Welcome to The Work Day, a series that charts a single day in various women’s working lives — from gallery owners to stay-at-home parents to chief executives. In this installment, we hear communications executive Shakirah Hill Taylor, who recorded a workday in July.
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Name: Shakirah Hill Taylor
Location: Washington, D.C.
Job title/current role: Executive vice president and chief digital officer for a communications company
Previous jobs: Vice president of another communications group; director of digital strategy; account director
What led me to my current role: I came to communications work — specifically strategic communications and digital strategy focused on social impact — through my love of storytelling aligning with my personal ethics. Growing up as a first-generation American whose family heritage spans the Caribbean, I learned early in life that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
My intuition signaled to me at an early age that whatever my career came to be, it would be meaningful work that allows me to be creative while helping people. My journey to my current company, Fenton, has been a marriage of intention and divine intervention. I feel blessed to wake up and do what I love every day. I feel especially blessed that even through the uncertainty of the pandemic, I’ve managed to thrive.
How I spend the majority of my day: As the head of Fenton’s digital practice and a senior executive leader, I spend the most of my day working on the “head” and “heart” of our business. The “head” part of the work is providing my department a vision on how we stay competitive in the marketplace, how we continue to deliver best-in-class products to our clients and, most importantly, how we do work that helps our clients create a more just and sustainable world. The “heart” part of my day is spending time with members of my department, anticipating their needs and offering coaching, mentoring and psychological safety so that each team member is set up to succeed. No two days are the same, but here’s a small peek into my first day back in the office in July since the beginning of the pandemic.
6:30 a.m.: I wake up somewhere between 6 and 6:30 every morning. It’s Thursday and my first day back in the office, so I quietly slip out of bed to prepare for the day. The city is quiet and hazy. The sun sheepishly creeps over the horizon. The day will be hot.
6:45 a.m.: My day always begins with meditation and prayer. I’ve practiced meditation for a little more than a decade — a discipline I developed when going through an incredibly painful divorce. The marriage ended, but the practice of sitting in silence and being present remained. Like most people, 2020 created a platonic shift in my routine. I spent a great deal of time asking existential questions about my faith. Many of those questions are still unanswered, but I fought to hold on to my spiritual foundation. Meditation has been a tool in keeping me rooted. Lately I’ve been using Peloton’s app to do guided meditation and breathwork with Chelsea Jackson Roberts.
7:15 a.m.: After meditation, I turn to my rotation of daily news podcasts while brushing my teeth and preparing the shower. I’m a regular listener of “Up First” and “What A Day.” Working in communications and digital requires that I’m tapped into current events across the spectrum of issues. Following a nice, long shower, I go through my skin-care routine, which includes cleansing, toning, moisturizing and applying sunscreen.
8 a.m.: My outfit selection for the day is a two-piece coordinate set paired with chunky sneakers.
8:15 a.m.: I make my husband a hot cup of fresh lemon and ginger tea. His work day begins shortly after mine, and the tea, usually accompanied with a kiss, is my way of saying good morning. We’ve both worked from our studio condo throughout the pandemic, and while it’s been tight at times, I’m grateful for the time we’ve had to more deeply forge our love. All the same, I know my husband will be happy to have the place to himself for the day.
8:30 a.m.: Today’s workday begins with an early call. This is a quick prep session to align on talking points for a client meeting. Although I’m planning to head into the office, I take the call from home.
9 a.m.: My colleague and I lead our client through a retrospective debrief conversation that allows us to take a look back at a closely coordinated event and campaign launch led by members of my department.
9:30 a.m.: I hop in a cab (yes, an actual city cab) to meet another colleague for breakfast. She’s in town for a few days apartment-hunting and we have been unable to see each other in person. We have a lovely breakfast, and our time together is spent learning more about each other outside of our roles as professionals. I’m grateful for this brief moment of normalcy and human connection.
10:30 a.m.: My colleague and I both have calls that we decide to take while walking to the office. Fenton is allowing all of its staff to continue working remotely and has allowed people who are vaccinated and feel comfortable to work from each of our city offices if we choose. The D.C. office is located downtown at the Eaton. My 10:30 a.m. call is with another client who is being advised on how to build a top-tier email program.
10:50 a.m.: I make it to the office in time to get situated at the Eaton and see a few of my other colleagues for the first time. What a weird feeling it is to have worked months with everyone and finally come face-to-face.
10:40 a.m.: A prep session has been planned for a virtual panel I am on. I join the call and spend time getting to know the other panelists, while reading through the questions and run-of-show once more.
11 a.m.: The panel is underway! There are 30 attendees — a number I find to be impressive given the immense Zoom-event fatigue everyone is experiencing.
12 p.m.: My lunch is provided by a kit delivery my husband and I subscribed to as a way to get back on track with nutrient-rich eating.
1:30 p.m.: The afternoon’s stream of calls are a mix of client chats and team check-ins. I manage to carve out time between digging through work emails. My husband and I spend a moment checking on each other through Google Chat, and I pop into the various group-text threads I have with my friends.
3:30 p.m.: The rest of the work day is what I call my “deep-thinking” time. This time is used for large writing projects like new business proposals, reviewing client strategies, thinking about staffing plans and refining the department vision.
5:45 p.m.: Our D.C. team has a pregame before a happy hour. I stay for the pregame to get some quality time with my colleagues before heading home.
6 p.m.: I catch the bus home, something I feel comfortable doing now that I’m fully vaccinated and everyone is required to wear masks while on the bus. Just before boarding, I see that Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has reinstated the city’s indoor mask policy. The moment feels full circle. In March of 2020, I was at work — in a previous role — having an early happy hour with my colleagues when it was announced that we would be moving to remote work. I caught the bus home that day, and it was my first time back on this same route since then.
6:30 p.m.: My husband meets me at the door to welcome me home. The work day melts away once I cross the threshold. Our time begins. I pour two glasses of wine as we talk about our respective days.
10:45 p.m.: The moon is big tonight — so big its light sneaks through our blinds. We make our way to the bed to retire for the day. So much of the future remains uncertain and the demands of work linger in the background. But us, him and me — we are constant.