or whiteboarding session.

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?

Lots of people have impacted my career, but one person who has influenced me holistically is Katherine Spencer Lee, president for Technology Staffing Services at Robert Half. In 2008, I took on the role of executive director for The Creative Group, Robert Half’s advertising and marketing staffing division. Katherine was my supervisor at the time, and it was quite intimidating to come in underneath her — she’s an icon and a legend. I had a front row seat to learn from her candor communication style and delivery. She also recognized and helped cultivate my strengths, which went so far with my confidence and shaped me into the leader I am today.

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?

I have two sons, ages 7 and 11, sheltering at home with me. I’ve been struggling with how to keep the children engaged in learning and not playing video games all day while, within the same 1,200 square feet, I try to effectively lead a newly remote team. My husband is firefighter with 24-hour shifts, so I’m a single parent a few days a week while he’s away. Personally, I fell and broke my fibula and tibia on March 5. So, in and amongst trying to homeschool my kids, cook meals and work, I’m on scooter with a cast, adding additional complexity to our household.

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

Every night, we sit down together as a family with a blank piece of paper and map out the next day’s schedule. Having a plan in place each morning eases my anxiety, sets expectations and limits chaos. First, we walk through my calendar and identify “blackout periods” — the times I need privacy, and peace and quiet. Then we review the kids’ schedules. We build time into the day for shared activities, like baking, and the kids have a list of approved activities for their downtime. They’re currently working on a National Geographic series exploring parks across North America. And they want a puppy, so they’re watching instructional videos about how to raise a dog. There’s a shelf in our pantry of “help yourself anytime” snacks, too. Knowing when mom is and isn’t available is empowering the kids to be self-sufficient in a time when we’re all feeling out of control. It’s helping tremendously in our household.

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

The biggest challenge was switching overnight to working remotely full-time and leveraging technology to be an effective leader during this crisis. We’ve had to learn to use technology as more than just a business tool, but to maintain human contact. There was steep learning curve to staying connected and doing our best work without being face-to-face.

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

We’re relying heavily on video to keep in touch, so we don’t miss out on important aspects of communication like body language and tone. The most important thing I do, even though it can be time consuming, is proactive check-ins with my staff. Also, because of the widespread nature of the pandemic, clients across industries need support with mission-critical projects. We’ve been helping put redundancy plans in place, in case someone’s health fails, so there are multiple layers of support to accomplish an end goal.

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

  • Map out a schedule. Plan a daily itinerary to provide structure and routine for yourself and the kids. Include blackout periods that should be free of disruptions, as well as meal breaks and time for fun shared activities. Plot out the kids’ lesson plans and include special activities like online chess.
  • Empower your kids. Invite input from your children and give them the ability to make choices. Help them keep boredom at bay with pre-approved activities that don’t require adult supervision, so you can remain focused and productive.
  • Be present. Whatever role you’re serving, give it your full attention. If I’m helping my son do his reading, my phone is down. Being in the moment as a parent and a professional is how I achieve work-life balance.
  • Promote transparency. If something urgent comes up at work, I try to be honest with my kids about how much time I need to handle the situation. While it’s not ideal, they’re learning that life doesn’t always go according to plan — flexibility is key.

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 am comforted by the heightened sense of community — the feeling that we’re all in this together. In and of itself, the coronavirus crisis is overwhelming, but we’ll come out of this having shared the experience.
  2. The pace of technology’s impact on the world isn’t going to slow down, even if we feel at a standstill right now. A pressing need still exists for digital transformation, cybersecurity and other developments that will continue to affect the way we do business.
  3. When organizations reopen their doors, they’ll likely need to amass talent for projects and opportunities. I’m hopeful that the economy will rebound quickly as a result.
  4. Life is going to look a little different in the future as customer service, sports, school and work are reshaped. I think we’ll see new jobs emerge to support the changes to our way of life.
  5. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted many employers to experiment with remote work opportunities for their employees. We will probably see telecommuting embraced as a long-term business strategy.

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

I repeat this quote often to my teams: “Respect people enough to tell them the truth, and what they do with that information is up to them.” This comes back to my biggest strength in my career — authenticity as a leader. I encourage my team to trust that the people they’re working with have the emotional intelligence and business acuity to take in key information and do something constructive with it.

How can our readers follow you online?

Connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/meganslabinski/

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

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