Shield Geo actively practices a flexible, remote model of work. Our employees are distributed, with many choosing to work from home while others prefer co-working spaces in their home towns. We’re also flexible with times of work, allowing each employee to select their best hours and giving them the option to make up any time they need to take away from their desks at a later date. We’ve found very little downsides to embracing flexibility. We have seen that when work can fit comfortably into someone’s life, they will be happier, less stressed and even more productive.
In a bid to showcase the variety of ways a more flexible working approach can benefit workforces, we’re profiling different Shield Geo employees and telling their stories. We’ve seen how removing rigid and arbitrary conditions around the state of work can free people to travel, spend more time with their families and maximise their time to pursue what’s important to them.
This month, we chatted to Jennifer Henne, a subject matter expert with a long history of international HR and global mobility.
Jennifer is one of Shield’s subject matter experts, she works with our account managers and the implementation team to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Jennifer lives in Washington DC with her two sons, Alexander and John. Her daughter, Ashley, lives in Los Angeles and her husband Franz is currently on assignment in Berlin, Germany.
Jennifer grew up in Michigan and always had an interest in the greater world as she grew up watching her father travel and work overseas. This led her to spend long stints living and working in Germany over the course of her career as well as a time commuting to London for work from her home in Dresden, Germany.
Initially, Jennifer studied German and French but went back to college to gain her MBA to pursue international HR.
Throughout her career, Jennifer has worked for several international companies including two German automotives Bosch and VW and Motorolla during its global expansion period . She also spent over a decade working in US defence contracting at SAIC (now Leidos), Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin before settling in with us at Shield Geo a year ago.
During her time defence contracting, Jennifer met our co-founder Duncan and actually used the Shield Geo services, which ended up being a precursor for her coming onboard a few years later.
“I was working on an acquisition, and we needed a turnkey solution. We didn’t have legal entities in four countries,” she says
“One of our vendors reached out and I mentioned the challenge that I had. So, she put me in touch with Duncan, and we were able to meet our objectives to close the acquisition on time and the people transferred over and that worked out really well.”
After leaving defense contracting Jennifer took on another role for a German automotive (VW) which required her to commute to the Washington DC metro area each day.
“In the DC metro area, the commute is really anywhere from an hour and two hours each way,” she says.
“If you consider getting ready, getting dressed, doing everything you need to do knowing that you’re not going to be home in time to feed your family, it can take about four hours each day.”
During this time, Jennifers husband Franz was deployed on assignment to Berlin, Germany and eventually, time away from home became too demanding. This is when she came onboard with ShieldGEO working remotely from her home.
“Working from home with teenage sons and a husband on assignment is the best arrangement,” she says.
Now, Jennifer can be at home for her boys, walk their rescue dog Harley each morning and find time for errands throughout the day.
“If I know I’m going to be on a late night call and I need to go out and run an errand for a couple of hours I can do that because the main thing is that you’re getting the work done,” she says.
“You’ve got that flexibility so you’re taking care of those things outside of when your children are coming home so you can be with them.”
She also likes the fact that she no longer has to do groceries or errands at the same time as the general public, meaning a lot less traffic and general busyness.
Working remotely with Shield also means flexibility in location.
“Last summer it was raining like crazy in DC I think it may have hit the record, so my boys and I loaded up the car and drove to my brothers in Michigan,” Jennifer shares.
She was able to spend time with her brother is a sunnier location, while getting all her work done.
“We’re driving to my niece’s graduation in Chicago in two weeks, and we can do the same thing.”
Jennifer has also spent time working from Germany where her husband is living at the moment and plans to visit her daughter in LA sometime soon as well.
But It’s not just the flexibility that Jennifer loves about her role.
“In my subject-matter expert role, I am finally able to use all of the skills I have acquired over the course of my career which has been very rewarding,” she says.
“On one (very long day), I actively touched 35 countries!”
|6:45||I wake to the first alarm and check my Fitbit app on my iPhone to see how I slept. I’ll then try to wake up the first of my two teenage sons for school (I’m a human alarm clock) and greet my two cats who help me with the wake up routine. My other son, will graciously ask if I can please come back in 10 minutes (snooze human alarm clock). I head to the kitchen for coffee which is ready thanks to the automatic timer I set the night before. I ask Alexa for my daily news flash and she fills me in on overnight world events.|
|7:00||By this time, 2 additional iPhone alarms have gone off and both boys are slowly coming to life. I head back to the kitchen to empty the dishwasher and make school lunches. By 7:17, they’re out the door to catch the yellow school bus OR if they miss it, I have to drop them off.|
|7:20||I head outside for a morning walk with our rescue dog, Harley. I try to remember to use this time to reflect upon everything I am grateful for (including fresh air!). It is also a great start to getting my daily Fitbit steps in.|
|7:50||Time to get myself ready. Even though I no longer have to wear a suit every day, I have not yet worked from home in my pajamas!|
|8:00||I read the #shoutouts Slack channel on my Android. On Fridays, we have a weekly ritual to post in Slack any shoutouts as recognition to people who have gone above and beyond that week. We also post updates about our weekend plans or exciting things happening in our lives. With our global remote workforce, it is wonderful to hear about the great work people are doing in their various areas and also to hear what their weekend plans are — which often sound so exotic compared to our own (it’s also a great feeling of recognition when you get a shoutout from someone else)|
|8:30||I feed the animals and have a second cup of coffee, then review my work email, Slack chats, Skype, and Salesforce on my iPad or Android (whichever is closest) as I have breakfast (usually yogurt with cereal or toast and grapefruit). I have a glance through personal email, FaceBook Messenger and WhatsApp to see if anything requires a response, especially soccer team related emails (I am a team manager for my older son’s team).|
|9:00||Now I formally start work, categorizing and filing messages in my inbox, reading entries on my Slack channels, Salesforce Chatter requests, and Skype, to get an overview on what is going on around the world. In my role as a subject-matter expert, I am very lucky to be able touch many different countries in the course of a workday. Then, based on urgency and prioritizing by location, I make a note of what needs to happen first, what can be worked in parallel while awaiting an answer from someone offline due to timezones, and how to best structure the day to manage expectations.|
|9:30||By this time, I have a feel for what awaits me. I start with the quick hits (easy answers to keep others moving), then move on with my top priorities and start to take action with initial reach outs. I make sure Salesforce, our global database, is updated after I take each action, so that all parties touching the situation are informed.|
|10:00||At some point in the morning, I’ll ensure our Americas skype feed is alive, by reaching out to others working in the USA, Central and South America. This helps those of us extroverted folks working remotely feel connected. On Fridays, Thank God it’s Friday (TGIF) discussions prevail!|
|10:15||I continue to focus on my top priorities, responding to inquiries, escalated cases, or new requests. I strive to always remember, “What problem are we trying to solve?”, and to reflect on whether this issue could have been prevented and if so, how. Then to capture lessons learned in the case in Salesforce. My cat Tyler typically jumps on my desk and sprawls out, oddly always near my mouse. In a corporate office, there is usually always one person who interrupts you and breaks your focus. At home, it’s my cat!|
|11:30||With my Hidrate bottle reminding me to drink water and rewarding me in the app, I generally need a bio-break around now and then get distracted and throw in a load of laundry, play with the cat, pet the dog, clean something random.|
|12:00||Every day I intend to truly take a lunch break around now and go out, but inevitably the time flies and the next thing I know, I am hearing the garage open as the boys get home from school.|
|15:00||I greet the boys as they get home from school and head up the stairs, starving for their first dinner of the day. I make food for them, thinking about what they should be eating, depending on who has soccer practice that evening. My younger son walks Harley again, often asking me if I would like to come along too (because working from home, I can!). This is also the time when the boys and I catch up with my husband on FaceTime, as he is currently on assignment in Berlin. We visited him last summer and I worked remotely from Germany on what Shield calls a “work-ation” (working remotely from a vacation location).|
|15:30||Generally at this time, I am focused on ensuring all actions are ready for AsiaPacific, but since it is Friday, I host a virtual Happy Hour using Zoom video conferencing which is a nice way for the Americas team to touch base before the weekend and talk about non-work topics and weekend plans. Tyler is back, continuing to jump on my desk, I put him down, he jumps back up, etc., almost if he senses the work day is coming to an end.|
|17:30||Now I take my younger son to soccer practice. While he is at practice, I often do work from the field, using my cell phone as a wi-fi portal or else I enjoy a cappuccino from Starbucks and use their wifi, catching up on the events of the week and preparing for my day on Monday.|
|21:00||Time to cook a 2nd dinner for my hungry teenagers and discuss the weekend schedule which is usually filled with soccer (their games or professional games they want to watch). We walk Harley one last time and either hang out together watching Netflix, catch a DC United soccer game or they play video games and I relax with a glass of wine on the couch.|
This isn’t Jennifer’s first experience in a remote role. From 1998 – 2000 she lived in Dresden, Germany and commuted to London each Monday for work.
“I actually got more work-life balance [than you would think],” she says.
“I got a lot of time with my daughter even though it was only on the weekends. I would pick her up from school on Friday in a taxi, and she was very happy with that. “
Her husband then got a job in Washington and the family made the move back to the states. Jennifer was able to keep her job and work remotely from Washington while her team were mostly in London.
This lasted a short time as she found the distance too far without the technology to support it.
“Back in the day things were slower,” she says remembering dial-up connections and international phone calls.
Jennifer also found the role quite isolating.
“I’m a social person, and so I did miss [the interaction],”
“I would find myself going and having coffee with the neighbour because there wasn’t a water cooler and you really felt kind of isolated. Because I was reporting to the UK, once their work hours were over you were on your own.”
With updates in technology came an increase in interaction which has made Jennifer’s latest foray into remote work much more enjoyable
“It’s great to be able to video chat with people,” she says.
“The thing I most love about Shield is the technology we use to stay connected to each other and our clients and local partners.”
While these updates make her work more manageable, they also help with staying connected to her colleagues. The US team has an ongoing group chat where they share stories, pictures and ask about each others days. They even share a virtual Friday happy hour via video chat with a drink in hand.
“It almost feels like we’re together.”
-Bree Caggiati, July 2019
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