#WFH Diaries: Nicole Kankam of the U.S. Tennis Association

As lockdowns linger in most parts of the world, we're checking in with creative people to see how they're faring. Here's an update from Nicole Kankam, managing director of marketing at the United States Tennis Association.

Give us a one-line bio of yourself.

Passionate marketer of the U.S. Open and all things professional tennis, and aspiring expert homeschooler of two kids.

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

In New Rochelle, N.Y., with my husband Kofi, 6-year-old son Essien, 2-year-old daughter Estelle and our au pair Yoryi.

What's your work situation like at the moment, and how are you moving ahead during the crisis?

Because I live in what had been one of the initial hot spots for Covid-19 in the U.S., I was one of the first to begin working from home, so it feels like we've been in quarantine forever! Between homeschooling my 6-year-old, keeping an active toddler entertained and having a full-time working spouse, it's tough finding quiet spaces to work, but we've been making it work. 

I oversee the advertising for the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, and together with the U.S. Open management team we are continuing to plan for the event to take place at the end of August. But with so much uncertainty, I've had to completely reimagine our marketing approach. I have a great team that is working hard to keep each other motivated, so we've been focused on developing creative ways to engage fans in this new normal.

Describe your socializing strategy.

I love a great Zoom happy hour! I've really enjoyed reconnecting with friends I haven't talked to in ages, sharing stories over wine and not having to worry about finding a babysitter.

How are you dealing with childcare?

We are so fortunate to have our au pair Yoryi living with us to help, especially since both my husband and I are busier than ever working from home. But I would say childcare is definitely a family affair. My husband and I are actively engaged in our son's homeschooling in between the demands from work. And even our 2-year-old has Zoom circle-time meetings that we all take turns wrangling her to participate in.

What are you reading?

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It's been a while since I've read a novel, but this is about two sisters in 18th century Ghana and I was inspired to pick it up after traveling to Ghana with my husband and his family last winter. It's a great read and a welcome diversion from the news.

What are you watching?

Since I work in sports, of course I'm watching The Last Dance, like everyone else. I can say it definitely lives up to the hype. When it's done, I'll get back to catching up on Ozark.

What are you listening to?

Someone on my team made an awesome and very diverse Covid-19 playlist—think songs like the Police "Don't Stand So Close To Me"—and it's a nice background track while working. I also like jazz pianists, having played when I was younger, and am a big fan of the prodigy Joey Alexander when trying to promote calm in our house. My running playlist is all about early '90s hip-hop.

How are you staying fit?

I've been getting up early to run while my neighborhood is still quiet. The USTA has some great tennis-at-home tips that I've been trying with the whole family. But the best workout is running around in the backyard with my son as he's chasing his soccer aspirations.

Have you taken up a hobby?

Does eating cookies count? I suppose there's still time, but as of right now, I haven't had a lot of free time for new hobbies.

Any tips for getting necessities?

There's a new grocery store in my neighborhood that has been amazing at delivering all the groceries I need. Amazon still works for most things. But my favorite new discovery is the drizly app to deliver the all important necessity—wine!

An awkward moment since all this started.

I didn't realize my kids were capable of sending replies on my work email until someone replied to a nonsensical email that my kids had apparently sent as a reply to a group communication. Fortunately it provided some much appreciated humor to an otherwise boring email thread. I guess it's further confirmation that Apple products are so intuitive, even a 2-year-old can use them!

An aha! moment since all this started.

My son's teacher sent a new version of his class picture that was essentially a screenshot of one of their Zoom meetings. Her note to the parents was a reminder that we're living through a historic moment and she wanted to capture it for posterity. There are plenty of challenging days, but thinking of it from a perspective of history in the making allowed me to shift my mindset to positivity, even for just a brief moment.

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

However we come out on the other side, we will all be very different—especially sports and entertainment fans. But I think we're already seeing how this situation is inspiring a new type of creativity, and I am encouraged by some of the innovative thinking, particularly in the live event space. The real winners will be those who are able to foster that creativity and develop revolutionary approaches to drive businesses forward.

See the full #WFH Diaries series here.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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