Staying connected while staying apart

One of my favorite coronavirus Tweets so far reminds us to be gentle with ourselves in these far-from-ordinary times:

It can be incredibly difficult to concentrate right now—I’m writing this while dismissing news alerts, with a kindergartener doing math worksheets to my left and a 2YO playing with imaginary suitcases at my feet—let alone stay connected.

Now that we’re fully remote, our team has a new ritual: Friday video all-hands to connect, share, and end the week on a positive note. In our first of these v-chats, we each shared our suggestions for staying connected … while staying apart.

We hope that these tips—ranging from tech hacks to self-care reminders—help you weather this storm with your spirit intact.

Tech hacks & tips

Video meeting hack: Blur your background

If your home office also doubles as a bedroom or you don’t want to share your messy workspace with clients and teammates, there’s hope! Blur your background (or upload to virtual background) in your video conferencing tool of choice.

We use Microsoft Teams for most internal and external video calls, so here’s a quick look at how to blur your background in Teams during a meeting: Select More options … / Blur my background.

Here’s more detail on how to blur your background in Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

from Sheryne Cadicamo, Client Success Manager

Use your company’s collaboration tools—for work and fun

Turn to technology to replicate in-office conversation, whether it’s collaborating on a project or comparing Netflix binge notes.

Here are some ways we think about using Teams:

  • Create channels for each business function (Marketing, Sales, Operations, Talent, etc) and discuss & share within the relevant channel. For example, notify the broader team in the Marketing channel when a new blog post is published, or hash out process details in the Operations channel. And don’t just keep it to work! We also have non-business channels for very important topics like Puppies & Kittens & Kids, Good Vibes (Only!), and Just for Fun, so we don’t miss out on socializing.
  • @ your audience. Tag the people who need to see and/or respond to your post. You can @ individuals or the entire channel based on your need and its priority.
  • Set shared expectations. We’ve all found that we feel the need to reply IMMEDIATELY when someone pings us. Don’t. Set a shared understanding of expectations, including things like how to flag time-sensitive/high-priority messages, if/when to update your status, desired turnaround time/SLAs for specific tasks, and when to @ the entire channel vs individuals.
  • Thread your replies. If you’re not getting notified when people reply to your messages, it could be because they’re not replying directly to it. Be sure to hit the Reply button to thread your response, rather than starting a new conversation.

  • Add a profile photo! It’s nice to see smiling faces, even if they’re only 2D. A picture is much friendlier than the tool’s default initials.

From Stephanie Chacharon, Content Marketing Director

Virtual show & tell

We’ve all enjoyed getting these virtual glimpses into our team’s lives—messy-faced toddlers and barking dogs included. Facilitate a virtual show & tell session—whether there’s a rotating host for your weekly team meeting or a dedicated channel for people to share pieces of their world, based on their personal comfort levels.

And just like we used to do in AIM (throwback!), set your status. (Teams and Slack both have this option.) Beyond the automatic calendar-sync status changes, you can let teammates know that you’re heads down on a project or taking Frankie the Pup out for a quick walk.

From Madeline Obernesser, Business Operations Manager

Embrace video & screensharing

As the newest member of Team Simplicity, Brianna’s onboarding was abruptly shifted online once the coronavirus hit the Seattle area. She’s appreciated the use of screensharing within Teams to continue training with her team.

And ditch your webcam fear! I used to cringe at the thought of turning on my camera during a meeting, but now I rely on it all day to long to connect with the team. It’s a great way to feel connected and read the room, plus it holds participants more accountable to stay focused.

From Brianna Mueller, Business Operations Coordinator

Work & team vibes

Create a positive, dedicated workspace

We can’t all have the home office of our dreams, but we do have control over how our workspace makes us feel. It can be as practical as a comfortable chair or as simple as a jar of fresh flowers, but find ways to make your workspace feel positive and energizing. And please, don’t work from bed. Try to contain your work to a part of your living space where you can unplug from at the end of the work day.

From Joan Yamamoto, Financial Analyst

Stick to your work hours

Work creep is a thing, especially when you’re working from home. 22% of remote workers say it’s their top challenge! In the absence of the physical cues of entering and leaving the office, don’t fall into the trap of never turning work off. Set a start and end time to your workday—and stick to it.

If you struggle with focus, try breaking your day into 30-minute chunks.

From Erica Bueno, Digital Marketing Specialist

Finish today with tomorrow's start

End each day by closing your computer and making a list of all your outstanding to-dos and lingering thoughts. Getting them out of your head and onto paper will help you turn off your work brain, and it will give you a great start for tomorrow’s workday.

From Amanda Swahn, Talent Manager

Self-care reminders

Grab your walking shoes (and eat those veggies!)

Move! We underestimate how much walking we actually do on an average day—going up and down the stairs, across the street for coffee, around the corner for lunch, back and forth to the kitchen for water breaks, and so on … At home, it’s not unusual to look up from your screen and realize you’ve been chair-bound for the last few hours. So be intentional about moving.

Slot walk breaks into your daily schedule. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can have anti-anxiety effects. Turn your 1:1s into walking meetings—and encourage your teammate(s) to walk on their end, too! Use the time you would have spent driving to lunch to fit in a quick jog, workout, or neighborhood walk.

And it’s SO easy to snack the day away at home, so try to stock up on fruits, veggies, and other healthy snacks, so you can easily reach for something other than Double Stuff Oreo's and chips.

From Carrie Morris, VP, Client Services

Share positive news

The current news cycle is incredibly overwhelming. Avoid spinning into negativity and anxiety by sharing positive news and keeping a positive outlook.

We’re using our new Teams channels—Good Vibes (Only!) and Puppies & Kittens & Kids & Stuff—to share lighthearted memes, cute cat videos and pet chicken (yes, chicken) pictures, heartwarming news stories, and assorted other things from the non-dark side of the internet.

From Cheryl Kolodzaike, Finance Director

Take breaks (no, seriously!)

Recharge between meetings by taking short breaks. Stand up, stretch, walk around, grab a drink of water. You’ll return to your work re-energized … and ready for yet another video call.

From Markelle Linstedt, Talent Manager

Stay firm on healthy boundaries

We’ll say it again: Maintaining healthy work boundaries while working remotely takes discipline! Just because you’re now technically always “at work” doesn’t mean you always need to be on. Take breaks and step away from your virtual office and into your home. That means shutting your computer and placing it out of eyesight at the end of the day and not replying to emails at all hours of the night just because you can or feel like you should.

Set boundaries and stick to them.

From Jennie Woolridge, HR & Finance Specialist

Choose opportunity, not fear

I loved this line from Lisa’s latest letter to the team:

"In a world where so much feels out of our control, I find comfort in reminding myself that it’s up to me to choose fear or opportunity. Fear is a downward spiral that leads to stress, anger, and resentment with no solution. Opportunity opens our minds to creativity, possibility, and innovation."

Let’s choose opportunity—and help others in our community find it, too.

From Lisa Hufford, Founder & CEO

Last, but not least, this is a difficult time, so reach out if you’re struggling. Ping a coworker, text a friend, talk to your boss, or whatever you need to find connection and support. You’re not alone. We’re all in this together.

Check out our remote work real-talk

Want more support? Check out our on-demand remote work webinar with our founder and CEO, Lisa Hufford, and remote work experts Monica McNeil, Mary Cronkhite-Johns, Maura Donaghey, and Hai Duong, for a real talk on how to thrive in the new world of work.

Taking ACTION with Women in Cloud

The morning of the Women in Cloud Summit, Chaitra Vedullapalli, architect of the Women in Cloud initiative, sent an email asking the speakers and organizers to walk into the event with intention.

She encouraged them to contribute to the power of community and collective action. To be intentional about contributing to economic access for all; seeking out opportunities to serve and partner; and breaking down inequalities and barriers.

Chaitra shared a Brené Brown quote that echoes the event's focus on collective action:

"At the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of my life, I want to say I contributed more than I criticized."

That intentional focus was evident throughout the event. Womxn and allies connected around a common goal of changing the industry narrative and create economic access for women in the cloud economy.

We are proud to sponsor the Women in Cloud Initiative. Here are some of our team's takeaways from the event:

Best practices for access to ...

In the spirit of access, our founder & CEO, Lisa Hufford, spoke on a panel alongside Dina Grimstead (Microsoft), Gillian Muessig (Outlines Venture), and Margaret Dawson, (RedHat) on best practices in access to investments, customers, and talent.

Change the narrative

“We must continue to strive to achieve parity. Greater diversity leads to greater outcomes, greater innovation, and a greater world. This is not opinion, this is borne out in data. Be brave. Be bold. Be heard. It’s time to change the narrative.”

- Catharine Gately, Sr. Exec Comms & Strategic Storytelling Lead @ Simplicity

Pay it forward

"There were many great takeaways, but this one sung the most to me. It was short, but a powerful reminder that we need to be intentional and take action to continue to drive change:

'We need to adopt a "pay it forward" mindset. When we make investments in women and women’s business, we are voting for our value.' - Wendy Garcia, Chief Diversity Officer, NYC Controller's Office

- Michelle Cartmel, Client Success Manager @ Simplicity Consulting

Shift from fit in to stand out

"The first half of my career, I just wanted to fit in. Now, I just want to stand out."

"I loved this message from Gretchen O'Hara.

It takes all of us to work together to support women entrepreneurs. We have made progress, but we need more focus on women in STEM and prioritizing ally sponsorship and mentorship."

- Lisa Hufford, Founder & CEO @ Simplicity Consulting

Access now

"I was so pleased to be a part of this inspiring event. Tucker Stine, chief strategy officer for the Idea Collective, had a message that really resonated with me.

He spoke about HOW we grant access, via the power of sharing your story. How a moment of engagement can create deep personal connections and grow relationships. He outlined 5 ways for granting access:

- Sheryne Cadicamo, Client Success Manager @ Simplicity Consulting

Allyship starts now

"I so appreciated each of the speakers who showed up with authenticity, transparency, and in some cases, vulnerability on the panel led by Barry Russell, VP of Cloud at F5. What does it mean to be a great ally? Reach out and connect with Dave Willis, CVP at MSFT; Brandon Lee, Consul General Global Affairs, Canada; Evaristus Mainsah, GM, Cloud PAK Ecosystem IBM; and Dan Langille, Global Director, MSFT.

As I shared on LinkedIn on the day of the summit:

Allyship starts now! Women and men coming together to create parity, unity, cohesion! Every voice should be heard. Every human should be seen. Mom moment: I am raising two young men (15 year old twins), and I’m asking for support. Let’s start now! By teaching boys and young men how they can show up in the world as supporters, and allies. Let’s create a better world!"

- Carrie Morris, VP of Client Services @ Simplicity Consulting

Entrepreneur lens

"Can’t believe I waited so long to attend a WIC Summit! This past weekend provided amazing connections, practical, and inspiring tips for entrepreneurs like me, an impressive line-up of speakers who were not only humble and approachable, but actually made themselves available to visit, and the 80% vegetarian food was delicious! And, it was FUN!"

- Heidi Metz, Marketing consultant @ Simplicity; Founder & CEO of IMANI

The little things

"I learned a ton, loved all of the conversations, AND one of my best moments of the conference was getting pretty blue nail polish in the swag bag.

Do you know how long I have been planning and attending tech conferences? Let me tell you: Since 1997, and this is the first time I received something personal that I love."

- Linda Bookey, Marketing, people ops & DEI consultant @ Simplicity

Lessons from the court

"I loved the conversation between Gavriella Schuster, Microsoft CVP, and Dawn Trudeau, co-owner of the Seattle Storm, centered on reframing challenges and building community.

Gavriella reminded us to:

'Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Who lift you up. Who make you feel powerful.'

And though she's enmeshed in the world of basketball, Dawn shared a baseball analogy:

'The best baseball player in the world hits the ball 30% of the time.'

Here's to taking action, giving ourselves some grace, and making the most of our time at bat."

- Stephanie Chacharon, Marketing Director @ Simplicity Consulting

Keep the momentum

We'll leave you with a call to action from event co-founder Gretchen O'Hara:

What action will you take today for tomorrow?

FFA x Simplicity: Sponsorship in action

2019 was transformational for the Female Founders Alliance (FFA).

The organization tripled its membership, launched its programming on a national scale, inked a deal with WeWork, honored an incredible group of women and allies at the Champion Awards gala, and successfully completed its second Ready, Set, Raise Accelerator cohort—which collectively raised $2.7M and counting.

We’ve been proud to sponsor FFA as it works tirelessly to support female and non-binary founders of venture-scale companies. To show our support, we funded a marketing resource—the talented and values-driven Sara LeHoullier—for 2019 to help FFA expand its reach. As the year rapidly winds to a close, let’s take a look back at all the organization accomplished in 12 short months.


But first, what does FFA want you to know about FFA?

“We are #ActionLeaders laser-focused on accelerating the growth of venture-backed companies founded by women and non-binary individuals,” says Divya Kakkad, FFA's Director of Marketing.

“FFA is more than just a group you join to say you're in it. It's a real, action-oriented community of women and non-binary founders.”

Sara LeHoullier, FFA marketing manager, via Simplicity Consulting

And beyond that, membership isn’t just something to pad your LinkedIn profile.

“FFA is more than just a group you join to say you're in it,” says Sara LeHoullier, a Simplicity consultant who’s supporting FFA’s marketing efforts as part of our sponsorship. “It's a real, action-oriented community of women and non-binary founders … and they're so open to talking, helping, connecting with each other—it’s clear that this isn't a zero-sum game.”

And for Sara, that’s exactly why she loves this work.

“Some people are able to separate their work and their personal life completely. I have never been able to do that … I want my work to reflect my values as a human being,” says Sara. “With Simplicity, I've always been able to be myself—and with FFA, I’ve felt the same. We all have different communication styles and personalities, but instead of feeling like I had to conform, I felt like I could bring something a little different to the table. And I believe in the mission of FFA so strongly that it was a natural fit for me.”

“We are #ActionLeaders laser-focused on accelerating the growth of venture-backed companies founded by women and non-binary individuals.”

Divya Kakkad, FFA, Director of Marketing

Expanded Access on a national stage

“We really grew into a national organization,” says Samantha Agee, FFA’s Vice President of Business Alliances. That growth to new markets enabled the organization to meaningfully connect with founders across the country.

The organization received press from Forbes and Fast Company to Cheddar and Tech Crunch, the latter of which dubbed FFA’s accelerator the “Y Combinator for female founders.”

And FFA’s Access Tour, which exists to foster meaningful connections to help female founders move their businesses forward, travelled from Seattle to Portland, LA, and New York. The tour combined panels, AMAs, and 1:1 meetings with an impressive lineup of investors, leaders, and coaches like the Riveter’s Amy Nelson, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan, Dreambox Learning’s Jessie Woolley Wilson, and HBS professor and WeWork board member Frances X. Frei, to name a few.

“FFA couldn't exist without the support of our partners, so we couldn't have hit any of our milestones without support from our partners, including Simplicity.”

Samantha Agee, FFA, VP of Business Alliances

Ready, Set, Raise! No, really

One of the most tangible effects of FFA’s work is its Ready, Set, Raise (RSR) accelerator program.

The second RSR cohort represented a diverse range of industries, as summarized by TechCrunch:

Collectively, the cohort’s 8 founders raised nearly $3M as a result of the 6-week accelerator program, says Divya.

“FFA couldn't exist without the support of our partners, so we couldn't have hit any of our milestones without support from our partners, including Simplicity,” says Samantha. “The accelerator is the easiest place to point to: Two of our companies have closed their rounds.”

One of those companies is Give InKind, a smarter giving platform founded by Laura Malcolm of Tacoma, WA. The startup tripled its pre-seed round goal, bringing in $1.5M from Seattle investors.

Pay it forward

It’s FFA’s ambitious goals and meaningful results that attracted us to the organization in the first place.

“I’m committed to FFA’s success because its mission is SO vital: enabling female founders to make their mark and literally change the world,” said Lisa Hufford, Simplicity founder & CEO, in an earlier post detailing why she committed to funding a marketing resource for FFA in 2019.

And for Lisa, supporting FFA is about paying it forward: “As we find success in our careers and learn from the inevitable failures along the way, it’s the responsibility of us all to pay it forward, again and again. Take the meeting. Lend a hand. Teach a lesson. Share your expertise. Those little actions add up to big change in our community.”

Simplicity’s support—funding Sara as a marketing resource for 2019—was critical to FFA’s growth.

“Her passion for women-founded companies and the community at large was apparent in her work,” says Divya. “She helped us move the needle on key metrics like growing our community, newsletter, and social following.”

FFA’s founder and CEO, Leslie Feinzieg, sees Simplicity’s support as the embodiment of a key theme of her message.

"I talk a lot about the importance of sponsorship over mentorship, and Simplicity's support for FFA is exactly what this should look like,” says Leslie. “2019 was only our second year in existence, but it was also a transformational year, one in which we went from a regional community with a single employee using trial and failure to figure out what works, to a national community with proven success stories and a six person team. We could not have done that without Simplicity and without Sara.”

FFA in 2020

The team is energized by the growth they’ve experienced in 2019—and what’s on tap for 2020.

“It’s been amazing to see how the entire community, including Simplicity and investors and all our partners, have come together in that united mission to move these companies forward,” says Samantha.

In the new year, the organization plans to continue its growth into new markets like Boston, San Francisco, and Atlanta, with a goal of being in each major VC hub.

Ultimately, FFA wants to be the biggest community of female and non-binary founders. If this year is any indication, the organization is well on its way.

I'm a marketing leader & a millennial mom. Want me to work for you? Give me flexibility.

This post was originally published by Stephanie Chacharon on LinkedIn.

Two things are true: I love my work. And I’m an amazing mom.

Those truths don’t have to be at odds with each other. But for me, something’s got to give with the traditional 9 to 5 employment model. If you want to keep me—and the countless others like me—employed, flexibility is a non-negotiable.

Millennial mindset

Ok, so at thirty-something I’m an elder stateswoman of the millennial generation—I grew up playing Oregon Trail in keyboarding class; reached for our household set of encyclopedias when researching school projects; and didn’t get a cell phone until the geriatric age of 19. And while I roll my eyes and take another bite of avocado toast at the endless parade of hot takes on millennials in the workplace, I do identify with the stereotypically millennial desire for purpose, creativity, diversity, and meaning in my work and life.

Talent is in charge

At Simplicity, we talk a lot about the current market (unemployment is down! retention is the challenge du jour! talent is in control!) and the realities of the new world of work: the speed of business is faster than ever before; leaders must leverage remote & on-demand experts to reach the full talent pool; and not everyone wants to be your full-time employee. In fact, half of freelancers say that no amount of money would get them to take a traditional job. And with more than 1 in 3 Americans freelancing in 2018, that’s nothing to laugh at. In this landscape, talent is decidedly in charge.

As millennials and gen Z continue to rise through the professional ranks, we’re demanding a new way of working that doesn’t involve being chained to a desk from 9 to 5, working for a company until retirement, pushing papers at a soul-less corporation, or even traveling to an office at all.

Work-life integration

I love my work. I love writing and marketing and helping female leaders tell their stories and reach broader audiences. I’m motivated by working with great, talented humans and using my brain for something that’s adult and mine.

But I struggled to find my way back at work after having my kids. It felt truly revelatory when I realized that the rules of employment from my parents’ and grandparents’ generations were starting to erode and that I had the ability to create my own set of rules and requirements. The increasingly more visible examples of women who are dictating their own terms of employment gave me life. My own boss, Lisa Hufford, reminds me that life has seasons and that meaningful work and meaningful time with family can go hand-in-hand.

And at this season in my life, I’m both a marketing leader and a mom of two young boys.


My boys are 5 and pushing 2. The baby, bless his sassy little heart, goes to bed at 6:30pm. That means that if I leave the office at 4:30, sit in Seattle traffic for an hour (please don’t get me started on that!), pick him up at daycare and drive the remaining 20 minutes home, I have approximately 30 precious minutes with him before he goes to sleep. That’s hardly enough time for him to fling spaghetti on the walls and splash around in the tub before getting whisked into his footie pajamas. That doesn’t sit well with me.

Sleep schedules aside, there are doctor appointments and sick days and teacher conferences and school schedules that were not designed for working parents and the list could go on and on and on.

For me to work and mom, flexibility isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a non-negotiable.

That means some days, I work from home. Usually, I have the house to myself on my WFH days, but sometimes my 5 year-old works next to me with his crayons and those adorably oversized pencils that they user in Kindergarten. Other days, I head into the office and leave by 4:30, but do some of my best, most focused work in the evening after the kids have gone to bed.


I’ve gotten incredibly efficient at working because my time is more precious than ever before. I’m fortunate to work for an employer who has allowed me to build a work schedule that includes days in and out of the office (shout out, Simplicity!) and a husband who's committed to being an equal partner. Working from home means that I get at least two back that I’d otherwise spend cursing in traffic. It means more time focused on work AND more time with my family. If I’m lucky, I might even sneak in a quick run with the dog or get to walk my kindergartener to school.

But it’s not just about being a parent. It’s also about how I work best.

I rely on my WFH days to focus and dig in. Without the distractions of an open office, I have uninterrupted space to make meaningful progress on the tasks at hand. While I enjoy my days in the office, I truly work better from my home office. And tools like Slack, Teams, and Zoom enable me to stay connected with my team while I’m working remotely.

A note to employers

Business leaders, take note. There are millions of people like me—more than 56 million, in fact.

We love our work, and what’s more, we’re good at it! But we also value intangibles like flexibility, remote work, and values-focused employers. If you want us to work for you, we’re going to need a little flexibility. And if you won’t give it to us, we’ll find it on our own.

Daring Woman Lisa Hufford

We love daring women.

We religiously follow Seattle Business magazine's Daring Women series—featuring local inspirations like the Riveter's Amy Nelson and DreamBox Learning's Jessie Woolley-Wilson—and we were a proud sponsor of this year's Daring Women event.

So we were thrilled when our own Lisa Hufford, Simplicity CEO and founder, was featured in the Daring Women series. In her profile, Lisa talks leadership, confidence, personal brand, and the importance of building relationships.

Here are a few of our favorite takeaways:

Check out the full interview with Lisa at Seattle Business magazine.

Here's why we're supporting FFA

This year, we're funding a pro bono marketing resource for the Female Founders Alliance (FFA).

Learn why, from our founder Lisa Hufford, in this excerpt from the FFA blog:

"I became involved with Female Founders Alliance as a mentor last year for its inaugural Ready Set Raise accelerator. This year, I’m honored to be a member of the Champion Awards selection committee.

But that didn’t feel like quite enough, because supporting women entrepreneurs is a cause that is near and dear to my heart and core to my life’s work.

That’s why I’m putting my money where my mouth is and stepping up as a Gold Sponsor of the Female Founders Alliance.

At Simplicity, our marketing, communications, and business operations experts help our clients tell their stories, engage their networks, and reach new audiences. To pay it forward, we are funding a marketing resource for 2019 to help FFA amplify its message and grow its reach. I’m excited to see how this contribution will accelerate FFA’s impact.

I’m committed to FFA’s success because its mission is SO vital: enabling female founders to make their mark and literally change the world."

Read the full story on the FFA Blog.

Learn more about the Female Founders Alliance.