Thureiyya Rodriguez of Agni NY: “Create engagement openings”

Create engagement openings. These openings can be with a simple discussion about one’s day and how each individual is doing in their daily life. This technique allows the individual to engage with the group and remove the distance feeling. Open-ended questions allow the individual to participate. People have different situations and they may not have […]

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Create engagement openings. These openings can be with a simple discussion about one’s day and how each individual is doing in their daily life. This technique allows the individual to engage with the group and remove the distance feeling. Open-ended questions allow the individual to participate. People have different situations and they may not have anyone to talk to all day. The meetings may be their only time for engagement. It is allows everyone to have connection and to assess the groups mental state for the day. An employee that is distracted will not be able to provide feedback to the team.

We are living in a new world in which offices are becoming obsolete. How can teams effectively communicate if they are never together? Zoom and Slack are excellent tools, but they don’t replicate all the advantages of being together. What strategies, tools and techniques work to be a highly effective communicator, even if you are not in the same space?

In this interview series, we are interviewing business leaders who share the strategies, tools and techniques they use to effectively and efficiently communicate with their team who may be spread out across the world. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Thureiyya Rodriguez DHA, MSN, WOCN, founder/owner of Agni NY. Based in New York, Thureiyya has been a Registered Nurse for 18 years with a specialty in wound, ostomy, and continence care. Thureiyya recently graduated with a Doctorate Healthcare Administration and has worked in leadership for more than 3 years. She has had Crohn’s Disease for 36 years and a permanent ileostomy for 22 years.

Agni NY was created out of an inspiration to share her personal and professional experiences with others. Both experiences have taught her the importance of managing stress and how stress can have a negative impact on health if not controlled. Thureiyya believes stress reduction can be beneficial with the body’s healing process and coping with personal challenges. She makes an effort to choose products with minimal ingredients, hand crafted, and/or made by local female artisans. Her products are designed for the person interested in living a holistic lifestyle. Holistic living is the balance of the mind, body, and spirit for wholeness.

Agni NY is currently raising funds for development of her business on the ifundwomen platform. The store is a precursor to her long-term goal to invest into rebuilding communities. She believes it is important to provide educational tools to communities with poor resources for sustainable economic growth.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

My career started as a registered nurse with a specialty in wound, ostomy, and continence nursing. I decided to go back to school for a Doctorate in Healthcare Administration. During my post graduate course, I pondered on what I would do in my career. I wanted to incorporate my personal experience with my professional experience while making an impact in poor socio-economic neighborhoods. A few months after graduation, I chose to open Agni NY.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The most interesting experience I had was during work when I encountered live maggots for the first time in my career. My face told everything I was thinking. The maggots were everywhere and I thought to myself, “you must be kidding me, I did not sign up for this today.” Here I was chasing maggots on the floor and trying to keep my game face. It was at that moment, everyone laughed and said how great maggots were in healthcare. I could remember telling myself that I must love my career because no one I know will chase maggots with tweezers and a jar.

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

My most favorite “Life Lesson Quote” is to never believe your “back is against the wall”. Your skillset and knowledge will always give you an opportunity to work. I have worked in different companies as an employee and contractor. I listen to others speak about how they feel dissatisfied and there is no option for a career change. I could not understand how they could not see what I saw in them. They were amazing in their career and any establishment would be happy to have them as an employee. I told myself at the beginning of my career that my back is never against the wall because I have my degree and experience. It is disheartening to see others not happy in a career they once loved and not see their opportunities are endless. The job does not make the employee, it is the work the employee puts in daily that makes the company. A skilled employee is valuable to the agency, the agency is not valuable to the employee. I live by these words everyday as reminder of how I am the asset and I should not feel “stuck” in a job.

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?

I am grateful for all the individuals I have met along the way. Some experiences were good and others bad. When I first decided to open my online store, I had reservations about opening the business. I knew I wanted to open a business in healthcare, but an online store was going outside of my norm. I met a woman at a shop and kept her information. When we spoke months later, she encouraged me to open the online store. I dragged my foot, but kept moving towards opening the store. It is exactly one year later on this day, that she and I had the conversation about me opening the store. I can honestly say, that her words of encouragement helped me to overcome my fears. I stepped outside of comfort zone and developed a business that incorporates my expertise and experience. Every day I am grateful for meeting her and making the phone call. There are others who have also played an intricate part in my success, but the woman mentioned opened the doors for me to begin my business.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. Many teams have started working remotely. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a team physically together?

The main benefits of having a team physically together is the feeling of personal touch that contact with others provides. Human interaction in the same room creates a feeling of connection with the other person. The body language of the individual, sharing ideas based on the mood of the team, and the energy in the room cannot be replicated in remote work. The physical connection with an individual is a part of the communication process.

On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a team is not in the same space?

Teams not in the same space lack interpersonal relationships. Engagement of the team is challenging. Other challenges include but are not limited to retaining the team members attention during a discussion, background distractions (noise), technical issues, and effective communication between members.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space ? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Remote work can be challenging for the individual not accustomed to distance work. I have extensive experience in remote work. To overcome the challenges are remote work based on my experience there are a few steps one can do to address those barriers.

  1. Create engagement openings. These openings can be with a simple discussion about one’s day and how each individual is doing in their daily life. This technique allows the individual to engage with the group and remove the distance feeling. Open-ended questions allow the individual to participate. People have different situations and they may not have anyone to talk to all day. The meetings may be their only time for engagement. It is allows everyone to have connection and to assess the groups mental state for the day. An employee that is distracted will not be able to provide feedback to the team.
  2. A long winded speaker is another issue in remote working. Sometimes the speaker does not realize they have lost the attention of the group. A rule I use is the 20 minute attention span check. After about 20, I ask a question to the group and check-in to see who is paying attention. Too much information is information overload.
  3. Ask each participant to turn on their cameras to reenact the in-house environment. Many participants do not want to turn on their cameras, but if remote discussions are the norm for the business, creating a visual to the meeting can help with engagement.
  4. Technical issues can range from participants not knowing how to share information or wi-fi issues. Sometimes this is unavoidable. For speakers, it is best to ask them to do a test run prior to a meeting to ensure they have a clear understanding how to use the platform.
  5. Remote access can be useful but communication is equally important. Questions should be asked by the speaker to ensure the group has a clear understanding of the information being delivered.
  6. The use of remote access is not for everyone. For individuals struggling with remote meetings, a separate discussion can be held to identify barriers and develop solutions.

Five things for effective communication while working remotely are:

  1. Engage in group discussions
  2. Ask questions for clarity
  3. Do not assume everyone is listening. Pause and assess the group’s engagement throughout the conversation.
  4. Turn on the camera during meetings to provide visual engagement
  5. Address technical issues prior to the meeting.

Has your company experienced communication challenges with your workforce working from home during the pandemic? For example, does your company allow employees to use their own cell phones or do they use the company’s phone lines for work? Can you share any other issues that came up?

We have experience communication challenges with working from home. Some of these challenges include technical issues. The speaker does not know how to share information or turn on the camera. Noise in the background because the mic is not muted. The biggest challenge is engagement by the team.

The employee is encourage to call in on the number generated by the virtual teams system, but they can call in with their personal cell phone.

Other issues with remote work are employees not logging in for work. This is a major problem for any company. It is a loss of productivity and it is a financial loss. Other issues are emails are not being answered in a timely manner. There is an understanding the employee will have downtime, but not logging in for work or answering emails is an indicator the employee is not working. This is when the employer must have a discussion with the employee about the employee’s work performance.

Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help teams coordinate and communicate with each other. In your personal experiences which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?

Zoom, Cisco Webex, GoTo Meetings, and MS Teams are both useful tools for effective virtual work life. The format is not only useful but easy to navigate.

If you could design the perfect communication feature or system to help your business, what would it be?

The perfect communication feature I would develop for my business would be a system that could monitor the employee’s level of alertness throughout the day. There are periods of the day in which an employee is no longer alert, the system would monitor the changes. Once the employee is not focused, the system will alert the employee to take a 10–15 minute break to stretch/refresh themself.

My particular expertise and interest is in Unified Communications. Has the pandemic changed the need or appeal for unified communications technology requirements? Can you explain?

The pandemic has created more of a need for Unified Communications. Remote work will be incorporated into many businesses and the increase of remote spaces will become more frequent in schools. There are limited apps supporting Unified Communications. This generation uses chat, videos, and other digital forms of communication.

The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring remote teams together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?

Digital resumes and the use of Artificial Intelligence excites me.

Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?

I am concerned people will lose the ability communicate effectively. Technology is great, but there are somethings in communication that technology cannot replace. Body language and how we communication is factor only humans can display. Also, too much technology does not allow the individual growing up to develop their skills at developing relationships with people, communicating effectively outside of technology, and being able to be a critical thinker. There are times I have observed young adults lacking the ability to assess a situation and develop a plan because of the dependency on technology.

So far we have discussed communication within a team. How has the pandemic changed the way you interact and engage your customers? How much of your interactions have moved to digital such as chatbots, messaging apps, phone, or video calls?

My interaction with customers has been online and limited in-person engagement. I use various apps for video calls and messaging clients. I still take the time to have a verbal discussion with customers to create a personal connection.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of working with a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote team member?

Constructive criticism to a remote team member requires the ability to have tact. Prior to giving the criticism it is best to say it out loud and maybe write it down. The key is to point out the good qualities before speaking on the challenges the individual is facing.

Can you give any specific ideas about how to create a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion when you are not physically together?

Open ended discussions about topics not related to work can create cohesion within the group .

Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 😊

I would inspire others to share the knowledge which they possess with others. Sharing experiences and ideas with others in poor socio-economic areas builds communities and retains growth. Giving a free lecture or simply talking to youth can make a major impact. Money will come, but what you do with it makes the difference. Working with a purpose is far more rewarding than just working for money.

How can our readers further follow your work online?


Instsagram: @agni.ny

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.

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