How To Be An Ad Sales Exec And A Mom During A Pandemic

Being a working mom was hard enough. Then COVID-19 came along.

With schools closed, Andrea Zapata, VP of data innovation and insights at Effectv, Comcast’s cable ad sales group, is pulling data to help clients understand how media will be impacted by COVID-19 one minute while teaching her five- and seven-year-old boys how to read, do math and code the next.

“How we maintain business as usual while making sure our children get taught is going to be really interesting,” she said.

Since Comcast put in place a mandatory work from home policy late last week, Zapata has been on Zoom calls introduced by her colleagues’ children and taken breaks between client calls and team meetings to teach her kids primary phonics.

“I made it clear that in the Zapata household, there will probably be screaming and rambunctiousness,” she said. “I welcome people with kids in the background. Let’s just keep it real.”

Two days into this new normal, the kids are still learning and the Wi-Fi is holding up. But maintaining productivity alongside a healthy work life balance is a very real situation for working parents across industries at this moment.

“It’s kind of surreal,” she said. “The reality is, this is going to be ongoing.”

Zapata spoke to AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: How are you managing working from home with two young boys? 

ANDREA ZAPATA: I’m taking this call from my bedroom on the Upper West Side and my children are being told to “shush!” That’s my reality.

At work, the questions are coming in hard and fast. How do we find insights to help our clients understand what to do next? Meanwhile, as I have a [Microsoft] Teams video conference going, I’ve got my five-year-old next to me who is learning sight words.

People [on my team] have kids in college, or they live in Chicago, Portland or Seattle. They’re like, do I bring my kids home? Those are the conversations I’m having.

That sounds like a lot to juggle. How are you staying productive?

My husband is former military, so we have a very structured house. We just laid out, “School is canceled indefinitely.” Of course, [we got] the reaction you would expect from a five- and seven-year-old: “YAY! Cartoons all day every day!"

We’re splitting [our time]. I get the mornings. He runs businesses on the West Coast, so he doesn't have to be online until closer to 11am. That’s how this is working.

What resources are you using to educate your kids?

I've been reaching out to other working moms. We’re exchanging learning apps. My sister-in-law is a second grade teacher. She sent some learning guides and I’m passing those along. I have all kinds of apps – from chess, to coding, to study guides. But then also being like, how much app is too much?

We have Amazon carts for different books. ABCya! and ABCmouse are all things we’ve downloaded. We’re crowdsourcing at this point.

How are you staying in touch with your team?

We’re using Teams and Slack. My data and analytics teams and our executive team are doing daily standups to make sure we're being thoughtful about how we work from home.

A lot of times I hear people saying, "I don't have coverage at this time, can you move [this meeting] to later?” Yes, absolutely. We’re operating flexibly while we get clarity on how this is going to shake out.

How are your colleagues responding to your situation as a working mom?

We’re all trying to figure out how we navigate this as leaders of a company, but also as humans.

This morning, I was on a video conference with our executive team. We’ve got various lives happening behind us. We spent the first 10 minutes asking, “How are you? Is everything okay?” My hair is in a ponytail and my boss is in a hoodie, and we’re trying to figure out, what’s right for the business and how can we get it done?

How are you managing your own stress?

My stress is probably being ignored right now because I’m a mom. The stress will hit later as the balancing becomes much more real. But right now, we're just taking the time to be present with our kids and colleagues any way we can. We’re going to spend a lot of family time. The world is making us slow down.

What’s your quarantine workout routine?

We live about a block from Central Park, so yesterday I went for a run. I’m going again today.

I’m working with my husband to get 30 or 45 minutes for physical activity. I'm running at least three miles a day for sheer headspace. I put on crazy rap music and run really fast. And then I come home and make dinner.

Does it help?

I think it helps. I’m still laughing.

You sound like an optimist.

I’m a complete and total optimist. This won't last forever. We’re going to get through this.

What are you binge watching? 

“Cheer” on Netflix and the UK version of “The Office.” And all day every day CNBC.

Best quarantine meal you’ve cooked so far?

I made a pork shoulder. We’re making pork tacos, pork stew, pork quesadillas. I’m from a Mexican background so we call it carnitas. It’s the most inexpensive cut of meat, it makes the house smell really good and it’s just like pure warmth.

When I made it, I felt like the whole house smelled like, “We’re going to be fine. This is fine."

This interview has been edited and condensed.

 

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