© Photography, Monique Vermeulen

Judy van Soldt is a Product Manager with VMware Pivotal Labs, a software and services company that provides cloud platform hosting and consulting services, based in San Francisco. Judy is currently in Amsterdam on assignment and staying at Zoku for the duration of her assignment as a long stay Resident.

What path has your career taken?

From childhood, I had a clear goal: to be a building architect. I have an Architecture degree from CalPoly in San Luis Obispo and practiced in California, London and The Netherlands. Architects are always among the first professions to be hit during an economic downturn and the last to recover when the economy improves and I found that uncertainty increasingly problematic. I live in San Francisco, where tech is in the air and, with a combination of planning and serendipity, I was invited to join Pivotal Labs as a software Product Manager. It’s very different work: a university building or a train station will last for 50 years, but software is transitory. The code we write today should probably not be in production five years from now! But schedules, scope, and budgets are still Things, and the people and culture change challenges are very similar. I am currently in Amsterdam working with a national organization to deliver products and help change their technology culture. Sorry I can’t say more: NDA!

How long have you stayed at Zoku Amsterdam/What is your relationship with Zoku, and what were/are your thoughts?

I’ve been here for three weeks and have plans to stay for about ten more. It’s a happy accident that I’m at Zoku at all; the residence hotel where I had been staying previously closed during our current global health crisis and I was moved here. The Zoku staff has been very welcoming and helpful and I’m enjoying the personal attention.

Compared to my first lodgings, Zoku’s location is much farther from my client’s office. But since we’re all working remotely now, that’s not a problem. The amenities here are much more suited for a live/work model and I appreciate the Social Spaces – especially being able to enjoy the fine weather on the Rooftop Terrace!

What’s a life-changing song, film, event or book you’d like to recommend to others?

Travel. Get out of your comfort zone: slow down and use all your senses to try to understand a new place, culture and people as deeply as you can. On my previous assignment, I spent four months in Seoul, my first time in East Asia. I think I’ll be reliving those memories and continuing to learn from those experiences for a long time to come.

What is your top tip for being productive while working from home?

As a building architect, my first instinct is to look for solutions in the physical world. I rearranged most of the furniture in my loft and I’ve set up a corner exclusively for work. When I’m not working, I move to a different chair or to the sofa. When I travel, I bring my hobbies with me and make time every day to step away from work to enjoy them.

What is one piece of advice or tip in your field of work that you want to give to people?

Have empathy for each other. As a consultant, that’s my most frequently used – and most effective – practice. It’s also the hardest to remember when I’m stressed. We can’t know what another person is dealing with in their lives so – especially now – try to be kind.

How do you manage to keep up your mental health/wellbeing while working from home during these times?

Remote work comes with extra challenges. Even with high-speed wifi, a proper work environment, and the right tools, it’s simply not going to be as efficient as working together in person. I try to adjust productivity goals with our team and our clients to realistic levels. Just acknowledging the difference helps. Over video calls, we keep to our schedule and remind each other to take breaks and go outside. We laugh a lot because we’re in it together. And we don’t forget to celebrate success, however small!
Personally, I’m making it a point to connect more frequently with my family, friends, and colleagues world-wide.

What is the most inspiring place you’ve been to and what was so special about it?

San Francisco has been my home for over 20 years. And, even though my current job keeps me away for long stretches of time, it still inspires me. I find it to be a very European city, culturally as well as physically, and its place at the historical center of technology gave me opportunities I wouldn’t have had elsewhere.

Which book/product have you gifted the most, and why?

I like to gift experiences, rather than things, and preferably ones we can enjoy together. Dinner out, a special museum exhibit, hike-with-a-picnic, a cooking class, or a trip to the zoo with children have been well received.