“There’s a lot we can easily give each other.” With Penny Bauder & Di Di Chan

The biggest work challenge related to the pandemic is also to keep my team safe and sane without turning into a nagging team mom. I am fortunate that everyone on my team is extremely capable, logical, and considerate. All I have to do is not over do it. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every […]

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The biggest work challenge related to the pandemic is also to keep my team safe and sane without turning into a nagging team mom. I am fortunate that everyone on my team is extremely capable, logical, and considerate. All I have to do is not over do it.

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 Di Di Chan.

Di Di Chan is the President and Co-Founder of FutureProof Retail, an industry leader in providing retailers frictionless scan and go mobile checkout applications. Her experience and network in over 15 different countries directly shape FutureProof Retail’s global vision, bringing their solutions to three continents and five different types of retail to date. She holds an M.A. in Economics from New York University and a B.A. in Global Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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?

Thank you for having me. I met my partner in a philosophy club and we bonded over the value of time. We both wanted to maximize human potential by removing frictions in time. One day, while traveling together, I wanted to buy a bottle of water before our flight. Unfortunately, there was a long line and we had to rush to catch our flight. I complained about having to wait in a long checkout line as an example of another unnecessary friction in time. My partner, who has been making award-winning mobile applications since the launch of the app store, mentioned that he could make an app to solve this problem. I challenged him to prove it, and long story short, seven years later we are the leading providers of scan and go solutions for retailers on three continents.

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

I’m a California girl that moved to New York for graduate school and stayed for work. I love New York but I hate winters. During the first winter of my company, we got a call from a client in California that wanted to test our solution. I ended up escaping a brutal NY winter by moving our entire team to a California beach house, which was cheaper then our windowless shared office space in Manhattan, to set up our first pilot stores. That was an incredible winter and a great way to launch our company.

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

Yes, due to how fast and hygienic our solution is for in-store shopping, we are currently donating our line-free mobile checkout solution to grocery stores, supermarkets, and pharmacies during the state of emergency. For more information visit: https://futureproofretail.com/page/emergency-relief.

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?

My Economics professor, former-boss, and friend David Harper really helped me on my entrepreneurial path. While in graduate school, I was working for David as his research assistant. His work was focused on entrepreneurship and impact of human capital in developing nations. At that time, I wanted to go to Law School and focus on Sustainable Development law. When I asked him for a letter of recommendation for law school, he told me yes of course, but also challenged me to explore what else might suit me. David told me he thought I was very creative and he could see me being a great entrepreneur. I took his challenge to heart and re-thought my career from the standpoint of asking what do I have to offer, how can I add value, what do I believe in if I didn’t have to follow the expected path. That little nudge changed my life and I’m forever grateful to David for what he saw in me before I saw it in myself.

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’m very lucky during this crisis. My quarantine family consists of myself, my partner, his parents, and one of our teammates. I’m lucky to be with people I care deeply about and to be in a modern quarantine family where everyone contributes. We divided up the chores by skills and all take turns cooking and or cleaning.

I have a strong protective instinct that drives me to seek preparedness in both work and life. With my quarantine family, I took the lead and got everyone together and made sure we were well supplied ahead of any official lockdowns. My next biggest challenge is to try to keep myself and my quarantine household mentally sane enough to go through a grim reality and mentally strong enough to rebuild a better future afterwards.

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

The physical preparation is easy. I looked at successful case studies in other places that are ahead of us and copied what they did: be well supplied in food, cleaning materials, and protective gear and get into a regular safety/cleaning routine so that it becomes automatic as fast as possible. One example is we have an entryway cleaning station that separates outdoor clothes, shoes, packages. Every time we enter the home, we get into the habit of separating and cleaning everything outside and then washing our hands, before getting into an indoor mode. Forming this regular habit makes all of us safer without spending too much extra anxious energy.

The mental health preparation is a little tricker. Many people struggle with being confined for extended periods and respond in different (and sometimes even opposite) ways. The best way I have found to address the challenge with my quarantine household so far is to really work on communicating efficiently and effectively, and learn to quickly forgive each other when things don’t go as well as we like. I start with myself and try to understand my needs better, figure out what I can solve for myself, how I can show care without imposing, and what specific (and reasonable) ask I have of others that can help me be mentally healthier and stronger too. For instance, with my quarantine family, they all need a lot more alone time than I do. So I take care of a lot of my social needs with my friends online through group workout classes and other virtual activities. I also take care of my anxiety by finding more ways to help others in the greater community. I show care to my quarantine family by making healthy smoothies for breakfast and a simple and healthy lunch on a regular schedule. I text them food is ready and let them self-serve at their own pace. Sometimes they will eat with me and share a conversation. Sometimes they will grab and go or eat at a later time. My quarantine family gives me dinner time as social time together with wine and great conversations too (and since they are all better cooks than I am, they take turns making delicious dinner that I really enjoy too).

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

The biggest work challenge related to the pandemic is also to keep my team safe and sane without turning into a nagging team mom. I am fortunate that everyone on my team is extremely capable, logical, and considerate. All I have to do is not over do it.

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

I created a COVID channel in Slack to share actionable (or funny) news only. Once I share the information with credible sources, I trust my teammates to be informed and stay safe. We also have weekly virtual happy hour to catch up. Aside from that, we focus on work and doing our part as a company to help out. I find being more giving is the best anxiety reducer in this hectic time.

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’d suggest separating work activities from other activities by space or time. Have a designated work space or a designated time where a particular space is converted into work space. Schedule or allow down time to do or not do whatever you like.

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

Respect everyone’s differences. Empower everyone to take care of themselves as much as possible. Ask and allow everyone to contribute some little things that would help too. Forgive yourself and each other.

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.

The good news about this crisis is we have case studies from different places that are going through different phases of the pandemic. Many of these places started before the U.S. and are just now getting out of the dark pandemic tunnel. So there definitely is a light at the end of the tunnel. For example, many Asian countries have already flattened the curve and are getting back to a semi-regular social life. In many places in the U.S. we are just about to hit the hardest part of the pandemic’s peak and once we get past the peak, things will get easier and better for us too.

Five Reasons to be Hopeful During This Corona Crisis:

  1. We may be lonely but we are not alone. The entire human world is going through this together.
  2. There’s a lot we can easily give each other. Something as simple as giving space can be life saving at this time. Something as simple as a smile or a wave can be very connecting and hopeful at this time too.
  3. Pandemics have happened before in history, and will likely happen again in the future too. We have gotten through it before, we will get through it this time, and we will be even better prepared next time too.
  4. In a way the world is hitting the reset button. With this mandatory pause, we have a rare chance to stop and think about what is really essential to us and how we want to live when everything starts up again.
  5. This can be a chance to heal. There’s a lot of pain, fear, and hate focused on what differentiates us from each other. This global pandemic shows just how connected we are to each other. How we impact each other. This is a great reason why we should be kind to each other and help our shared humanity out.

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?

The best way I have discovered to managing anxiety is to give to others. When you are focused on someone else and making a positive impact, the anxiety diffuses and dissipates. If you unable to give right now then ask for specific help — you will be giving someone else the chance to give and reduce their anxiety as well.

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

Listen to Tim McGraw’s song “Live Like You Were Dying.” Follow his advice and dance to his tune.

How can our readers follow you online?

Here’s my LinkedIN profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/di-di-chan-8362191b/

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

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