Economically, we are one world, but we are also one people. This virus is not specific to ethnicity, gender, religion, or station in life. It’s a good reminder that we are all connected, we are one people, and we all can become more tightly knit by getting through this together.
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 Joanna Schloss.
Joanna Schloss recently joined SmartBear as VP of Product Marketing with more than 20 years of experience successfully transforming and evolving both global 500 companies and startups. She has extensive knowledge in big data analytics and business intelligence and has launched a variety of tools and applications for various companies, including Confluent, IBM, and Oracle, among others.
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?
Myvery first job as an engineering consultant involved nuclear power plant walkdowns, risk analysis, and mathematical modeling in coding languages that are too old to mention ;). Early on, I learned that I love working with customers to help them solve whatever problems they are tackling, and my favorite way to work with them is to use data and analysis to help them gain insights. I had an offer to join a 7-person startup just before Y2K, but I turned down the opportunity. Fortunately, the startup persistently pursued me, and I joined as employee #11. We were acquired, and I got the bug and passion for startups, big data and analytics, and helping my customers share their success stories.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your current company?
I started at SmartBear, which is headquartered outside of Boston, on March 23, 2020. What could be more interesting than starting a new job while experiencing a pandemic? On my first day, all non-essential businesses in my home state of California were ordered to close their doors, asking all residents to do their part to stop the spread of coronavirus and stay home. My teammates who were used to working in the office were all getting used to now working remotely, but even those of us who were used to working from home were tackling new issues. From dealing with low internet bandwidth due to whole families being home and online, getting lunch for the family, and being bamboozled into giving candy to a 4 year old every time a Zoom meeting started. The COVID-19 crisis definitely created a truly memorable start to my new gig.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m working on several different projects that tap my passion for helping customers. Here at SmartBear, our mission is to be the first choice for software development teams of all sizes — giving them tools to immediately impact the delivery of tomorrow’s applications. We are creating software solutions that we believe will address our customers’ changing needs during these volatile times. With or without the effects of the global health crisis, the need to deliver reliable products frequently is now the norm for most businesses. With COVID-19, the need for agility is even more apparent. Organizations are running their businesses entirely remotely, and this new paradigm requires software development lifecycles to focus on rapid evolution and deployment of applications and services. This is the first time we’ve seen a health care crisis like COVID-19 in our lifetime, but it won’t be the last. I am focusing on projects, as most everyone is at SmartBear, that deliver the software tools that help teams work better together, even while working apart. And, working to help them deliver their products and services to their customers without compromising important quality standards.
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 would not be here today if it weren’t for my friend and mentor JW. He is the type of mentor who believes in your ability and potential, all the while helping you to be a better version of yourself through thoughtful, kind, and constructive feedback. To give you an example of his style — he believed that I would make a great thought leader in the analytics and big data space based on my curiosity and thirst for knowledge, my experience exploring different markets, organizations, and technologies, and my personality. He challenged me to create my own personal brand on Twitter, LinkedIn, and in the digital publication world. With his encouragement and support, I had some early success winning an industry award as one of data analytics most influential women in 2015. Since then, I have gone on to do much more with my thought leadership content. I have him to thank, because without his belief and encouragement, I never would have attempted anything like creating a Twitter profile.
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?
All around work-life balance is certainly one of the biggest challenges. I am passionate about my work, about the products we are building, and about the work that teams and customers who depend on me are doing. All of these people are part of my work family. And, then I have my own family at home, which is also a full-time job. A lot of women have two full time jobs, and you have to switch your whole persona between the two — being a work person and family person. Balancing what you are delivering — and delivering with excellence — to both has never been more challenging than during this pandemic.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
How can you do all that you want to do, and need to do, while not feeling badly that you are compromising in any particular area? I have always been super process-driven throughout my career, but also at home, as well. I’ve found it’s important to create workflow and processes that people can subscribe to. But, once the processes are created and implemented, you have to be transparent, agile, and flexible. This allows for a balance so you don’t feel badly if something doesn’t work out as planned.
For example, you can’t feel badly that you served cereal for dinner instead of chicken cordon bleu. First, be transparent. Let your family know what to expect. You didn’t have time, so that’s what’s for dinner. The goal is “get food into your children and get work done.” Goal accomplished. If you treat all team members, and in this case, your family, with honesty and respect, they don’t just step up, they’ll appreciate your transparency and what you accomplished. Kindness is really important, too. This way, you’re creating sets of rules that are fairly easy to maintain.
Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
For me personally, it’s managing anxiety. I am a fixer, and I want to make everything better for everyone — my family, my co-workers, and for my customers. As a mom and a manager, it’s very difficult to help so many people in various circumstances face uncertainties right now. And, this could be our new norm. It’s difficult to look and plan too far out. So, I would say my inability to fix things right now is the biggest challenge that I’m facing.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I’ve been taking lots of long walks and also leaning on those around me. Fortunately, many of us are in similar situations of being anxious and are readily willing to chat about our worries. That’s helpful. I am a firm believer in the fact that I cannot fix everything. I can help by being a good listener. Acknowledging that we are all in this together and having patience is very helpful, too. Be patient with everything and everybody right now.
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 have decades of personal experience working from home and being a wife and mom. I handle it with — process, process, process! You need to have a schedule that you can control for the most part, and that helps you be more mindful of what your children need. As part of my schedule, I set aside time for them. I set aside equal amounts of time for work and my children — not necessarily equal in terms of quantity, but in bringing passion and quality. Balance is not always an accounting of minutes but giving each group an equal weight of quality is really important.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place for long periods with your family?
I’m taking lots more walks these days, but I’ve used some strategies in the past that have worked well and are working now, too. Being flexible, kind, and agile, all with open communication — it’s all very important, and it’s required to work hard to develop these strategies over the years when they’ve needed to evolve. I have children and setting this example for them was an important priority for me.
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.
If we take a look at history, there have been other pandemics. I’ve spent time reading about these other events, and what we learned while making it through those very tough times has been invaluable and has resulted in a greater respect for our own lives, as well as the lives of others. COVID-19 is the first pandemic in my lifetime, so while it is difficult, what we learn from it will make this time and place better.
Here are my 5 reasons to be hopeful during this Corona crisis:
- I’ve never seen more people out on the street being kind and helping each other.
- So many of us have digitally connected with friends and others whom we haven’t been in touch with in a long time. And, digital technology has been further extended to and embraced by the elderly. I’m seeing many instances where our elders are enjoying connecting with family and friends in ways that are entirely new for them.
- Economically, we are one world, but we are also one people. This virus is not specific to ethnicity, gender, religion, or station in life. It’s a good reminder that we are all connected, we are one people, and we all can become more tightly knit by getting through this together.
- Look at how well the environment has improved in the short time of isolation and social distancing. And, it’s proving we really don’t need a lot to thrive in great communities. On average, I think we are being less wasteful, and this demonstrates that “simple” really is good for many things.
- I’m super hopeful that we all realize how precious our time is with loved ones. Whether we are eating more together as a family, playing games, watching movies, or communicating better and more often — it’s all good, and I’m hopeful that we can each individually contribute to a better world together.
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?
This is not the first, and it won’t be the last, stressful situation in any of our lives. We need to be patient with one another. We need to help those who are feeling particularly anxious by listening and keeping lines of communication open. Putting things into perspective is so important. You can reduce stress by simply seeing things in perspective for what they are. This isn’t long-term. This too shall pass.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I love, “When God closes a door, it opens a window.”
Doors have been closed during this pandemic, but windows are opening. Opportunities may not be available right now, but this is not a forever state. Others are coming around. I’ve found that when doors seem to be closing…times of closing doors, it forces me to examine myself, and it’s an opportunity for self-reflection. It’s a time to re-group and learn what’s next. It may not be what you planned or expected, but it can be a great new chapter.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!