#WFH Diaries: Amanda Fink Mandell of Sonic Union

Even as parts of the world begin to open up amid the pandemic, most folks are still working from home. We're checking in with creative people to see how they're faring. Here's an update from Amanda Fink Mandell at Sonic Union.

Give us a one-line bio of yourself.

Executive producer for Sonic Union, music and fitness enthusiast with a passion for connecting people with creative projects.

Where are you living right now, and who's with you?

I'm living in Atlantic Beach, Long Island, with my husband, 1-year-old daughter, and my parents.

What's your work situation like at the moment, and how is it evolving?

With the help of our ingenious IT department, our engineers were able to set up at-home studio systems that could connect remotely to our central servers in order to seamlessly share sessions with each other, and back up their work. It's been incredible to witness how quickly and smoothly we were up and running. As remote sessions started heating up, we discovered alternative work flows, such as using private YouTube livestreaming links, which gave us the ability to playback video and sound for clients in real time, in sync and high quality. As we continue to further evolve our remote studios, our team of engineers have been able to create the most professional listening environments, matching what we've only known in our NYC studios. 

Describe your socializing strategy.

Weekly cocktail Zoom catch-up calls with my lady friends, Houseparty meetups, daily FaceTimes with my in-laws, socially distanced walks with local friends, digital Friday happy hours with my co-workers, and meeting all the neighbors and new neighbors who fled to the suburbs. 

How are you dealing with childcare?

My mother is my daughter's caretaker while my husband and I work during the day. They are the best of friends, and I feel so fortunate to have my mother spending real time with my daughter. It works out for everyone.

What are you reading?

Just finished Untamed by Glennon Doyle and moving on to There I Am: The Journey from Hopelessness to Healing by Ruthie Lindsey.

What are you watching?

Normal People on Hulu just broke me and left me in the feelings zone in the most amazing way possible. Wow, what a beautifully crafted show, based on the book by Sally Rooney. It is an emotional roller coaster of young love set in Ireland to the most hauntingly beautiful soundtrack. I'm also watching or just finished Mrs. America, Never Have I Ever, Dave, Little Fires Everywhere, Becoming, Better Things, and the new Reno 911 on Quibi.

What are you listening to?

In terms of music, I'm rotating between all of the amazingly curated Isolation Radio Spotify playlists from fellow music enthusiasts. For podcasts, I'm deep into Brené Brown's Unlocking Us, The Daily and Oprah's Super Soul Conversations. 

How are you staying fit?

I invested in a Peloton last year, and during this time it has been a life saver. I also use their digital app for yoga and strength classes. It's been wild to see how instructors from all types of fitness brands were able to pivot from their studios to teaching from home via platforms such as Instagram Live and Zoom. I've really taken advantage of taking classes this way because we may never have another opportunity to take a dance class with L.A. choreographer Ryan Heffington out of his own living room, or with Arrmy's Angela Davis from her backyard. 

Some of my New York favorites have been Core Rhythm Fitness founder Rodrick Covington and CYC trainer Tom Hamlett. I'm approaching it from the point of view that it is truly a gift to be able to work out when so many people cannot right now because of illness or essential staff who haven't stopped working. It makes me even more motivated to push myself to stay as healthy as I possibly can so I can be here for my family.

Have you taken up a hobby?

Do webinars count as a hobby?! I've always enjoyed cooking and now have tried to expand my repertoire to take my meal prep to a whole new level by experimenting with new foods and recipes. Cooking for me is a creative and zen-like experience, so it really helps to reduce stress and relax the mind. My husband and I try to sneak out for a sunset skateboard session every once in a while to listen to music, take photos, and get some much-needed alone time with each other.

Any tips for getting necessities?

I think we've tried every which way … We've supported local businesses by ordering takeout every now and then, as most places do curbside pick up or delivery. I also love Trader Joe's, which I frequent once ever few weeks to stock up on essentials. They only let a few people into the store at a time, so while there will likely be a long wait, the store is safer when shopping. A great pro tip from my friend Dana of Dana's Bakery is to bring some tin foil when you go to the market to wrap the handle of your cart so you have one more layer of protection. Instacart has worked out from time to time for Costco orders, and even CVS Pharmacy is now offering free delivery. 

There are such amazing subscription services out there as well! I finally joined Thrive Market—the online, membership-based market offering healthy and sustainable products available for a discounted rate. I really love them for organic packaged goods and for their mission that with every paid membership they will match and give a free membership to a low-income family, teacher, student, veteran or first responder.

Lastly, we joined Misfit Market for our weekly organic produce delivery. It's a surprise every week of what fruits and veggies will be in your box, but it includes a substantial amount and I love their mission of helping to cut food waste in the U.S. by supporting local famers. It also keeps me on my toes with my menus!

An awkward moment since all this started.

Sitting down with my parents to discuss boundaries. 

Best work email you got since all this started.

I received an email from the partners at Sonic Union early on in the pandemic offering to match any donation to a charity of our choice. In that moment I felt so proud to work for a company that doesn't just look out for their bottom line but jumps into action to be of service for the greater good of our communities. It made me truly appreciate and be proud of the true inner nature of the brand we have cultivated.

An aha! moment since all this started.

My sweatpants game is sadly lacking in variety … But in all seriousness, for me, it's been all about finding and expressing gratitude. There is a quote that has resonated profoundly with me during this moment of our lives and it rings so true: "We are in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat." Every single person is experiencing a global pandemic, but in vastly different ways. I feel grateful every day because I am employed, I have food on the table, I have a roof over my head, and I'm getting so much extra time with my husband and child since we stopped commuting and started working from home. 

This is an unprecedented time when the entire world has taken a pause. Creativity did not stop, humanity did not stop, ingenuity did not stop, but we paused from the non-stop daily grind. Our days look different from what we are used to. While I miss all of the "things," I know we'll eventually fade back to it. So in this time I will not take for granted any of the smaller moments—being still and watching the trees blow in the wind, taking my morning family walks, or the excitement of my daughter seeing a bird fly in the sky.

What's your theory on how this is going to play out?

I truly hope this pandemic and collective experience brings the peoples of the world closer together. Humanity is all we have, and it is my hope that we are all learning new and valuable ways to support one another, and find what is truly meaningful as individuals and collectively. Similar to the Renaissance period, I look forward to the art, music, theater, literature, film and other forms of self-expression that follows this period. There will be a new "normal" and we will all need to adjust to it.

See the full #WFH Diaries series here.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards and the founding editor of Muse by Clio.

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