In 2020, a year marked by incredible uncertainty, Jackie Ward decided to take a chance on a new role with a familiar firm. Back at Booz Allen after some time away, she’s now UX strategy lead for the team supporting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as it revolutionizes the approval process for life-saving medical devices.
Sure, some things have changed since she last worked for the company. Whereas she once saw her colleagues in-person every day in Laurel, Maryland, she now virtually connects with her teammates. But this and other big differences haven’t stopped Jackie from taking the next step in her career.
We spoke with her to learn more about working remotely, what inspires her during this challenging time, and how it feels to return to Booz Allen.
What brought you back to Booz Allen?
I had the opportunity to work with amazing people on a project that really matters. I’m helping transform the system that facilitates approving devices, like medical tests and respirators. What could be more relevant in this uncertain time? Three of the best people I know are already on this project and they’re surrounded by other innovative, passionate people. I feel incredibly lucky to be here again working on something so important.
What was it like to start your job virtually?
It was such a smooth process. My laptop arrived before I started, as did the information about what I would be doing my first day, and my employee ID arrived the next day. Meeting my project team and getting up to speed virtually was easy. I’m lucky because this project started in the fall, so everyone is new, and as a result, they have a lot of experience getting people up to speed quickly and virtually. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to jump in and get started.
Do you like working remotely?
In many ways, yes. I have more control of my schedule—I can get up and start immediately if I want to and I don’t have to drive anywhere. I never have to waste time going back home to get my phone or laptop that I left behind. Recently, I’ve come to realize that the physical transition from office to home was important for me. It gave my brain a signal to turn off work, and I’d often meet friends for dinner or visit my daughter in Baltimore. There was a clear separation between work and home. When I first started virtually, work and home blended together. I’ve since learned to do something to force my brain out of work mode at the end of the day, like go for a walk or have a Zoom get-together with friends and family.
What gives you hope during this challenging time?
My youngest daughter is a personnel specialist deployed on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, the aircraft carrier that was in the news at the end of March when the captain sent out an emergency plea for help because of COVID-19. They were sidelined in Guam for nearly 2 months with more than 1,100 cases of the virus among the crew. Through it all, she kept her sense of humor and mission, as well as her work ethic. As a mom I was scared, but she never faltered. I am in awe of her, and if she and nearly 5,000 shipmates can get through that, I figure I can live through my experiences too, however unusual they may feel.