by Cathy DeFrances-Vittorio, Associate | Business Line Manager
As quarantine restrictions are lifted and life begins to shape itself back to “normal”, whatever that is, I pondered how our industry has changed, what will bounce back to those before-times, and what will stick. And I hope a lot of what’s changed WILL stick.
Working from home while balancing family, small children, barking dogs, and neighbors who use their leaf blower every morning at exactly 8:22 is who we are now. My colleagues join video chats with kids on their laps, and we know the kids by name. We arrange conference calls around naptimes. I don’t schedule appointments at noon because that’s when I have lunch with my 90-year-old father who lives with us. I’ve figured out how to take breaks to start dinner, how to talk on the phone while sitting in the sun on my front deck, and how to work, play, worry, concentrate, love, and be productive all at once.
Being quarantined is a great leveler. We don’t need warm introductions anymore because we are all struggling with the same reality. Reaching out to strangers has never been easier because we’re equally trapped and free at the same time. But, of course, sometimes that “reaching out” can feel disingenuous. I get it. It can feel like every article, email, video presentation, and blog post is self-serving. You can doubt the authenticity of our “hey, what’s up” emails as a veiled attempt to garner information about a short list. But I’d like to offer an alternate perception. Am I trying to get information, get put on a team, find out who was selected, or how they will procure hazmat? Yes. But I also truly care if you are healthy and if your family is safe. If we are people who care about other people (and, at the heart of it all, that’s what makes great business developers), this is a time when reaching out just to say, “hope you all are healthy and staying sane,” comes with tremendous honestly and value. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I’ve never loved my job more because I’m surrounded by funny, interesting, overwhelmed, and frightened human beings who are willing to share a vulnerability that is earth-shattering at its core. We each want to help, whatever that means, in a way that is warm and true and unabashed. And that is the great silver lining of COVID-19. The chance to have a deep connection with someone and with everyone. The chance to meet us whole.
I am no longer “work” Cathy, “home” Cathy, “networking” Cathy, “daughter” Cathy, “wife” Cathy, “friend” Cathy, or “mother” Cathy. I’ve become a whole person. This is the change that I hope sticks the most. That we all recognize that we don’t have to break ourselves into slices to be different things to different people. I also hope that the July 11th wedding can happen, that the new puppy will learn to pee outside soon, and I desperately pray that my coworker’s dad recovers from the virus. I’d love to be on the team for that next project too, so just give me a call and we can discuss mousetraps, museums, viruses, and TJMaxx. And I hope that when we are allowed back in offices, allowed to meet at tradeshows, and even to shake hands again, that our new-found value in our fellow human beings, inside and outside of the industry, doesn’t change.
About the Author
Cathy DeFrances-Vittorio is an Associate and Business Line Manager at Fuss & O’Neill. With more than 30 years of experience in A/E/C marketing and business development, she has seen the industry evolve, but still remains true to coloration, integrity, and honestly. Cathy is a two-time past president of the Connecticut SMPS chapter, a recipient of an SMPS Lifetime Achievement Award, a member of the advisory board of the ACE Mentor Program in Hartford, co-chair of the allied committee for the Connecticut AIA, and a member of the programs committee for Professional Women in Construction.