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Before the pandemic, Lilian Rincon woke up at 5:30 a.m. every weekday to fit in a quick workout before dropping off her kids at school and driving to her office at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.
As the senior director of product management for the Google Assistant, Rincon managed a team of more than 30 people, and each day was packed with up to 12 meetings. Back in 2018, Rincon shared a look into her daily routine with Insider. Nearly two-and-a-half years later, we caught up with her to see how her day-to-day has changed because of the pandemic.
Like many other workers who are able to do their job remotely, Rincon has been working from home for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She lives in the Portola Valley area of California with her husband, Nik, and their two children, Hudson, 7, and Bela, 4. Google extended its employee work-from-home option to September 2021, so Rincon will keep working from home until there are further updates, she said.
Here’s a look at her new daily routine, from fitting in a morning Peloton workout in the garage to helping her kids with their online schooling.
Lilian Rincon is the senior director of product management for the Google Assistant, managing a team of more than 30 people.
While other teams handle the speakers and hardware aspects of the Assistant, Rincon’s team thinks about what types of things the Assistant should be able to do.
In 2018, Rincon gave Insider a peek into her daily routine. She would wake up at 5:30 a.m. to fit in a workout before dropping off her kids at school and driving herself to work. At Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, she would get her morning almond milk latté at the free employee cafe, attend up to 12 meetings a day, and sometimes take a slide down to a lower level instead of the stairs.
Now, like many others, Rincon has been working from home for a year, and her daily routine looks different in almost every way.
She lives in California with her husband, Nik, and their two children, Hudson, 7, and Bela, 4.
Like many other families, Rincon and her family relocated during the pandemic. Rincon said they had considered remodeling their current home but found that remodeling prices had doubled, so they found a new home that fit their needs instead.
They moved from San Carlos to the Portola Valley area. Both towns are roughly 15 miles from Google’s headquarters in Mountain View.
As she did pre-pandemic, Rincon starts her day with some exercise. But now, she gets a bit more sleep and gets up at 6:00 a.m rather than 5:30.
“To help me show up as my best self both at work and with family, most mornings I take some time to work out — often with a little yoga,” Rincon told Insider.
She also does workout videos like this cardio kickboxing video.
Other days, Rincon’s morning workout is cycling on her Peloton bike.
She converted her garage into a workout space during the pandemic.
During the pandemic, as more people have stayed home and commuted less, Rincon said her team has seen more people using the Google Assistant for things like their morning routines.
She has her own Google Assistant set up to turn on her kitchen lights, read out her calendar for the day, and play the news after she says, “Hey Google, good morning.”
Before the pandemic, Rincon typically picked up her coffee from the free employee café at Google’s Mountain View campus. Now, Rincon has her coffee at home and sometimes drinks it outside while watering the plants.
“One of the many things I’ve learned is that the slower pace in the morning has made a difference in my productivity and sense of well-being,” Rincon said.
For breakfast, she usually has a pre-made smoothie or some eggs with fruit and toast.
On this particular day, she had avocado toast.
Rincon said she and her husband wake up their kids between 7:00 and 7:15 a.m. and “tag team” getting the kids dressed, fed, and their teeth brushed so they’re ready for their online schooling.
“When I have trouble getting them moving, we play either the ‘The Descendants Soundtrack’ or the ‘Kidz Bop’ station to get them dancing and in a good mood for the day,” Rincon said.
Rincon’s children have oscillated between in-person and online schooling over the past year.
The new prevalence of online schooling inspired Rincon and her team to create a new Google Assistant feature called Family Bell, which allows parents to add bell reminders throughout the day that announce when it’s time for a child to start an online class, take a break, or have a snack.
“I can’t tell you how much Family Bell has kept the kids on track throughout the day and evening routines (and has helped my husband and I keep more sane)!” Rincon said.
When Rincon first started working from home, she often worked at the dining room table. But as it became clear she’d be working from home for an extended period, Rincon realized she needed a proper setup.
“I created my home office by first thinking about the type of environment I wanted: simple, calming, and uncluttered so I can focus on work,” she said. “Then, I gathered inspiration online and bought furnishings like my desk and chair — along with a new rug to spruce things up.”
She bought a ring light to create better lighting for her video calls.
Because Rincon and her husband both have jobs, they’ve worked out a system to balance their work and family lives.
In the early days of the pandemic, Rincon’s husband took the morning shift with the kids, while Rincon looked after them in the afternoon. That meant she scheduled all of her work meetings in the morning.
Now, the family has a caregiver to help out with the kids, she said. When Hudson and Bela are doing in-person school, the caregiver looks after the kids in the afternoon through early evening. When the kids are schooling from home, the caregiver helps out in the morning through early afternoon.
“Not everyone has this privilege and we don’t take it for granted,” Rincon said.
As before the pandemic, Rincon spends most of her day in meetings — only now they’re virtual.
“I try to block out some time on my calendar to pull myself out of the day-to-day and spend some time thinking about the bigger picture and product strategy,” she said.
She said she’s been able to slightly reduce her average number of meetings per day from 12 before the pandemic to eight to 10.
“Like so many families, working and having kids at home has forced major prioritization,” she said.
Rincon said she keeps coloring books near her work space for the times when her daughter, Bela, interrupts her meetings.
“Like many parents working from home, this happens fairly often,” Rincon said. “My team is very familiar with seeing her on our video chats.”
Rincon said it took some time for her team to adjust to working from home. “But my team is now in a really good rhythm in terms of remote collaboration,” she said.
Rincon shared two tips that have worked for her team:
- They created a working document that enables them to do reviews for new features and updates offline — often making it possible to cancel meetings that not everyone can attend.
- Rincon schedules regular 15-minute, one-on-one meetings with her team members to stay informed of any important updates.
Rincon said her team has also been focused on making the Google Assistant more inclusive.
“For example, when tension was mounting around racial injustice last summer, we launched thoughtful responses to queries like ‘Hey Google, do Black Lives Matter?’ and ‘Hey Google, do All Lives Matter?'”
Lunchtime is another part of Rincon’s day that looks much different from before the pandemic. “One thing I greatly miss is having lunch with colleagues,” she said. “The silver lining is I usually get to eat lunch with my family.”
Rincon said they typically eat something that’s quick and easy to make, like a salad or sandwiches.
“This day we had one of my favorites — a homemade burger and fries,” she said.
Rincon takes a break in the afternoon to review flashcards with her daughter, who’s starting to read.
One of her daughter’s daily lessons is going over the alphabet, so Rincon reviews flashcards with letters with her.
Rincon said she tries to be intentional about taking breaks, even though it can be hard to disconnect from work.
“Most days my family and I find something to do outside that allows us to expel some energy and get fresh air,” she said.
“Whether it’s playing tag in our backyard or going for a quick walk in the neighborhood, anything we can do to keep from going to stir crazy is welcomed.”
A few times a week before dinner, the family video calls both sets of the kids’ grandparents.
“It’s special to connect with them regularly as we miss seeing them in person,” she said, adding that “Bela is always the one making everyone laugh.”
The family typically has dinner together around 5:30 p.m.
“Pre-quarantine, my husband did a lot of the cooking,” Rincon said. “But since I no longer commute to and from work, I’ve been able to brush up my skills in the kitchen. It’s almost meditative and allows me to get creative — that is, when I’m not rushing to get a meal on the table.”
After the kids’ bath time, it’s story time for about 30 minutes before they go to bed around 8:00 p.m.
After the kids are in bed, Rincon often gets back online to follow up on any urgent items or give her team guidance for the following day.
Other evenings, she relaxes with her husband by watching a TV show on Netflix. (Naturally, they watch on a Google TV.)
“Over the past year, I’ve found myself needing more comedic relief than usual — so I love catching up on Schitt’s Creek,” Rincon said.
To wind down after a busy day, Rincon meditates with Headspace or pulls up a sleep meditation on YouTube.
“My routine has changed pretty drastically due to quarantine, but a couple of items have remained consistent: carving out time for family and mindful moments,” Rincon said.
She goes to bed between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m.
“I’m grateful to have a few moments to center myself before getting my Zzzs.”