Episode 39 - Virginia Schutte - Connecting People to Science


Virginia Schutte (00:00):
For us. It's one big experiment. Parenting is. So when we don't know that's okay, we just have to try. And then as long as we pay attention to how it went and decide if we wanna try it that way again, we're doing the best we possibly can. And that's gotta be good enough seeing where your children are at and how you can be there with them. It means paying attention to yourself. Do you need to take a break? Do you need to make a different routine? Like I just so many things are covered for me by pay attention.

Young Han (00:33):
Hey guys, I'm Young, a full-time dad and a full-time professional with the goal to become the best parent possible. The girl to that show is my journey interviewing fellow working parents aspiring to be both good at work and parenting. I'm gonna do this by gathering and sharing unfiltered perspectives from my guest. So join me as I research parenthood one interview at a time, Virginia. Thank you so much for joining me on my show today.

Virginia Schutte (00:58):
Thank you for having me!

Young Han (00:58):
I'm so excited to talk to you about everything that I love to talk about on this podcast, which is work and parenting here, but let's jump right into it. Why don't you tell all the listeners what you do for a living?

Virginia Schutte (01:07):
Yeah so, the short version is I make stuff for the internet, I'm a scientist. I have a PhD in ecology, but at the end of my science degree, I realize that I just really wanted to talk to people. So now I do communications work with science and science organizations connecting people with science that makes life better.

Young Han (01:27):
Whoa, that's awesome. Wait, so that's completely opposite of like what you got your degree for!

Virginia Schutte (01:33):
A little bit. So I got a PhD because I wanted to save the world. I read a book when I was in fifth grade about saving, sick dolphins, by talking to them with my mind. And like that's when I knew I wanted to be, and so then, then I went to college and was like, oh, I wanna be asking questions and answering them. I wanna be a researcher. And then later on, I was like, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. There's all this good research that's already out there. And people aren't connecting to it. Cuz at the end of my PhD, they were like, okay, now sit down and write, don't go out and swim, chasing Phish with camera anymore. Like sit down and write. And then when I was done writing, I was gonna send it to other scientists and other scientists were gonna read it, and I realized what I wanted to do was take my work and talk to people around the Caribbean in Southeast Asia and be like, this is what I learned. This is what I think it means. This is how we could use it for conservation. And that's not, what's supposed to happen when you're a full-fledged researcher. I was supposed to be on the next project. It was, it's very related to being communications. Now connecting people to science. It's just a slightly different skillset. But then the reason that I think we are talking is one of my coolest, like things I love most about being a scientist was my job was to take the world and make something exist out of nothing. I had to ask a question and a figure out a way to get it answered, to find money, to find methods, to get it answered. And when you're doing, when you're building a business, being an entrepreneur, when you're being a parent, you are still making up things out of nothing and finding ways to make it work.

Young Han (02:57):
Yeah. That's awesome. So how is that going? So what's that transition. When did you make that transition over and how has it been so far?

Virginia Schutte (03:05):
What a big question. I got my PhD in 2014 and my husband's actually also a scientist. He went the researcher route. So he's faculty, he's a full-time researcher at a university. So after we got our PhD, he's got his at the same time as me. We moved to Germany actually for his job. And so whoa. I know, I know. And I was six months pregnant, so, and it was November. And so it is so dark in north Germany and November. So there was so much stuff happening. I was transitioning careers. I was also having a baby and I didn't speak the language. And then it was like, so depressing and dark. It spent my PhD work in the tropics and then we moved to Germany and I was like, this is not my natural habitat. I'm cold. I'm whiny, it's dark. So it was really tough. I feel like honestly the toughest thing was feeling like I'm not worth it. Like I'm a bad person because had a degree to do one thing and then I switched. And so, especially in the sciences you know, when you go to a second position, you're still writing stuff from what you did in the first position. And so I, I haven't published most of my PhD. I published a little bit of it, but not all of it. And there was all this guilt about like I wasted people's time. I wasted the people who invested in me that I had to deal with. So it was actually really tough. But then when we moved back from Germany to the United States, we moved back from my job cause I got a full-time job as a communicator. And I think since there it's just been one adventure after another growing and not feeling like anything was a waste because I'm still doing what I set out to do. And it's just in a different way.

Young Han (04:44):
So did your husband pick up another job here or was he still able to do the researcher role from Germany here?

Virginia Schutte (04:50):
So scientists move around a lot. When we tell them how much we move around, people often ask us if we're military. So we did undergrad at one university PhDs at a second university. We actually went to Panama for a quick post-op for me, post doctoral position. I know for like three months we were in Germany for two years for him. And then, so the thing with science is you're supposed to go different places to get different perspectives, both in terms of the people you work with and the methods they use, but also in the parts that you're seeing when you do our type of science. So when he moved to Louisiana, I moved to a Marine biology lab to be the entire media department. And he got a job there being a scientist.

Young Han (05:34):
Wow, that worked out really well.

Virginia Schutte (05:36):
Totally did. And then he used that position to get him the job in south Jersey where we live now. And hopefully now that he's a PI we're gonna be here for years and years and years, which is a weird feeling. And also very fun.

Young Han (05:47):
Sorry, I don't know what a PI is.

Virginia Schutte (05:49):
Ohhh, Principal investigators.

Young Han (05:52):
Oh, I love it. That sounds so cool. My initial thought was private investigator, but I'm like, that can't be right. Yeah. I'm like, that's not right, right.

Virginia Schutte (06:02):
That's pretty close. Like he is investigating things, just not people so much.

Young Han (06:07):
That's awesome. And so then did you have your kid in Germany or here in the states?

Virginia Schutte (06:11):
Yeah, so I had, we, I had my daughter here in the states a year before I got my PhD and that is a whole separate conversation being a grad student mom. And then I had my son over in Germany, so he is a us citizen, but his German, he has a German birth certificate and like a translated copy of it is the one that I hand out here. It's wild.

Young Han (06:33):
Yeah that is wild. So yeah, actually let's jump into that real quick. So tell me about your kids. I know you just shared that you have a, a, a boy and a girl, but I'd love to know who they are and how old they are.

Virginia Schutte (06:42):
Yeah. So my daughter is eight. She is in third grade. My son is six. He is in first grade. She loves, oh gosh, she's like a little dream cloud that floats through life. Just telling stories. We went to a concert for the first time that she would remember because COVID, and it was a, a good concert to go to two nights ago. And the first song finished and she erupted and turned to me and screamed, my imagination just went off and then she came home and like scribbled in this, journal. She's writing a book about dragons and drawing them. So she's really creative, loves animals, imagination play. He really likes following instructions and building things. So he's engineering, he loves Legos, but also hammering and mowing the lawn. He likes doing lots of things with his hands. He's he's in a ninja class. Right. so they're very different and it was so fun when we had one baby, we were like, this is it, you know, being scientists. We're like, let's discover everything about this baby. Let's help it discover the world. Then we had that second child and we were like, oh, these are the things that are general to babies for us anyway. And this is her and this is him. And it was neat to see by having two, we got to see more about each of them by comparing them to each other. It was really cool!

Young Han (08:04):
That is really cool. I, I also think that, that, that you just said that there's a gap, right? There's like a four year gap then I'm just trying to do the math in my head here.

Virginia Schutte (08:12):
There's like a 20 month gap between them. 

Young Han (08:17):
So, oh, eight and six. I was really wrong.

Virginia Schutte (08:19):
I mean, it's hard to keep track of all this stuff.

Young Han (08:21):
Yeah. There's a lot of information flying here. Yeah. You're pelting me with so much stuff I've never knew about before. This is like so fascinating. I had no idea that you had to travel this much. I had no idea that you had kids in Germany and like, this is awesome. And so I do have to ask, like, so when you were thinking about having the kid and you were in grads school, was that something that you guys did intentionally? Or is that something that like you guys were trying for, like, or is that happy accident?

Virginia Schutte (08:47):
Absolutely. It was intentional. It was extremely planned. And I think this is part of why I'm in the career I am now and why I got a PhD is because I really like making plans, setting goals, and then figuring out how to meet them. And so we, my husband and I met, we met, this is so dorky. I've never told anybody this on the internet we met before college even started. Because we were both in the marching band. And then we were in the honors environmental class together nice for freshmen. So we would raise each other from our class to marching band practice all first semester. And we started dating second semester and then we just never stopped. I tried to break up with him once and he didn't let me, he just kept calling. And, and so we got married a month at, after we graduated college. So we've had years together to decide how we wanted to do our life together. And before we ever went to grad school, it's really common for scientists in grad school to live a part because it's hard to get positions at the exact same university, which means you may not be living in the same city. And I remember us when we were applying to graduate school saying to one another, that we would rather redirect our careers than live apart, cuz we'd chosen to live apart first and kind of foremost. So yeah, we knew we wanted kids like from the beginning. And it was just a matter of when, and I, since I was doing so much work in the ocean, you cannot scoop with dive with kids. No one has ever tested what that would do to them because how can you ask someone to test something that may hurt their child or them? So you cannot scuba dive with kids cuz the pressure, once you go down, who knows how it would that's right. Yeah. so I finished up my field work and then right after field work, we were like, well is it time now? Yep. Looks like, and we figured that if people didn't want us to have jobs in the sciences, if we have kids, then we didn't want those jobs anyway. And we would just make it work. It was, it sounds easy. In retrospect it was so scary at the time, but it was just a matter of prioritizing. I knew I wanted kids more than I wanted any particular.

Young Han (10:57):
Got it. So it was more about the goal and objective in making it work around it versus like having a plan. Yeah. Cuz in, in retrospect the way you're saying it, like almost like this energetic kind of like, you know, energetic tone, it almost sounds like, yeah. And then everything worked out like it's like, no, I'm sure it was like, I'm sure it was like, you know, a Rocky chasm of just like fears and doubt and like, am I doing the right thing and you how we're gonna pay for stuff and yeah, that's really great that you just forced yourself through it. That's fantastic. Z is it the same story with your, with your career change then? Like, cuz that must have also been a little bit, right. I mean you're talking about two massive things while you're having kids. And like I, the first thing that my mind went through, the moment I kid was like, how am I gonna afford to feed these things? You know, make sure that they're, that they're safe and sound and you know, I'm stable enough that they don't have to worry about food, you know? And so I'm sure you had some of those thoughts as you started to change your direction of your career. That must have been a huge decision.

Virginia Schutte (11:48):
Yeah. There are it's funny that you asked that I've never really thought about there are similarities in differences. So like it's tough being a grad student and being a parent because the grad school that we were in at least, and I've heard this is common treats, grad students like employees when it suits them and like students when it doesn't. Mm. So there were absolutely no parental leave policies. And if you missed more than X number of days in a semester, you required to drop out of school. There was no allowance there. And so yeah, the fear and the doubt was there when we decided to have a child as grad students, but also when I decided to switch careers the other thing that's very similar that came to mind first is that people in my career path did not understand either decision. I mean our close friends who were grad students with us knew it was coming because we were us and we talked about it. But when I told my advisor that I was pregnant, he went, what's this plan.

Young Han (12:44):
Yeah. Well that's my reaction. Right. I think that's the common thing, right. Just doesn't seem, doesn't seem normal. Yeah.

Virginia Schutte (12:50):
None of your business, but also yeah, like you didn't see this come. I mean, okay. And so like he didn't understand why we would have kids then, but then when I told him that I wanted to switch careers, he gave me, it was a year before I graduated and he gave me a series of pep talks about like how I could do it. I could totally be a scientist. I didn't need to switch careers. He, I think, and even now he's extreme, extremely supportive, but just doesn't understand, wanting to do anything else than what he decided to do. And I feel like that's really common. So in the way, the sciences are a really weird profession because the people who mentor, like anyone who gets a science degree are the ones who took one career path and 95% of people who get science degrees now you know, PhDs don't end up staying in university doing that career path. So you have these like 5% of people mentoring, a whole bunch of other people who are gonna go do something else. So, oh yeah. So when I said I wanted to switch careers, it was all this like, well, you know, you know, you don't have to leave. And I was like, yeah, I want to. And he was so supportive and as were other people, but they just didn't get it. I came back actually I was asked to come back and give a keynote address at the graduate student symposium years after I graduated three or four years.

Young Han (14:07):
Oh, about your decision to leave.

Virginia Schutte (14:09):
Yeah. Well, so it was, I think it was, they were really interested in my career path that I'd made for myself and what it was like for me coming out and something so different. I don't know of anyone around my stage who had gotten a job in communications after getting a PhD. So yeah, I got asked back and one of my professor friends that was one of my other advisors while I was there, we were walking down the hall. He asked me, are you ever going to, you know, do some more research? And I was like, no, I that's that what I do. So it was just, yeah, people just didn't understand. And then I will say the thing that was different about having a kid as a graduate student in the sciences and you know, leaving my career as a scientist researcher first is the kid was very much planned. I knew for years and years that I wanted to have kids. It's just a part of who I am. I wanted to do that. Yeah, I was all in, on my career path until a year before I graduated. And actually it was when my daughter was born, that I started having all this like, okay, how do we make this career work with her now? Like what do we, what does the future look like? And I realized, oh, I do not want the future to look like that. And so I, a year before I graduated was like, hold up, we need to make a total change. And it took me only a month to figure out what I wanted to do instead. And I've heard that's really fast for a lot of people. It totally blindside them when they realize they don't wanna do a science thing because for so many scientists, it's a passion career. It is not about pay if anybody wanna pay. We go work for oil company.

Young Han (15:41):
Yeah. Some do too. Some scientists go that. Yeah. But I will say that I, it totally is like shaking my perspective of it as well too, because I, I mean, not it up per se, but like you are anomaly. And I think that you have to recognize the fact that that's probably a fact, right. Because I don't think that people that go down the sciences, I mean, from the outside in, I'm not a scientist and I'm learning a lot about it right now, but when you meet them, you know, they're, they're so, so specialized in their function and expertise. It's almost hard to too harder for them to unwind or try something different than it is for a business student or someone that's in another other specialty. Right. Because things can transfer over, but when you're in the sciences, you end up getting so specialized that it becomes harder to make that jump or shift or switch. Right. And so I think that that's why it's so unique and, and, and special that being said what was your childhood like? Did you, did you grow up with scientist parents and or did you grow up with like communications parents or, you know, did they do switches like this? Like, I'd love to know more about your childhood.

Virginia Schutte (16:45):
So yes. To all of those.

Young Han (16:46):
Oh, really? I hit it on the head. I'm like, boom, boom, boom.

Virginia Schutte (16:49):
Right. My childhood is a logical too. I am today. So grew up on a farm in Kentucky and it wasn't a working farm. Like my parents didn't get money from the farm, but it was a bunch of woods. And we had a pond in our backyard and I drove the tractor when I was like 10. Awesome. To get firewood. And so like, I remember there was one week in high school where it'd been particularly rainy and it was like day three. And I was like, I'm tired of this. And so I just walked outside in the woods to be like, what can I discover in the rain? It's very special. And I, it was so that's the kind of first I was growing up. My dad is a doctor. So I remember like science fair. I have not thought of these things in forever. I remember science fair in upper elementary school.

Virginia Schutte (17:30):
You know, we like made some kind of presentation on some, it was very average. And then we got home. He was like, okay, what other questions are you gonna answer? You have a whole year to think. And I was like, what? And so he was always asking questions, asking us what we thought. So it was very, there's this like science mindset where you see the world. And I didn't realize we did it with our kids until I was on a vacation with other parents. But like, we are teaching them how to look at things and figure out why it is that way. That's just how we operate. And that's what I got from him. My mom was a she programmed computers when there were still index cards. Oh, wow. Yeah. So she talks about like picking up a box of index cards and having to walk to the room with the computer in it. And if you drop it, you know, all the coding is out of order. And so it's wild. My mom worked for, it was bell labs before it became something that matters today.

Young Han (18:24):
You're talking about when they like would take the index cards and punch holes in it. Right. And then that the code that would read the ones and zeros. Oh my gosh. That's so gangster. That's original. Yeah. That's amazing.

Virginia Schutte (18:35):
Her mom was a computer when a computer meant a person like her mom, my grandmother worked for Langley before they became NASA. And so both my mom, like my mom worked in a place with all men, like doing this computer coding back in the day. And then when I have, I have a brother and a sister, and when we were, I think elementary school, she quit so that she could move to the place where my dad wanted to do his doctor stuff. And she wanted to be there for us to raise us. So she, I think she became a teacher after my youngest sister was really school. And so she for decades was a preschool special needs teacher after that.

Speaker 5 (19:23):
Wow. So she also totally switched careers to do what she wanted to do and to make it fit the family that she wanted to raise.

Virginia Schutte (19:23):
Never thought about it.

Young Han (19:26):
Like that's so logical, that's amazing.

Virginia Schutte (19:28):
Yeah, it was really cool.

Young Han (19:29):
My parents, they are really cool. I mean, no, I mean, obviously you're very cool too, but I will say I even, even more coolness back to your, to your mom, because I'm sure getting a role like that, you know, back when the computers were first starting was in incredibly competitive and, and hard to get into. And then for her to basically go do special needs teaching is a very, very service, great service role, especially during that time when it was fairly I'm sure. New, right?

Virginia Schutte (19:54):
Yeah. Yeah. There's a lot more research coming out now that she's able to keep up with, but it's yes.

Young Han (20:00):
Wow. Very, very cool. So you, you were right when I said yes to all of it, because they were, they were very academic and very, very into the specialized sciences, but they did the, the, your mom did the switch. Yeah. Wow. That's cool. That's really cool. And then what do you, what are you thinking about for your kids? What do you want them to do?

Virginia Schutte (20:19):
You know, I want them to be fulfilled, which is like such a vague and like blog postings on the answer, but I want to be able to support them no matter what. And so I, that, like, if my daughter decides she wants a career as a piano player, I don't know how to support that, but I'm gonna try my best to figure out like, you know, is it Juilliard? Is it something else? How does she get the business skills she needs to like, do her own accounting and do marketing for herself. So I feel like it's, I, I don't even know what they're gonna wanna do, but I want them to have the skills to figure it out, to let themselves change over time and then feel like they know how to go after what they want.

Young Han (21:03):
That's beautiful. Yeah. I love it. I, I think that that's actually really, really elegant and beautiful, cuz you're talking about like the, the, the ability to go be happy and not necessarily like what happiness is and you're not describing it or prescribing it, but the stuff that surrounds that ability to go find it and, and actualize it. Right.

Virginia Schutte (21:23):
Yeah. And I think this is something that I'm, I'm gonna hold tight to because since I totally switched careers, I've thought a lot about how skills translate and how to make yourself. Especially since I run my own business now, like again, that concept of how do you make something from nothing. And I think my husband in contrast never asked himself any of those questions. He decided he wanted be a scientist and then he never really thought about it again. And so when I asked him like, what else would you do? He was like, well, I don't know. This is all I've ever thought about. And I was like, really? Cuz I've thought about so many different things that I'd wanna do. So I, I wanna make sure that we teach them how to self-evaluate and then how to go after stuff. But again, I'm a media strategist and so setting goals and then going after them is that is just what I do now.

Young Han (22:05):
Yeah. But it sounds like you've always been that way. I realistically speaking, you just never kind of framed it up in a sense of like a job or job scope or transferable skills, but it sounds like you've always been kind of like that?

Virginia Schutte (22:17):
Is very true. When I realized that I couldn't talk to sick dolphins with my mind to save them, then I was like, oh, well, Marie, biology's closer. So closer that anything else?

Young Han (22:25):
So we'll do that. Have you had any instances where your kids are sh struggling to achieve a goal and you, you use the same kind of concepts or mindsets to coach 'em

Virginia Schutte (22:33):
Through it? Oh my gosh. I mean, we're trying is the best answer to that question. Yeah. I feel like absolutely. My kids struggle with things with different things and it's so hard though. They're still so young. So like we actually, oh my gosh, this is such a funny question. Three days ago, I sat down with my daughter cuz there's a thing that she like will have a tantrum over sometimes. And so I was like, okay, now that you're calm, let's talk about it. Like, what is like, why do we want to do this thing? It's a thing she has to do. And so I was like, why do we have to do this to take care of ourselves? You know, why do you not want to do it? Here are our options for making a plan to get past the not wanting to, but then like the last time I asked her to do it tantrum. So we're trying yeah. And hopefully as they get older, I mean, I'm sure it will be different, but like, we'll see. I have no magic wisdom there though.

Young Han (23:29):
No, I, I, I agree. I mean, I think that I also just learned this from another guest that I interviewed recently and she's in, she's in she obviously knows a little bit more about child development than I do, but she was saying there's also physiological stuff that they're going through at my kid's age that they honestly can't comprehend at this point. Cause it's just not developing. And I'm like, oh, that makes me feel a ton better. But an example of what I was talking about is like, I guess this is me just kind of asking you from a personal standpoint. Like I sent my daughter to TaeKwonDo, Lily, my oldest and we've been going for about a month or two and it's hard. It's, it's, it's not normal stuff that she's used to. And it's, there's no other girls in there and there's definitely no other girls that are her age and it's always like, it's just all of her classmates or her, you know, I guess I dunno what they're called classmates, I guess. Yeah. they're all like two years older than her on average and they're all boys. Right. And so they have a different energy. They're much her they're much more aggressive and she does a good job of keeping up. Cause she's a pretty she's a pretty rambunctious and an aggressive girl as well, but it's just not fun for her. Right. Cuz she's never winning. She's always losing and, and, and this specific place doesn't really like they, they just do it the, the traditional way. So it's like, there's a winner, there's a clear winner and there's a clear loser. And and if you mess up, you get called out on. There's just like there, it's just like the, you know, like very black and white kind of place. And I, I love it. Cause I grew up, I grew up with TaeKwonDo. Right. And I love that kind of mindset. And after a few months though, we just decided to not send her. Right. Because she just was not having fun and she just didn't like it. And we were almost kind of forcing her and, and, and I like the debate was, and I don't know if I'm right or wrong. Right. So this is like kind of why I'm throwing it on you to see what you think. But my, my wife and I were like, I feel like we should force her through it just to show her, press her variance and determination and show her that she needs to like, you know, learn how to overcome because she wanted to do it. Cuz she saw R and she like loves that movie. And so she's like, I gotta learn how to do that. I'm like, yeah, you that's totally dope. Let's do it. And then my wife's like, but she's miserable. And you know, I know for a fact that she's gonna love ballet and piano. Like she like sparks up and it's much more happier place for her. Right. And I'm like, okay. So after like many weeks of just going back and forth, we made the hard decision to stop. And I, I, I don't feel good about it. Like, you know, I'm like torn, you know, I don't know if I did the right thing as a parent of like, not, not teaching her in that example of like something that pushed through, you know, but what does that even mean? So I passed it to you to answer my conundrum.

Virginia Schutte (25:59):
So I will say that we haven't had to go through that yet. And so I for sure don't have a great answer, but we so far have, if you try this, you have to try it for X number of time. And so we set a minimum time before it starts and we know what it's like, and that way we feel like having our kids try something for at least that minimum time that we made kind of neutrally that we set that time neutrally before we know what it's gonna be. Like, we, you feel like that helps us stick to like at least, you know, we decided this was a good time if it's past that and they wanna drop, okay. But this is the push through it, period. I mean, unless something exceptional happens, right. If it's really, really awful for one reason or another, we would just let them drop. But so like, but so far with lockdowns and stuff, we haven't had the chance to exceed our maximums. Like we're just now sending them back to like basketball starts this Saturday. She just started piano like a couple weeks ago. So I don't know how it will turn out, but, but I, I like the feeling of setting a neutral time. I also though, like my sister when I was growing up, she was really competitive in power tumbling, which is a little bit like gymnastics, but only some parts of it. And she had to decide when she was like 13. I think it was, was she gonna move with my mom to Texas to train for the Olympics? Or was she not? And she decided not to. And it was so it was so hard. And so I, I feel like watching her go through that and then seeing how it influenced the rest of her career. I feel like I'm not gonna hold too tightly to pushing. Oh, but then it's not about like, yeah, I, I get what you mean about the pushing through is about like teaching perseverance too.

Young Han (27:41):
Well, the question goes back to what you were saying earlier, right? Like it's this idea of like setting an objective and hitting it. Right. But how do you teach that? Like, and so it's such a conundrum because there's so many ways to think about how to teach that. Right. You can do it through, you know supporting coaching, delegating, you know, demanding, you know, like, I don't know, there's just a million ways. And so that was just the question. I mean, with the, a personal anecdote that's personal, but that's really what I was asking is you is cuz you know, you're talking about this, it sounds like you have the same kind of mindset as your mom. Right? Like she sounded like she knew what she wanted and she knew what happiness meant for her. And she didn't really care what anybody said. She was gonna go do it. And you kind of did the exact same thing. You just like said, Hey, I, I have a great path that I've done this. And it may feel like counter counterproductive to the world or the vast majority of people, but it makes me happy. So I'm gonna go chase down this path. Right? Like, so it's a really good way of thinking. And I just was curious as to like what you're doing to like intentionally teach that behavior to your kid. And it just might be modeling.

Virginia Schutte (28:41):
I, I think so. I, I don't know that we have any intentional way is that we're trying to teach perseverance because I, but when you ask me this question, like the more we talk about it, the more I realize that I'm gonna talk about my hu, I'm gonna talk about all this with my husband later. This is fascinating.

Young Han (28:57):
I've never thought about watch the show.

Virginia Schutte (29:00):
I never thought about it like this, but I think that they are each, every is going to face so many things that they will be required to persevere through that I do not need to create artificial ways for them to practice. So for example, if she decides she doesn't like basketball, we've already said, she's gonna stick it out through the season. It's only two months. She will to get out through this season. That will be the lesson. But then if she gets two years into it and then decides, it's like, but she, you know, decided that she wanted to play basketball in middle school. I, I, I don't know. Like, yeah, if, if it's, let's, let's say this imaginary scenario where it's, it's a sport. I think that along the way, I mean, she came home yesterday and said that one of her best friends so far, this entire school year told her, I don't wanna be friends with you anymore.

Virginia Schutte (29:50):
Here are the two reasons why one is you're too loud and you talk too much that sort of thing. And so I feel like those kinds of dynamics and persevering through all of this stuff, that's gonna happen to her. She's only eight. She's already had a boy a boy asked to kiss her if she said no and he kissed her anyway, like there's all sorts of stuff, stuff. Oh my gosh. I know. And like, I don't know when I would be ready for that to happen, but not now. I wasn't ready now. Yeah. So I feel like there are so many social situations that are going to require them to reach something that pushes them through when other people are telling them not to be themselves. That I, I guess I'm gonna be willing to let things go unless, you know, with the TaeKwonDo though, it's hard because if there's that goal of like push, if, if, if it's really, so I guess I don't, I mean, I don't know. I guess at that point you sit down and you say, has the goals change because if it hasn't then like, these are the things that are gonna I've the very short answer is, I don't know.

Young Han (30:48):
That's a beautiful answer. It's actually very, very nice to hear that. Right. I'm sure that that's actually the right answer too. Because as, as I've, as I've been doing this podcast and interviewing all these working parents, it's been like, the thing that I've learned, the common theme that learned is that everyone has like increased empathy. As, you know, as you become a parent and then as you become like a, a working parent, it's like, you just like start to realize that like everyone's just doing their best. And they're just really tired.

Virginia Schutte (31:16):
I will say though. So we do my husband and I are, we're very scientist about how we, and again, I've only realized that lately as I talk to more people. Oh, so what interesting, what we'll do is the scientific method says, you pose a question or a hypothesis or something, you devise a method to test it, you test it and then you figure out what happened and why, and then you start over, right? You figure out like, well, what's left to know that's right. We do that with our parenting, which came to us automatically. I haven't thought about it consciously until recently is we will have I'm so sorry. I'm giggling. Cuz it's so dorky. We will have debriefings after something happens. So something will happen. Let's say a tantrum happens. And one of us, one of us who's there, who's on duty will handle it. And then afterward we will sit down that evening and we'll talk to each other. So like, this is what happened. This is what I did here was the outcome. How do we feel about that? And like, do we wanna do something different next time? And so then we make a plan. So the next time it happens, we can try something different or try it the same and see if it works as well or as poorly as it did the first. So we use this circular method and we are constantly like asking ourselves, could this have gone better? Yeah. And so I, I feel like that's very science of us to, to iterate, but this is, I mean, for us, it's one big experiment parenting is. So when we don't know that's okay, we just have to try. And then as long as we pay attention to how it went and decide if we wanna try it that way again, we're doing the best we possibly can and that's gotta be good enough.

Young Han (32:53):
Yeah. I love that. I love that. That's amazing. That's a really great answer. And I think that is really dork if you don't mind me saying so, but I love it. I absolutely love it. It's fantastic. So but let's, let's switch gears for one second. So what is, what does success look like for you in your job? I, I, I think I'm like really curious as to how you're like thinking about that now that you're shared so much about your, your childhood and, and, and your journey with your kids and, and, and what you, what you're expecting of that. But like what do you, what do you, what do you think of success as what, what does that look like?

Virginia Schutte (33:23):
Success in my job, I feel like has been changing a lot for me. So I started being a freelancer, running my own business in officially September, 2019. Wow. And so when I started, because I'd never done anything freelance, I'd never run my own business. I'd always like taken full-time jobs. And so I did one job at a time and I was paid, whatever the job paid. Yeah. and so when I started, I was trying to give myself enough leeway that success wouldn't make me feel awful. So my success was trying to treat myself like a startup business and recognizing that many startup businesses don't see a return on their investment for years. And so I had to know that the first year I would make very little money, I would probably be mostly searching for clients. And I had this set up with my husband, like, where are the marks we have to meet? What income do I have to get for us to support the family? Where are our like, no, you must take a full-time job now because I turned down a full-time job when we came here because I wanted to go freelance. And that was the, that was the scariest part was staring a good salary in the face and saying, no thank you. So my measures of success for the first year were mainly just grow, grow and have a sense that it will work to support my family this way. And here are the minimums I have to meet. So that was the first year that got me through fall 2020. And actually when the, when everything went to lockdown in spring 2020, my business kind of exploded because I make stuff for the internet. I do a lot, lot of digital things. And so as everyone went digital, there were all these science organizations that didn't know how to go digital that's right. And so I did so much strategy with organizations with scientists. I picked up my long term client. That's been with me since then. We started working together right when lockdown started. So I then second year was all locked down and it was again just growth. So find balance what clients are gonna stick with me for how long what are like my salary goals. It should be up from last year. So find the balance, make sure I'm doing things health cause I'm full time working from home while we're locked down. And the kids are like home with us for virtual school 100%. But then make sure that I'm growing and it was very loose and I didn't really set more specific measures than that this year for 2022, I've switched to a calendar year measure. And I want my salary to be, I think it's, I wanna see if I can grow 50% from what I had last year, because I'm still, so in the beginning of my own business, that that kind of growth and salary is I could expect it, I could hit it. And so I figure if I'm gonna dream, why not dream? So like I have much more firm measures of success now that I've been doing this for a little while, but that's really, my only business goal is to like, it would be cool if I grew my salary that much, but what is enough? And for me enough is increasingly feeling good about the work I'm producing. Like am I working with good teams who are, have goals that match mine, which means the whole save the world thing is still lurking in my heart. So like feeling good about my work means doing work that I think contributes to the world in a positive way, but it also lets me be healthy and have the freedom to be healthy. So I've been trying to increase the amount that I work out. I've been trying to make sure I'm getting good sleep and that I'm a able to shut off work and be with my kids because when I'm an hourly employee, who's freelance, I could always work more and working more hours means more money. So I think actually my success this year, I had not thought about this so firmly before, but my success this year is much more about being happy and being fulfilled than growing skyrocketing, that sort of thing. So I have definite measures that I wanna hit, but I don't want to give up myself in the process because I'm doing well enough that I don't have to be desperate to get clients.

Young Han (37:32):
That's really, really great. I I almost wish that that was the last question, cuz that's like a really great way with, that would be a great way to end it. That's awesome. I love how I love how elegant and eloquent that was. And it's so amazing to hear your journey because I started freelancing or consulting just a few months after you and it's it's yeah. It's so funny to hear you talk about it because it like brings me back to it and I'm obviously reading between the lines here, but cuz I, cause I kind of walked the same journey, very closely timed as you. But it was a really like funky decision to do that. Right. You know, not have a stable job and, and then have to like sell yourself. And it's like a weird experience selling yourself and you're the product and it's not secure, it's not stable. And then the whole world went to the pandemic mode and you're like, am I doing the right thing? And it was just very nerve wracking. And so it's really, really fun to hear you talk about that. And it, it makes me think about what I wanna do this year. And it's so funny that like, I, I resonate so much with what you said, cause I think it'd be really interesting to grow. Now that I've passed the growth phase as well, right? Like it'd be great to make more money. That'd be awesome. But it's not about that either. Right. So it's there, but it's like, I don't know, like I, I wanna spend more time being happy. Like, you know, like figuring out what that like diversified life is because now I I've kind of proven to myself through your scientific method, I guess accidentally had, did it like I can grow this, I can do this and I can, this is a real thing that I can actually do and make money off of. So now it's like that's standard. So that's like the normal that's like table stakes. And now what do I want on top of that? And it's like, how can I incorporate the other elements of my life? It's really nice to hear you talk about it cuz you're, you're making me think about it and really cool. We're like solving, we're solving our annual plans, like just in this podcast live. It's awesome.

Virginia Schutte (39:21):
Yeah. I thought I had thought about this all at the turn of the new year, but now I'm realizing there's some gaps and what I took the time to figure out.

Young Han (39:27):
Yeah, it is. It is. It's really interesting for me too. Cause I mean, I thought I did mine pretty well and now I'm like, oh yeah, maybe I shouldn't do that. That's awesome. Okay. what advice do you have for other parents and soon to be parents?

Virginia Schutte (39:38):
I'm so sorry, but I'm gonna say what my mom told to me. And I'm so embarrassed that I'm saying what my mom said because I don't wanna be my mom, but my I'm I'm excited. My single piece of advice. The way I sum it all up is pay attention because pay attention covers so much. It means deeply seeing where your children are at and how you can be there with them. It means paying attention to yourself. Do you need to take a break? Do you need to make a different routine? Like I just so many things are covered for me by pay attention. So that sums up our parenting philosophy.

Young Han (40:13):
I love it. I love it. That's a good one. Very, very good. If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before you had kids, what would you tell yourself?

Virginia Schutte (40:22):
It's all gonna be okay. And worth it because there was a lot of, I mean I knew I wanted it and, but it felt like we were just pushing through to decide like, okay, now we think we're ready. So we're just gonna do it even though like, it doesn't feel like a good time. And, and I just now I'm so I'm never regret, you know, not waiting. I'm never like, oh I wish that we'd waited 10 years. It's like, no, I, I love knowing my kids right now. I love being like not old enough that I can hike mountains with them and throw them around. And so I think just trying to impart some of sense of peace that we are, that we're capable of figuring things out.

Young Han (41:02):
I love that. Very good. What is the most surprising thing that you've learned about yourself? Becoming a parent

Virginia Schutte (41:09):
I'm realizing now that parenting is such a normal part of who I am and that's a surprise to me because before we had kids, it was, it was one of two extremes. People talked about it. Like it was this magical portal and like, oh the baby smell when you first have a baby. And like watching them take their first steps, like just the most enchanting experience you can imagine, or right. We were like, we're gonna have kids. And people are like, say goodbye to your friends. You'll never see them again for 18 years. It was like either the best or the worst. And like, honestly, it's just so it's like everything else, you know, some days I love working out some days I hate it some days I'm like, I am the best mom. This is the most fulfilling I love being right here right now. And other days like, you know, I really just wanna go to work and I wanna like put away the parenting part and just be the work version of myself. And so having parenting just become normal and being able to say out loud, like these are the parts I like, these are the parts that aren't my favorite. Like it's just another thing. Which again, that, that surprised me. I thought it would be an extreme.

Young Han (42:14):
That's awesome. That's awesome. Thank you. Okay, so just to switch gears a little bit, do you have a favorite business book? I don't. That's okay. Yeah. I mean, I'm like, I'm like wondering if this question even makes sense for you because you're a scientist and you just started your business, but do you have a favorite book? How about that? Let's just go there.

Virginia Schutte (42:30):
So this is why I don't have a favorite book is because my favorite books are sci-fi fantasy. Let me escape because my job is so, so yeah, PTSD for scientists is becoming a real thing because like knowing in depth what's happening, the changes to the world and then understanding what it's gonna do to humans, to vulnerable populations of humans. Like I, as a scientist I am not worried about climate change because it's gonna wreck the earth, the earth, the rock and water, and like trees. They will still be here in some version after humans are gone. What I'm worried about are all the vulnerable people that will be hurt by the earth, turning into a space that is less habitable for humans. And so dealing with that during my work day, that's enough when I'm reading a book, I am in space and I'm trying to like escape some lab that's gonna explode, or I am underground because like I I'm hunting worms or like is, is I escape with books and I do not read business books or anything serious. So if you wanna send me a gift, do not send me Sylvia Earl send me, you know, who's an oceanographer, send me like the

Young Han (43:38):
Expand what's what's your sci-fi book because I love sci-fi. And I will tell you right now that I actually think that my favorite sci-fi book has a lot to do with business, even though people don't believe me.

Virginia Schutte (43:49):
Okay. So it's actually the expanse, which now that you mentioned it has so much to do with communications and should people know the truth or they not, the Amazon series to me is not as good as the series of books. So the expanse is one of my favorites.

Young Han (44:01):
There we go. Thank you. I love it. And just, just so you know, my, my favorite scifi book is Ender's game. Have you ever read that?

Virginia Schutte (44:07):
Yes, I have.

Young Han (44:09):
I love that book and there's so much about like leadership and management and like strategy and it's just so amazing. But last question to bring us home here. So when you're not building your amazingly awesome freelance business and being a super mom what do you do for fun? What's what's Virginia's go-to thing to do

Virginia Schutte (44:32):
I garden. So I have a TikTok up. I was showing off my rock walls that I built in the front yard. I build rock walls where I'm and like I set every single rock. I dug them out. I balanced them. We have so many plants and like so many more plans for plants and rock escaping and a patio. And so like I'm out in my garden, weeding and like getting so dirty and being so happy.

Young Han (44:59):
Nice. That's awesome. I love that. That's like another random thing that I just learned about you, I feel like there's just so many little things that you have that are just like anomalous to what everyone would expect you to say. It's so wonderful. Oh man, Virginia, this has been really, really great. Thank you so much for joining me on my podcast. I can't tell you how grateful I am for the time that you spent with me.

Virginia Schutte (45:17):
Oh, thank you again for having me.

Young Han (45:18):
This is really fun. Fun. I'm glad you had a good time. I'll talk to you soon. Okay. Okay.

Virginia Schutte (45:22):
Bye.

Young Han (45:23):
Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the girl dad show, we really hope you enjoyed that interview. And as always, please take a moment to review, rate and subscribe. We'll see you next time.


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