International Women’s Day 2021: triumph and success in lockdown

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Go back to International Women’s Day on 8 March 2020. To think that we’d be using words like "lockdown," "home-schooling" and "furlough" would be unthinkable - for a few more weeks, at least. The past year has been one of turmoil, sadness and anxiety. But it’s also been one of solidarity, discovery and triumph.

You might think it would be difficult to find positive stories to acknowledge Serocor’s women in a year which has challenged everyone to the limit, yet there are a great many unsung heroines who deserve some recognition. Among our ranks are those that have made impacts in the community, enjoyed professional success and triumphed over lockdown adversity, despite the universe having other intentions, and we’d like to celebrate some of them on International Women’s Day. Here are their stories.

Jasmine: how adopting new ways of working can bring great results

Jasmine White is a Senior Consultant in ARM’s Commercial Shipping team. She won the company’s Q2 Outstanding Performer award, achieving phenomenal success. How did she manage this? By finding the advantages in the situation.

Jasmine found that working remotely provided some unexpected gifts: “Although difficult at times, I was happy that I was challenged to spend time alone because it taught me things about myself that I didn’t know.”

Planning being virtually impossible, she adopted a new, short-term working strategy, never looking further than a week or two ahead. Putting all her effort and energy into those 1-2 weeks helped her stay fully focused, and the use of checklists promoted clarity, as it was easier to see her ‘to do’ list, than to think about, especially “with the stress of daily life to think about on top of everything,” she explains.

However, she also modestly credits her accomplishment with reaching out to people when lockdown or work got the better of her. “I found this key to my success because these people either lifted me out of these feelings or gave me reassurance and solutions.”

It clearly worked. Reflecting on her achievement, Jasmine says :“It felt really great to win this award because 2020 was a challenging year, both inside and outside of work. It also motivated me even more to continue working hard, even when times are testing”.

Nora: coming through stronger as a family

Nora Gewert-Allen is an International Consultant in ARM’s Transportation and Infrastructure team. She summed up 2020 as “The year of how we have come through stronger as a family.”

She, like many, found it “odd being together at home 24/7”. A family of four with two boys of nine and 11 years old, home-schooling started with minimal provision, so Nora assumed responsibility, doing “what we managed to do between work, cooking, washing, meetings, shopping and a lot of front-door-deliveries”. During this time, her eldest son moved up to secondary school and both boys now are thriving.

Nora simultaneously welcomed new clients and has still been able to change people’s lives by finding them new jobs. She says that despite the pandemic, making it work is such a great feeling. “My son, who I share an office with at home, has been celebrating with me and developed the ‘We-got-an-interview-dance’!”

What has been hard is not seeing loved ones. “It’s been a year of loss and distance – friends and family passing away and not being able to say goodbye is difficult,” Nora says. “A lot of family live in Germany and not being able to share your grief and sorrow with them makes these difficult moments harder.”

Though a ray of sunshine came in the shape of her tiny newborn niece, who she’s watched grow from afar. “Thank goodness for Facetime and video calls!” As if the pandemic wasn’t enough to contend with, Nora also kept an eye on Brexit. “As a German national living in the UK for 20 years, I decided I needed more security with the imminent change. So I applied for British Citizenship while the German authorities still allowedme to do this and not to lose my German one and I got it!”

Many congratulations, Nora!

Kellee: the joy of volunteering

Obviously, we wouldn’t have got through the past 12 months without the thousands of volunteers who have helped those in need. One such person is Kellee Howgill, Delivery Coordinator for Optamor, who has been volunteering at a local surgery which is administering the Covid-19 vaccination to their elderly and vulnerable patients.

“They rely heavily on volunteers to run these clinics, as the surgery staff still have their normal daily jobs to do,” Kellee explains. “Each four-hour shift has approximately eight volunteers. I have been on car park duty – ensuring all disabled and reduced mobility drivers can park and assist them into the surgery, whilst directing all other drivers to lternative car parking.

Working and home-schooling two teenagers means Kellee’s time is precious, yet she felt compelled to help out after friends within the NHS explained the pressures they’re under. She takes advantage of the Group’s volunteering scheme, which enables staff to volunteer without having to book annual leave or forfeit any earnings.

Doing such a selfless role has been cold and wet at times, but Kellee says she’s met many lovely people and had such good laughs. “Humour has definitely made it all easier and I plan to continue for all the time they need my help.”

Katherine: joining a new company during lockdown

It’s daunting enough to start a new job, but imagine doing so just as the country locks down and your new employer has to take steps to keep everyone safe - your experience isn’t going to be, well, normal. That’s the situation Katherine McKenzie found herself in, when she joined Serocor Solutions as a Compliance Administrator in June. Though the onboarding wasn’t anything like she might have expected, she has successfully integrated into the business, despite never meeting several colleagues in person.

Katherine feels very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to join the company during lockdown and has happily adapted to working from home, balancing working full time with caring for a toddler.

And while the few times she’s been in the office have been enjoyable, with everyone being very welcoming, Katherine says she’s looking forward to meeting people face to face, as she’s only communicated with people over the phone or by email so far.

Despite the strange start, she adds: “I have really enjoyed the challenge of my new role, and have a great team to work with”. Welcome to the Group, Katherine!

Gemma: constantly mindful of the team’s welfare

Gemma Humphries, Optamor’s Head of Partnerships, was surprised to be approached for this piece: “I don’t feel I’ve done anything special,” she says. Her team begs to differ. Part of a close, very social team, working remotely has been very strange and can impact people in many different ways.

Aware of this, Gemma ensured she spoke to each of her team daily, so that she could support them if they were struggling. In addition to this, she arranged regular catch ups and walks with the team to get them away from their screens for a bit.

She has always been mindful of the challenge of working at home with small children, and took fantastic steps to try and ease the situation. In one particular case, Gemma says, “we had a daily video call with the team member and her young son, which my 11-year-old son joined in on, and we either talked about his toys/characters or my son did a daily quiz for him.”

When restrictions had eased, she invited one of the team to work with her for the day and her son came along too. “I’ve just been continually keeping up with their welfare and ensuring I can support them where I can.”

“In this lockdown I’ve also started to send some of my team different emojis that to cheer them up!” she says. It may seem like nothing, but each of these small attentions no doubt makes a huge difference to the wellbeing of the team.

It’s been said that while the pandemic has shown the worst of some people, it’s brought out the absolute best in others, of which there are countless examples among our female colleagues. In a year where we’ve all felt unsteady at times, the stories above simply reinforce the strength, resilience, professionalism and humility of women everywhere. And on International Women’s Day 2021, we will rightly celebrate them all.