Episode 113 – Healthcare Heroes – A Storytelling Project

Episode #113
Original Air Date: 09.14.2020

32 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Sara Amiri

Telling stories is a powerful means to teach, lead, and inspire. To illustrate their message, the best storytellers often employ their own life experiences. Our guest Sara Amiri MBA, PMP, shares her story and explains how her passion to build unity, increase empathy, and raise awareness led to the Healthcare Heroes Project.

Sara is an Agile Project Manager at Volkswagen Group of America; previously, she was Global Project Manager at Uber Technologies, and Business Analyst and Project Manager at Blackthorne Capital Management. Sara joined the advisory board of Enactus, a global non-profit which is developing future entrepreneurial leaders and social innovators. She is an active member of Chicago Innovation, and she serves as American Moroccan Competencies Network’s (AMCN) Vice President.

We ask Sara about her relocation from Morocco to the US, her involvement in the AMCN, and the project for Global Service Design at Uber. She transparently shares her story of being laid off in July 2020 due to the pandemic, and how she arrived at her new position at Volkswagen. Sara offers recommendations for leading a team remotely, particularly the importance of maintaining sound relationships with team members and stakeholders.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sara and Dr. Anwar Jebran founded the Healthcare Heroes Project (HHP), a platform that sheds light on the inspiring stories of healthcare workers from around the world as they battle the pandemic on the front lines. She shares what led to the creation of the project, and talks about the vision, the process, and the collaborations on the stories.

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"...And we want to be part of this positive change, hopefully, after COVID where we have these stories, and we want the healthcare workers to be part of the conversation and the solution moving forward. We need better healthcare everywhere in the world, no exception."

- Sara Amiri

"...there’s always things we can do to better things around us and have a positive impact. But also there is always hope. Whatever situation you encounter in life, you’ve got to take a moment,... to mourn about it. But you’ve got to move on and find what’s next for you and hit the road."

- Sara Amiri

Share With Others

Telling stories is a powerful means to teach, lead, and inspire. The best storytellers often employ their own life experiences. Sara Amiri MBA, PMP, shares her story working at Uber and Volkswagen and she explains how her passion to build unity, increase empathy, and raise awareness led to the Healthcare Heroes Project.

Table of Contents

00:53 … Meet Sara
04:13 … The American Moroccan Competencies Network
06:11 … Global Project Manager, Uber
10:50 … Layoff and New Opportunities
13:03 … Volkswagen Agile Transformation
13:56 … Remote Working Practices
17:43 … Healthcare Heroes Project
21:15 … Healthcare Heroes Website
25:08 … Healthcare Hero Stories
26:35 … Healthcare Heroes Project Obstacles
28:22 … Get Involved and Tell Your Story
31:41 … Closing

SARA AMIRI: …And we want to be part of this positive change, hopefully, after COVID where we have these stories, and we want the healthcare workers to be part of the conversation and the solution moving forward.  We need better healthcare everywhere in the world, no exception.

WENDY GROUNDS:  You’re listening to Episode 113 of Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  I’m Wendy Grounds, and with me is Bill Yates.

BILL YATES:  Hi, Wendy.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Hey, good morning, Bill.  I am very excited about our guest today.  Her name is Sara Amiri, and I discovered a website called Healthcare Heroes Project that she was part of, and so she’s going to tell us a little bit about that today.

BILL YATES:  It is such an inspiring story, and she’s doing this while holding down a full-time job with a very big company with a lot of responsibility.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yes.  She’s really busy, so let’s just get right into it and hear her story.  Sara, welcome to Manage This.  Thank you for being our guest.

Meet Sara

SARA AMIRI:  Thank you, I’m so very pleased to be here, thank you very much for the invitation.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Sure. So can you tell us about yourself and how you came to be a project manager.

SARA AMIRI:  I actually came to be a project manager by pure luck, so I was originally a finance major, I thought my entire career would be investment, maybe corporate finance. That was really where I was headed, and I started working for a startup, and so they needed all sorts of project management. And so one of the managers at that time asked me if I wanted to become a project manager, and to be honest at that time I knew nothing about project management or what is a project manager.

So I just kind of learned on the job, and it became really interesting because I realized really how much learning opportunities I had as a project manager.  So I started being really interested to the point where I went back to school, did my MBA in IT Management.  And then I took my PMP, and the rest was history.  So it was really pure luck and out of a need from the company that I was working for at that time, which was Blackstone Capital Management.

WENDY GROUNDS:  There’s a project that you and I have both managed that became a project while we were doing it, and I would say that’s moving across the world. So I moved to the U.S. in 2000, and I moved with a one year old and a two year old and my husband, and that in itself was a project.  And I have many lessons learned.  So I want to hear your story, you’re from Morocco.  How did you end up here in the U.S.?

SARA AMIRI:  So I moved from Casablanca, Morocco, really I wanted to get an education abroad, and you know at that time you want to just be away from your parents.  You kind of want to fly with your own wings.  So I had a couple of options, either a different city within Morocco, which I applied for. I applied to France, England, U.S.  And believe it or not, the U.S. answered pretty quickly.  It was a 48-hours turnaround of, hey, we’d love to talk to you.  Do you want to come visit the school, the university at that time?  And so maybe I went for the easier option, maybe.

But I also really love English, I had a passion for learning languages, and English just to me was beautiful, it was the gateway to the world.  You could watch the best movies, listen to the best music, communicate internationally, so I was always attracted by English. I already spoke French, so to me France was not that attractive, I didn’t believe that I would broaden my horizons by going to a nearby country.  So I flew in about 12 hours, and here I was in Wisconsin.

And the reason why I picked Wisconsin is because at that time my English teacher was a university student who came on sort of an exchange program to Morocco, and he really liked my ambition to study English.  So he said, “I see you in the U.S.”  And he was from Minnesota.  And he said, “If you ever go to the U.S., go to the Midwest.  They are the nicest people, and you’ll learn the proper American English.”  So that really struck me.  So, you know, when I was applying, I immediately applied only in the Midwest. There was Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and so it ended up being Wisconsin.

BILL YATES:  And so now you’re living in Chicago, which is one of my favorite cities in the United States, yeah.

SARA AMIRI:  Yes.

The American Moroccan Competencies Network

WENDY GROUNDS:  Now, you’re still involved with Morocco a lot, I mean, I know you have family and you keep in touch.  But there was something in your résumé that we saw that you were involved with the American Moroccan Competencies Network.  What is that, and what’s your involvement with that?

SARA AMIRI:  Yes, I started with them since the launch in 2012.  So I’m the vice president currently.  So that is a network of Moroccan professionals, researchers, scientists, doctors who got together, and we do – we work on multiple projects that affect the U.S. and Morocco, as well, like U.S.-Moroccan relationships when it comes to scientific research and professional development.  So recently we also worked on a lot of co-lead projects in Morocco, and in the U.S., as well.  So one of our researchers is working on a vaccine on rapid testing for Morocco.  And we also set up some workshops to fix ventilators using our expertise. We have professors from different universities in the U.S., and I didn’t know just how many Moroccans were in the U.S. until I joined this organization, and they’re really doing a great job in their fields.

So we have surgeons, doctors, biomedical engineers, the whole spectrum of industry.  And I really love working with them, first of all because sometimes it just feels great to be with people that are from the same background as you are, but also people who are dedicated to the same causes. We’ve worked on autism projects, so one of our members took the Autism Organization, and they have a branch now in Morocco where we light up blue for Autism Day.  So we work on different projects.  And because of my project management experience, I’m able to help organize those projects and drive them to the finish line.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, you can help get things done, yes.  I see.

SARA AMIRI:  Yes, I do, and they’re really appreciative of that, you know, when you work with scientists, they have ideas.  So as a project manager you want to get them to that finish line, right, at the end of the day.

Global Project Manager, Uber

BILL YATES:  Yes.  So that’s a nice segue to one of the questions we want to ask you about, some of your past experiences.  Talking about getting from point A to point B, many people use this service called Uber.  So you were working at Uber for about a year, and you were in the role of Global Project Manager, Global Service Design.  Can you tell us what that was like?  What were your responsibilities?

SARA AMIRI:  Yeah, so Uber has been one of the most interesting experiences for me in my career.  So I came from, before that, I was at Johnson Health Tech, which was a very established manufacturing company in Wisconsin. It’s the leading manufacturer of healthcare equipment and fitness equipment.  It was very structured, it was also a family business, and then the job at Uber, where everything seemed like the perfect chaos. Much younger, as well.  You work with very young teams. So  I think the oldest, or the person with the longest time at Uber in my team was five years, and we looked at them like a unicorn.  Wow, you’ve been with Uber for five years? So it was a huge shift from where I came from, where the average was 15 years, 20 years at the company.

It was really fun to work at Uber, so Global Project Manager, many people know in business, Uber started very local, you know, ran locally. They had local managers, operations were local, so my role within that Global Service Design team was to globalize the operations of Uber. So we were launching projects globally. We were launching software globally and trying to find that happy middle between local efficient and global productive, and also like to realize some economies of scale and all of that.  So that was really my role is to take all those local, small-scale processes and globalize them.  So I was working with global teams everywhere in the world.  But I stayed in Chicago, obviously.  But I was the only one from my team that was in Chicago.

BILL YATES:  What were some of your highs and some of your lows working with Uber?

SARA AMIRI:  So the high, definitely, that it was really tactical, we moved fast, fast, fast. You have an idea, and they would say go for it, try it, do it.  I worked in a very dynamic team, and very ambitious, as well, so there were no real blockers, per se.  As long as it fit within the mission and vision of where we’re headed, they would let you experiment with that.  So I really loved that about working for Uber.

Also people were very entrepreneurial, as well, and that kind of fit with my background. I love people who initiate things and not just follow orders, so I would say that’s my highs.  My lows is that, with Uber being a young company, we were still figuring out things.  So there was a lot of figuring out, trials and errors, and then getting to point B, per se.  And then of course the local part. But that’s part of the challenge of the position itself is that they were already existing processes, and I think this is a big concept in project management is the stakeholder buy-in; right?

BILL YATES:  Yes.

SARA AMIRI:  I think that was the main lows, that a lot of my conversations were around buy-ins, and try this, and then let us help you, and let’s be onboard sort of conversation with the stakeholders.  So that was I think the most challenging part.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, so as I reflected on thinking about my own career, most of the projects that I managed were with really large utilities, and perfect chaos and utilities, those don’t go together; right?  The mindset at Uber is so different than the typical client that I had, many of the team members that you had were probably remote.

SARA AMIRI:  Yes.

BILL YATES:  Especially as you were working on global initiatives, probably, like you, they were entrepreneurs. Don’t give me any obstacles, I’m just going to go go go, fast.  So it had to be interesting, you know, the expression “herding cats,” just trying to keep people pointed in the same direction.  That must have been a thing in your mind then, just how do I manage these people to make sure that we’re actually going to reach the goals?

SARA AMIRI:  Exactly.

BILL YATES:  Kind of given the spirit of the company.

SARA AMIRI:  You are perfectly right.  With Uber, like I said, it was really interesting, I loved it because of the speed and action, right, of the PM.  A lot of times I had to hold back the reins of the horses and say, wait, we don’t know yet if this is where we’re headed because you just talk about a task and it’s already done sort of thing. You know, just go and here is your report, and here is the thing that you needed, and so I’m like, well, wait, we were just talking about it.  It’s not real yet.

BILL YATES:  Right.

SARA AMIRI:  But that’s great; right?  You want that, but you also want that healthy balance of let’s have a strategy before we act, as opposed to let’s act, act, act.

Layoff and New Opportunities

WENDY GROUNDS:  You left Uber in July 2020, and you started your current role as an Agile project manager at the Volkswagen Group of America, so tell us about that.  To get interviewed and hired and make that change during the pandemic.

SARA AMIRI:  Well, I didn’t leave Uber.  I was laid off as part of the layoffs that happened, and I think people should be able to talk about it and be transparent because that happens, and it will happen throughout somebody’s career. That was my very first time in my own career, so I think, looking back, I’m really thankful for that opportunity.  I think, you know, Uber did a good job to first communicate that layoff and all the confrontations and the aftereffect, it was handled pretty well, I think, especially during the pandemic.

So looking back I’m super grateful for that experience, and I’m also grateful to have had that first layoff, maybe I’m like, okay, now I got it off my way, having, I know what it’s like.  You know, I’ve heard people, when I was in college in 2008, you know, you’d hear people that got laid off during that financial crisis, and you don’t know what it’s like; right?  Just know that it happens a lot, especially in the U.S.

Now, in Morocco it’s really hard to just fire someone or lay off even, in Europe, as well, and Uber did not lay off as much just because of the laws. But I think having had that experience made me rethink about my career and where I want to head, and I think it gave me that time to reflect back, as well.  But I took it really well, I was really confident, I think that’s why I was able to find a job as quickly.  It was a matter of two weeks, but I was already…

BILL YATES:  That’s amazing.

SARA AMIRI:  Yeah, in the next job. So you know, I just stayed positive, I knew that I had the skill set to find my next move, I had a few opportunities lined up.  I’m also, I want to say that I’m a good networker.  I don’t know if you can say that about yourself, but I think I’ve built up those skills throughout my career that, you know, I utilize LinkedIn a lot.  I am not afraid to reach out to people, to talk about opportunity.  Maybe they would give me some insight into some opportunity that I didn’t know about, but to answer your question, I didn’t struggle as much.  I do want to say that I struggled, and here’s what you have to do, but in reality I didn’t as much.

Volkswagen Agile Transformation

WENDY GROUNDS:  I want to hear about your current role and any projects you’re working on right now, so what can you tell us about that?

SARA AMIRI:  Yeah, so I’m working more as a program manager/project manager. So I’m working more on programs, and, you know, Volkswagen is going through that Agile transformation which they’re hoping that I can be part of and help with. And I think that’s amazing, I love to be part of the beginning of the story, and so I think that’s what was exciting at Volkswagen is they are doing all these transformations in terms of project management. And with my background, because I’ve been through that, and I’ve done it before, so I think that’s going to be an amazing opportunity for me to be part of that beginning and sort of help drive it again to the finish line. Projects at Volkswagen are mostly about transformation again, digital transformation and software implementation, process improvements, so that sort of thing.

Remote Working Practices

BILL YATES:  So one of the questions I wanted to ask you is, as you’re working both in leading team members and being a part of a team, if you’re like us, everybody else, we’re all dealing with working remotely.  What are some practices that are working well for you, and then what advice can you share for those that are working remotely, maybe for the first time?

SARA AMIRI:  You know, the great thing about my global role at Uber is that I was sort of already remote.  We were all in offices, but my team was scattered all around the world.  I had a teammate in Ireland, Brazil, in the APAC region, as well.  So I was already accustomed to that, and we had to establish some routines and some methods to make that remote project management go smoother.  I would say communication is key.  And one thing that I still do not see in certain teams is that they only keep that communication at the meetings level, is if you have a meeting, I’m going to schedule a call.

But something that I’ve done at Uber is that we had a lot of one-on-ones just to chat, just to say hi.  And I think that’s really crucial and something that I’m also trying to do with my teams at Volkswagen is we don’t need to wait for that meeting to talk, you and I.  We can grab a cup of coffee, since we’re remote, and turn on the cam, and have a 15-minute chat like we would do in an office setting.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.

SARA AMIRI:  I think that’s really important.  But also with stakeholders, you know, it’s not just within your team.  You want to build up that relationship.  So the first thing I’ve done is that I scheduled my biweekly or monthly one-on-ones without an agenda.  There I just talk.  I might ask you some questions.  You might ask me questions.  But let’s bond.  And maybe that’s a selfish reason with stakeholders because you get easier buy-ins, and they already know you.  They might start appreciating you.  We just develop that bond with your stakeholders, which is something very important for the success of your projects.

Then utilize technology.  There is a bunch of tools that are out there, like Smartsheets, Jira, like Teams and Slack, whatever your company uses.  You really have to utilize those technologies to keep your team updated.  For example on Smartsheets I like to keep a live updated version of my project plan for everybody to see.  You know, that transparency, because you do need that.  You want your team to know what’s going on live at any time of the day.  And then you want your stakeholders to be able to access that project information at any time.  They don’t have to wait for that meeting.

BILL YATES:  That’s good.  I like that you’re emphasizing just the – because we’re not around a coffee pot or a watering hole if you will, and we don’t have that common location that we used to, so you’re going out of your way to make sure you’re still having coffee time.  You may be remote, but you’re still sipping coffee and talking with coworkers.

SARA AMIRI:  Yes.

BILL YATES:  And that’s so important.  And some of us need to be more disciplined about that and remember that it’s a part of who we are and what we do as project leaders.  We need to continue to invest in those relationships because, like you said, they’re the key to success.

SARA AMIRI:  Yes.  And you know what, I understand it’s challenging because something I noticed as well on the downside is that there is way more meetings during this time that people are working from home.  I honestly have meetings since the start of the day until the end.  And you think about when are you going to get the job done, it’s usually after those hours.  Because wherever they see a little hole in your schedule, they’re going to book it for that meeting.  And sometimes it’s needed.  But honestly, sometimes it’s not.  So we also have to be very mindful of each other’s time and only schedule meetings when it’s needed.  You know, always ask yourself, do I need that meeting?  Can it be an email?  If it can be an email, please send an email.  You’re saving yourself time, and you’re being mindful of your team’s time, as well.

Healthcare Heroes Project

WENDY GROUNDS:  Sara, how I discovered you when I was looking for guests was I discovered a really cool project called the Healthcare Heroes Project.  And I started looking into this.  It’s a really neat website.  And it’s a platform dedicated to sharing the stories of healthcare workers from around the world.  I love that it’s international, that it’s all over the world.  And I just love what you’re doing.  So in and amongst all of your busyness, changing jobs and keeping projects going, you’ve started another project that is helping so many people.  So won’t you tell us a little bit about the Healthcare Heroes Project and just your passion behind it.

SARA AMIRI:  Yeah, so as I mentioned, I really love working on different things on the side.  I’m never just doing my full-time job.  Even if I love all my jobs that I’ve had, I’m really passionate about them, but I feel like I always have that extra energy to do something more.  So when the COVID-19 started here in the U.S., a friend of mine and I were sharing stories of how that affected us.  So his name is Anwar Jebran, and he’s a doctor here in Chicago.  And obviously when it hit, it hit his hospital really hard.  At that time he was a resident at Memorial Weiss Hospital in Chicago.  And my sister is a nurse in Montreal, Canada, and she was telling me these horrific stories that happened to her at her hospital.  She had to drop her daughter to her grandparents.

At that time, you know, people I think were more afraid than they are today because it was unknown; right?  Now we know.  We know you can die.  You know we might not die.  We know a lot more than we did at that time.  So, you know, we were sharing stories.  And then we thought about Humans of New York, which is a platform that I love.  I don’t know if you are familiar with that, but it’s a platform that shares really interesting stories about people randomly in the streets.  You know, while talking to Anwar, I thought why not do something similar to Humans of New York, and he also loved that concept, and we started right away.

We gathered a team of volunteers, designers, and we also are working with a great editing team, as well, led by Clare, who’s also from Chicago.  And how we started is just asking healthcare workers to share their stories.  And we didn’t realize the deeper effect of that because later on we were told that it was sort of like a therapy for them.  No one really was asking them how are you, or what’s your story.  It was mostly shared within their circle of family because everybody else was busy trying to figure out what is this thing; right?

So we started getting really cool stories, and it got deeper and deeper each time.  And what we offered is that we would edit their stories.  Obviously we don’t have a lot of time.  So they would just type it up on their phone or a quick email or Instagram or Facebook.  And then we have a team that would work on editing the story.  And then as you would see on the website, HealthcareHeroesProject.com, all the pictures are – they’re like in an animated sort of way because we think of healthcare workers today as heroes.  You know, everybody in the healthcare system today is a hero in their own way because they’ve been through a lot, and they still are.

So, yeah, that’s how it started.  And since then it just, you know, we’ve done a few collaborations.  One of them was with an artist.  He’s a singer, and he made a song called “Superman,” and we collaborated with him on that as a tribute to healthcare workers.  Yeah, and we did receive stories from all around the world.  We do translate them now to English, obviously.

Healthcare Heroes Website

BILL YATES:  The site is beautiful, and I want to encourage every listener to go check it out.  It’s so intuitive, too.  When you hit it, you’ll see.  Each story there’s a panel with beautiful artwork, and every story is summarized. You can click through to the full story there.  I love the artwork that’s done.  And I wanted to ask you more questions about that.  How did you settle on the theme?  I get the connection to heroes.  That’s awesome.  And then how did you find the artists who are coming up with this beautiful work?

SARA AMIRI:  So that was actually Anwar’s idea, in a way, because first we were thinking, how are we going to get the same images, you know, from people?  They might be different lighting, different shapes and formats.  So we thought just having it done in a cartoonic way would be more consistent throughout the website.  So that was really the idea why.  But then when we looked at the first artwork, we thought, wow, this looks like really they are heroes in these pictures.

So it was double purpose, in a way.  We have a more consistent website, and at the same time it gives it that cartoonish look of a superhero, so that’s how the idea came about.  And, yeah, we work with great designers, as I said.  We have a graphic design team, and we have an editorial team that helps with that.  Now, these pictures are not drawn by hand, but we did work with an artist from Chicago.  You can see it on our website.  She actually drew some of our heroes by hand, and she sent us the portrait.

BILL YATES:  Of course so we’re in August of 2020 as we have this conversation with you now.  How many stories do you have currently on the website?

SARA AMIRI:  I think we have about a hundred stories, and then we still have a queue of stories that are waiting to be edited.  We get stories every day.  So we try to take the time to edit them and have beautiful stories come out of the words of the healthcare heroes, and we’re pivoting now where we are starting to offer resources, as well.  We realize that one common theme within these stories is that healthcare workers are really worried about their mental health.  So we are starting to partner with psychologists and other organizations to provide resources about mental health and what can healthcare workers do to avoid depression, anxiety, and how to start these things because more and more healthcare workers are suffering from that.

We don’t have the numbers yet.  We surveyed a study that’s going on today.  So we partnered with the University of Illinois actually to – they were already doing a study, and we helped them with that, is that they interviewed – I think their study included more than 5,000 healthcare workers around the world, and they were studying the effect of COVID, not on patients, but on healthcare workers.  So we have some preliminary data, the effect of that is just huge on the mental health of healthcare workers.

BILL YATES:  What you’re creating is a hub, then if I have any friends that are in the healthcare industry, I’m going to want to send them to your website, almost as a way of saying this is what I believe you are, and help celebrate you.  And so for them to be able to go there, and then for you guys to be able to share extra resources, especially during this stressful time for them, that’s a wonderful pivot.  You used the word “pivot.”

SARA AMIRI:  It’s great that you say that because actually we do have a few stories where a neighbor would say, “I think my neighbors are healthcare workers.  Can I have you talk to them?”  And at first they’re like, whoa, okay, so people are starting to realize that they want to highlight their loved ones, their neighbors.  So sometimes we do actually reach out.  So our editorial team would do phone interviews, and then we would capture the story.

We try to be very flexible since we know they are super busy to sit down and write a full story. We would provide different ways of capturing that, and we have sometimes a sister who wrote the story of her sister who is a doctor, and so it was written from the point of view of the sister and how she sees her doctor sister as a hero.  So we capture that, as well.

Healthcare Hero Stories

WENDY GROUNDS: So are there are any stories that stand out to you, that have been particularly inspiring?

SARA AMIRI:  I think all of them are inspiring, but one that triggered my emotions was a doctor who had to choose between which patient to save.  I think she had a 29 year old and a 69 year old, and they didn’t have any more ventilators in her hospital, so she had to save one and watch the other one die.  And I think that just to me was, wow, you need therapy after that; right?  So it really hit me hard. 

Another one was a mother, she was seeing her daughter from outside in a patio with the door closed, and they were like touching hands, you know, she couldn’t hug her or touch her for a couple months until she got tested because if you remember at that time there was no testing.  Same as my sister in Canada, she dropped her daughter, said her goodbyes, and not knowing when is this going to be over.

But luckily there was testing, and now we can trust that test more.  So now she was able to see her safely without fearing that she would pass along something, and of course many, many stories of healthcare workers that tested positive and having to go home and suffering from the symptoms for a couple weeks.  But I think what struck me most about some of these stories is that some of them could not wait to come back, and I think that was a very positive thing to say, that I know I have COVID, but honestly I just can’t wait to go back and help out my colleagues.  It’s a very touching story.

Healthcare Heroes Project Obstacles

BILL YATES:  That really is.  This is such a moving project, and it’s straight from a passion point, which I love, but like any other project, it has obstacles.  When you guys encountered obstacles with the Healthcare Heroes Project, what did they look like, and how did you overcome them?

SARA AMIRI:  It was mostly deadlines, I would say, just like any other project.  We both have a full-time job.  You know, he’s a doctor in the emergency, dealing with COVID, and so I have my full-time job, as well. It’s just juggling between all these deadlines, so at some point we had to use real project management, you know, we have an Asana board where we would add all our tasks, what needs to be done, and prioritize things.  So I think the main thing was there was so much we can do, and just like any other project, you could design a car or you could design a plane; right?  But you have to prioritize which is needed and what can you do at the moment.  So I think scaling down sometimes was the hardest thing to do, and realizing our limitations when it came to time.

BILL YATES:  Do you ever sleep?

SARA AMIRI:  I do, actually; you know?  I do, but sometimes it’s a little less than I like.  Again, you have to prioritize. So I took a Scrum Master training a few years ago, and the trainer was talking about how she uses scrum in her daily life, even prioritizing sleep and prioritizing cleaning the house.  And she showed us a picture of the wall in her house, and I said, you know, that’s great, you know, it could work, but I don’t know how comfortable I am to apply these principles in my personal life.

BILL YATES:  Right, right, right.  Cleaning the house and eating and sleeping, so that doesn’t need to be on my product backlog.

SARA AMIRI:  Right, yeah.  But she had it.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Just make sure you’ve got lunchtime on there.

BILL YATES:  Yes, always.

Get Involved and Tell Your Story

WENDY GROUNDS:  And then you’re good. So how can we help spread the news and celebrate these healthcare heroes?  What can listeners do?

SARA AMIRI:  I think reading the stories and reacting to the stories.  We have an Instagram page called the Healthcare Heroes Project, also our website, HealthcareHeroesProject.com.  We’re also on Facebook, and recently we are partnering with a designer in New York. And what she’s doing is she’s picking healthcare workers who need an interior design to raise their comfort, and so she’s providing her years of design experience and free furniture for those. 

So watch out for that story.  It’s going to be great because the nurse we picked in New York, she has an amazing story from saving a Holocaust survivor to some amazing things in her life, and then being offered to become part of this project where they’re going to help her manage sleeping in a beautiful home with her three kids.  So it’s really touching to see that people in all industries are trying to help and are doing something to give this tribute to the healthcare workers.

WENDY GROUNDS:  You’ve stepped up and done something, and it inspires me to think, well, what more can I be doing?  How can I be helping? So I worked in healthcare for 15 years before I moved here, and I understand the aspect of you have a story.  There’s things you go through at work, but it’s not really something you can come home and talk about.  Sometimes there’s very traumatic things you see and you have to work through, and so I think a lot of healthcare workers are not able to talk about a lot that they see. 

And just giving them a platform where they can tell their stories, I just want to encourage all our healthcare listeners out there to reach out to you, if they have a story that they want to tell, that they should reach out to you and get their story heard because we want to hear those stories.

SARA AMIRI:  Yes, and we do, as well, so we want to hear from all of our healthcare workers.  We will continue this project even after COVID because we want to be part of these healthcare reforms around the world, and not just talking about the U.S. There are some countries in the world where they never thought healthcare was an important thing to talk about.  And so what can we do to make it better in certain countries?

So we want to highlight these stories, especially of the ones where they have to make these tough decisions of we don’t have enough room, or we don’t have enough medicine. You know, we’re seeing these in India a lot, you know, and other countries, and so we want to be part of this positive change, hopefully, after COVID where we have these stories, and we want the healthcare workers to be part of the conversation and the solution moving forward.  So we need better healthcare everywhere in the world, no exception.

WENDY GROUNDS:  We’ve just been so inspired by your story and inspired by what you’re doing.

SARA AMIRI:  Thank you so much.

WENDY GROUNDS:  So thank you so much for joining us today.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, thank you.  Thank you for your time.

SARA AMIRI:  Thank you.  Really grateful for the opportunity.  And again, I hope my story, especially around layoffs and juggling between full-time job and doing an inspiring project or something that is close to your heart, will inspire your listeners because there’s always things we can do to better things around us and have a positive impact.  But also there is always hope.  Whatever situation you encounter in life, you’ve got to take a moment, like two hours one day to mourn about it, but you’ve got to move on and find what’s next for you and hit the road.

Closing

WENDY GROUNDS:  Thanks for joining us this week on Manage This.  Be sure to visit our website, Velociteach.com, where you can subscribe to the show so you’ll never miss an episode, or join us on Velociteach Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.  And if you know a friend who would like to hear our show, then please tell them about Manage This.  You’ve also just earned some Professional Development Units. So to claim your free PDUs, go to Velociteach.com and choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page, click the button that says Claim PDUs, and click through the steps. Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

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