It’s interesting to reflect on remote work in the midst of this pandemic. When we started our business in 2003, it wasn’t common for a company to advertise that they were home-based. I remember actively hiding from clients the fact that we didn’t have an office. Back then, working from home often carried with it the perception that you were a shady company, you weren’t professional, and that you might not be around next week. On top of that, being a black-owned business was something that we would hide as well. Largely for the same reasons.
The convergence of what the coronavirus has done to work and what police brutality has done to black people’s lives is hard to ignore.
Back in 2005, I remember meeting quite a few business owners that were home-based. We would talk about the challenges our lack of office space presented when meeting with clients. After someone would ask to meet with us, we all got really good at delivering the line, “I’m happy to come to your office.”
I also remember the look of surprise on some people’s faces when they would meet me in person. We transacted a lot of business via phone and e-mail, but occasionally would market in person. I attended an Albuquerque business luncheon in 2005, which is something I would do regularly. Our business was well-established and we were well-respected in the community. I was in my 20s, had dreadlocks down to my waist, and was dressed professionally. I did the usual mingling and shaking hands. At that time, we were heavily into web design and development services. I introduced myself to a white businessman in his 50s and asked what kind of work he did. When he was done talking, he asked me the same. I gracefully launched into my elevator speech. Afterward, he smiled and responded condescendingly, “Wow, you do all that?! That’s pretty impressive for a lady like yourself.” Suddenly I heard echoes of the stories my mom would tell me about her challenges working in a predominantly white environment as a network engineer. Discouraging to say the least, but, like her, I didn’t let it didn’t stop me.
Believe it or not, this is the first time I’ve posted my headshot on our company website. LinkedIn was just starting in 2003 and I didn’t create a profile until 2005. At first, I only included our company logo in my profile. It wasn’t until LinkedIn required actual headshots a few years later that I took the plunge.
Whether real or perceived, these were the games that I would play because I wasn’t sure how people would react.
Although I’m sad about the state of the world right now, I do like to look for silver linings. I feel like many of us have reached a shared understanding as we have been forced to stay in and look within. I feel like the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have drastically and forever changed our work and life. Working from home is more common for organizations of all sizes and people in all types of professions. And the efforts of black people professionally, personally, past, and present are in the spotlight. I hope that we can keep what we’ve learned with us and truly establish a new normal.