Microsoft Disaster Expert Claire Bonilla | Working Mother

Microsoft Disaster Expert Claire Bonilla

This Redmond, WA-based senior director of disaster management juggles big responsibilities both at home and on the job.

Claire Bonilla

Claire Bonilla

Amanda Waltman

When she’s not managing global natural disasters for Microsoft, you might find mom of three Claire Bonilla floating her boat on a lovely nearby lake with her family.
Pitching in**
Our mornings are a whirlwind. So we divide and conquer: I fix breakfast; Kevin, my husband, makes lunches; and our three kids get themselves ready. They’re pretty self-sufficient, but there are days when my son whines as I apply sunscreen or my daughter can’t find her shoes. We always say, “make it work.” We quiz on homework at breakfast, then it’s two parents, three kids and two cars off to three schools. after that, Kevin heads to physical therapy school and I go to the office.

The calmer days
My team coordinates Microsoft’s response to naturally occurring major disasters that happen anywhere in the world. We work around preparedness, training global staff to interface with local governments and the UN and to help aid relief efforts. Typically, I’m in the office 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Kevin gets out of school at 2:30 and picks up the kids and then helps them with homework. He takes the younger ones to swim lessons while our 12-year-old continues homework. I pick up Tyler and Kaiden around 6 p.m.

When disaster strikes
We’ve dealt with 40 disasters in the past 11 months. If they hit during the night, I have the technology at home to start coordinating global response efforts. Then my family steps up: one child takes over breakfast, one helps with lunch, and Kevin oversees things so I can get quickly to our emergency operations center. I travel 20 to 30 days a year. We have no regular caregiver, but we’re lucky to tap into a great group of neighbors who share early morning backup care.

Dinner dance

We all cook together and dance around the kitchen. The kids set the table, clear and wash dishes. There are no electronic distractions at dinner. But if there’s a disaster and I have to be online 24/7, I deal with it downstairs, away from the table. I try not to multitask at home; quality time with family or work, but not both. We juggle so many balls, and we drop them all the time—but we never drop the important ones. If I’m in disaster mode, that’s my key one, and my husband’s is the kids.
Later by the lake**
Evenings are pure family time. We have a lake nearby, so in warmer weather, we’ll go out in a little boat and spend time on the water. Or Kevin and I might do yoga together on the dock. In winter, we light a fire in our fireplace and read books and tell stories. When there’s energy to burn, we might have a massive Nerf gun war. Our son fires at everyone and then hides behind everyone. We play board games, too, but we don’t watch much TV.

Time to relax (mostly)
My husband and I each have a night a week to do our own thing. Every Tuesday is my night, Thursdays are his. I usually go out with girlfriends (I love my girlfriends—just getting to laugh with them about things), but sometimes I choose to stay home. Sometimes I go to the gym, and sometimes I’ll do yoga with Kevin or run with Sierra. Every other weekend Kevin and I have a date-night out. Weekends are for family. We might make shaped pancakes for breakfast, go to the farmers’ market, hike, bike or sometimes just hang out with neighbors or have friends over for dinner. We often don’t plan our weekends because the rest of the week is so busy and structured. Oh, did I mention I’m also working toward EMT certification at night? That’s so I can help my own team members if they get hurt, or volunteer at a local trauma center.

—As told to Barbara Turvett_