Before and After COVID19, Who Are You Becoming?

before after covid


Sally Grisedale

The difference between the two photos speaks to a transition I have gone through because of having COVID19, leaving the corporate world, and embracing my new career as a leadership coach to other creative thinkers and extraordinary leaders.

There was a little girl,

Who had a little curl,

Right in the middle of her forehead.

When she was good,

She was very good indeed,

But when she was bad she was horrid.

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As a very small child getting ready for school, I’d listen to my mum recite this poem as she brushed my unruly curls into parental submission. In school, I was called “Hairbear” after the cartoon character from the Hairbear Bunch.

The picture on the left is me in January 2020 rocking the straight corporate look with pro makeup by Sephora and a photography by Rhee Bevere. The picture on the right is me in January 2021 with my curls restored, no pro makeup, and taken with an iPhone as a selfie.

The difference between the two photos speaks to a transition I have gone through because of having COVID19, leaving the corporate world, and embracing my new career as an entrepreneur coach to other successful leaders. I love both photos, but that was not always the case.

Here’s why: In 2013, I took on my first executive role. I became a frequent traveler to exotic places including Bangalore, Manila, Tel Aviv, and San Paulo. When I got off the long haul flights, my abundant curls were more sheep than chic.

In tropical climates, women put their hair up to keep their neck cool. Curls don’t take well to ponytails, and piled up behind my head looks more bush than bespoke.

I kept up a Keratin hair straightening regimen for seven years. It was crazy to sit through a three-hour toxic procedure that was perilous to both me and my stylist every few months. Add to this the weekly blowouts and monthly color touch-ups. It was a high maintenance lifestyle I thought an executive woman had to invest in to look the part.

If I got too sweaty or wet my hair would curl, so I stopped doing things I loved, including swimming and dancing. Don’t get me started on all the other areas I invested into up-level my corporate appeal: pedicures, manicures, skin care, exercise regime, personal trainer, tanning, weight loss, wardrobe for a boardroom, for flying, and for tropical climates, the right makeup, dermatology program, cosmetic surgery, statement watches and jewelry, the right shoes, the right purse and luggage, organic and keto food, designer water, etc.

During the COVID19 pandemic, I was unable to get my hair straightened, and during my own recovery from COVID this summer, I was exhausted, depressed, and I let it go. I was lucky if I had one productive hour of the day to accomplish anything, so all the nonessentials, including hair straightening, fell away.

During a six-month return to health, I’ve become vigilant about who and what I will take on in my life because I don’t have the capacity to carry anything that is more illusory than real.

It’s still easy for me to get overwhelmed and take a mental nose dive into depression. Today, I trust myself to take a break and not push as hard as I did when I worked as an employee. Learning to say ‘no’ effortlessly has come directly from my instinct for survival.

Learning not to fill up my day or keep long relentless ‘to do’ lists is part of my recovery. I am less the high capacity doer living into the future and more grounded and present to the moment. I have become gentler on myself and those I interact with.

I am proud to have gone through this difficult time at home with my cat, Tiggy, whilst receiving tremendous support from my friends and family remotely.

  • How have you been changed by the pandemic?
  • Who or what have you been forced to say goodbye to?
  • What is your survival instinct telling you right now to stop doing?
  • For me, it was a return to being a curly girl. What about you?

the Leading by Design Newsletter

What Is the Leading by Design Newsletter? Great question.

Leading by Design is a blog for creative leaders working in tech. It’s not a “Why You Should Use AI in Design Thinking” or “How to Hire and Retain Product Design Teams with Impact” type of blog. There are enough of those.

I write about the challenges you can’t safely discuss as creative leaders working in tech. The stories come directly from my experience leading teams at Apple, Meta, Yahoo!, and some start-ups and from the executive design leaders I coach today.

I have written about the stressful magpie boss, hateful cross-functional peers, creative burnout, the shame of job loss and survivor guilt, and the fear of becoming irrelevant in the marketplace.

I publish once a week and offer strategies to reframe your challenge so you can return to being the creative leader your team loves you to be.

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