Let’s Take This Relationship Offline
ymphotos / Shutterstock.com

Let’s Take This Relationship Offline

Who's ready to network beyond Zoom?
ymphotos / Shutterstock.com

I met my husband in college, so I skipped the whole online dating thing. But I have to think internet matchmaking has some similarities to networking during a pandemic. I’m realizing now that I’ve established working relationships—dare I say, a few friendships—with many people I’ve never actually met in person. Zoom makes connections feel more real, more personal than a phone call. But do these virtual relationships have legs? Now is the time to decide whether we’re ready to take it offline. Will they accept my coffee invitation?

As the pandemic begins to recede, Zoom-bashing has become a badge of decisive leadership. Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser gained widespread respect in late March by banning videoconference meetings on Fridays. Her memo to Citi’s 210,000 employees: “The blurring of lines between home and work and the relentlessness of the pandemic workday have taken a toll on our well-being. It’s simply not sustainable.”

Even the CEO of Zoom admits to Zoom fatigue. Eric Yuan told the Wall Street Journal in May that after maxing out at 19 Zoom meetings in a row (can you top that?), he no longer books back-to-back Zooms. He’s also planning for Zoom employees to return to the office at least part time.

If I never have to stare at my own face in a meeting again, I’ll consider it a major upgrade to my wellness routine. But at the risk of sounding contrarian, I’ve got to say, Zoom has opened windows in my work life that I’m not ready to close.

I’ve become a better networker during Covid. An introduction I might have avoided when it meant 90 minutes for lunch and travel time seems much more approachable over a 30-minute Zoom meet. And no one complains when you limit a video meeting to half an hour.

Zoom has taken me into the sunny home office of Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford and the kitchen of former Protolabs CEO Vicki Holt (Room Rater would give both a 10). Zoom allowed me to get to know former General Mills executive-turned-consultant Stephanie Pierce, whom I’d met just once in person pre-pandemic. That intimate yet safe setting allowed us to jump right into candid conversation about the challenges of working through a pandemic and the weight she bears as a Black woman in a predominantly white suburb where some people are just waking up to systemic racism.

“At the risk of sounding contrarian, I’ve got to say, Zoom has opened windows in my work life that I’m not ready to close.”

Stephanie was kind enough to share a guest commentary in our April/May issue about climbing the corporate ranks as a person of color. But I knew she had so much more to say, so I’m delighted to introduce her as TCB’s newest columnist. I asked her to sum up what she hopes to cover in her column, HR Confidential. Riffing off the column’s title, she shared this:

Read more from this issue

  • Human resources: The human side of business from an honest, sometimes funny former human resource exec
  • Her reinvention: Insights and advice on reinventing your career
  • Honest relationships: Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at work—the good, the bad, and the ugly

In this issue, she delves into how we move beyond DEI discussions to make lasting change.

I’m so pleased Stephanie will be sharing her experiences and insights in TCB, so I recently asked her if she’d like to meet up—in person. We attended a small fashion event at MartinPatrick 3 in the North Loop; against the backdrop of the downtown Minneapolis skyline, it was a perfect way to reenter three-dimensional socializing. (For more on downtown, Adam Platt discusses the importance of reanimating our center cities.)

Over the past 15 months, Twin Cities Business has hosted more than 20 online talks and events, welcoming dozens of engaging, insightful business leaders to the virtual stage. (You can watch them all at tcbmag.com/tcbtalks.) No doubt, virtual panels and webinars will continue to be part of our content portfolio, because technology simply makes connecting that way so convenient and effective.

But we’re also ready to raise a glass with our community. Join us July 28 as we gather, for the first time in more than a year, to celebrate our 2021 Hall of Fame inductees. They are six determined individuals with big ideas who know that successful leadership means always finding a way to bring people together.

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