#WFH Diaries: Dina Young of Huge Detroit
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the globe, we're checking in with folks in the creative industry to see how they're faring. Here's an update from Dina Young of Huge Detroit.
Give us a one-line bio of yourself.
Dina Young, resident storyteller, baked goods connoisseur, and creative director at Huge Detroit.
Where are you living right now, and who's with you?
In my house in the suburbs of Detroit. Roommates include my insanely supportive husband, Joe, our endlessly active 16-month-old, Frances, and our very handsome dog, Moose. Together, we've been functioning somewhere along the continuum of "This is crazy" to "Everything is fine."
What's your work situation like at the moment?
My work situation can be summed up into one word: juggle. Juggling projects, meetings, check-ins, laundry, childcare, pet care, selfcare, all the things. I fully realize this is not unique to my situation, and I'm constantly reminded that my biggest complaint could be someone else's best-case scenario. It's all about perspective, people.
These days, my work environment looks a bit different than the white-walled, clean lined offices of Huge. I'm holed up in our guest bedroom that's been dressed as a makeshift office. Is it weird to long for that open-concept work environment that writers are always complaining about? Our team has instituted an unwritten "camera on" rule, not because anyone cares what your house looks like or whether you've washed your hair—but for the simple act of connecting. Looking into someone's eyes, even with a screen and many miles between you, just adds a layer of human contact that, quite frankly, makes a difference.
As far as the work goes, I've always functioned in the camp of "better busy than bored." Luckily, the work has maintained a steady pace. I will say, as a lover of advertising and writer at heart, it has been a fun experience to watch brands react and see their tone shift.
But the biggest silver lining I've found during this weird time is that it has brought a lot of camaraderie to our team. People are just happy to see each other's faces in a way we all took for granted before. And it's true—hardship brings us all together. It's been refreshing to see that on a global scale, all the way down to our team.
Describe your socializing strategy.
Have you guys heard of Zoom?
I'm trying really hard to quiet the noise and focus mostly on connecting individually with the people I really want to check in on. I'm also finding that disconnecting is just as important as connecting. Knowing when to turn off the news, when to decline the virtual happy hour, when to stop mindlessly scrolling Instagram and to enjoy this very, very rare opportunity to get some real peace and quiet.
Also, my husband and I have a rule that on the days where we don't have help with childcare (i.e., when we're balancing two careers with an active toddler for an entire work day), we enjoy that evening alone. In different parts of the house. Some people may find that strange, but we've found that getting some space and alone time helps us maintain our individuality (together). Anyone else out there seriously miss missing their spouse and child?
How are you dealing with childcare?
Oof, this one is a doozy. Every morning we compare meetings. For example, let's say my husband has meetings at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. I block off those times on my calendar so no one can book me then. He does the same for my meetings. If we have overlapping meetings that can't be moved, we then debate who can bring a toddler to their meeting. So, we spend the entire day trading our daughter off between the two of us. Her nap time is a very, very productive two hours. Then, when she goes to bed at 7 p.m., I'll get back on my computer and work for a few glorious hours without any distractions. It's not ideal, but hey, it works for us.
We're lucky to have help from our parents, who are also self-isolating. That help is literally invaluable, and we couldn't do it without them. Our daughter is at an age where this doesn't have much impact on her. I'm not sure I could handle the added pressure of arranging an at-home lesson plan if she were school age. I'm sure it's 10 times harder with more than one kid, as well. In my copywriter days, I'd write to the background noise of Inside the Actor's Studio—now it's reviewing script options to the background noise of LooLoo Kids' "Whatcha Gonna Do?"
Under normal working circumstances, like most working parents, I only get to see my daughter for 30 minutes before work and 30 minutes after, so I keep reminding myself that this is a very rare opportunity to be home with her long-term and enjoy her all day, no matter how impossible the juggle feels.
What are you reading?
Mostly Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and a lot of emails. I'm making it a goal to find more time to read, so please send suggestions my way.
What are you watching?
Ugly Delicious Season 2. Do you guys remember restaurants?
What are you listening to?
Our team has been sharing some next-level Spotify playlists. I guess I never realized how quiet it was without the ambient office sounds and always-on music. The bathrooms at Huge Detroit play the most ridiculous jams. Lots of Mariah Carey and Boys II Men. Hmmm, now that I think of it, maybe I'll give that a shot at home. In the background, I can hear my husband cycling between Howard Stern and yacht rock from his workspace.
How are you staying fit?
Lots and lots and lots of walks. We actually schedule an hourlong family walk on our calendars to get out and breathe some fresh air. It makes such a difference.
Have you taken up a hobby?
So, I love to bake. But the thing is, I stress bake. So, I'm baking more than ever before. Only thing is, I cannot (repeat, cannot) have these treats in my house, so my quarantine hobby has become surprise cookie deliveries to friends' porches. I recently mastered the Milk Bar Crack Pie—that was a fun one, and it sparked an idea. I'm going to "pie it forward" where I make a pie, give it to a friend, and then they make a pie and keep the chain going. We'll see if it takes off. When you see it on the Today show in a few weeks, remember … it started here, folks.
Any tips for getting necessities?
Curbside anything, shop local, and for the love of everything sacred … please wash your hands. And lastly, watch your quaran-tone—we're all in this thing together and feed off of each other's vibes, so just be kind.
An awkward moment since all this started.
OH!!! I've got a GOOD one for this. I was on a Zoom call with 68 people across two Huge offices when I got a phone call I had been patiently waiting for. Without realizing I WASN'T on mute, I went on to give a thousand, very loud, very annoying, virtual kisses to a baby. At least now they know there's a warm, gooey center to this cold exterior. Shout-out to the entire team, who were very understanding even though I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out. And an extra shout-out to the person whose presentation I interrupted. You know who you are.
Best work email you got since all this started.
It was a Slack message from our managing director, Ranae, who said (I'm paraphrasing), "Well, it's Women's History Month and we're officially stay-at-home working moms. We CAN have it all." That made me laugh.
An aha! moment since all this started.
How much money you can save when you don't eat poké for lunch three times a week. But really, before all of this, our creative team prided ourselves on being super scrappy and agile. This put that theory to the test, and I'm so impressed with what we've been able to achieve by being remote and overcommunicating. Man, I love these people.
What's your theory on how this is going to play out?
I wish I was smart enough to know. I'm hopeful, but realistic. I hope our country chooses to do what's best rather than what's easiest. And please, pretty please: Vote.