By Dan Cunningham
March 16, 2021

360 days ago, Gov Walz ordered all MN schools to close beginning March 18, 2020. Our school district started a couple days earlier, canceling classes starting on the 16th. My kids were excited; that meant Spring break started a week early for them. Since my wife works in healthcare, that meant I was working from home (hard to treat cancer patients from home). Two days later, 3M Chairman and CEO Mike Roman announced our remote work plan which also began on March 18. On March 28th came the notice that the next few Inactive Duty Training periods (drill weekends) for the MN National Guard were also remote. That’s how my year (so far…) of working from home began.

The kids finished the school year using apps like Seesaw, Schoology, epic!, and IXL on make shift devices (a couple of Raspberry Pi 4s) and a single laptop. Looking back at the beginning it feels like I spent half of my day as their personal assistant: 

“Claire you have Webexes at 9, 9:45, 11, and 12:30, and don’t forget record you choir recording.”

“Benjamin your meetings are 9:10, 9:55, 10:45, and 12. You have gym today so plan on an outside activity in the afternoon.”

“Evelyn your Webexes also start 9:10 and 9:55, but then you have 11 and 12:30. You’ll need the laptop for 12:30, because it’s STEM and you are working on coding. Evelyn was 6 years old.”

I learned very quickly I needed to change how I organized my day, and realized I needed a way to keep the kids organized without constant supervision. So, I grabbed some Scotch painter’s tape and a few stacks of Post-it Notes and turned one of our walls into a large Kanban board. I still spent time each morning ensuring the board was setup correctly for the day, but I started to see (in Benjamin mostly) a desire for them to clear their color from board. A quick glance at the wall and I could see who was on task and who I may need to nudge a little when my meeting(s) ended.

While organizing certainly improved things, I found I was spending 12 hours a day sitting in a chair and looking at a computer screen. I was surrounded by devices. Burnout was creeping in and I needed to move around. At the office, I would often one on one meetings while walking the paths around the complex; but to get face time with people now that wasn’t possible. Luckily, it was getting warmer out, so the family would all go walk a few miles (with the dog of course) after dinner. The school year finished without many further issues, and the stressors of middle and elementary school faded away.

Needing to fill that stress void, I enrolled in the Master of Science in Security Technologies program from the Technology Leadership Institute at the University of MN – it was either that or a graduate level program for the National Guard. I know several former students of the program, and all had great things to say for it. They spoke of their group projects and interactions with the people in their cohorts as great experiences.

My experience in the program so far has been entirely on Zoom – even more time on a screen. This has its disadvantages – fewer interactions with the whole cohort, more personal interaction with the instructors – but I’ve found it comes with some advantages as well. Our cohort is very active using chat during classes, bringing our own knowledge and experiences to the group without distracting the instructors or class. Of course, we still pay attention to the professors, but the chat allows further insight into how the rest of the cohort is absorbing the information presented in real time.

As of today, it looks like I still have another 6 months of working and 9 months of school from home. I don’t miss the commute. Most of the time I feel better organized. I still take the dog for walks, usually during my lunches. My classmates continue to educate each other. My kids are probably better at video conferences than I am. And everything keeps moving forward.

Committee Members

Phil Schenkenberg, CIPP/US, Partner, Litigation & Cyber Security, Taft Stettinius and Hollister LLP

Scot Ganow, CIPP/US, Partner, Chair Privacy & Data Security Practice, Taft Stettinius and Hollister LLP
Brett Hebert
, Associate, Business Law & Data Security, Taft Stettinius and Hollister LLP

Dan Cunningham provides direction to and is responsible for coordinating resources for 3M’s incident response teams. For the MN National Guard he plans cyber engagements with the Croatian Armed Forces. Commissioned a Second Lieutenant in 2002, Lieutenant Colonel Cunningham has commanded and the company level, and was the first commander of MN’s Cyber Protection Team. Full bio.