Nancy Hewitt Oral History Interview

[This text is machine generated and may contain errors.]

Lauren Burke

Nancy Hewitt

April 19, 2022

LB: (00:09)
All right, we are now recording. And just to confirm Before we officially get started, this interview is going to be recorded and uploaded to the ECU archives. And do I have your consent to both interview you and upload the recording to the archives?

NH: (00:24)

LB: (00:26)
Okay. So what is your affiliation with ECU?

NH: (00:31)
I have a student at ECU, so I'm an ECU parent, that student would be Lauren.

LB: (00:36)
Okay. And how would you say the pandemic was discussed and handled at your workplace?

NH: (00:44)
It was a very big deal because we have a very in person centric culture. Even though we have employees all over the world working at a different offices and some working out of their homes in general, most people come into an office to work so it was a big deal for us to not have that anymore across the globe.

LB: (01:06)
Gotcha. And are you currently still not allowed to work in the office? Or is it a hybrid?

NH: (01:12)
I am currently working hybrid by choice officially our Cary, North Carolina office reopened March 1, that's our headquarters location. We have offices around the world. And depending on where people are in the world, some of those offices are physically open for business, and some are still close based on local mandates. But most employees located out of Cary, North Carolina are working hybrid by choice even though the office is available to work in all the time.

LB: (01:42)
All right, and how were you made aware of decisions regarding COVID at the workplace and their decisions to either reopen working conditions in person or when they officially closed them temporarily? What was the way that they communicated that with you?

NH: (01:59)
Staff has a very robust communications process. So when those decisions were made, that we were closing the offices and that everybody would be remote, there were emails that went out to employees, and we had an internal internal portal site that was set up that contained all the information about what was known and what wasn't known. So any email communications, in essence pointed to that internal portal site like a webpage, in essence, telling people what was going on by area.

LB: (02:29)
Okay, and what were your kind of thoughts and emotions regarding this whole experience of your work temporarily being only work from home, while the COVID pandemic was more a threat, and now that it's less than two, you're able to go back, but what are your thoughts and emotions in regards to just the situation.

NH: (02:51)
At first, when we went 100%, virtual around the world, I had very mixed feelings about it because I was used to being in an office every day. And even though we were decently used to working virtually because we work with people globally. So therefore, you know, obviously, we're on calls and video calls with people that aren't in the physical office with us, I wasn't used to that being the main way of communicating. However, I think it's changed my perception. And most everybody else, I think feels the same way and that we've gotten used to connecting virtually all the time. And we've seen the advantages of it and gotten used to using the technology. And we we predominantly use teams. And there has been a lot of enhancements that Microsoft which runs teams has made over the pandemic that have made things easier. And I think most people have embraced it very widely. And I very much am used to now interacting with people that way is the main way of communicating. So I'm I'm perfectly cool with it now. And that's why when we polled employees 60 to 70% of them dependent on the office location preferred a hybrid work environment. And that's what SAS has done very similar to what other tech companies have done so that people get to choose. And I like that flexibility that the pandemic has, in essence driven where I'm in the office some of the time, but I'm working from home most of the time, and I can do it based on what's going on at work in with my personal life. And I like that flexibility. So in the beginning, it was a hard adjustment. It was kind of lonely because I'm an extrovert and I'm used to seeing my friends in the office. I still miss some of that. But I think overall it's a win win settling into this new way of doing business that offers more advantages than disadvantages.

LB: (04:44)
Okay and would you say that now that you've gotten used to this new style of doing business, would you say you prefer it? Or do you still prefer going back to purely face to face?

NH: (04:53)
I definitely prefer it and I think most of my co workers do as well. Okay, I mean, it's not a replacement for, it's not a replacement for being face to face with people, because the dynamics are very different. I mean, the thing I like about it is that I can get a lot more work done quickly, because I'm not running between buildings on campus, which is our headquarters to get meet with people. So I can get a whole lot more done and have a whole lot more flexibility in scheduling. But it isn't quite the same as being in person with people. That's why I like the hybrid approach.

LB: (05:27)
Makes sense to me. So you mentioned that your company primarily uses Teams. how would you say technology played a role in your life during the pandemic? And how would you feel your life would have been in the pandemic had Microsoft, as you mentioned, not made all the new advancements that they made with teams and other sites that you use for work.

NH: (05:50)
we would have been screwed. That's the technical part. So, um, I mean, we wouldn't have been able to continue business because the majority of what most of us do involves other people. So if we hadn't had the technology platforms that we had, and we had sufficient stuff to use without the enhancements, but we weren't very practiced at it. But I really like how Microsoft was responsive and adding features based on feedback from users around the world, obviously. And I think that the technology companies that provide those platforms really stepped up to try to make things as easy as possible. But if we hadn't been able to do that we would have it would have completely impacted our ability to get worked on, it would have affected our company revenues, it would have been a really big problem. Because everything we do is interactive, for the most part, I mean, everybody works as part of a team. So just being able to talk to people, you know, send files electronically, and share them in a common site, because we use team sites for housing stuff so that I could set up a project team in a team site, and then everybody knew knows where to go to find the files, completely different way of working than what we used to do completely different. But it definitely it saved us.

LB: (07:10)
Well, that's good. now that you and your peers have gotten more used to working like this, how would you say work is going now is running a lot more smoothly? Are there still kind of issues getting used to this new way of going about things?

NH: (07:24)
I think from a technology perspective, people are mostly used to it enough time has passed that people have kind of gotten on board and know what's expected of them in terms of where to find stuff and how to use stuff. We do a lot of meeting recordings. Because you know, because we're global, and I talk to people around the world, oftentimes, I can't find a good meeting time that works for everybody. So we do a lot of recordings, that's been a fantastic thing. Teams actually made available transcription that was bundled with recordings. It used to be they were two separate things. And that transcription stuff can be translated into different languages. So that works really well, when you're working with people across the world. Most of them English is very strong for them, even if it's third, not their primary language, but it's still helpful for some that need it. So it's, it's definitely made things a lot easier. I feel like right now we're in a good place, we're still settling in to people's routine, some people have requested that they work remote, full time. And that's something that has to go through our HR processes. So just getting used to who's going to be aware, ongoing now is something that's still evolving. It's not a problem. But it's, it's just different. And of course, people's schedules are all over the place. It's not, you know, so you might work with your team of people, that the ones that are located in carry, and if you go in the office, like I'm going in this week, tomorrow and Thursday for a few hours each day, I may or may not see them, because we have no set schedule by team so the groups have not come. So it might be that somebody else is in Monday, Tuesday. So I'm still not going to see the people I work closest with. So we're still figuring all that out.

NH: (09:14)
But we're leaving it up to employees right now. Because with people changing jobs, a lot of people exiting companies and changing companies and we have a lot of that going on more than ever. If we start trying to tell people well, you know, all the other people on the team, we're going to be on Wednesday, Thursday, you have to force fit Wednesday, Thursday, for your days that you're physically in the office, we run the risk of people quitting, so we're not doing that. So it's um, it requires a lot of flexibility and asking people what works for you. How do you best want to be communicated with and because we have new people coming to the company that have not worked with us before and I've never met them in person, because they weren't here before. COVID just trying to figure out people's work styles. And the cultural differences depending on where people sit in the world, it requires a lot of flexibility. And a lot of patients, I happen to think it's a lot of fun. It's not for everybody, some people find that a little frustrating because it requires a high degree of communications and flexibility. And when we run meetings, we have to do it where if we are in a conference room, which I've been dealing a lot more of recently, it requires making sure that we're very careful to not make the people that are working remotely for whatever reason, feel like they're isolated, we have to do it in a way that makes them feel completely included, even though they're not sitting in the room. And the group dynamics are different when you have a whole set of people in the room, and only one or two people on the phone then when everybody is one way or the other.

LB: (10:46)
Yeah, that makes sense. I wouldn't have thought about that. What are some strategies you guys use to make sure they don't feel left out?

NH: (10:52)
Just making sure that there's Well, I'm usually I'm very often the ones that are setting up the meetings and facilitating the meetings based on the sort of projects I do just making sure that there's a firm agenda and that we're clear on who's responsible for what again, because people may or may not be familiar with working with each other. And just trying to make sure that I'm very much so recognizing the people that are on virtually. And if you know, just, it's just really making sure from a facilitation perspective, you know, going Hey, Lauren did, does that make sense to you? Do you have any other suggestions? If I feel like that person might be hesitating to speak up Because they're not the room. It's a judgment call.

LB: (11:35)
Gotcha. That makes sense to me.

NH: (11:37)
And making sure that the meetings recorded so that if there's people that can't participate, that they're not left out.

LB: (11:45)
Yeah, I [unintelligible] think have stuff recorded.

NH: (11:48)
It's impossible to schedule meetings that weren't like I have one that's on Monday that I scheduled based on having people in Europe on the call, and they just added, they just had me add somebody else onto the call, she sits in Seattle, Washington, she's the other direction three hours behind us. So when I picked a 930 meeting time to accommodate AMIA, which is Europe, Asia, whatever that stands for. Now, that call is 630 in the morning, her time. So that gets that gets to be really tough, she's going to participate. But it gets really, really tough when you've got people in different time zones all over the world and just trying to pick a good time, so that the virtual people don't feel like they're left out. And making sure that you record if somebody says I am not getting on your call at 630 in the morning, my time is just not going to happen.

LB: (12:38)
Yeah. So moving away from your the impact that COVID has had on your work life, how has COVID have played an impact or played a role on things and activities that you do outside of work, whether it's volunteering somewhere or just day to day activities that you would normally enjoy that got impacted by COVID.

NH: (12:59)
So things are coming back to normal now. But everything was shut down, obviously, for a while. So I volunteered at a dog rescue, we still had to take care of the dogs. So we still went but we had to be masked up when we were working. You know, a lot of the cultural activities like plays, musicals, concerts, that kind of stuff obviously was shut down for a while that's gradually started to open back up, obviously have to show proof of vaccination to have to be have to wear a mask, although that's starting to change depending on what the venue is. going out to restaurants was a huge impact, because a lot of them were closed, and we're only doing takeout. Now, you know, everything is pretty much opened back up. Obviously, some restaurants that I liked, are not in business anymore, because they were not able to survive the pandemic. So it was a huge impact to the stuff that I like to go do a lot more exercising outside, which has always been my thing that I know a lot of other people that you know, couldn't go to gyms because they were closed started doing that they even had the state parks closed down for a while. So that was kind of an inconvenience. But that's been a long time ago that they've reopened. So I feel like we're somewhat getting back to normal, but it had a huge impact in the beginning.

LB: (14:16)
Yeah. And you mentioned vaccination status needing to be shown. Are you personally vaccinated?

NH: (14:21)

LB: (14:21)
And boosted? And what is your thoughts on? How do you feel about the vaccination? And do you think that others should also be vaccinated? Where's your stance on that?

NH: (14:37)
I feel people should go get vaccinated and that it's a huge mistake not to unless their doctor tells them that because of some medical condition that they should not do so that's different. I wish that more people would get vaccinated because I'm concerned about a resurgence of COVID which obviously is happening in some places, and the more people that we have vaccinated the better

LB: (15:00)
Yeah, and what are your feelings on masks? Are you personally still wearing masks when you go out in public? Or have you I know that you've probably seen it as well, I know I've seen it, a lot of people are starting to no longer wear their mask. And I'm just curious what your feelings are on that.

NH: (15:17)
I am a big fan of wearing masks. And I do still wear a mask depending on where I am. If it's a crowded environment, I almost always wear a mask if it's not so much. So I may not wear one. For example, if I run into the grocery store at 830 at night, and there's hardly anyone in there, I may not put my mask on. But if I run into the grocery store during the more normal time when there's more people in there, I put my mask on.

LB: (15:46)
Makes sense. What are your impressions of the media coverage of the pandemic, both currently And before it arrived to the US? And do you think that there is anything that the media could have done to help prevent the severity of COVID in the US?

NH: (16:03)
I feel like the media did a really good job of covering the pandemic. I think there was obviously, you know, a level of bias depending on which media outlet you're talking about. Some that are more conservative leaning probably covered it a little differently than the ones that I watch that I think in general, your mainstream or moderate media channels, media publications did a great job of covering it. And I paid a lot of attention to it. I think that politics unfortunately entered into the equation and no matter how well it was covered, it was going to be hard to get some people to agree to get vaccinated, and which I think is very unfortunate.

LB: (16:42)
Yeah. So what are some things that before the pandemic hit are normal to you? But now that the pandemic has been in effect for a while now seem kind of strange? Like are there any behaviors or things that you used to do That seem strange to you? Now, given everything that's happened with the pandemic?

NH: (17:05)
Ah, this might seem like an odd thing. But blowing out candles on a birthday cake sounds like a horrible idea.

LB: (17:13)
I am definitely in agreeance. With you, I did not really think about how easily it would be to spread germs just by blowing out birthday candles. But now that COVID is there I definitely more cautious about that as well.

NH: (17:26)
I mean, the other things too, I mean, I think in general, and as someone that's been through cancer treatment, I'm definitely very aware of being immunocompromised. I've always been very concerned about impact others of anything, but I think the whole COVID situation in my personal experience has made me just hyper aware that you don't know what people around you are going through mentally or physically. And someone may be immunocompromised or have some other medical condition or be concerned about something that they're carrying home to their family members. So that's something we talk about a lot at work. And I think that's something that just in general, personally and professionally, I'm very mindful of just, you know, it's not just about me, but just be concerned about, you know, is there any possibility that somebody in the vicinity is going to be put in a uncomfortable situation? Because I'm not masked up, for example, than just trying to be so I think that's always going to be front and center in my brain. You know, it's not just about me, it's what's going on with people around me. Yeah. I mean, for example, I hang out and do what used to be Bunco in people's houses in the neighborhood. And now we sit outside and just hang out, we don't play [unintelligible], why, because a number of people that come to that they have elderly people living with them, and they're very concerned about what they're bringing home to them. So, you know, this is something I think is always going to be front and center depending on who you're dealing with. And if they have very young kids, for example, at home or an elderly person living with them or their own conditions. So I think I think my brain just is trying to be extra cautious and mindful and asking what people are comfortable with, if it's something that I'm planning or involved with and feel like someone's being put in an uncomfortable situation.

LB: (19:13)
What are some strange behaviors you saw people exhibit during the pandemic?

NH: (19:18)
Lord, have mercy. driving by themselves in a car wearing a mask. Why? There's no one in your car. I mean, I get if you're like an Uber driver and you're in route to pick someone up, but I don't think that was the case with some of these people. That makes no damn sense to me. Then people go in and stores thing wearing the mask below their chin. What on earth? That's some crazy crazy stuff. I'm like, Yeah, I'm sure I can come up with others, but those are the top two that come to mind.

LB: (19:53)
Those are pretty good.

NH: (19:56)
I did see somebody that was in the grocery store early on the pandemic and they had like a big Halloween mask thing on their head like one that like a big thing that fits over your entire head, not just on your face. And they thought that was a good plan for a mask. Really? Holy crap, some crazy stuff.

LB: (20:18)
Yeah. I know. There are plenty of differing opinions when it comes to COVID. And how COVID should be handled. Have you run into any issues with friends, family or coworkers that have different opinions on COVID than you and how have you handled those?

NH: (20:40)
That would be an understatement. Most people around me think like I do. And then there's a few. So at work, we had to, we had to provide proof of vaccination to remain employed. And we had a normal exception process being handled by a third party. And this is very comparable to what other companies have done, which is, you could say, for religious or medical reasons that you could not get vaccinated. Most people had mixed feelings about those people that were saying they couldn't get vaccinated for religious reasons. And there's definitely a few past co workers that have had some communications with that are like that were very against having to provide you the one I'm thinking of in particular that actually had communications with she didn't want to provide proof of vaccination, even though she had been vaccinated, because she felt like it wasn't the company's business. And I had a very strong difference of opinion, professionally, you know, nice with her, because I'm like, I don't see this as any different than your kid having to provide an immunization record for school. To me, it's the same thing and you're not guaranteed employment. I mean, the company can say we require you to have certain vaccinations, that's very commonplace across, you know, especially the health care profession, they have to prove they've had the flu vaccine. So definitely had some difference of opinion there. I've run into people that just are completely strongly anti Vax, I had a dialogue with one of them at saving grace, the animal rescue, where I volunteer, I did not start this conversation, I promise and quickly tried to get out of it, that she's just antivax period and definitely got all up in arms. When I told her I saw it differently. So thankfully, with close friends and family, we have no difference of opinion whatsoever. I know that's not the case for everybody. But definitely I've run into people at work or outside of work that have very different opinions than mine. And it's like, I feel like we're in a parallel universe or something. I'm like, and a lot of it comes down to what media they follow, versus what I follow, and the groups that they run in, that are also attracted to those things. And so it's their world and my world are just different. So I basically just say to them, you know, I'm not gonna, I'm not pushing you to change your opinion, and you're not going to change mine. And I just leave it alone. I don't push them. I state my opinion, but I don't push them to change theirs.

LB: (23:14)
I think that is very important for a respectful conversation. So that's good that hopefully most people are able to do that. Unfortunately, not everyone is but given that COVID has been around for such a long time, do you think this is going to be something that you anticipate eventually completely disappearing? Or do you think it's going to become something that we just have to deal with? Day to day life, it's just kind of become a norm, and perhaps it will become mandated that we get a vaccine for it like we do the flu shot? It's not mandated but highly suggested

NH: (23:52)
I think it'll be highly suggested. I don't think it's going to be mandated. I think individual companies may mandate it. And I think that they're, I'm gonna guess that they may back away from some of that overtime. But I think they'll strongly suggest it, that'll be interesting to see what happens there. I don't think it's going away. I think it's going to be something that's with us just like the flu. And I think that hopefully, based on where we are with the vaccination levels, and with the sort of virus that we're seeing spread right now, it won't be as serious so that when people get sick, you know, it's not as serious we have, you know, only a very, very small percentage of people in the hospital just like you know, the end up in the hospital, just like what happens with the flu where we have people end up in the hospital. Hopefully, that's where we're going to land. But will time will tell. the good news is we have such good treatments now that don't involve having to go to the hospital, you know, such that if somebody does, and I know a lot of people that have gotten COVID You know, as recent as the past couple of weeks, and there's now oral things that can take to keep it from getting serious. I think now that we have those treatments, I think we're going to hear less and less about COVID is a big deal. But I don't think it's going away anytime soon.

LB: (25:10)
Were there any myths, legends, or rumors that you heard being spread about COVID Whether it's now or more towards the beginning of when the pandemic hit?

NH: (25:21)
definitely different things that people could take that would make it go away, that some of which were being suggested by our president at the time, I was like, I'm the daughter of a scientist. So I'm like, You're not serious. Are you? You're really serious. Ah, um, that Yeah.

LB: (25:41)
All right. And before we wrap up, is there any other information you think people should know, in regards to your experiences with COVID or just COVID In general.

NH: (25:51)
just like in general, people should take it seriously and have a good dialogue with their doctor based on their particular risk factor and the people around them. You know, whether or not they should be vaccinated, if there's not a good reason not to get vaccinated, they should be vaccinated to help with the spread of COVID and to protect those people around them.

LB: (26:12)
Makes sense to me. Thank you so much for your time and for answering all my questions. And this is going to wrap up our interview.

NH: (26:19)
Thank you very much for interviewing me, and good luck with the rest of your project.

LB: (26:23)
Thank you

[End of Recording]

Nancy Hewitt Oral History Interview
Audio recording of Nancy Hewitt being interviewed by ECU student Lauren Burke about her experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. - 2022-04-19
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