Geek of the Week

Geek of the Week: Jen Haller obtained first coronavirus vaccine shot, and like all of us, misses regular life

Jen Haller and her dog Ringo. (Photo courtesy of Jen Haller)

Jennifer Haller’s job, in part, as an operations manager at Attunely, is to help others feel comfortable and valued. This week, as the first person to get a shot in the first U.S. clinical trial of a vaccine for coronavirus, Haller is feeling especially valued herself, if not a little uncomfortable with all the attention.

Haller received the vaccine on Monday at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute. By Friday she was still hearing from media looking for a reaction.

“From the shot, I’m feeling great,” Haller said. “The rest of it is kind of too much.”

Her arm was a little sore the next day, but she’s had no side effects this week from the vaccine, which uses an inactive fragment of messenger RNA from the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus to coax a response from the body’s immune system.

Haller, our latest Geek of the Week, has been at Attunely, a machine learning company focused on the financial services industry, for a year. With attention toward building and supporting tech teams from startup through rapid growth stages, she prides herself on her passion for helping establish unique culture in the workplace environment.

She was previously an office manager at Axon, makers of law enforcement body cameras, where she helped that company win a 2016 GeekWire Award for Geekiest Office Space.

Beyond answering a call for the vaccine trial, Haller is dealing with coronavirus like the rest of us, disconnected from daily routines and co-workers. She’s trying to figure out how work from home actually works and how to manage an office remotely.

“A big piece of my job is managing employee morale or making sure that it’s a great place to work,” Haller said. “So trying to understand what that means now, how do I make it a great place to work when we’re all away from each other?”

In the wake of the shot, Haller is keeping a daily record of her temperature and any symptoms. She had a follow up call on Tuesday and Wednesday and she goes back on Monday for a blood draw and then back in four weeks for the second shot. Over the next 14 months, she’ll have a handful of visits and different blood draws. Besides that, there’s no restrictions.

“I can do whatever,” Haller said. “I can live a normal life, whatever that means right now. … All of this is happening, but I’m also a wife and mother and all of these other things that on their own are the weight of the world.”

Haller said that up until Monday’s shot, and her place at the front of the line, the most “badass” thing she had ever done was when she was voluntarily tased at Axon.

Which shot would she rather get again?

“I really don’t know what the long tail of the vaccine shot is and I’m exhausted from all the response toward it, so I would say get tased. It’s a one and done, right?” she said, laughing. “But let’s clarify … long term, taking the vaccine will be my most proud achievement.”

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Jennifer Haller:

Jen Haller holds the 2016 GeekWire Award for Geekiest Office Space that was won by Axon, where she spent four years. (Photo courtesy of Jen Haller)

What do you do, and why do you do it? I manage operations for Attunely, a start-up in FinTech.

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? A big part of my job is to build and maintain culture, make sure it’s a great place to work. Every Wednesday we’re doing an all-team virtual happy hour. It felt so good to see everybody, to have a beer with them, see everybody’s pets and kids. I’m tearing up thinking about it.

Where do you find your inspiration? Seeing the impact that I can have making somebody’s day better, or taking something off their plate so they can focus on their job. I put a lot into my job but I get so much more back from seeing the value that I bring in helping people, being positive.

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? Immediately I would say iPhone.

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? Right now I’m still figuring that out because it’s been the kitchen island. Now that kids are home all the time and dogs are barking, I kind of holed myself up in my bedroom.

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. I write down pen and paper lists. Old school. I sometimes write things down just so I can cross them off.

Mac, Windows or Linux? Windows.

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Let’s go with time machine because I’m kind of missing three weeks ago right now, or what real life used to be. I don’t think we’re ever going back.

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … hand that someone to launch a startup and I would watch them. I would work in the background to help them do that.

I once waited in line for … Elizabeth Warren at a political rally at Seattle Center. I was with my daughter. People with kids got to get to the front of the line so it was only a 2-hour wait with a kid. Totally worth it.

Your role models: People putting their lives on the line right now. Nurses, doctors, nurses assistants, any people in the medical field right now that are out there helping people right now. Anybody that puts others ahead of self is a big role model to me and I strive to do that as well.

Greatest game in history: “Candy Crush.” I just have to be honest, right?

Best gadget ever: I got an Apple Watch for Christmas and I have to force myself to remember to put it on, so that’s probably not a good one.

First computer: My dad and step mom, when I was in grade school in the ’80s, they had their own business so they had all the original Apple machines. My step brother and I would play “King’s Quest” on an Apple II.

Current phone: iPhone 8.

Favorite app: Probably another game? … Honestly it’s Facebook. Ugh, fine, whatever.

Favorite cause: I’ve done a lot of fostering of dogs, and both of my dogs have come from a group called Dog Gone Seattle.

Most important technology of 2020: After this week i’m going to say video conferencing. Getting to connect with people face to face when we can’t be there in person. I’ve had doctor’s appointments, work, friends, pretty much everything is done video now.

Most important technology of 2022: Some major improvement in that video conferencing, probably VR, where we can get even closer to feeling like we are with people.

Website: Attunely

LinkedIn: Jen Haller

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