Jenny and Eric Matoy never envisioned they’d work primarily from home. But Jenny, a Senior Staff Mechanical Engineer, and Eric, Head of Software Development, suddenly had their work and family routine melded into one when COVID-19 struck in early 2020. This is their story.
Eric: We like to look at the big picture of what we do at Continental.
I describe my job to people as leading a hard-working team of software professionals who make the software for brake control systems that save people’s lives every day. Jenny also works on the Vehicle Dynamics team, but on the hardware side of it. Her team manufactures the actual parts to make our products possible.
Eric: For us, work and family became intertwined when the pandemic struck last year.
The whole work-from-home thing was a rare occasion before that. People might’ve done it once or twice a month, then almost overnight we were forced into it every day. We have a three-year-old, a five-year-old, a seven-year-old and two dogs, so we had to cope with learning to do something completely different.
We have to get the kids ready and to school or day care every day before we get to work. On Wednesdays, we both have early meetings, so who has the break in the schedule to drop off the kids? We also like to have our kids in sports, so we’re constantly navigating all of that.
Eric: Like a lot of people with computer-based jobs, we had to figure out home office space.
We have a nice work area at a desk in our kitchen. Initially, we drew straws because that looked like the best place to work, but there turned out to be a side effect to that spot because it’s where all the kids want to hang out. I sought refuge in the basement. We thought this would be a temporary thing, maybe a few weeks. So, I’m sitting on a couch and I have a monitor on a box with my wireless keyboard sitting around me. It was something I never thought would last this long.
Jenny: It’s been very stressful at times, but colleagues have been understanding.
It seemed like every 10 minutes one of the kids wanted a snack or attention and I’d be on a call, so I’d miss things or wouldn’t know what was going on in a meeting. I didn’t feel like I was doing a good job. But my colleagues didn’t say anything negative and when I asked them to repeat something, they would. Or I would text one of my colleagues to find out what was going on. Many of them could relate.
Eric: It’s huge that we can all function remotely now.
I think a big advantage of it is it’s made a lot of people stop taking themselves so seriously. We’ve seen shifts in virtual leadership and it’s something that was very necessary. The way we conduct meetings has changed. Before, there would be 30 people in a conference room gathered around one phone. There would be side conversations and people on the phone couldn’t hear or understand what was going on. Now we’ve eliminated all of that. Meetings are more efficient – we start on time and end on time more often.
Eric: The biggest thing that an employee or their supervisor can do in a remote environment is simply have an open discussion if there’s something they need.
A team was having a daily check-in meeting at 5:00 p.m. with our broader team, but that was exactly the time I had to pick up one of our kids. So, I asked if we could move the meeting. Now, we have actually consolidated the meetings into one meeting a week.
There are a lot of ways to use the tools we have to optimize things and work together. Continental is a very good company in that regard.
This article was written by our employees.