Written by Sarah Kenny, Head of Data & Analytics

It’s nearly a year since my new role as the Head of Data & Analytics at Wavemaker North was confirmed. In the past 12 months, I have commuted between London and Manchester, pitched for new clients, managed the delivery of data services to our most southern client, Carnival, based in Southampton, got my driver’s license, moved to a new house and started to get to know a new team and a new area of the UK.

I was just starting to “get my feet under my new desk” and catching the train through the Pennines to work was feeling routine and suddenly I am spending my time in a house where there are boxes still to be unpacked and pictures still to be hung.

If I was talking to you, you would notice my accent is from a lot further south than London. I am from New Zealand and like many a kiwi I came to England to travel, explore the history and culture of the UK and Europe and yes, work. My curiosity about other cultures started young and for my final year of secondary school, I lived and studied in Argentina.

So, I am no stranger to change, not least the last 12 months. I am grateful that my life experiences, have given me some preparation for life during a global pandemic, not that I expected that to be something I would ever need. I can say, moving house is still more stressful than life in ‘lockdown’.

This is a rare opportunity to spend time with people without busy schedules getting in the way, so continue to catch up with friends and family as much as possible.

I have stuck with the trials and tribulations of ‘video’ calling in both my personal and professional life since the early 2000s when my family started to explore the use of Skype to keep in touch. I am enormously grateful that technology has moved on and is such a ubiquitous part of our lives. I have in fact reconnected and spent more time with family and friends who are spread out across the world in the last 6 weeks than I would do normally and hope that one positive outcome from this experience is that we continue to connect with those who are not on our doorstep once we return to being able to see each other in person.

Every day is different for each and every one of us, some of us are juggling kids and homeschooling with work, some of us are sharing our dining table to work with housemates and if like me you are home alone then there are times when the world feels very quiet and internet glitches make you feel more isolated than ever before.

Take the opportunity to speak to real-life people when you can even if they are someone you wouldn’t normally.

I have found myself becoming increasingly chatty, at any opportunity, including giving the check out person at the local Hebden Bridge Nisa a lesson in the origins of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I am also getting to know my neighbours as we see each other over the fence and stop for a chat.

Home projects are the new experiences; finding those things that have been on the to-do list and completing them will occupy you and give you a sense of achievement.

I now have concrete evidence that the way to motivate me is to put me in a team, I don’t want to be the one to let the side down. My table refurbishment project that has been gathering dust for 5 years is nearing completion because it adds points to our office challenge to complete tasks around the home. The aspiration to get back the fitness I had 5 years ago when I ran the London marathon is now well underway with my pledge to run 3 marathons in 3 weeks as part of a charity event to raise money for the Booth centre, including running my first half marathon in 6 years. With jobs and projects still on the list to complete there really hasn’t been much time to notice I haven’t been to the pub recently.

I have been inspired by the hidden talents of my co-workers, who in their spare time are artists, composers and writers, to get my clarinet out of the cupboard and re-ignite my love of photography. A timely piece of email marketing from photo printing company Inkify and their sticky prints has started the Covid-19 photo diary on a wall in my house so that I can look back at all the moments and achievements from a time that is in danger of feeling like it was lost.

Structure and daily goals will help it not feel like Groundhog Day (worth a re-watch as well).

Whilst the last few weeks have been a wonderful opportunity to complete projects, do exercise and try new things I find the structure and challenge of my job is enormously important and I have experienced time off with no post-holiday blues. Presenting over video conference seems to have brought out an inner performer I didn’t know I had, and we have found ways to continue to solve our clients’ challenges.

Eating on your own is never as much fun as sharing a meal with others so keeping meals interesting and experimenting helps maintain a love of food.

Lunch is a meal that is difficult to get excited about and with no one around to remind me I have had days when it gets to 3 pm and I haven’t eaten. New recipes and baking are helping replace my usual café treats. Having to be inventive to make use of what is in the cupboard means I now have a much healthier banana bread recipe that will stand me in good stead post lockdown as well.

What are normally small technical frustrations can bring one to tears in the solitary home office, so whilst technology will continue to evolve, for me, you can’t replace real-life human interaction. I look forward to being able to drop in my 2 pennies worth on the discussion I overheard on the way to make a brew in the office, giving my nieces a hug, and being back in the pub with friends so that the internet dropping out doesn’t mean I miss half the conversation and all talking at once is kind of OK.

In the meantime, everyone needs a pick me up and treating yourself remains perfectly legitimate

In week 1 I decided that my ‘home office’ needed a bright spot and so I bought myself flowers. To make sure I drink water I bought myself a special water bottle. Sharing treats with friends also brings people together. I have sent my friends in London, locally roasted coffee beans from our office go-to coffee place in Manchester, which is a bit of the North from me and has the bonus of supporting a small business at the same time. 

There is a light in all of this, that for me the shared experience of being separated, has brought people closer. New colleagues are fast becoming new friends, old colleagues and friends are there when I need them as they have always been, and neighbours are more ready with a smile across the fence.

For the antipodeans, we have just celebrated ANZAC day and as a nation, the UK comes together to celebrate and remember VE day at the end of the week. So, my final thought is that we follow in the footsteps of our grandparents and great grandparents, and with all it’s ups and downs, this will be an experience we reminisce and share with future generations to come.