I believe in the power of the pivot. This period will force many of us to rethink our priorities and our lives before the pandemic. We all have a tremendous opportunity to remake ourselves and transform our lives for the better.
Mother Earth can finally rest. For the first time in over 30 years, the air is so clear that we can see the Himalayan mountains. Perhaps this glimpse will inspire us to continue reducing our carbon footprint and combat climate change.
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 Marcie Dickson, Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer for Miles Mediation & Arbitration, a national alternative dispute resolution company. She is the co-host of the Seeking Strategy Podcast and host and producer of The Future of Resolution Podcast.
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?
Before landing in the legal sector, I always wanted to be a magazine editor or work in media. After college, I worked on the editorial side for a series of prominent media companies. At the time, my husband was finishing his Ph.D. and preparing for a career in academia, so I followed him around. At the same time, I entertained the idea of going to law school or completing a Master’s in English. As fate would have it, while living in New Orleans and working for a publishing company, I switched to the business side, managing digital marketing and sales just as the industry was undergoing a radical shift to digital publishing. I’m forever grateful for that time spent in New Orleans. I wrote a blog that won a press club award. I met and collaborated with vibrant, creative people, and developed a deep love for empowering others. When my husband landed a permanent job with tenure in Atlanta, I continued working in media, until one of my clients asked me to join his company to oversee marketing and business development.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
Nearly five years ago, I ruptured my Achilles tendon. It snapped in half while I was exercising with friends. Not only had I just started a new job at my current company, but I had a 6-month infant at home and a 3-year-old. I couldn’t walk for four months and had to work from home and shelter-in-place — on my couch. During that time, I lost a loved one and couldn’t travel for the funeral. It was one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. But I’m glad it happened. I learned a lot about my capacity for resilience and ability to persevere in the face of adversity. And I learned a great deal from my CEO. He took a chance on me and allowed me to prove that I could develop in my role while working from home. It was a great example of compassionate leadership.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m currently co-hosting a new podcast with another Chief Marketing Officer who works in Big Law. It’s called Seeking Strategy and aims to address marketing, culture, leadership, and mindfulness in business. It’s exhilarating to work on a project that can bring awareness to important issues leaders face, particularly women. I’m also working on an anthology of shared experiences by women who are navigating intersectional spaces of race, religion, class, passion, and motherhood. I hope the book will help explore and normalize some of the heavy conversations women have amongst each other — and reach those think their struggles are singular experiences; and enlighten and inform those who may need to read compelling narratives about the issues women face in America.
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?
While many people have played a role in shaping my journey, particularly my parents and husband, I owe much of my success to my late godfather. He tried to instill a sense of purpose in me from an early age and reinforced values such as the importance of being true to myself, being reliable, and unafraid to pursue my dreams. There have been many stumbles and learning experiences along the way, but his words and enduring presence in my life continue to guide me.
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?
Finding more balance. This pursuit has been nearly impossible. And I don’t think anyone, besides other working parents, can truly understand how difficult this period is for families. At the beginning of the pandemic, I worked around the clock, fueled by adrenaline and a strange social Darwinist work ethic. The fact that my children were home every day and virtual schooling was shaping up to be a disaster meant that I needed to work past midnight and awaken when the kids got up at 6 a.m., if not earlier. It was a revolving cycle of anticipatory grief and anxiety.
Another challenge is putting my mindfulness practice into action at all times. It’s hard to stay in the moment with my kids when my to-do list is never-ending and the news cycle is full of disturbing headlines. I worry that my kids can sense the undercurrent of anxiety in our home, and I wake up at night wondering how all of this will affect them — and all kids — long term.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I’ve become more intentional with my time and thoughts. I’ve had to prioritize projects more effectively and say no to more things. To counteract the stress levels around my kids, I take 90-second “moments of silence” after every zoom meeting and before I engage them. I’ve also been more deliberate about doing yoga in front of them and focusing on stress-relieving activities like gardening and walking around the neighborhood as a family.
I’ve had to train myself to put away the phone at dinnertime and stop working before bedtime. This time should be sacred. The idea of “Balance” may very well be an illusion. And I’m now okay with that.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
I’ve questioned everything, especially if it’s worth it for me to work as much as I do. This question is the quintessential struggle of mothers. To what extent should we pursue professional goals before it becomes “irresponsible” and is the better choice to be at home rearing our children? Another challenge is this sense of losing ground to my male co-workers, many of whom do not have children. They can work at the same pre-COVID pace, while it is physically and emotionally impossible for me to do the same. My work performance remains on par, and I’m still producing exemplary results. However, there’s always this unnamable fear and inequity in how women are supposed to manage all the things while their male counterparts get ahead.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I’ve reaffirmed to myself and my family that it’s important to work. I help provide for my family, and my kids get to see the example of a resourceful Black woman finding her way.
I’ve also stopped apologizing for being a working mother and berating myself for not working at the same pre-COVID, workaholic pace. I received a promotion during the pandemic, and my company is still relying on me to help accelerate its growth. To get things done, I’ve had to challenge the narrative that I’m somehow falling behind because I’m a working mother. I reframe this narrative by reminding myself that I, like the many mothers around me, am at an advantage because I have a higher level of emotional intelligence, and I work smart.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
Have a routine and some grace! Since every day feels like Groundhog’s Day, it’s easy to slip into a sense of ennui or lack of structure. Kids often work best with a routine. Even if parents need to shift schedules to meet the demands of home and work, it’s helpful to have as much structure to the day possible. And this may seem obvious, but it’s helpful to set up dedicated workspaces for parents and kids. It adds a sense of normalcy and reinforces the routine.
Transparency helps, too. It’s easier to speak up when there’s an issue or when you need help instead of ignoring it and letting the frustration manifest in other ways. It’s also helpful to be flexible and relax expectations a bit. What we’re going through isn’t normal, so the regular rules don’t apply. I used to be a stickler about screen time for my kids. Now I have no other choice but to smile and thank Netflix for the hours of entertainment and education it’s provided for my kids.
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?
Reframing my perspective helps. Yes, it’s monotonous and nerve-wracking to shelter-in-place with family for so long. But it could most certainly be worse. Every time I have these thoughts, I immediately think of how much I complained when I had to travel for work and be away from my family. Now they’re here — all the time, so I embrace it. Since we’re always doing the same activities, sometimes I try to gamify it. Who can clean up the fastest? Who can make the best muffins? We have cooking contests and do scavenger hunts around the neighborhood on our bikes. It breaks up the monotony.
Practicing mindfulness helps tremendously. It has increased my compassion and empathy and helped regulate my emotions under stress. Mindfulness can also help us maintain a sense of calm, find gratitude, and be more present when engaging with our families.
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.
- We will grow as a result of this. Every day I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Viktor Frankl: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Frankl was a Holocaust survivor who’s work reinforced the idea that if we can find true meaning in our lives, we can make it through the darkest of times. We’ve all had a lot of time to ruminate the meaning of this pandemic. We don’t necessarily need to have the answers. But the search for meaning is powerful. And I’m surrounded by people who are doing this, and it’s very encouraging.
- Meaningful change is coming. The pandemic has exposed so many inequities and forced us to have tough(er) conversations. For the first time in my life, I feel optimistic that our society is moving closer to solving some of the pervasive social issues of our time.
- I believe in the power of the pivot. This period will force many of us to rethink our priorities and our lives before the pandemic. We all have a tremendous opportunity to remake ourselves and transform our lives for the better.
- Mother Earth can finally rest. For the first time in over 30 years, the air is so clear that we can see the Himalayan mountains. Perhaps this glimpse will inspire us to continue reducing our carbon footprint and combat climate change.
- After the 2008 recession, we saw new companies like Uber, Airbnb, and Dropbox, to name a few. A new wave of transformative businesses may be on the way.
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?
Get outside, name their fears, take deep breaths, and get more rest. Deep breathing settles our nerves, and it’s an easy and safe way to control stress and anxiety and release tension. Naming what’s causing our source of anxiety and fear can be a helpful practice. It enables us to bring awareness to the fear, so it doesn’t control us. Offer to go on a walk with your loved one or family member to change their environment and allow them to get fresh air.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The first one that comes to mind is from Maya Angelou’s “Our Grandmothers”: “I come as one, but I stand as 10,000.” In times of stress and difficult situations, I remind myself of what my ancestors endured and sacrificed. That always powers me through.
How can our readers follow you online?
Follow me on LinkedIn @MarcieDickson or marciedickson.com.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!