20 Lessons from 66 Working Moms Balancing Family and Career
Experience is the greatest teacher, and the experience of being a mom is particularly chock-full of learning opportunities.
We know from the examples set by our coworkers and friends just how good moms are at juggling competing responsibilities and priorities. ("If you want to make sure something gets done, give it to a busy person" would be even more accurate if it was changed to "give it to a working mom.")
So this Mother's Day, we decided to ask working moms at our partner companies about the secret sauce that connects parenting experience to being better and happier at work.
We're so excited to share what 66 mothers told us they've learned through being a mom that has helped them be more productive and fulfilled at work.
1. Enjoy thicker skin and resiliency.
"Before my son, Lucas, was born, I used to be totally emotional about everything that involved my work, taking things too seriously with a lot of susceptibilities and not enough hindsight. I was at 100% with everything and this was too intense. Becoming a mom has allowed me to put things into perspective. Today I have thicker skin––I'm more resilient and much less susceptible to stress. I am more fulfilled, having put my family life at the forefront, and my son has given new energy to my career and a better way to interpret challenges, feedback, and ways to support my growth."
–Magalie Blanchet, Executive Assistant Business Partner and EMEA Co-Chair and Global Lead for Benefits and Programs of Uber's Parents@ ERG, Uber
"As a mother of two, I've become more resilient. I can handle quick change or last minute plans; I can get on board for an assignment–stress free–with a mindset to jump in and just get the job done. My children keep me motivated. I've taken advantage of what the NBA has to offer (which is a ton); my current favorite is the Career 101 Development course. Being motivated in a new way since my daughters' births has really sparked a new light in my life to learn more and do more. I want to say I've become more compassionate as well. We all have hard days (my child can have a meltdown around putting on pants), so I like to give all my coworkers and colleagues the benefit of the doubt. I can always guarantee I'll have a positive attitude no matter what is going on in the background of my life!"
–Madisyn Wallace, Corporate Services Coordinator, NBA, NY
2. Recognize that what you're doing is enough.
"The best advice that helped me recalibrate what was possible was when someone told me, 'You are doing the best you can and that is enough.' We often put these unrealistic expectations onto ourselves—especially as working parents—to be both perfect at work and home, and not let one suffer due to the other, often at our own expense. I realized that I was so busy trying to make everything perfect and right myself, I was missing out on the important things. When I started letting people help me, saying specifically what help I needed, letting things go that didn't make a huge impact, my stress level decreased and grace for myself increased. I was able to focus and prioritize on the things that matter and not feel stretched too thin."
–Jennifer Westropp, Head of Global Talent Development and Performance, Relativity, Chicago, IL
"I now understand and realize that doing my very best was and is enough—both as a mom and as a full-time worker. This has helped me accept that not every day will be perfect—some days you'll need to bring your baby to a meeting because he won't nap, and some mornings he'll wake up with a cold and you'll have to clear your day. Some days you'll be hit with last-minute deadlines, and you may have to miss bedtime. At the end of the day, you're doing your best, and it is enough."
–Sophia Ferderer, Senior Brand Marketing Strategist, 2U, Gaithersburg, MD
"After becoming a mom, I learned how to say both yes and no more often. I learned to accept the support and help offered by family and friends. I also learned how to turn down extra opportunities that were not necessary to my job or home life. Being a working mom is a balancing act, but we can learn to prioritize ourselves by not trying to be a 'supermom.'"
–Rachel Guzman, Onboarding Coordinator, Pluralsight, Utah
3. Lead and listen with empathy.
"Becoming a parent has certainly changed me. I'm not saying I'm better at what I do because I'm a mum, but my experience of being a parent has changed my own working style. I have more empathy and tend to step back and think more deeply about what others need from me and their team in order to succeed. I mentor several people, both within ServiceNow and externally, and I love working with people to help them identify and grab hold of their potential."
–Shakira T., Sales Director, ServiceNow, Staines, UK
"Being a mom trained me to be a better listener. I have to really pay attention to what the little ones have to say, be empathetic about their feelings, and help them understand what they want."
–Jesse Zhang, Director, Credit, Afterpay, San Francisco, CA
"I've recognized the power of observation. My little boy is only eight months old and he can't yet use words to communicate. The whole journey up until now has really forced me to become more observant and learn to pick up non-verbal cues and develop not only a more acute sense of observation, but a higher degree of natural empathy. As someone in a sales role, this new honed skillset has really allowed me to be a better observer in sales meetings and to better perceive and understand a clients' real needs and motives."
–Qing Liu, Director, Head of Government & Education – APAC and Middle East, Moody's, Sydney
"There are so many things I learned being a mom that apply at work. My kids often remind me: tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember, involve me and I'll understand."
–Haiyan Chen, Staff Software Development Engineer, OfferUp, Bellevue, WA
"In my role, I help different departments with a variety of tasks. Becoming a mom has made me great at multitasking so I'm able to balance everything I need to get done. I've also become more sympathetic. If a customer is having a bad day or they're frustrated, maybe they've forgotten a piece of paperwork, I completely understand. Especially if they're a fellow parent."
–Corrine Echeverria, Member Experience Associate, AAA, Menlo Park, CA
"Something I have learned after becoming a mom that makes me more productive and fulfilled at work is that everyone is so unique. My kids who share DNA couldn't be more different in how they see and respond to the world around them. It takes a completely different approach to parenting them successfully. One child that is full of competition needs to be continually redirected to compete with himself not everyone around him, another that's very tender hearted needs time to communicate emotions when he's ready, while another (I have 5) is so achievement and fast-action-based that for her to feel heard and empowered I have to let her drive conversations as much as possible to lead her to making the right decision and not make it for her. This applies every day at work, every day. As obvious as it sounds, no two people are the same at the office and their needs vary. My kids have taught me to have an individualized approach with them and at the office and that has changed the dynamic of my working relationships and helping others achieve the dreams and goals they have and meeting them where they are fills my bucket and brings me satisfaction."
–Jen McGee, Director of Training and Development, Rise Buildings by VTS, Chicago, IL
4. Lean on your network.
"I've learned about the necessity of a good support system. When 'mom guilt' hits, it's hard to focus and be productive at work. But when you're able to identify and lean on a support system, you're able to feel productive and fulfilled as both a mom and employee."
–Jody-Ann Parkinson, Sr. HR Operations Administrator, NBA, NJ
"Being a mom has taught me to choose my village wisely. Take care to select the right schools and caregivers available to you so you don't have to worry about your children while you are working."
–Andrea Shook, Underwriting Senior at Freddie Mac, Georgia
"I am a single mom of a 5-going-on-17-year-old. As many families have experienced this year, it's been terrible. I work full time, managing all household activities and fur babies, and was trying to be as good mom, sister, daughter, girlfriend, and friend. Being honest about what was going on in my house allowed others to open up and do the same. We were able to laugh, cry and be angry all together. At the end of either a conversation or parking lot meeting (socially distanced), we all felt better. Knowing we were not alone and having someone there to talk to was for me my sanity through a tough year. Use your network and be honest with what is going on with you, you will find you are not alone."
–Kaley Young, Female Diversity Program Manager, Raytheon Technologies, McKinney, TX
"I feel that communication at workplace is one of most important aspects of one's job, and even more so in the Pandemic-era. As a working mom from home, I feel there are many times when I can't stay online 100% of the time but have established trust with my client manager that I will get the work done and one of the habits that makes me feel productive is ensuring that I follow a practice like setting up 30 minutes every Monday with my client to go over high priority items that we wanted to accomplish in a week. This ritual has ensured my work and efforts were aligned to client's expectations and we wrap up the week on a productive note."
- Kriti Gujral-Dhawan, Senior Consultant, Capco, New York
5. Be an example to other working women.
"Being a mom has helped me even get more efficient in order to ensure I have the time with my daughter, my husband, and myself each week. I have more patience in some areas and less in others, things don't feel as heavy or stressful at work when in perspective to my family (I feel lighter!), and I have come to appreciate even more all working parents, regardless of gender, and their daily juggling act. I also feel a need to model flexibility for all the working moms watching me in my executive role. We need to support women in the workforce at this moment especially, as we are seeing more and more women drop out of the workforce during the pandemic due to not having the flexibility or having to carry the bulk of the caregiving responsibilities."
–Caroline Kidston, Chief People Officer, Surescripts LLC
6. Create more space for learning and failure.
"I have a whole new level of patience and outlook on failing. Having kids, especially two (four-year-old & almost-two-year-old girls) that are strong-willed, independent and ready to conquer the world has given me a whole new view and approach to patience and learning from failures. As they refuse help when getting food from the pantry and spill an entire box of cereal on the floor, I find myself laughing more and grateful that they are so determined to at least try. And while they might fail, they are failing forward and constantly learning. This philosophy has followed me into work. I give myself and my team much more grace than I did prior to having kids. It might take 2-3 times to get it right, or make a manager happy; but each time, we're learning, adapting and moving forward."
–Lori Armstrong, Associate Director, Talent Acquisition, Collins Aerospace, SC
"One day I was sitting at the table coloring with my kids when my son started crying because his blue crayon went outside of the lines. I told him that 'perfect is not fun', and that we need to accept our mistakes and move on. It has now become one of our family mantras when someone is agonizing over a mistake that we cannot change. One day I realized I should be applying this to myself as well, both at work and at home. I allow myself the room to make mistakes and not be afraid to push things forward without knowing if it is exactly right."
–Jennifer Weaver, Director, Study Operations, CSL Behring, Pennsylvania
"After becoming a mom, our priority becomes teaching our children to be the best humans they can be. Specifically, we teach them to be their true, authentic selves, to be kind, and to learn to roll with the punches. Most importantly, we teach them that it's not about falling and skinning a knee, it's about getting up and brushing it off. With teaching those things daily, you realize having the same mentality within the workplace is what sets you up for success. Being kind to coworkers, making mistakes and learning from them, moving forward when things get tough – it brings you a sense of fulfillment and certainly promotes productivity."
–Erica West, Senior Recruiter, Collins Aerospace, Chicago, IL
7. Keep in mind that it’s okay to ask for help.
"Each day is a new opportunity to do your best – and asking for help is not a sign of weakness!"
–Marisa Taylor, Head of Salesforce Architecture, S&P Global, Virginia
"As a married, full-time working mother of 2 young children, I work 40+ hours a week and handle all school and extracurricular responsibilities, play the role of chef, housekeeper, gardener, pet handler, teacher, and more. Within the last year, I realized something had to give. Where was I in all of this? I was exhausted, stressed, and emotionally drained. To my surprise, the hardest thing for me was to ask for help. My husband and I started splitting everything up to alleviate what felt like the weight of the world coming down on me daily. Simply asking for help and knowing it was perfectly normal to do so was one of the biggest life-changing behaviors I could have done. I am a better wife, mother, and I have never been happier with my career."
–Tiffany LeBrun, Sr. Talent Acquisition Manager, Raytheon Technologies, Parker, CO
8. But don’t apologize for your family boundaries.
"Working in Talent & Engagement, I've always felt that the most impactful thing I can do is strive to bring my fullest self to work while creating spaces and building relationships that invite others to do the same. Being a working mom has made me more committed to this. When I came back from my own maternity leave, I made it a point to never apologize for being a parent. For example, you won't catch me saying 'Sorry, I have to leave early, I have to take my kid to an appointment." I will thank people for understanding and thank them for their flexibility, but I will not gesture an ask for forgiveness for having a life outside that demands my care and attention. Bringing this mindfulness to how I express who I am in the context of my professional life has worked wonders for my own feelings of purpose and connection at work."
–Diana Keith, Talent & Learning Lead, NBA, NY
"The one thing I learned that has helped me is 'it's all about perspective.' I needed to be less apologetic. I am a recruiter and a mom so sometimes the two need to overlap. At first, I got very overwhelmed if I heard my baby cry or if both kids were home and I was trying to work but I shifted my perspective to think, 'how lucky I am to always be close to my kids and pop down when I have a few moments to see them!' Folks are so much more understanding now and in fact, it's been a great icebreaker for me so many times."
–Anne Krechmer, Sr. Recruiter, Elastic, NY, NY
9. When you're with your kids, be with your kids.
"Children need quality time with you. Now, more than ever. Everything is harder for them also. When you are with them, be with them. Close your computer, don't look at the phone, don't open the door of '...let me reply to this email quickly …' This door never shuts. The small ones cannot give you this feedback directly, but they feel it. Watch out for this!"
–Ana Suarez, Engineering Manager, SoundCloud, Berlin
"Before I became a mom, I would mentally take work home with me: rehash my day, question what I did, worry about the next day. After becoming a mom, I learned to compartmentalize my roles and live in the role I am in at any given point of the day: when I'm working, I'm an employee (it helped that I had a great daycare provider when my kids were young), and when I'm at home, I'm a mom, spouse, etc. Its easier said than done, and it took me a long time to get this right, but after 12 years, I feel I am in a great space with this concept and embrace the role I am in at any given time of the day. Roles do blur, especially in a pandemic where school comes home, and mom/employee roles cross over, but working at a great place like PagerDuty allows me to 'roll with it' so to speak, and continue to strive to be the best Dutonian I can be."
–Laura Mayberry, Sr Manager, Engineering Business Operations, PagerDuty, Toronto, Ontario
"Being a new working mom has taught me how to be more present and intentional with my time. My daughter is in daycare full time, so I treasure the time I have with her in the evenings. If it's a busy work day (which it often is) I will only have about two hours of the day to spend with her between the end of my work day and before her bedtime. I will turn off the TV, shut down my computer, and put my phone away in order to give her my full attention for those few hours. This makes me fully present in spending time with her which is rewarding for both of us. I feel more fulfilled after those two hours of uninterrupted time than I do after a whole day of multitasking with her around. When applying this mentality to my work day, I have found that if I multi-task less in meetings and try to be intentional with my time, I feel more satisfied with my day."
- Katherine Jenks, Senior Consultant, Capco, Cleveland
10. See your career is a place to reconnect with your pre-parent self.
"Becoming a mom has changed me deeply in the best ways. But sometimes I miss the 'old' me, and I've learned that my career is a place where I can still see that familiar version of myself. Being a writer helps me continue to engage and grow my own intellect and interests, alongside my kids', and that makes me a more well-rounded, confident and adventurous mother."
–Samantha Bock, Editor of The Relativity Blog, Relativity, Madison, WI
"After having twin boys in October 2020, I was definitely ready to go back to work after my maternity leave. My career was a big part of my life prior to having babies, and it still is. I have learned to reserve certain hours of the day for my boys and my family, putting my phone away and not checking emails during that time. As my boys grow and see me working hard to be successful in my career, I HOPE they are proud of me and learn the importance of having a good work ethic too."
–Allie Zerbe, Director, Americas Channel Marketing, Netskope, Wichita, KS
"A powerful way to harness energy and motivation is to flip your excuses around and to turn them into your reasons. When I came back to work, I used my son as a reason to work hard and further the success of my career and did not view motherhood as a barrier for progressing my career. I love working and don't see myself ever leaving my job to work as a stay-at-home mom. I admire those that do want that, but I just never felt that urge when I came back from leave. I came back to work with an excitement and tenacity to work hard and make my work hours as productive as possible so that when I went home, I knew I gave it my all and could now focus my energy on my family. You can apply this same logic in a variety of ways. Instead of saying I don't have time to work out because I have a toddler, I say I work out because I am the mom of a toddler and need the energy to keep up with him. I try to remember this whenever I hear myself making excuses for why I can't do something."
–Kim Menapace, Senior Product Manager, CarGurus
11. Share your work with your kids.
"Probably the most important (and hardest) thing I had to learn is understanding what truly mattered to me the most at work and home and letting everything else take a back seat. I have also tried sharing aspects of my work life with my son from the time he was little, so it wasn't some nebulous, esoteric thing. I used to travel internationally a lot and I would leave notes for his lunches with trivia questions about the places where I was going so he felt included and not just left at home. When opportunities presented themselves, I would introduce him to my colleagues, so he knew who I was spending time with when I was at the office or away on business."
–Pamela Schneider, VP Warranty, Clyde, Chicago, IL
"Embrace your child and let them into your world. We allow our two year old daughter to come give me a hug whenever she chooses—and of course that comes with homemade gifts and many hellos for those on a call with me! A mere 30 seconds every few hours makes her feel valued and appreciated, while putting a smile on my face and extending my motivation for the next task. Taking the mystery out of why I'm behind a locked door and embracing her curiosity has created many amazing impromptu memories, and I wouldn't trade them for the world."
–Kara Seymour, Head of Customer Support, Hopin, Missouri
"After my husband and I became parents to our two sons, I quickly realized how much responsibility I had for them, not only financially so I could provide for them, but also as a role model. Seeing the importance of choosing a career that inspires you and that you are passionate about, and waking up every day with a feeling of purpose, is very rewarding. I have always been open about my work experiences at CSL Plasma with my children. I have shared both the good experiences and the challenges with them as learning opportunities. I've shared my personal relationships that I have with many patients that depend on us every day. As I reflect, both of our sons have had successful journeys. With our sons, we have two beautiful daughters in-law and five grandchildren. Now it is time for us to move on to ensuring each of our beautiful grandchildren also has a successful journey."
–Michelle Meyer, Division Director at CSL Plasma, Florida
"Being a working mom is a beautiful thing. Our children are watching everything we do. I get to show my daughter every day what it feels like to be passionate about my professional work and my home life. Don't ever shy away from demonstrating that passion for both—it's what makes us whole, healthy, vibrant humans and real role models for our kids."
–Theresa Dumais, Vice President, Government and Industry Relations at Freddie Mac, Maryland
12. Remember your perspective is diversifying and valuable.
"Embrace being a working mother, you bring a diverse perspective to the workforce! It's okay to disconnect from work and create the flexibility to attend your child(ren)'s soccer game, award ceremony, field trip, et cetera."
–Angelica Ruiz, Sr. Manager Talent Attraction and Candidate Engagement, Raytheon Technologies, El Segundo, CA
13. Set schedules and boundaries.
"After becoming a mother, the most significant thing that I learned is the importance of balancing my career and personal life. Prior to becoming a parent, work consumed me, which meant that I rarely set boundaries to separate family and work. Although I still have areas of opportunity, I've now become more thoughtful about prioritizing and being present for special moments such as going to the park, eating dinner as a family, dropping and picking my son up from school, etc., which has led to me being more efficient and productive at work. I would love to say that I have perfected work-life-balance as a working mother, but I haven't; I can say that I have developed a structure that makes me feel fulfilled both personally and professionally."
–Latisha Kimber, Head of Digital Engagement, S&P Global, Washington, DC
"Being a new mom has certainly been an adjustment personally and professionally. As I embark on this journey, I quickly learned that multitasking has led to less productive work on both ends. During the pandemic, I loved going downstairs to check on the baby whenever a meeting ended, which was distracting and made me have to work late catching up. What helped was disciplining myself, and resisting the urge to go downstairs. I got all my work done before 5:30 p.m. This way, I would close my laptop and not look at anything work-related after hours, and dedicate that time bonding with my newborn. This change has helped me feel productive and produce more quality work while being an involved mother."
–Rakhee Gupta, Technical Recruiting Manager, SeatGeek, NYC
"As a new mom navigating motherhood, during a pandemic at that… it was, and can still be, challenging to balance your professional life with being a mom. I wanted to spend some quality time with my baby during the day to ease the mom guilt. I learned that defining boundaries is something that has been instrumental in finding balance. For me, it helped to carve out an hour during the work day to put her down for a nap, feed her etc. This helps me feel present as a mom and in turn helps me be a better colleague because it also makes me more present at work. Having clear communication with your team and family and speaking openly about what you need is important."
–Ivette Assis, Senior Talent Acquisition Manager, Business, VTS, New York, NY
"As parents we need to advocate for ourselves and manage our boundaries. I block every weekday evening from 7-9 p.m. to do dinner and bedtime with my young children. It's tough to tear yourself away at a fast-growing startup when there are important meetings and lots to do, but the littles help me keep perspective and remind me that I need to enjoy all the little moments with them. I'm lucky that working from home gives me the flexibility to do that. We also need to be kind to ourselves as parents. Don't waste your precious time feeling guilty at work for not doing enough or at home for not doing —you're doing just the right amount (and probably too much) and it's all fine."
–Lily Chang, Chief of Staff, Hopin, London, UK
"I split my work hours into several categories—meeting hours, focus time, etc—and also leverage some softwares to help organize meetings."
–Qiansha Ding, Senior Manager, Fraud Risk, Afterpay, San Francisco
"One thing I have learned is setting nonnegotiable boundaries and learning to prioritize. I start my day early, that way all meetings can begin at 8- 8:30 am and my day wraps up at 4:30 pm. This way I know I can pick up my son from daycare and spend dinner, bath, and bedtime with him. If something is urgent, I can always work on that after bedtime at 7 pm. I am also sure to have clear discussions with my lead and clients to ensure I know which tasks are critical and what deadlines/timelines we are working with, so there is no confusion. This way I get my work done and get to spend time with son!"
- Alyssa Simpson, Senior Consultant, Capco, Washington DC
14. Make time for yourself.
"I had a traumatic pregnancy which amplified the challenges I faced as a mom, post-birth. The first year I was lost, broken, and really questioned my sense of self. The biggest lesson for me was adjusting my mindset and accepting the daunting role of motherhood. I still am pretty bad at prioritizing my own wellbeing but I try to find opportunities to unwind in the middle of chores, childcare, and work! For example, I love books and now my child and I read a ton of books and enjoy the shared time together. At work, I have learnt to say NO and really measure the impact of the work I am doing so I can do the best work in the limited time I have. I force myself to acknowledge my feelings now. Feeling sluggish? I take a break from screens. Feeling exhausted? I take a half day off. Instead of waiting for that coveted vacation, I try to fit in 'mental breaks' wherever I can."
–Manju Vijayakumar, Software Engineer, Quip/Salesforce, SF Bay Area
"My worth is not defined by how productive I am, how many meetings I make, or how clean my house is. I remind myself that I am worthy just as I am, which helps me find balance. Being present with my family, active in my community, and engaged at work is demanding. I am worthy of time for myself, work breaks, and exercise!"
–Marissa Bowman, Enterprise Customer Success Manager, Quip/Salesforce, SF Bay Area
"I learned quickly that time to decompress after work is a must for me, even if it's only for 15-30 minutes. I use the time to process the day and prep for the next. This allows me to close out my work day and give my son the undivided attention he deserves."
–Lee Ann Mangels, Senior Director, Program Management, Clyde, Baltimore, Maryland
15. Define roles at work and at home.
"One thing that I've learned after becoming a mom is that it really does take a village, and to be productive and not feel burnt out, we need to divide and conquer. For example, my husband does school drop off, playtime after school, and bath time. I handle breakfast and getting our son ready for school, school pick up, making dinner, and getting him dressed for bed after bath. We each understand our role and our son has a routine and consistency he can count on. It's the same way at work. By dividing responsibilities, as a team we can all be more productive."
–Kim-Mai Underwood, Senior Field Marketing Manager, PagerDuty, Bay Area, California
"Right before the birth of my first child, my husband and I made the decision to become a one-income family. One of us would stay home to care for our infant son. After a lot of discussion, it was my husband that would be the stay-at-home parent. Even after our second child was born, he continued to stay home. It came with a lot of sacrifices for both of us. It also came with some role reversal stereotypes. What I learned is that he spent his day being there for our kids. He would take them to play groups and other activities. I think if our roles were reversed, I would be doing household chores like my mother, and spending less quality time with our children. Knowing my husband was holding down the fort also gave me the confidence and peace of mind to advance my career. I had the flexibility to work late, take on extra assignments and travel globally. It also taught me how to be more structured so I could be there for my kids' doctor appointments and school events."
–Lynette Hodgden, Global Head, Environment, Health, Safety & Business Resilience, CSL Behring, Pennsylvania
16. Restack your priorities.
"It's tempting to hide my 'mom' identity at work, but I've come to embrace how I can use the same skill sets in both worlds. I think being a Product Manager/Mom means that I've learned how to focus on what is important for this next season or planning cycle. It's OK to say no and deprioritize things, because you can prioritize them for later or figure out how to delegate. For example, at work, I may say 'no' to a high-priority project because there's a bigger initiative to tackle right now. At home, it's tempting to want to do ALL the activities just like other moms, but I can tell myself, 'We don't have to enroll our kid in swim lessons right now, let's wait until it fits in our schedule.'"
–Melissa Chan, Product Manager, Quip/Salesforce, SF Bay Area
"I started following Michael Hyatt and implemented the 'Big 3' planning system: 3 big goals for the quarter, 3 goals for the week, and 3 priorities for each day. Those 3 daily priorities have to encompass what must be completed that day. Sometimes it's all work things, some days it's a mix of personal and work things. Knowing that I've completed my 'Big 3' helps me shut it off at the end of the day, and not worry about what else I should be doing workwise."
–Pia Adolphsen, Product Manager, CallRail, Atlanta, GA
"The one thing I have learned as a mom is the importance of priorities. I own and drive the top three things I value the most, the rest is delegated at various degrees."
–Amudha Irudayam, Sr. Technical Program Manager, OfferUp, Bellevue, WA
"I've learned to say no because taking on too much means I might not be able to deliver in the ways that I would like to."
–Anne Salgado, Senior Manager, Customer Care, LogMeIn, California
"After becoming a mom, I had to more ruthlessly prioritize at work because I wasn't able to work the same kind of hours that I used to be able to. Instead of saying yes to everything, I had to learn to have uncomfortable conversations about what I wouldn't be able to take on. I try to block time in my calendar each day for focused time that I can get work done, because I know I have to switch gears at the end of the day for family dinner, bath, story time, and bedtime. I try to remember that the work I am doing is in service to my family and keep them as my North Star."
–Chelsea, Events Manager, Global Employer Brand, Uber, Boise, IH
"Being a mom of 18-month-old twins with a full-time job, I've learned to prioritize well. When I'm at work, I'm all in, as I know I have limited time to get everything done, so it causes me to really prioritize what I really need to get done. This, in turn, makes me more efficient."
–Ritika Jain, Technical Recruiter, Autodesk, Bay Area, CA
"I've learned how to organize my day better. I am at my max every day with work and being a mom, but being able to organize my day and prioritize what is important to get done has helped me get more done during working hours, and that means I get to spend more time with my son."
–Nicole Woods Steven, Concierge Manager, OfferUp, Bellevue, WA
"I have learned how to prioritize my time better. I had no problem staying at work late before I had kids. After I had my first child, I had to leave work at a certain time for daycare pickup and I didn't want to spend the little time I had with my daughter worrying about finishing a presentation for the next day. Being aware of that helped me be more focused and productive during the day, knowing these efforts during the day meant I would have more time and nothing else on my mind for evening games and snuggles."
–Pascaline Broyer, Director, Consumer Retention, CarGurus
"Being a mum has meant that I have to learn how to prioritize properly. I believe this has helped me be more productive and fulfilled because I have to make bold decisions on where to focus my time based on how I and my team can have the most impact for Moody's business; I have to empower others to ensure that my team meets business needs; and since being a mother forces me to switch off, I find I am clearer in my decisions and actions when I switch back on."
–Julia Thomas, Managing Director, Events, Moody's, London
17. Kick that procrastination habit.
"After I had my first child, I shifted the way I looked at my job. I asked, 'Is my work providing meaning and fulfillment in a way that made it worth taking time away from my son?' That gave me the confidence to take on different projects, stand up for myself and step out of my comfort zone. I also learned to prioritize and not procrastinate on an entirely different level due to daycare drop off and pick up times. Those late fee charges are expensive!"
–Anne Connolly, Director, HR Business Partner, LogMeIn, California
"The most important thing I learned was to make short pockets of time more productive and to set transparent expectations with your manager. Prioritizing the ONE frog you need to swallow today and devoting a 25-minute work block towards that priority task has helped me immensely. Also, remember to lift yourself up by acknowledging your hard work and getting that one thing done!"
–Aolai Kim, APAC Operations Senior Manager at Bumble, Australia
"Taking the time to plan, prioritize, and organize is the only way I can stay on track. I start each day defining my must do(s): no more than three, and realistic, given my day's schedule. As much as I am tempted, I do not let myself do other, easier things, and I turn off notifications during my focus times. For me, motivation is fleeting. I need habits I can rely on. Getting my top to do(s) done means I can be in the moment with kids later on in the day without the guilt of 'I should be working.'"
–Stacey Chase, Team Lead Internal Audit, Siemens, Houston, TX
"One of the biggest things becoming a mom has taught me is time management. It is incredibly important to me that I get as much time as possible with my daughter, and my drive to do this has allowed me to be much more effective with my time when working. On the days when work is difficult, what keeps me going is knowing that I am doing it to support my daughter and teach her the importance of supporting herself and having a good work ethic. Surprisingly, many of the things that I never wanted to do have now all become easy tasks!"
–Sinead Mcniel, Enterprise Territory Management Specialist, MongoDB, Austin, TX
"Becoming a mom, I just learned how to get focused more quickly. I tell myself, 'I have this time and I need to be more intentional with it. I'm setting a timer and I need to accomplish the task within the time frame.' Naturally, I can be really Type A. That can lead to some challenges considering all the unplanned things of motherhood. It's made me more flexible as a person—in and outside of work—whenever you can't do that, when things go wrong at work - I'm learning to be better at accepting and shifting plans."
–Chelsea Michaels, Talent Development Manager, CallRail, Atlanta, GA
18. Tighten up your schedule and make special plans.
"Being a mom helps me with work by being more organized and understanding the importance behind scheduling. Because my kids are in such different age groups, there's always something going on. The method of scheduling out activities for the kids is just as important as scheduling out things for work. I've become more intentional in how I schedule and prioritize meetings, children's activities, and true focus time. Daily scheduling is a must and better helps with being more productive instead of being all over the place."
–Tameka Hughes, Senior Customer Success Manager, CallRail, Atlanta, GA
"Keeping up with 3 young boys (8, 10, 13 years old) and a demanding job keeps my life busy and challenging, but also interesting. To keep up, I prioritize my life around the 3 things that are most important to me: family, work, and staying fit, and I arrange time differently on weekdays and weekends. Work takes priority during weekdays and family is the priority on the weekends. During the weekdays, I arrange after school activities around my work schedule. For family time, we take a weekend getaway trip every month: snowboarding in winter and camping in spring to fall. On the weekends that we're around the house, we work on house chores together and spend a couple of hours going out for a short biking or hiking trip. In order to stay fit, I try to combine my exercise with family time as much as possible."
–Vikki Wei, Director, Engineering, Netskope, Santa Clara, CA
"When my first child was born, it was a struggle to 'turn off' work and 'turn on' being a mom—but that's exactly what I needed to do. I had to become a master scheduler, forcing myself to dedicate 100% of a certain period of time to work and 100% of a certain period of time to being a mom. Doing this helped so that there wasn't always a nagging of worrying about what I'm not doing at the moment. In order to have 100% work time, you have to have someone you trust caring for your child so that you can have this focus. Another benefit I discovered is that absence makes the heart grow fonder—I enjoyed my time much more so with my baby without any of the guilt or worry."
–Janet Vito, Sr. Vice President, Marketing & Sales, uShip, Austin, TX
19. Celebrate the small things.
"The best part about being a mom is appreciating and cherishing the small things–smiles of pride when your kiddo meets their accomplishment, hearing and seeing acts of kindness, receiving a homemade gift whether a decoration, card, or song, siblings sticking up for each other, chores being done without asking. These have all taught me to be patient, celebrate the small things, and know everything will work out exactly the way it is supposed to."
–Cammie Heefner, Department Coordinator, Collins Aerospace, IA
20. Be a more effective problem solver.
"Being a mom has taught me how to find a pattern in chaos and effectively solve the issue amid the noise. As a Business Analyst, this skill has helped me focus on reaching optimum solutions by looking at the big picture. I have two boys: 4 years and 2 ½ years old. We have huge tantrums. Rather than focusing on their behavior, I have learned to focus on the ways to resolve the situation."
–Isha Pandit, Business Analysis Senior at Freddie Mac, Virginia
"I've learned the power of patience and helping others to understand the 'why.' With kids, you can't just tell them 'no' or 'don't do that' – it makes a much larger impact when they understand why, so that they know the reason for your response and can learn to choose a different behavior moving forward. At work, I find that if I include the 'why' in my response to something, it helps others to understand my point of view and sometimes even begin thinking in different ways moving forward. In this case I'm not just providing answers or perspectives, I'm also influencing outcomes and inspiring diversified thought."
–Tonya Montella, Manager, Sales Enablement, CarGurus
"I have always been ambitious and strongly driven to achieve my goals. However, when I had my son, I was apprehensive about how I would feel going back to work. That apprehension quickly turned into my biggest motivation. It provided me with an intense desire to ace every project and challenge at my job so that my son would, one day, be proud of me. I love what I do. I have always enjoyed coding and my job brings me immense happiness and fulfillment, and that sense of satisfaction, in turn, makes me a better mom. I learned to get more things done in less time by creating goals, setting desired outcomes, scheduling, prioritizing and eliminating non-essentials. This has helped me to efficiently and effectively complete all my tasks. It also dawned on me that my life hadn't changed completely but rather expanded to add on another role called 'amma' (mom) which has made me better at everything else."
–Meghana Raj Jayanarasimha, Sr. Software Engineer, Netskope, Santa Clara, CA
What advice has helped you balance family and career? Let us know in the comments... And Happy Mother's Day!
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According to a recent study, anti-Asian hate crimes have risen 150% since the pandemic started. But these acts of violence are not new — they are part of a much larger history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.
That makes celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which was named a month-long celebration in May by Congress in 1992 "to coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843 and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869") this year all the more important.
As we reflect on recent events and how they fit into a much larger history of discrimination, we're also taking time to celebrate and acknowledge the many achievements of the AAPI community.
We asked several of our partner companies what they're doing to honor AAPI Heritage Month at work, and we were inspired by the range of responses, covering everything from campaigns to #StopAsianHate to educational events on AAPI history.
Here's what they're doing, in their own words:
Empowering authenticity - LogMeIn
"Our theme this year is AIM to Be Real. We are embracing our new company values and celebrating those who bring their authentic selves to work, who help create space to celebrate diversity of thought, and who give back to the API community. Our Asian ERG, Asians in Motion (AIM), is hosting several events: a discussion about bringing your authentic self to work with Jerry Won (Dear Asian Americans podcast); a refugee-led virtual cooking class; ERG Movie Club discussions featuring Bollywood films, and a virtual volunteer event where we will offer career development mentoring for young women across Asia."
Learn more about LogMeIn here.
Educating on current events — Raytheon Technologies
"Raytheon Technologies is honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with an enterprise-wide global town hall event – Real Talk: Building CommUNITY Together. Organized by the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) employee resource groups across the company, employees will share their personal experiences and discuss ways to support Asian American Pacific Islander communities. The event will also feature prominent leading advocates from renowned civil rights organizations to provide insight into the national context surrounding recent events. We will also feature AAPI employees internally and on our social media channels."
Learn more about Raytheon Technologies here.
Encouraging awareness, growth, and learning — Moody's
"Moody's is encouraging awareness, growth, and learning during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with the following activities, led by our Multicultural Business Resource Group and DE&I team:
- Weekly newsletters featuring AAPI employee profiles and cultural resources
- Video screening and small-group discussions supporting #StopAsianHate
- Cultural panel discussion featuring employee stories
- Professional development activities
- External speakers speaking about Asian leadership"
Supporting professional development — Freddie Mac
"Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Freddie Mac – Together, We Are Stronger
Freddie Mac supports the professional development of Asian and Pacific Islander employees while promoting an increased awareness of the value they bring to the organization and our local communities. Our InspirASIAN Business Resource Group is hosting various activities throughout the month such as:
- Personal development session on empowerment led by a coach from our Employee Assistance Program.
- "Stop Asian Hate" lunch and learn geared toward discussing the hurdles facing the AAPI community.
- Fireside chat about racial injustice with leaders from our InspirASIAN and ARISE (employees of the African diaspora) BRGs."
Fostering inclusion, learning, and belonging – Nestlé USA
"At Nestlé USA, the Pan Asian Network (PAN), one of our many employee resource groups that support our Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion initiatives, will host a variety of events to honor and acknowledge Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. These activities will foster greater inclusion, enhanced learning, and belonging for the AAPI community. PAN will highlight women's development in Asian cultures, Asian leadership and what their culture means to them, culinary innovation of Asian cuisine, intersectionality of LGBTQ+ and Pan Asian community, as well as an enhanced learning watch party of the PBS movie 'Asian American.'"
Learn more about Nestlé USA here.
Promoting cultural literacy – Relativity
The Community Resource Group at Relativity
"For Relativity, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is an opportune time to not only celebrate the rich AAPI cultures represented within our company, but to also foster awareness and allyship amidst the current rise of AAPI hate. RelAsians, our internal community resource group, has organized a few activities for May: a book club focused on AAPI heritage—because we feel it's never too early to gain cultural literacy, a weekly spotlight on AAPI Relativians, and a virtual event that takes attendees on a tour through an Asian grocery store, introducing native vegetables and staple ingredients for traditional home-cooked Asian recipes."
- Contribution from Neha Pant, Sr. Performance Engineer & Angie Ocasek, Sr. Specialist, Partner Enablement – Co-Chairs of the RelAsians Community Resource Group at Relativity
Learn more about Relativity here.
Creating transformative experiences – Facebook
"At Facebook, our APIs employee resource group's mission is to create transformative experiences for all APIs at Facebook, Inc through key cultural awareness and engagement highlighting the API community. To kick off APIHM, we will host a series of events and conversations for the community and its allies designed to support the API community around the theme, The SUM of Us, including:
- Letting Others In: a mindful discussion series that privileges intersectional voices, storytelling, feedback, and vulnerability as tools for building empathy and inclusion amongst organizations.
- Racial Healing Learning Session: specific to the API Experience focused on naming of experiences and emotional responses, understanding the body's responses to racial trauma, what the audience can do in the moment for self-care, and long-term strategies to overcome the effect of the traumatic experience.
- Bystander Training/self Defense Workshop"
Learn more about Facebook here.
Extensive and exciting programming — 2U
"At 2U, Inc. we'll be honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with extensive and exciting programming coordinated by our employee-led Asian Pacific Islander Network (APIN). In a year marred by exceptional challenges APIN has centered activities around the ameliorating themes of joy, culture and wellness. Be it delighting in a ukulele mini concert, reading an interview highlighting an API coworker, winding down after too much screen time with a somatic healing session or engaging in a panel discussion with API tattoo artists, we have a packed month ahead with opportunities to support oneself and the API culture! Follow along @Lifeat2U on Instagram for more!"
Learn more about 2U here.
Amplifying voices and educating others – Smartsheet
"During APAHM, the API at Smartsheet community will be hosting several events and activities to educate others, amplify AAPI voices, and celebrate the AAPI community! We plan to kick off the month with a documentary viewing and discussion to learn about AAPI history, and hope to share personal stories from our AAPI employees throughout the month. We'll end with an opportunity for the community to celebrate itself by gathering together for fun and games, while eating food from local Asian-owned restaurants."
Learn more about Smartsheet here.
Rising together in sports and culture – NBA
"For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, APEX is proud to present a multitude of celebratory activities, headlined by an NBA Family Virtual Town Hall and, with the NFL and MLB, an Asians in Sports & Culture Symposium themed "Together We Rise" featuring prominent Asian personalities from the sports world. We are also launching a PSA with an NBA star, honoring Eid-al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan, offering a bystander intervention training led by AAJC, and – because the celebration wouldn't be complete without food – hosting a sushi making class for our members."
Learn more about the NBA here.
Creating courageous conversations – Commvault
"This May, we are celebrating all our Asian/Pacific Islander employees, not just Asian Americans. We will spend the month learning about and celebrating the diverse cultures of Asia through weekly events and activities led by our Multi-Culture ERG. Vaulters and external guests will teach us the history of practices such as yoga, origami, and Asian cuisines. We will also discuss topics like the rise of hate crimes against Asian people and the recent spike in COVID-19 in India. These activities and courageous conversations will engage our workforce and create support for our Asian and Pacific Islander communities around the world."
Learn more about Commvault here.
Honoring history through virtual events – Collins Aerospace
"Collins Aerospace supports our AAPI colleagues not only in May, but all year. Our parent company Raytheon Technologies hosted a virtual Town Hall last month to provide a safe space for open dialogue about recent events targeting Asian Americans in the U.S. In addition to this entity-wide event, our Asia Pacific ERG at Collins is hosting events that educate and honor the importance of Asian Pacific American history such as virtual Lunch & Tours spotlighting South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, and India; and Thoughts & Support sessions. Site-specific events include virtual cooking class, and viewing PBS docuseries Asian Americans."
Learn more about Collins Aerospace here.
Highlighting new perspectives – MongoDB
"MongoDB will share daily historical facts, highlights of Asian American pioneers, and perspectives from our AAPI employees in a dedicated Slack channel. We will also be providing access to an Asian Pacific American Heritage Month webinar, organizing a trivia night, and holding Processing Together sessions for our internal AAPI community due to recent hate crimes happening across the globe. These sessions are a safe space for employees to share their stories and sentiments of what it is like as an Asian American in America today. (Read MongoDB employee Monica Lu's story about being an Asian American woman in tech here.)"
Learn more about MongoDB here.
Spotlighting diverse communities – Bumble
"At Bumble, moments like heritage month celebrations are often our anchor to ensure we are spotlighting diverse communities. In alignment with AAPI Heritage Month in May, Bumble is rolling out a series of thoughtful programming to encourage internal education and around how to support the Stop Asian Hate movement and better serve the Asian community globally. The lineup of initiatives include:
- BuzzWord DEI Discussion Series with featured guest speakers: This conversation will focus on the Asian community within the context of larger cultural issues such as dating app experiences, fetishization, masculinity, and representation.
- Bumble will be inviting employees to join a virtual Vietnamese coffee-making class. Created in partnership with Phin Bar, an urban brew-bar that offers Vietnamese-style steeped coffee combined with house-made ingredients, Bumble hopes to facilitate a deeper cultural learning and community bonding experience for the team.
- Bumble will also be activating channels across social media and our product to educate our community about bystander intervention and raise awareness around the importance of supporting the Stop Asian Hate movement."
Engaging in daring conversations – Procore
"In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May, Procore recently organized an internal event to recognize and support the AAPI community. The event was hosted as part of our ongoing internal speaker series, 'Daring Conversations & Allyship,' to create space for an open dialogue around diversity, inclusion, and belonging. All employees were invited to tune in as employees from our AAPI communities shared their unique experiences, addressed anti-Asian hate, and discussed actionable ways to support our AAPI community."
Learn more about Procore here.
Taking action to foster change – SeatGeek
"This month the POC ERG will be meeting and hosting different activities to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This includes creating a safe space to discuss current events, and what actions our communities can take to foster change, sending out a newsletter which will highlight the Asian community in every aspect, and lastly, we will be hosting a guest speaker.
We hope with these planned activities and meetings, we can highlight, and uplift the Asian/Pacific American community, as well as bring awareness to the horrible ongoing attacks they are facing."
Learn more about SeatGeek here.
Uplifting and inspiring the community – Okta
"Okta's People of Color (POC@Okta) ERG is planning to commemorate AAPI Month with a series of fireside chats and iconographical facts posted internally in the #poc and #all diversity Slack channels! These chats will feature Dion Lim of ABC7 News and Comedian/Actor, Ronny Chieng. We will conclude the series with a partnership with Pride@Okta featuring supermodel, TED speaker, and transgender advocate Geena Rocero. The goal of this series is to educate, uplift, support, and inspire! The Okta leadership supports its AAPI employees, customers, and community."
Learn more about Okta here.
Empowering cultural diversity and leadership – Quip
"Salesforce will be celebrating through multiple virtual events, such as a leadership panel on the power of cultural diversity, a tea tasting, a tai chi class, a haka workshop, and more! Members of the Quip team have also compiled an extensive list of resources to support AAPI communities, including ways to donate, take action, and learn more."
Learn more about Quip here.
Focusing on lived experiences – Mindbody
"The Mindbody United ERG focuses on a different heritage or history each month, with May devoted to Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This ERG seeks to provide a platform to both celebrate and learn together. This will manifest in two ways: As a newsletter and a Zoom meeting. The newsletter will feature contributions directly from team members, while the meeting will feature Assembly member Evan Low as our speaker. It is our goal to focus on the lived experiences of the AAPI community, address discrimination, and how to chase after the part of the world we can make better."
Learn more about Mindbody here.
Promoting harmony and unity – T. Rowe Price
"T. Rowe Price is aware and appalled at the recent spike in hate crimes against the Asian community. In response, the firm will center Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month efforts around harmony and unity, in alignment with the Hawaiian value, Lōkahi – Forward as One. To share best practices, successes and areas of opportunities, T. Rowe Price will co-host a Leadership Panel on Asian Leadership Challenges with Baltimore Asian Connect, a consortium of Asian business resource group leaders at local corporations. The firm will also host a book club and restorative listening circles for Asian American associates and their allies."
Learn more about T. Rowe Price here.
Celebrating Asians globally
"May is Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month. Although traditionally a US celebration, at Autodesk we are celebrating Asians globally. The Autodesk Asian Network is hosting Innovative Leaders, including Lori Mukoyama and Jonathan Zee. Lori Mukoyama is redefining experience-driven design globally at Gensler. Jonathan Zee has an extensive portfolio of buildings that are helping to shape cities around the world at Goettsch Partners. Lori and her husband Jonathan combine design, architecture and engineering in their work while simultaneously manage a family together during this pandemic. This event is hosted by AAN, as part of a monthlong series of APA Heritage Month events."
Learn more about AutoDesk here.
Arezoo Riahi isn't a big fan of the "fake it till you make it" approach. She'd rather ask for the help she needs and learn from it.
Autodesk's Director of Diversity and Belonging joined the design software company from the nonprofit world after a long career in connecting people from different cultures. While her work had been deeply rooted in DEI values, there were certain parts of the strategy-building aspects to her new role that she wasn't sure about.
"If you know it, show up like you know it. If you don't know it, you shouldn't fake it. And Autodesk didn't shame me for not knowing everything. They helped me, and the entire team, by providing the resources that we needed, bringing in outside expertise to help teach us when we were in new territory," says Arezoo, who has been at Autodesk for three years now, during which she's been promoted twice into her current role.
We sat down with Arezoo to hear more about her path into DEI work, what she thinks the future of that work must include, and what advice she has for women looking to build fulfilling careers, from knowing what you don't know and beyond.
Inspired to bring people together
Mocorro, France, Switzerland—though Arezoo grew up in the Chicago area, she didn't stick to just the U.S. when it came time to pursue her education. International internships and study opportunities confirmed the perspective she had growing up: people are more alike than they are different.
"My parents are immigrants from Iran, and I was born in the United States. I saw the benefit of having exposure to a different culture, a different language, different food and rituals, and I was fascinated by that," says Arezoo. It was spending a summer in Mocorro that really sparked her passion for equity, she adds. "I realized for the first time that while we have so many different experiences as individuals, our commonalities are actually much more prevalent."
Arezoo took that focus on bringing people together to the Institute of International Education, where she led the TechWomen program, partnering with different companies to bring 100 women from 23 countries to Silicon Valley for mentorship.
One of those companies was Autodesk. Long before they reached out to offer her a role to join their DEI team, Arezoo got an up-close look at how the company worked, and she was impressed. "I realized that there was a real magic about the people at [Autodesk]," she says. When she was offered the role, it was the people that made Arezoo excited to take it: "I felt like the work I was hoping to drive would stick."
Pursuing positive impact
In moving from the nonprofit to the corporate world to pursue a career in DEI, Arezoo was driven by a conviction that she could make just as big—if not even bigger—of an impact on equity and belonging in that setting.
"I knew that the impact corporations can make on their people and outside of their walls is significant," she says. "And the beauty of working in a corporate setting is that because we are revenue-generating, we're not relying on outside funding to make that impact. There's more agency in designing what that impact looks like."
Arezoo has made that impact across different DEI verticals, from mentorship to employee resource groups to analytics to communications. Along the way, she's picked up new skillsets and strengthened her capabilities as a leader in this space.
Right now, as Director, Arezoo's focus has come full circle, expanding Autodesk's DEI efforts on a global scale. "We're taking a closer look at all the countries we are located in," she says. "The word 'diversity' doesn't mean the same thing wherever you are, and we are looking towards an expanded global approach which would diversify representation and ensure a strong sense of belonging both within and outside the United States."
4 tips for building your career
Arezoo is excited about where she is in her career and what she's working on. She has a few pieces of advice for readers looking to find similar fulfillment:
1. Know what you don't know. As referenced earlier, Arezoo is comfortable admitting when she needs a bit of help. Instead of bluffing your way through, says Arezoo, asking for help can show that you're self-aware and ready to learn.
"You have to be willing to go where you might not know," she says. "In some companies it's like, well, you've got to know everything before you walk into that position. Not at Autodesk. They saw my skills, they saw my potential, and they continue to invest in me despite the fact that I haven't necessarily spent my entire career in the DEI space. That is really powerful when you're trying to grow your career."
2. Embrace a growth mindset. This means believing that you can change, and putting in the work to do so.
Arezoo uses the example of a failed relationship to explain what she means: "You can walk away from it and be like, 'Everything was that person's fault, and I couldn't handle it anymore, and I walked away.' But for me, it's also been about, 'What did I do wrong? What did I do to contribute to this relationship that didn't work?'"
In her personal life, when friends told Arezoo that people can't change and that that's why relationships end, she pushed back. "I refused to believe that. I think I can be better. In order to not have a failed relationship, there are things about me that I can do better or differently," she says.
The same goes for work: failure happens, and with that comes an opportunity to learn. "If you don't have a growth mindset, you will never do your best work. You will always be limited by yourself," she says.
3. Take control of your own progress. "A lot of times, people wait for things to fall in their lap," says Arezoo. "It's not worth it. Start thinking about where you want to be in five years, and recognize whether or not the path you're currently on is going to get you there."
In her own life, for example, that's meant speaking up when team changes would've left Arezoo with a job she wasn't excited by. By taking control and sharing what she wanted, Arezoo was able to land on a happy medium that worked for everyone. "You have to see yourself as a collaborator, particularly in things that are going to impact your own career," she says. She also suggests saying yes when you can - which will be even more challenging as we experience the social stressors of navigating a post-pandemic world - and being willing to try lots of new experiences.
4. Tell your own story in a way that serves you. Ready for a meta reflection? The way this profile is structured—focusing on Arezoo's background seeing value in diversity, following her as she realized she could make an even bigger impact in that space in the corporate world, and including advice for other people to find their own paths to fulfillment—comes from the way that Arezoo has learned to tie together her background into a cohesive story that resonates with employers.
"You can have experiences that may not feel like they're in any way connected, but you can connect them yourself," she says. "I started my career in international development. Then I started doing outreach and recruitment. Then I did information sessions, then selection panels. How are those things connected? Well, what I learned in international diplomacy about building mutual understanding is the foundation of my own philosophy related to diversity and belonging."
"You can have a defined path for a while," adds Arezoo, "but the rest of it is ambiguous. Don't worry about how it's all going to take shape. Just get the inputs, get the different experiences—you can tie it together later."
Get an inside look at the interview process for sales roles at LogMeIn, one of the largest SaaS companies providing remote work technology, from Michael Gagnon, Senior Manager of Corporate Account Executive Sales.
Listen in for actionable tips that will help you ace your interviews. Spoiler: one of the most important characteristics the sales team hopes to see is someone who brings their authentic self to the interview! They also look for motivation and, of course, sales skills.
Don't miss Michael's take on the importance of encouraging allyship from a leadership position and his efforts to do so as a leader within LogMeIn's Pride employee resource group.
Are you interested in joining LogMeIn? They have open roles! To learn more about them, click here.
How Being an Open Member of the LGBTQIA+ Community Has Helped Procore’s Alex Zinik Overcome Imposter Syndrome at Work
Alex Zinik wasn't surprised that she started her career in education—she decided she would become a teacher when she was just in third grade.
She was surprised while working as a paraeducator in the school system and preparing to become a special education teacher, she discovered that it didn't feel quite right. "I didn't know if that's what I really wanted to do," she recalls.
So a friend suggested she take a job during her off summers at construction software company Procore. She thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try out this new challenge, and if she needed to, she could go back to the school district once the summer was over.
"Five summers later, I'm still here!" she says, smiling. "And I see myself here for many more years. I just fell in love with the company, the culture, and with the career growth opportunities I was presented with."
As part of our Pride month celebrations, Alex, currently the Senior Executive Assistant to the CEO at Procore, sat down with us to share how a common fear—the fear of being found out—underlay the imposter syndrome she felt when pivoting to an industry in which she lacked experience, and the anxiety she often felt before coming out to her friends and family about her sexuality.
Read on for her insight on overcoming negative thought patterns, being yourself, and paying it forward.
Recognizing patterns when working to fit in
Alex first learned about imposter syndrome—an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be—a few years ago. She was immediately struck with a sensation of feeling less alone—of recognizing that there was a name for what she'd been experiencing on the job.
"Imagine being part of a group where you're told your whole life that you're not good enough, or that you don't fit in, because of your skin color or your sexuality," she says. "It's so important to understand that we're not suffering through this alone. Imposter syndrome is way more common than we think it is, and it's so important to be open about it."
As she read more about it, Alex recognized signs of imposter syndrome in her day-to-day work: feeling shy presenting her work to stakeholders or avoiding using technical terms for fear someone would think she didn't know what they meant.
"I realized I would try to shove the thoughts down and avoid putting myself in certain situations at work," she says. "That was actually a lot like how I used to treat my sexuality before I was open about it. And I realized that I was putting so much brain power into not being found out—and that I could put that brainpower elsewhere. That's what's helped me get where I am in my career today. Because if pushing down those thoughts and ignoring them didn't work with my sexuality, why would it work now with my career?"
Leaning in to opportunities to be herself
Two mentors have played a big role in guiding Alex's career thus far.. First is Suzanne Mayeur, Procore's VP of Special Projects. She hired Alex, gave her her first stretch project (collecting data on improving the company's shuttle and parking services), and guided her through her first promotion into a travel role. Michael Denari, Procore's Director of Procurement, also supported her career growth at Procore. He taught her how to run Excel reports, gave her opportunities to present to executives, and supported her pursuit of project management certification.
"When I was a kid in high school and college, I didn't really ever have that passion for what I wanted to do," says Alex. "I never studied harder for anything in my life than I did for that project management test!"
She passed on her first try, and enjoyed working in program and project management within Procore's procurement team until Suzanne reached back out with an opportunity to support Tooey Courtemanche, Procore's CEO.
"It was so scary to think about," says Alex. "I was really comfortable in my position in procurement and I felt like I was in a really good place in my career." The imposter syndrome she'd dealt with earlier in her career almost kept her from taking the job. "I spent a lot of time asking, 'Am I good enough? Do I have the right qualifications? Will everybody find out that I only have teaching experience under my belt?'"
But Alex remembered what she had learned: that she had power over her own thought patterns, and that she could redirect them. "I said, 'I am good enough. In fact, I am going to use what I've learned to accomplish more and continue to grow in my career.'"
She took the job, and now loves all aspects of managing the office of the CEO—especially the opportunity to study Tooey's leadership style.
"I spend day in and day out with him. And one thing I admire is that he never changes based on his audience," says Alex. "He's the same Tooey we all know whether he's talking to a new hire he runs into in the parking lot or whether he's talking to investors on Wall Street. He's himself, he's proud of who he is, he's open about his story. He embraces who he is and he's authentic, and that's a good reminder."
Creating opportunities for others
In Alex's past jobs, she didn't feel comfortable being out as her authentic self. "My coworkers would assume I was straight...I would try to blend in and stay under the radar. I used to get extreme anxiety whenever one of my coworkers would ask me personal questions. Because how could I tell them about the awesome weekend I just had with my girlfriend?" she says.
That's not the case at Procore. She's been out since she joined the company. "As soon as I stepped foot in Procore, I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I can be out here; I can say 'my girlfriend and I'; I don't have to hide who I am.' Everyone was so welcoming and so supportive," says Alex.
Now, Alex is working to make sure that Procore stays a safe and supportive place for everyone. She's spoken about Pride on Procore's All Company Update calls and currently serves as the co-chair for Procore's PRISM (Pride Raising Awareness, Involvement, Support, and Mentoring) employee resource group for LGBTQIA+ employees and allies. With PRISM, she helps host events and create volunteer opportunities, and partners with other ERGs, including Procore's African (Descent) Council, to support allyship across identities.
As part of Procore's June Pride month celebrations, Alex is hosting a Daring Conversations episode about the never-ending process of coming out, and celebrating with virtual events across Procore campuses. Personally, she's celebrating her first Pride with her now-fiancé (Alex's girlfriend recently proposed to her!).
"I want my fellow LGBTQIA+ employees to know that not only am I part of this community, but I'm an ally to them. If I can do my part by being out and open, I want to; I want to promote psychological safety as much as I can, and make a positive impact where I can," she says.
If you told Paula Manchester that you weren't good at math, she wouldn't believe you.
"That's a global indictment," she says. "'I'm not good at math' implies that you don't have the ability to nurture that muscle. And then I'd ask what kind of math? There's a lot to math."
Instead, she'd introduce you to a growth mindset perspective: "Try 'I have not yet been exposed to differential equations. Let me open the book and start studying, let me get access to teachers and tutors who can help me understand this, let me begin to practice,'" she says.
"A growth mindset says, 'There's nothing that I can't do. It's just that I need to learn how to do it, I need to practice doing it, I need to have the right circumstances in order to achieve this goal.'"
Throughout her long career as a leader in healthcare and pharmaceuticals, Paula has leaned on her growth mindset when approaching new challenges, expanding into new responsibilities, and understanding her mistakes. (Because yes, even an expert leader still makes mistakes, and cultivating a growth mindset means there's endless opportunity to learn from them!)
We sat down with the Senior Director of Global Commercial Development at global biotech firm CSL to learn more about how Paula's growth mindset shows up in her life and her work.
Determining her path towards growth
When Paula entered Stanford as an undergraduate, she thought her next academic stop would be medical school. She started down that path, taking psychology classes where she first learned about concepts like the growth mindset.
Instead, she got an MBA at Northwestern.
In between those two educational experiences, Paula determined what kind of life and career she wanted to have.
It was during an internship at a historically Black college's medical school that made her realize that she didn't need to be in the room with patients in order to positively impact their experience. "My eyes were opened to the ecosystem of healthcare," she says, "and I realized it would probably be a tighter match between some of my interests in terms of how people make decisions. I knew I could make meaningful contributions without necessarily going to medical school."
Following her interest in how patients were informed about their health, Paula pursued a career in marketing and communications, working at Merck and GSK before taking on her role at CSL Behring. Now she leads the marketing strategy in the transplant space, partnering with the company's R&D team to bring potential new therapies for those patients into the world as regulatory-approved products.
"It's exciting because it means that patients who have been through so much might not have to worry about losing their kidney, going back on dialysis, and maybe even having to go through years and years of waiting for yet another kidney transplant," she says of an investigational treatment in development that aims to address antibody mediated rejection of transplanted organs like kidneys. "The work that we do every day means that somebody can hold on to that very precious gift of life that they've been given. That brings me energy every day. It gives me inspiration. It also allows us to be very clear...there's no question—we know we're impacting patient lives."
Growing with others
Business school was the first time Paula really had to learn to be effective through others. "You learn how to drive performance under very tight circumstances in order to produce a high quality deliverable as a team," she says.
Those skills served her well in her post-MBA roles, and have been especially useful now that she's at CSL Behring.
She accepted her current role for two reasons: first, she believed in the company. "When I got a chance to come to CSL a couple of years ago, I was thrilled because of what this company stands for. A lot of companies talk about being patient-focused, but this company lives it; it's woven throughout our DNA," says Paula.
Second, she was intrigued because the role came with a whole new set of responsibilities—and a new group of people to work with and through. "I was attracted not only because of the work, but also the challenge of a larger remit," says Paula. "I knew that I could work across boundaries, not just in my particular swim lane of marketing expertise, but to be accountable for leading a cross-functional team."
She was immediately proven right: her new responsibilities were significant. "People will laugh and say, 'What you wish for, you get,'" says Paula, smiling. "I wanted a larger remit, and that came to me in spades. There's just so much to do, which has taught me a lot about prioritization and flexibility."
Paula credits her ability to stay calm in the face of so much change with her growth-focused outlook. "Every experience I have is an opportunity to learn," she says. "As opposed to setting up a particular decision or opportunity as 'either I will fail or I will be successful,' every event is an opportunity for success because it's framed as an opportunity to learn."
4 ways to incorporate a growth framework into your own life as a leader
Paula has specific tips for anyone interested in becoming more effective by approaching opportunities with a growth mindset:
- Learn to listen well. From being able to pick up on subtle cues in meetings to unlocking coworkers' participation by making them feel heard, Paula says much of her success in seeing challenges as opportunities—and helping others do the same—comes from listening. "Quite frankly, given some of the issues that we're dealing with in contemporary America, I think that there's probably plenty of room for increased listening skills, right?" says Paula.
- Get comfortable reflecting in the moment. "Part of the growth mindset is the notion of not being perfect," says Paula. "There's always an opportunity to get better and better. By reflecting, you can ask, 'How specifically can I get better?'" Paula often will do a quick debrief with herself after conversations and meetings to reflect on how she conducted the conversation, how she listened, how flexible she was, and what her outcomes were. "Reflecting can be very, very powerful," she adds. "As a Black woman in corporate America, it's especially important because of the pressure to be excellent in everything we do. But for everyone, especially in 2021, with what we've been through this last year—COVID, disparate access to healthcare, social distancing, working remotely, the global nature of all this disruption. There's an opportunity to think about what we just went through as a society and to ponder what the lessons are."
- Practice long-term reflection, too. Paula leads after-action reviews for her team each quarter where she asks four questions: what happened, what worked, what didn't work, and why. "It's not a complex tool, but it enables you to remove the emotion, and reveal more of the concrete data. You can leverage the observations of others to provide that perspective that you may not be able to see as a team member," she says.
- Read, learn, and share. If you consistently seek out opportunities to learn something new, whether in the pages of a book or in a classroom or just from a peer, and then you go out of your way to help others based on those new insights, you're well on your way to practicing a growth mindset, says Paula. "Open your eyes and look around—there's somebody who needs [what you have to offer]."
Interested in growing alongside Paula and her team? Learn more about CSL's open roles here or click here to join an upcoming virtual event with Paula and other women leaders at CSL this Thursday, May 27th!