An Interview with Penny Bauder
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place. As a part of my series about how women leaders in tech and STEM are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kayla Hart.
Kayla is a Training Coordinator and a CoreClarity facilitator (a strengths-based psychology training program) for Rosendin, a national electrical contractor. She is a single mother of one and began her career two years ago as an intern while completing college. In 2019, Hart became a full-time employee in 2019 in the Quality and Training Department. She has successfully navigated homeschooling and working remotely by leveraging her Top 5 talents.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I enrolled in community college when I was 26 with a focus on studying psychology. I graduated from San Jose State University (SJSU) in 2019, where I earned my B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Human Systems Integration. My initial return to school was so that I could become a substance abuse counselor, using my own life experiences and education to help others recover. It was during the summer between community college and a university that I was hired as a temp in the Quality and Training Department at Rosendin, an electrical contractor. That summer ended up being a really great opportunity for me to learn about the construction industry. It was so great that I asked if I could return to the same position the following 2018 summer season. I have been with Rosendin ever since. I began working part-time during my final semesters at SJSU before being hired on as a full-time Training Coordinator with the Quality and Training Department, just a few days before graduation.
During summer 2018, the department introduced a new program known as CoreClarity. The program focuses on an individual’s top five talents and is derived from Strengths Psychology. This was the moment I learned more about myself. I fell in love with the program, and my top five talents (learner, futuristic, achiever, discipline, and arranger) launched me into action mode. This program would eventually be introduced to all company employees, and trainers within the department would be needed. I was quick to jump to the opportunity as I knew my education in psychology would play a significant role. I happily took on more responsibility and played a more substantial role in the department during that second summer. I was getting to know the people I worked with, I was getting to know the company, and I was getting to know the industry. I gravitated toward electrical construction and found grounding in the Training and Quality Department. This was where I was meant to be, and I was able to use my education in psychology to help me grow professionally in a rapidly growing industry.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
Pinpointing a single interesting story during my time at Rosendin is a difficult task, but I can tell you that my career in construction is just beginning. I have had opportunities to visit job sites and learn about what goes on in the field and what we are building as a company. On my first trip, I went to three different locations, two of which were significant in magnitude. It was the second location where I was in learning overdrive. I described this to my tour guide, a trainer in the department, and an experienced electrician, as overwhelming. By the end of the tour of the last job site, and after what felt like 10 miles of walking, I must say that it was one of my favorite experiences with Rosendin. It is not every day I get to experience what goes on in the field, and it made my drive to continue learning about construction more evident. I learned a lot that day, and it has improved my understanding of what happens outside of the office.
Occasional travel to other offices across the country has provided me with the opportunity to meet and communicate with colleagues outside of the immediate area. As an introvert, being able to meet colleagues in different areas and build relationships with them has pushed me out of my comfort zone. It has also encouraged me to make connections, networking within the company. Every day is interesting and something new to learn.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Presently, we are focused on moving toward virtual training as a continued staple in our department to reach employees nationwide. The current situation has allowed us to really think more in-depth about how to format our training. We continue to offer learning opportunities to our employees, both those who are still working on job sites and those working from home. Essentially, everything we are working on is so exciting.
As a team, we are learning to navigate the virtual world and keep our employees engaged in the training being delivered. CoreClarity, the strengths-based program I mentioned earlier, was only offered through instructor-led training in our offices. With the help of Bert Robinson, our CoreClarity consultant, we have been able to design a virtual CoreClarity class. The virtual class allows those employees who are working from home and have not yet had the opportunity to attend instructor-led training, to participate. We genuinely believe that this will bring positivity to employees. Providing them with their top five talents may help them focus on their strengths during this time, rather than weaknesses.
How can one’s talents influence how they approach change? Using CoreClarity has allowed us to address the significant changes our employees encounter during this time and how their talents influence the way they adapt. I believe helping employees be mindful of their talents and strengths during these times of change may ease some of the frustrations they have during the pandemic, while also encouraging them to dive deeper into their talents and strengths.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There is not just one person who helped me get to where I am today. It was a community of people who supported me in my endeavors. My family, my friends, and my colleagues have all had significant and distinct roles that helped me achieve success.
I would have to say that in the development of my career, within the Quality and Training Department, my entire team has helped me achieve success, along with Field Supervision and office staff. My supervisors have been immensely supportive and encouraging through my times of doubt, and my entire team has been supportive of every project I have taken on. Every person in my team has pushed me to do things I did not think I could do. They have coached me and taught me everything I need to know. From Foremen to Superintendents, the Field Supervision have offered their support in my training endeavors. They answer all the questions I have for things that I do not understand, and they have taken the time to ensure my continued success. On the office side, I have received a significant amount of support, both personally and professionally.
Okay, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
Communication. We would like to think that we are really great communicators, but I have come to realize that this isn’t the case. There’s a lack of space and boundaries that were not set in the beginning. Living in a house of five can be difficult when there is nowhere else to go. We all had our routines, our schedules, which helped us maintain sanity. Then it all changed. Not just for us, but for every family. Boundaries should have been set and discussed from day one.
Amid the pandemic, I have been trying to maintain my work ethic while also being a newly promoted preschool teacher. I am a woman in STEM. However, I am in no way qualified to explain the difference between the sound of an “A” and the sound of an “O,” because these can sound very similar depending on the word. The English language has become difficult for me to comprehend, let alone explain to a five-year-old. The biggest challenge has been trying to make this work for a family of five while working with a five-year-old to prepare for Kindergarten and still maintain productivity at work.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
In terms of the communication aspect, it’s a work in progress—something we all need to get used to. I have invested in learning-through-play with my child. I am always surprised at his vocabulary and imagination that emerges from play. He is going to be just fine. I have come to realize that my son knows the letters, he knows the sounds of those letters in different words and contexts, so why stress over this? Children learn so much from play, using their imaginations to guide the way. They listen to our conversations as adults, and they comprehend it. I ordered woodworking kits and a snap circuit kit to encourage STEM learning. The snap circuit kit kept him busy for 48+ hours and encouraged outside-of-the-box thinking and problem-solving skills: “The bulb isn’t lighting? Let me try it this way!”
I have also been utilizing online resources to assist with the sounds of letters and word recognition, among other learning materials. He enjoys it, and it is keeping him on track during the last stretch of preschool before Kindergarten. I always tell people, utilize the resources that are out there. I attempted a preschool workbook with my son, and it was frustrating for both of us. During times like this, why add more stress to our parenting than necessary? Let’s make this a better experience for both of us and utilize alternative learning methods. Praise free play. Young children are learning so much from how they use their imagination. Not to mention, some of the conversations between monster trucks can be pretty funny.
Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
Adaptability. The biggest challenge I have faced is trying to gain traction on how to tackle the typical workday in a completely different environment. My lists, which are very important to me, no longer hold the same to-do items. There were tasks to accomplish based on a normal business day inside an office, and I needed to re-evaluate what was no longer a possibility to achieve, particularly concerning in-person training. The schedule was flipped upside down, and items needed to be readjusted.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
It took a few days to really get situated working from home and juggling between my new role as a preschool teacher and establishing a new to-do list, but the CoreClarity program helped me quickly adapt to the new norm. The program had previously identified some of my strengths as being an “arranger” and having discipline, so I started off by considering all the ways I could organize my workday by creating new schedules and deadlines that would keep me driving forward. Another of one my strengths is being a “futurist,” so I considered how my work responsibilities and my department’s goals would change. This helped me determine which tasks I needed to prioritize or learn so I could contribute as much as I can to the team’s overall success.
Tapping into my top five talents helped me adapt to these changing times, allowing me to reconfigure the daily work routine. While all my strengths have played a significant role in this balance, it is my learner and discipline that have played the most influential role. Just as I need to learn about how to work from home effectively, I have to learn how to be a preschool teacher in a way that works best for my son. My discipline helps me stay on track with what needs to get done, both in my work and as a newly promoted preschool teacher.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
The first advice I have is don’t be too hard on yourself. Homeschooling is significantly different than sending your children off to school; we all know this. Like adults, they are also experiencing the effects of social distancing, and the younger ones may not understand precisely what is happening. Parents can learn a lot from observing their children’s adaptation to the new dynamics for a few days, which is exactly what I did. What I found was that I had to run trials, tests if you will, to see what worked best for my son concerning homeschooling and what worked best for me as I navigated the new office setting. While I thought I would develop a strict schedule, it didn’t happen that way, and that is okay. My advice is to ease up on a strict schedule, provide your child with creative play, and utilize online learning resources. This will allow time for you to get some work done while also stimulating the needs of your child.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place for long periods with your family?
Take time for yourself. I have had my own struggles with trying to remain sane and serene during shelter-in-place. I always try to take time to myself, whether it is sitting in silence for just a few minutes or sitting outside. Meditate if you can, even if that means sitting in complete silence for 10 minutes. If you can, find a place in your social distancing vicinity just long enough to clear your mind and focus on what is ahead of you. I have set boundaries for myself; it took a few weeks to get to this point, and I wish I would have done it sooner, but it’s never too late. I now use my quiet time more effectively in that I focus on the future and what I want that future to look like. I have also picked up writing again, sometimes it is stories, sometimes it is feelings, sometimes it is thoughts, but it has helped me cope with the stress of sheltering in place. If writing is not something you enjoy, maybe painting is. Do something that makes you happy and less stressed during these times. It is essential to do something for yourself that makes you feel good, whether that be meditating, writing, drawing, painting, or binge-watching your favorite show. Always remember to do something for yourself every day.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
1) Things will get better. I struggle with this phrase myself. I have experienced some unfavorable situations, and every time I felt like it was never going to get better, but it does.
2) This will not last forever. I experienced years of thinking everything would last forever, especially the bad. This is an irrational thought. The current pandemic will have a significant impact on the economy, people, and global systems, but it won’t last forever.
3) Stay positive and optimistic — give yourself something exciting to look forward to. Let’s look at it this way, maybe many of us have taken for granted the things we used to be able to do. When is the last time you went on a trip or vacation, put your electronic devices away, and spent the entire time just experiencing? These photographic memories captured in your brain will have a more positive impact than spending time with your family and friends behind a camera. I guess what I am saying is that maybe we will all appreciate things a little more, stop and smell the roses a little more often, and appreciate our social experiences a bit more.
4) Take this time to re-evaluate things, whether it be goals or situational instances. Back in the day, pre-quarantine, did you spend enough time with your children or did work and daily tasks take over? Whether they are adolescents, teens, or adults, maybe take this time to get to know who they are, what they like to do and spend more time with them. Perhaps it’s time to reconnect, and if they don’t live with you, schedule virtual social hours. What do you want to do? Where do you want to travel? Want to go back to school? Do it. Continuous learning is the best gift you can give yourself. Discover who you are. Take this time to learn more about yourself and spend more time with those you love. I have far more conversations with my five-year-old now than I did before. While a majority of it is how many zombies there are in the kitchen during this apocalypse, it is worth every second to listen.
5) Be resilient. During these adverse times, it can be difficult to maintain hope and optimism, we can often feel like we are unable to emerge from such adversity, but you can do it. Plan to come out of this pandemic stronger than you went into it. You made it months in quarantine alone? Great, you are now stronger than you were before. You made it months in quarantine with your family? Great, you are now stronger than you were before.
Six years ago, I hit rock bottom. I thought it wouldn’t get better, but it did. I thought it would last forever, but it didn’t. It was difficult to stay positive and optimistic, but I did. I took the time to re-evaluate things, and I discovered myself. I am resilient because of this, and we will all be more resilient as a community coming out of this, regardless of where we are in our hardships.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to your family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Bring positivity and humor. We are all impacted by this pandemic, and we are all trying our best to keep going. In times like this, the media is flooded with negativity, and there is something new every day. Providing a positive outlet for all people is essential. Depression and anxiety are going to increase in times like these. My family and many of my loved ones are fortunate to still be employed, whether they are essential workers, or they are working from home. Then there are those who work for themselves and have their own business who cannot work from home. For them, maintain a positive outlook, and make them laugh. Listen to them. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to listen and acknowledge what they are going through as a result of the current pandemic. Research has shown laughter has a positive effect on overall health. Find ways to share funny stories and videos. I find comfort in humor, and I have come to realize that laughter is truly the best support system. We are all in the same boat, why not provide humor and positivity to others.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“There is no passion for being found playing small — in settling for a life that is less than one you are capable of living” — Nelson Mandela. I have come to realize that in my younger years, I didn’t dream big. There was a point in time when I was young when my dream was to be a doctor, a surgeon, in fact. Then that subsided, and I wanted to be a lawyer, which didn’t last long. Every time one of those dreams or goals subsided. It was because I thought I couldn’t do it or because it just didn’t seem realistic. For some of us, our dreams and goals for ourselves change over time; for me this is true. I have a new dream and new goals. I no longer doubt my ability to do something. If I dream it, I do it. I set the goals, and I reach those goals. What I have learned to live by is that very quote said by Mandela. Dream big. Don’t settle for anything less than what you deserve.
How can our readers follow you online? (personal or company social media pages)
Personal LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kayla-hart-52bb9a177
Company LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/36585
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!