We are so lucky to live in a modern world where we can leverage technology! I would not be surviving right now if I could not perform my jobs virtually — it’s just that simple. However, not being able to interact with people in person is challenging, so having to find creative solutions has been interesting. But even those creative solutions get monotonous so you have to constantly recreate.
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 Yasmine Décosterd.
Yasmine is a Global Executive who owns and operates two companies, and holds a C-level position at her husband’s company. She has two kids under the age of 6, is on the board of the PTSA for her local Elementary school, and also runs a local women’s group.
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?
Myfamily relocated to the United States from abroad at a very young age, and like many immigrants I faced a decent amount of adversity throughout my younger years which taught me a lot about human nature, survival (which turns into motivation) and mindfulness. I didn’t know what I was going to college for, but I had a creative flare, so I decided to focus on Fashion and Art. Back then, there weren’t many advertising courses in college (marketing yes, but not digital advertising for example or ecommerce), and I knew I wasn’t an engineer. What I did know, was that in any job, I wanted to be dealing with people and I wanted to be in an industry at the forefront of something. When I graduated college, like many people, I ended up in a job that had nothing to do with what I spent 4 years studying, and then spent 18+ years moving up the corporate ladder in AdTech. At the time, AdTech didn’t exist if you can believe it! It was really the beginning years of digital advertising (barely any ecommerce yet), and companies were popping up all over the place so opportunities were plenty. I started as a Digital Media Planner at an Ad Agency, and quickly moved up the ranks, then transitioned over to the Publisher side of the industry to a really cool company who loved to yodel, and later moved to a few startups that were actually considered industry leaders in AdTech by that time, that would prove to be pivotal moments in my career. I went from Media Planning, to Project Management, to various Leadership roles, to managing a Global team that included traveling to India every 3 months, to Sales Operations, to Marketing Operations, to Chief of Staff, to Business Operations, and then finally to Human Resources. I had the opportunity to ring the opening bell at NASDAQ when my company went public, and I later helped to Project Manage two Mergers & Acquisitions.
In my career, I can honestly say I did not face too many issues rising to the top because I was a woman. I have been able to achieve success based on my ability to build relationships, be accountable, build trust, deliver results and go after what I want.
I wouldn’t trade my corporate career for anything. It has taught me a lot of skills and techniques that has allowed me to be a one woman show in building the brand I launched a few years ago. And I’ve built life long friendships.
At some point, like many women, I felt like I was losing myself and losing sight of what I really wanted to do in life. I put all my energy into others and it felt like I was faced with either having a complete meltdown, or get it together and start focusing on myself. I rarely back down from a challenge, so meltdown wasn’t an option.
When I relocated to this small town in Washington (from the East Coast), I realized that there were not only a lot of other women just like me, but an opportunity to create something new. My journey to where I am today, started when I launched a local group with a mission to empower women to give back to themselves, via curated self-care + learning experiences, and give-back community events. I also embarked on completing my Crystal Reiki Master certification, and Breathwork training, and eventually created my Crystal Wellness Company brand, launched an online wellness boutique, started a Crystal Reiki practice, starting teaching workshops at Yoga studios, and the rest is history. I have remained in AdTech via my HR consulting practice, where I work on different global projects within the HR / Learning & Development field, and I am the Experience Officer for my husband’s company which he launched last year — AI driven logistics.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
A learning moment for me in launching my two brands, was to not jump in with both feet right away. I ended up rebranding the whole thing 6 months later! These are some of the pros and cons of being able to make decisions quickly. Now I have a trademark on a brand I no longer use (whoops) but I learned a valuable lesson in the process. In helping my husband build and launch his business, it was SO fun being the client and hiring a Marketing Agency to work on the logo and brand collateral. I’ve always been on the other side, so to actually be the client was really fun for me, such a creative process and eye opening (it also helped me think through things for my other brands). A little stressful making the final decisions on which logo and color scheme — in this example you can’t just rebrand when you’re spending an investors money you know? When I rebranded my own company, that was no sweat (I had created the name, logo, etc.) It was very interesting to see the stages of how a Marketing Agency researches you, your voice, your brand, and then creates things from scratch. Watching my husband write that final check was daunting — but almost a year later, we love the logo, love all the marketing materials and consider the owners of the company our friends!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
With my husband’s company, we are working on a lot of innovative solutions that will really change the way this space operates. The transportation industry operates under what I like to refer to as a Flintstones style approach (in almost all aspects, some exceptions of course) — what we have built and continue to build is truly a modern approach under a magician brand for logistics. We focus on the customer — they are our true north — and we mean that. Married with modern technology to create unbound solutions. In my business, I am focused on bringing solutions and learning moments that are meaningful. I think people are tired of corporate styles of learning and overly business focused mindsets. There is an opportunity here to marry business + modern wellness (in my modality it’s more alternative wellness) to create more mindfulness and gratitude in the workplace; that’s really my goal. We’ve become really focused on the grind, climbing the ladder, how much money we can make, who is wearing what brand, how do I develop my career by taking more training courses so I can check the box, etc. — for some people that’s still important and obviously somewhat a necessity to survival. But I think we need to get back some of our humanity and let go things that in the grand scheme of things are trivial.
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?
To be completely honest, I can’t answer this. There are so many people that have influenced me at various points in my life. I would hate to highlight just one — because it would be inauthentic to who I am. There isn’t just 1 book, much like there isn’t just 1 person who has had significant influence in my career or life. I am a sponge and I seek information from many sources to form the most authentic version of ME. Those that have been a mentor to me — they know who they are. I’ve always made sure of that. Expressing gratitude has always been core to who I am.
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?
Even though we live in a modern society where women can be Entrepreneurs, I still enjoy the traditional role of being a wife and mom (within reason and with boundaries of course). Now, I feel like I am being pushed beyond my boundaries. I call the window of 3:30PM onwards “comatose parenting” because that’s honestly what it feels like. Finding the balance of what hours of the day to use for work vs homeschooling vs family time vs selfcare has been insanely challenging and at times impossible.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
You just have to power through and remember that you’re not alone. It really does help to know that quite literally almost everyone I know is dealing with the same issues. I have to be very disciplined in waking up at 5AM, so that I can get my big rocks out of the way for the day before the kids get up. Then I have an agreement with my husband of what the rest of the day looks like. We have a time schedule that we try to stick to but the actual content is generally a free for all. I just can’t stick to strict homeschooling content schedules and I’m not sorry about that. My kids are 5 ½ years old and 4 years old. While that doesn’t seem like a huge age gap, it is in terms of learning needs and emotional maturity, and I have to remain adaptable to their needs. I make sure to incorporate learning needs for them to continue to stay on track, but I am not driving myself crazy trying to replicate the job of a teacher. I also remember to be kind to myself.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
We are so lucky to live in a modern world where we can leverage technology! I would not be surviving right now if I could not perform my jobs virtually — it’s just that simple. However, not being able to interact with people in person is challenging, so having to find creative solutions has been interesting. But even those creative solutions get monotonous so you have to constantly recreate. There’s also a limit to how much time I want to spend on technology you know.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I’ve had to find a balance of live video calls, prerecorded videos, instant messaging and phone calls. I’ve also developed themes for video calls and games we can play that are work appropriate. I’ve limited how much intake of technology I consume in the evenings, but I haven’t been able to control that during the day unfortunately. It has increased due to the demands of work and homeschooling which is all done virtually 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?
You have to create a routine and schedule that works for you. Not try to replicate what others are doing because it just simply won’t work. Maybe some aspects are great ideas and you can borrow from that to incorporate into your routine, but make it your own so that it doesn’t interrupt your family flow. My husband and I have assigned responsibilities which we sometimes have to modify depending on what curve ball happens that day — it requires open communication and flexibility. I find myself often apologizing if I snap at him because it’s not something he did to cause that reaction, it’s just the stress of everything that is causing my mood swing — my point here is that I make sure he knows that I appreciate him, I am not trying to take it out on him and if I did I apologize as soon as I realize it. He does the same. We similarly are trying to be very mindful of being patient with the kids and what they are going through. At their age, it’s harder to understand what is happening and why, so they don’t always have control over their emotions or reactions. Under normal circumstances our first reaction is punishment (no more toys or iPad for example), but we are VERY mindful not to do that now and practice a lot of patience and communication. It’s also important to have transparent communication with work so that expectations are clear and there is no mixed communication. Many employers are facing unchartered territory with how to flex to accommodate employee needs so what I recommend (being in HR and all), is for employees to communicate what would work best for them and see if that works for the employer.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place for long periods with your family?
First let me just say, that we are being asked to do what is humanly impossible in some cases (for those that are balancing multiple jobs or responsibilities on top of homeschooling). You have to forgive yourself for not being perfect on a daily basis. This is a brief moment in time, the kids will be OK, this will pass. You are doing your best, even if it doesn’t seem like it in the moment.
I am personally trying to appreciate the time I am getting to spend with my family that I normally wouldn’t get (albeit painful some days), we try to mix in a lot of fun (probably more than homework so that we DO stay sane, but there are so many ways to make learning fun that don’t require a pen and paper), we leverage the outdoors as much as possible, and I let my kids make choices during free time or scheduled school time (what topic do you want to do). This last point is probably a key point in my sanity — allowing them the freedom of choice has proven to be mutually beneficial.
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.
I think that there is absolutely light at the end of the tunnel. The world will never be the same, but I believe it will be for the better of humanity. Look at how we have already come together to work towards flattening the curve around the world. It’s amazing. Here are my 5 reasons people should remain hopeful:
You have an opportunity right now to be grateful. Be grateful for what you have, for the people around you, for the time that you have been given to slow down. You are not alone in this — so take solace in that. And unfortunately, things may be worse for someone else or in other parts of the world. Gratitude allows you to shift your focus on what you have, vs what you don’t have, and should help you manage through some of what may cause you stress or anxiety. So, I believe that when we are all past this, people will show more gratitude towards others.
You have an opportunity to try something new! Find a mindfulness modality or relaxing habit that fits with your style, time availability and interests or what you have accessible to you at this time. Maybe it’s time you tried Yoga, Breathwork, Distance Reiki or Meditating with Crystals. There are so many wonderful opportunities for digital learning now, and with social distancing laws in place. I see e-learning shaping much of the remainder of the year.
Remember that you are doing your best. What is happening is beyond your control. It is something that is affecting the world, our humanity and our future. Yes, that’s a daunting statement and overwhelming if you really sit and think about it. But you cannot change it or control it. We know that we will be part of what happens next. And so, we all have to shift our focus to THAT. Your actions will set the tone for what comes next — and whether or not you inspire others around you. Your attitude and mindset, will affect how you handle what comes next — and how you support / encourage others around you.
We’ve seen a positive impact sheltering that in place has had on the environment, improving pollution and air quality for example. That’s something we won’t quickly forget and hopefully some good will come of that.
I think that after this is all over, people will practice more mindfulness and in general patience. We are largely being forced to be very mindful of our actions right now and very patient — it’s hard for me to believe these behaviors won’t stick beyond the pandemic. It’s a routine that we’ve incorporated into our daily lifestyle and I think will largely stick.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Offer tips or advice of what works for you when you’re feeling anxious — but don’t be pushy. Try to refrain from medical advice unless you’re a medical professional of course. I like to caveat my advice with, this is what works for me — maybe there are bits and pieces of this that could work for you. If you are on the receiving end of this advice, try not to brush it off. The person giving you this advice may be trying really hard to communicate, share, be authentic, be mindful, listen and offer advice. The last thing you want to do (if you are receiving the information) is to hurt their feelings or discount what they are sharing.
Use empathetic listening techniques. Don’t interrupt, repeat what you heard using the words you heard. Paraphrase what you heard. Put what you heard into your own words. This creates trust, common understanding and most importantly affirms that you were truly listening. Of course, if you’re in person (which in most cases right now is unlikely) — eye contact is also key.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“It is what it is.” We can’t change the past. We can reflect and learn. But to dwell on things that we cannot change is unhealthy and holds you back. I truly can’t think of a time this hasn’t been relevant to me in my life. I also cannot pinpoint exactly when this became part of my DNA, but I think somewhere in my late 20’s. I think at some point I got tired of blaming other people for things or not taking accountability for my actions and shifted my mindset.
How can our readers follow you online?
The best place is via Instagram: crystalwellnesscompany or LinkedIn.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!