Let us guess Margaret, on this still snowy morning – you are at home. How are you? Your family?
Yes, I’m at home, in my home office which was my sewing and crafting room until last year when I transitioned into a work-from-home role. It’s been a relief to have somewhere to go to and leave from during this crazy time. My husband, Terry, works in the banking industry so his job is still considered essential. I worry about him (and everyone else who is keeping the economy going) and the personal risk he’s taking to make people at ease that they can still access their money. Our son, Jude, is on March break. He’s in grade eight so we’ll see what that translates into next week. In the meantime, he’s being an amazing helper around the house. He loves cooking so he’s been taking care of prepping lunch, which I’m considering a win all around.
How are you coping with this new normal – post COVID-19 reality – that we are all living in?
I waffle between being really good and crying during my lunchtime yoga sessions, lol. It’s amazing the ways we adapt as humans – learning to check in with phone calls or video chats instead of how we would have kept up by sending off a quick text, or worse yet, forgetting to because we’re on the run to the next thing that occupies our brains. I’m taking this as an opportunity to slow down and really check in with myself, my family, friends, and community at large.
We had the opportunity to get reacquainted with you (after 20 years!) when you joined Virtual Guru’s as their new COO, we love the mission of your company. Can you tell us more about Virtual Guru’s and exactly what is the business?
It’s a pretty amazing thing that we’re building at VG. At its core, we’re a Talent as a Service (TaaS) platform – a way for businesses who need back-office admin support to access skilled administration professionals on an as-needed basis. But the mission is so much bigger than that. We know that people of Indigenous decent; those from the LGBTQ community; individuals with alternative abilities; and, single or stay at home moms are often left behind in the traditional 9 to 5 work world. Our goal is to connect those individuals with industry, to help them set up as entrepreneurs running their own businesses and upskilling or reskilling them when needed to increase their marketability as remote team members. We’re also passionate about providing work to people in our own backyard… in our case, that backyard extends across Canada and the US, but it’s important to us that we’re helping Canadians and Americans earn a meaningful income for themselves.
Why do you feel this business is now more important than ever?
This question is particularly poignant at this moment in time. We’re seeing companies needing to make huge pivots in how they’re doing business, going through massive layoffs, changing their business models – whatever it takes to keep the doors open and survive through this pandemic. One of our short-term goals is to help small business stay open through this crisis. Our whole team is being creative to find ways to support our existing clients and to support new clients who may never have had a need for a TaaS platform before.
We’re seeing companies needing to make huge pivots in how they’re doing business, going through massive layoffs, changing their business models – whatever it takes to keep the doors open and survive through this pandemic.
In this shit show we call life right now there are so many moving parts; virus, economy, politics… yet in some way’s things are perhaps clearer. What is clear for you right now?
There are a few things… life is usually (very) busy. And while that ‘activity’ is important, the centre of all of it is the people that we connect with on a regular basis.
I’m really seeing the good in people shine through. I know that’s normal in times of crisis but living through it and experiencing it firsthand is different from seeing it on the news.
I’ve long held the (controversial?) belief that pro athletes and actors are overpaid, especially when compared to educators and medical professionals – the people at the heart of what truly makes a difference in our daily lives. The clarity has come in the stark realization of what happens to this world without the educators, medical professionals and frontline or service workers who are normally taken for granted but in reality, keep the economic engines running.
We love to ask this question or a variance on it – if you were running the country or province – what would you do? The pressure is on.
My answer would have been completely different even two weeks ago, so we’ll consider this the COVID edition. I read a report this week from an economist in Denmark who was sharing what the Danish government is doing to maintain its economy through the pandemic. At the risk of butchering the plan, my main takeaway from that report was that the government is providing 75% of the salary of every person that companies need to layoff to survive the crisis. The employees would still be linked to the company so that the company doesn’t need to rehire and train once the crisis is over, they can maintain a reasonable balance sheet and the employees have economic stability and certainty of reemployment once we’re through the other side. I would absolutely implement this in Canada.
In the non-COVID edition… So much of my political ideology comes from Ayn Rand’s philosophies. I would look to lessons she outlines in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged to begin balancing power and wealth. I would action ways to improve the work lives of teachers and doctors, whether through pay or work conditions. Specifically, in Alberta, I would find ways to tap into the entrepreneurial spirit and academic excellence that lives here, create industries that provide challenging and meaningful employment opportunities and subsequently an economic climate that fosters growth and investment.
Who are your role models right now? Who are you looking up to?
At the hyper-local level, I have a few neighbours who are doing amazing things to make sure our neighbourhood is well taken care of – they’re mobilizing a volunteer force to ensure the elderly have groceries, the sick and infirm have medication, the sidewalks are colourful and cheerful. It’s truly heartwarming.
Like many Canadians, I’m super impressed with Dr. Hinshaw. I can’t help but be in awe of her measured but open and transparent approach to dealing with the crisis and keeping Albertans informed while the situation changes from second to second.
Tell us about your family. Under normal circumstances what would you be getting up to now?
My little family unit consists of my husband of 25 years, Terry, our 14-year-old son Jude and our four-year-old ragdoll cat, Mochi. Normal life revolves around work, volunteering for Chic Geek and the Louis Riel Music Parents Association, and hockey – lots and lots of hockey. Our son is a goalie with aspirations to play at a high level so we’re normally at the rink five or six days a week. But he’s also an amazingly talented musician so I volunteer on the board of the school band. We love travelling and taking in new experiences – usually centred around food, wine and beaches. We’re fortunate to have an extended “family” of friends who we love sharing a meal with.
We are all tucked in at home, so here is what we are reading, watching, listening to; Untamed (book), Better Things (TV season 4), Goop podcasts (because Elise is on fire right now), Rüfüs Du Sol – New Sky (on repeat).
So what book are you reading, what show are you watching, what podcast or music are you listening to?
I have a few books on the go at the moment – Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage (to be fair, it’s my 3rd time through – once on audio book and 2nd time reading it), Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments and Seth Godin’s Tribe.
We just finished watching The Morning Show and See and are halfway through Hunters. I’m looking forward to diving into the new season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to lighten things up.
I created a playlist a few months ago that I titled Soul Soothing – it’s a mix of old school Sade, Amy Winehouse, Bruno Mars, Leon Bridges, Dido, Glass Animals, Spandau Ballet, Neko Case, Emmylou Harris, Alejandro Escoveda, Yola, and Sting. It’s been in regular rotation.
I’ve not been listening to podcasts as much as I was, but a couple of my favourites are Levar Burton Reads and Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History.
What is your daily routine? Our doc said – set an alarm to go to bed, but not to wake up. Unless we wake up on our own.
In the morning I have a cup of tea and breakfast while watching the local news and reading CNN’s daily newsletter, Good Morning from CNN. Terry’s line of work is considered essential, so I see him off for the day then go about my workday and take a few breaks to connect with Jude. At the end of the day, Terry and I have been connecting with friends over a glass of wine and video chat. After dinner, we settle in for family time and connecting about our days in front of the fireplace.
What is your superpower? What were you put on this earth to do?
Being Jude’s mom. If you had asked me when we met 20 years ago if I was going to have a family, my answer would have been flat out no. I thought I was too selfish to care for another human. Jude has taught me to love and laugh through some really big challenges, he’s taught me to be selfless and have that selflessness returned a million times over. I was always pretty confident that I could do whatever I put my mind to, but he amplifies that on a daily basis.
Are you tapping into any practice right now? Yoga, energy healing? Self-care?
I’ve been trying to do a 20-minute yoga practice at lunch for a break and have been using what was my normal commute home time to work out with Jude. I’ve been meditating since the fall, so I’ve been keeping up with that practice.
Okay, in a post virus community, city, province, country, planet – what do you want to see most?
I’m a hugger… I miss the human connection that self-isolation has brought about. I *really* want to see my mom and sister and give them the biggest hugs imaginable.
What do you think our world needs the most right now? What’s your version of a big hug?
As pragmatic as it sounds, I think everyone needs to listen to the medical experts and stay the heck home. I think we need leaders to step up and make informed, calculated decisions in the best interest of their citizens. And then, we need to look at what we’ve proven we can and can’t live without over these months, look at the improvements we’re seeing in the earth’s climate and figure out how we can be better humans.
When you emerge from your COVID cave, what will be the new normal for you? Lessons, insights, what did you not know about yourself before that will now be put in practice. Do you have a goal in mind for yourself?
I’m not sure – I often wonder if the old normal will become the new, new normal. I do know that the thing I’m enjoying most is taking the time to connect with friends more regularly. I hope that I can maintain that consistent connection once we’re through this and life, in whatever form it takes, resumes.
What does ‘love in the time of COVID’ look like for you?
Finding ways to connect. Checking in with one another and putting other people’s needs above our own.
What are your fav HK pieces?
The Florence Slip Dress – hands down. It’s like it was designed especially for me and I’ve always had it in my wardrobe.