"The Most Common Questions We Get About Working At Buffer"
Below is an article originally written by Arielle Tannenbaum, Community Strategist at PowerToFly Partner Buffer, and published on November 26, 2018. Go to Buffer's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
When you experiment with work culture as much as we do at Buffer, you tend to receive a lot of questions about it.
What is it like to work remotely? How do you collaborate across time zones? Do people really feel okay making their salaries public? Can you become friends with teammates when you're not in an office? Do you miss working in an office? Do you basically live in pajamas? (Quick answer to that one: not usually, though I definitely have spent a work day or two in pajamas!)
These questions are barely scratching the surface of everything we're asked.
Like many of my teammates, I'm more than happy to answer these questions when they come up in our Slack community, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, and beyond, because it's a wonderful way to connect with our community and kick off some really interesting discussions about the future of work.
We love that people are curious about our work culture — being curious is how all of our culture experiments started in the first place, and asking these questions is a fantastic way to think through your own work cultures and discover new ways of working. Change happens when we start asking questions about why we do the things we do!
So, we thought it might be fun to compile the most popular questions we receive, and do some rapid-fire answering! And as always, we're happy for the conversations to evolve past this blog post.
Let's dig in!
On being a fully remote team:
Why don't you have a company headquarters?
The short answer: We believe remote work is the future of work!
We believe in living and working where you are the happiest in the world, and we want to support that for all of our teammates. At Buffer, every teammate can choose where they live and work (whether they want to work from home, from coffee shops, from coworking spaces, or even an RV), and they don't need to worry about being left out of an office culture. We gave up our office in 2015 and haven't looked back.
Do you miss working in an office?
While I love my teammates and would be delighted to see them more often, the flexibility that remote work affords me is unbeatable. For me personally, I love working from a variety of environments with different vibes, sounds, sites and people. You might find me in a Mediterranean café sipping mint tea, coworking with fellow remote work friends, or typing away on my front porch on a spring day. For some of my teammates, they are incredibly grateful to spend their work days at home, taking periodic breaks to play games with their kids.
Also, without being in an office with all of the distractions that come with it, we've found that we can really get into deep work and be much more productive!
How do you disconnect from work each night?
We all do this a little differently. I'll usually make evening plans to take a yoga class, cook dinner with my partner or friends, or attend an event so that there's a clear time that my laptop needs to shut. I also have a built-in alarm clock — taking my dog for an evening walk usually serves as a nice, clear marker for the end of my work day!
If you're looking for more advice about disconnecting from devices, we compiled great advice from the entire Buffer team in this blog post.
What tools do you use to stay connected as a team?
Many! Here are the main ones:
- Paper by Dropbox
Are your teams organized by timezones?
At the moment, our teams are quite timezone agnostic. For instance, our Marketing team spans across seven timezones! Our Product, Engineering, and Customer Advocacy teams are organized by product area within Buffer, though at one point the Customer Advocacy team was indeed organized by timezone. Sometimes we hire Customer Advocates in particular timezones around the world to make sure we're providing around-the-clock support to our wonderful customers.
How do you handle non-U.S. based employees?
All of our teammates based in the U.S. are set up as full-time employees of Buffer, and our teammates based outside of the U.S. are set up as independent contractors, or something similar depending on their country. Beyond that initial designation, we strive to make everyone's experience at Buffer feel aligned, no matter where they are in the world. For instance, while all U.S. teammates are covered under a group health insurance plan, Buffer also covers similar health insurance costs for teammates in other countries. We'll also pay accounting fees for non-U.S. teammates, as each country has a different tax set up. (This blog post goes into a ton of detail about all of our benefits at Buffer.)
Interested to learn more about how Buffer works? We share our latest workplace experiments and learnings in new blog posts every week. We'd love to have you join our email list!
On team dynamics within a remote team:
Is it possible to really get to know your team when you're all remote?
Yes! I know more about and feel more connected to the 80+ people at Buffer than a 40-person team I was on early in my career or even the 4-person team I was on at one point. Our team culture is intentionally built around helping us make meaningful connections with one another, so we do a lot of different things to focus on remote team building.
One of my favorite activities is hopping on a "pair call" with a different Buffer teammate every week to learn more about each other. Our annual in-person team retreats and mini-retreats are also instrumental for strengthening our team bonds.
Is it difficult to collaborate with your team when you're all remote?
Remote collaboration looks different than in-person collaboration, but it's not necessarily more difficult. It just takes intention. We lean into asynchronous collaboration, and this allows everyone on a team to contribute their perspective and ideas no matter the timezone. We rely on Paper by Dropbox to think through a lot of projects collaboratively!
Do you have to be online at odd hours?
Well, it depends what you mean by "odd." We like to try to challenge the status quo of the traditional 9-5 work day! We have the ability to choose our work hours, so some teammates do choose to structure their day in unique ways. For instance, some start their work super early in the morning so that they can take a break when their kids wake up, help them get ready for school, and then get back to work mid-morning. A few years ago, one teammate in Canada experimented with starting work at 5 am to have a lot of active collaboration time with his team in Europe. Once in a while, I'll hop on a call at 8 pm so I can sync up with a teammate in Singapore. A few months ago, some of our engineers stayed up late to do some core backend work while most of our customers were asleep. Otherwise, we try to communicate asynchronously as much as possible so that everyone can be included without needing to be online at the same time.
How often do you have meetings with your manager, your team, and the whole company?
Most folks have a weekly hour-long 1:1 with their manager, and we have an "All Hands" with the entire company every two months. The frequency of individual team/area meetings varies across the company, however. The Marketing team meets all together twice a month, while the Customer Advocacy team meets weekly. It's also quite common for small groups of teammates within larger teams to meet up more regularly to collaborate on projects.
How do you accommodate people's tech needs?
All teammates can get a new laptop by their first day at Buffer, as well as a monitor if they need one for their specific work. (We replace laptops as needed every three years.) From there, we have two different benefits to support people's tech needs: our yearly $200 Individual Equipment Allowance (covering things like laptop stands, headphones, keyboards, mouses/trackpads, etc) and our one-time $500 Home Office Set-Up Stipend (covering things like a desk, office chair, or monitor).
How do you know if people are unhappy about something work related if you can't see them in an office?
Great, important question! Teammate happiness is immeasurably important to us, and so we aim to provide as many pathways and opportunities for teammates to be able to share anything that is going on for them at work. This is the intention for the weekly 1:1 everyone has with their manager. Our People team uses CultureAmp (we've also used OfficeVibe) to send a weekly survey to everyone on the team to touch base about their experiences and feelings at work, where we're asked about happiness, job satisfaction, personal growth, and more. We also have a form that people can anonymously fill out anytime to share thoughts with our leadership team.
How do managers at Buffer manage their teams remotely?
Likely how managers manage their teams in-person! They build trust, empower, do a lot of listening, help teammates navigate transitions, and everything else a great manager should do. The weekly 1:1s between every teammate and their manager are intended to be a constant touchpoint for managers to understand what teammates are going through at work and support them in bringing their whole selves to work. On a more logistical note, one of our engineering managers, Katie, wrote about how she listens to different playlists to help her context switch between being "on" as a manager and doing other work at Buffer, which is fascinating!
Do you get lonely?
Honestly? Sometimes. Though there are many ways to combat remote work loneliness — in fact, I wrote a whole blog post about it! There are so many ways to not only feel connected to our Buffer teammates but also to feel connected to our local communities — going to coworking spaces, scheduling coffees and dinners with friends, volunteering with others, etc. As a remote worker, you end up learning a lot about yourself and your energetic needs. I've learned time and time again that I'm an extrovert and that I need to get out of my house throughout the week to be around people.
On our work culture:
How often do the Buffer values actually come up in conversation?
Would you believe me if I said every day? Honestly, it's true! The Buffer values are the core of our work culture, and they dictate every decision we make. (They are: Default to Transparency, Cultivate Positivity, Show Gratitude, Practice Reflection, Improve Consistently, and Act Beyond Ourselves.) We truly practice these values constantly, and, as such, they've become integrated into our day-to-day vocabulary. It's quite common to hear someone talking about how they want to make a project more transparent to the rest of the team, how a certain marketing campaign can help us act beyond ourselves, and how some intentional reflection time helped uncover some new insights about a challenge (and many other moments!). Our gratitude-themed channel in Slack gets a new post almost every day!
Is the culture really as positive as it sounds?
One of my favorite things about the Buffer team is that everyone joins the team with a foundation of positivity. We all "opted in" to bringing this positive mindset to our interactions every day, and to see the best in each other. So yes, we are a positive bunch! Instead of defaulting to complaining about the weather, we often start our conversations sharing good news or gratitude about something. I love this so much about our team culture. That being said, we also actively work to make sure that our value of positivity isn't resulting in artificial harmony, where a team sacrifices healthy conflict to maintain a misleading air of positivity.
How do you maintain a unified culture when you're all remote?
The Buffer values absolutely help with this! Also, learning about our work culture is a huge part of onboarding for new teammates. For us, it's not enough for a new hire to simply learn the job and do the work. Acclimating them and helping them find ways to uniquely contribute to our culture is incredibly important.
How do you handle performance reviews?
For us, performance reviews are a chance to give teammates an intentional opportunity to reflect on their own progress, strengths, and areas to improve, and receive tangible feedforward from the people they work the most closely with. We use a tool called CultureAmp Effectiveness to help us conduct these 360° reviews, which we did twice in 2018, in February and September. They're not used for deciding promotions, however. We have a separate system for that! (see section below)
How do you help your teammates maintain good work habits and productivity?
We swap tips and talk about it all the time! We're constantly experimenting with different ways of working and being productive and we love sharing our learnings with one another. We once had an hour-long impromptu video chat all about healthy work habits!
On transparent salaries:
Why did you decide to share everyone's salaries?
We've written about salary transparency a lot, from examining the transparent pay revolution to exploring how to even talk about pay. If I could sum up why transparency is important to us in one quote, this quote from our CEO Joel would be it:
One key reason transparency is a such a powerful value for a company's culture is trust: Transparency breeds trust, and trust is the foundation of great teamwork.
What's it like to work somewhere where your salary is transparent?
I don't think about it too often! When I do, I appreciate that so much thought and care goes into developing a fair, accurate, and generous salary formula for everyone on the team. I like that having transparent salaries sparks thoughtful conversations about taboo topics in the business world — including the significant gender wage gap. I'm proud that we want to offer this data and create a culture where people feel empowered to share information and ask questions. For another data point, my teammate Hailley has found that folks at Buffer are more open to having financial conversations, where things like swapping budget planning templates and sharing advice around tax filing are quite common!
How does the salary formula work?
Our People/Finance team is constantly evolving our salary formula to make sure it's keeping up with the ever-changing job market and inflation, to ensure our data sources are accurate, and to improve how we think about career progression within Buffer. So much about our formula has shifted even since we last wrote about it in December 2017! Our Finance team recently did a "rebenchmarking" of our salaries, which involved switching to a new data source for identifying salary averages in various cities for various roles, called Radford. In a nutshell, our salaries start with identifying a particular job code from Radford and then selecting the specific salary for that teammate's level and step based on our career framework (see section below). From there, we apply the Cost of Living Multiplier.
How do you calculate someone's salary who regularly moves to different areas?
We use a Cost of Living Multiplier. The multiplier is one of three geographic bands, based on a high, average, or low cost of living area. We start by benchmarking all salaries to the San Francisco 50th percentile market. Then, we use data from Numbeo to figure out which geographic band applies for each teammate. For high cost of living areas we pay 100% of the San Francisco 50th percentile, average is 85%, and low is 75%. We figure out each teammate's geographic band by comparing the cost of living index of a teammate's location to the cost of living index in San Francisco. So, if a teammate moves to a different area, we'll calculate their updated salary for their next paycheck.
If there's a formula for salaries, how do people get raises?
We have career frameworks for each role at Buffer. Each framework comes with levels (large and distinct jumps in terms of area knowledge, role complexity and overall scope) and steps within each level (smaller milestones of growth in terms of ownership and initiative). A step change can happen at any time, determined by a conversation between the teammate and their team lead. A level change can happen during one of four "calibration" periods throughout the year. There are six levels for individual contributors, and four levels for people leads (managers), and four steps within each level.
Other than salaries, what else do you share transparently?
Check out our transparency dashboard! If something isn't on there that you're curious about, chances are that we've written about it in this blog post or on our Open blog, or feel free to write a comment for this post to ask your question.
Can I see what I would make at Buffer?
You sure can! Feel free to check out our salary calculator!
How do you hire?
We aim to always be evolving our hiring, making sure we're diversifying our talent pool, removing as many biases as possible, and giving candidates a better, more transparent experience throughout the interview process (for instance, we now outline the entire interview timeline in our job listings). We've laid out our hiring process in this post, from the first step of thinking through the objectives of the role to making that final decision to bring someone on board to the team.
Can someone's location hurt their chances at getting hired at Buffer?
Not usually! We aim to stick by our value of supporting our teammates in living wherever they are the happiest in the world. For some specific roles — especially for our Customer Advocates who provide wonderful support to all of our customers — we might look for a candidate to support customers in a particular timezone. However, this would always be disclosed in the job description.
Do you proactively hire people who live the Buffer values or teach them when people are hired?
Our values are foundational to our work culture so, when hiring, we do look for candidates whose values align with Buffer's. In fact, the first interview in our hiring process is always fully focused on our values! This is instrumental in helping our entire team be united in our core beliefs. A key element of onboarding at Buffer is about helping new teammates develop a deeper understanding of our values and healthy work habits that reflect our values (i.e. practicing reflection and cultivating positivity). That being said, we also value individual "cultural contributions" — the unique perspectives and backgrounds that new teammates bring to our team!
When hiring, how do you identify who will be good at working remotely?
When we craft interview questions, we think about what having a knack for remote work might look like. One question that we try to explore during interviews is: do they have a track record of having shown drive in their professional or personal projects? This tends to translate well to the self-motivated nature of remote work. We've also found it to be helpful if someone has given some thought to what it would be like to work remotely for them, even if they haven't actually done it before.
What is your turnover rate?
As of August 2018, our turnover rate was 5.8%, meaning our retention rate is 94%! We conducted some research about teammate tenure at Buffer in 2017, if you're interested in taking a look.
Are you hiring?
By the time you read this post, we might be! Feel free to check out our Journey page to explore our open roles and learn more about our work culture. You can also join this mailing list to find out when we post new jobs!
A company that is built around offering modern collaboration software needs to believe in the power of bringing people together.
Luckily, that's just what Quip is all about.
Their annual three-day hackathon Quiprupt is an example of what collaboration looks like not just as a product offering but also as a core tenet of company culture. We asked participants from Quiprupt 2021 to tell us about their experience coming together to ship cool stuff—and how Quip's culture sets them up to be able to find meaningful work while building better products.
Tips for planning committees on setting up the event to succeed
1, Build in intermixing from the start.
When Technical Program Manager Michael Lee volunteered to organize the hackathon, he knew he wanted to ensure that teams were of mixed compositions, with different people from around the company and not just staffed by people in the Engineering, Product, and Design (EPD) group.
"The hackathon really pushes for teams to work with other members outside of EPD," says Michael. "Everyone is welcome to work on projects they're interested in, so they get a chance to work with those they normally don't get to work with."
Event MC Meghna Purkayastha, a Growth Business Account Executive, was drawn to participate specifically because of the opportunity to connect her side of the business—sales—to the engineering teams. "Our business units have so many different ways in which we interact with our customers," she says. "Often EPD doesn't have insights into what customers are asking for or their common challenges, so it's so great to close the gap!"
2. Encourage creative ideas.
Project ideas for Quiprupt bubble up from people on the ground, explains Michael, and that's what lets people have ownership over their projects. "People are free to join and work on projects they're interested in. We hold pitch sessions and additional sessions to help teams recruit new members and answer questions about their project ideas," he says.
3. Brand it well!
Designer Kyle Tezak stepped outside of his normal day-to-day responsibilities to create an engaging theme and brand for Quiprupt 2021, and even though he was on the planning side and not on a hackathon team, he still got to plug into the collaborative spirit.
"The best part about collaborating on these projects is letting go and trusting your team," he says. "I think it's easy for designers to get possessive with projects and this is a fun, low-stakes way to experiment and pass things back and forth."
And beyond having fun, he also built something beautiful. "The work we've created gets people excited to participate," says Kyle.
His team landed on a "mid-century, retro science, research, and development theme"—not unlike the Dharma Initiative from Lost, added Michael—and produced graphic, web, and video content, including a fun promotional video for the hackathon.
Tips for engineering leaders on participating fully
4. Define project roles quickly.
When Quip Senior PM Melissa Chan was setting up her team for the hackathon, she was careful to pull from different parts of the business, in line with Michael's vision. "It's really important to get the perspective of our Sales and Go to Market (GTM) team," says Melissa, who worked with those members to "understand what customers were looking for but was currently missing in our product." She also pulled in Kevin Zhang, a friend from engineering, to serve as her tech lead, which "centralized a lot of technical decisions."
Once she had a team, Melissa quickly got them in sync on a project scope and responsibilities.
5. Construct your narrative around the customer.
Melissa's team ended up winning the Grand Prize at Quiprupt, and she credits their success to the "end-to-end" story they shared. "I knew who our customer was, what they wanted to do, and what features would help them achieve the goal," she says. "By having that narrative throughout the week, we could figure out how to descope parts of the project that were taking longer or make sure that we spent more time in areas that were critical."
"I think it's always important to keep the customer in mind and to be able to reflect on where we've fallen short of their expectations," she added.
6. Embrace remote collaboration.
Niccolò Zapponi, Senior Manager, Salesforce Anywhere Labs, who was a member of Melissa's winning team, says that they were able to work together so well because "everyone had their own remit."
"We had daily stand ups to discuss progress and priorities," he added, "and then got on with our work. Running something like a hackathon entirely remotely is definitely not easy, but we made it work and managed to keep everyone engaged throughout the week."
Tips for everyone on embracing collaboration
7. Recognize your unique strengths.
When Niccolò signed up for the team, he knew he wasn't going to be bringing in deep technical expertise. "I'm glad I could rely on the rest of the team [for that]," he says. He did know, though, that he could provide something super valuable: the customer perspective.
"My ability to understand customer needs and translate them into technology solutions is really where I shine and what I brought to the table for Quiprupt," says Niccolò.
Meghna agrees. "It truly takes a team! Each person regardless of role has a vision and idea that can help benefit a customer. All members are necessary."
8. You'll learn faster than you think.
Kyle was surprised by how quickly he was able to pick up new video editing skills as part of his branding work on the hackathon, and it's a lesson he thinks applies in general. "Learning a new skill often takes a lot less time than you'd expect. You're not going to become an expert overnight, but you can probably learn enough to accomplish a focused goal in a relatively short amount of time," he says.
9. Sign up to do more of it!
This year, Melissa participated in four different projects (!) during Quiprupt, and she plans on doing the same thing next year. "I think working across teams, solving new problems, and pitching it across the company make hackathons really fun," she says. "I think there's so many talented people with great ideas here at Quip."
While she'll go into next year confident, the capability of her coworkers is keeping her humble: "It's hard to say if we can defend the crown!"
Insight from YouGov's Victoria Ganusceac
Victoria Ganusceac knew she wanted to be a product manager, but the HR manager at the company where she was working at the time wasn't on board.
Not immediately, anyways.
"I pestered them for three months," says Victoria. "I spoke to every single product manager [in the company] and found out what kind of people they were looking for and what it took to be a good product manager." Insights from those conversations included understanding common PM frameworks and the importance of empathetic communication.
And eventually, Victoria's perseverance paid off. Her first few roles in product management set her up well for her current role as Senior Product Manager of SaaS Products at research, data, and analytics company YouGov. In non-pandemic times, Victoria works out of YouGov's London headquarters.
Her role is complicated enough that her family isn't exactly sure what she does—"Explaining it to my grandma is pretty hard, because I do so many different things!" jokes Victoria—but we sat down with Victoria and had her explain how she found her current role, what her responsibilities entail, and how she successfully manages cross-functional projects.
Learning how to move quickly
Victoria started her career in marketing, but quickly realized she wanted to be more tech-focused. Right after finishing her undergraduate degree, she got into an enterprise hub to work on a fashion app, where she did business development, then moved over to Camelot, which runs the national UK lottery, for a role in strategy.
"It was great to come up with ideas in strategy, but I really wanted to get something into users' hands," says Victoria. When her three-month campaign landed her a PM role, she leaned into the world of product management at Camelot before moving over to an influencer marketing startup where she could be even more hands-on. "I knew I had to go somewhere a bit smaller so I could really ramp up the learning curve," she explains.
When that startup failed, it hit her hard. "I took it personally for quite a while," says Victoria. But that experience helped her recognize what she was looking for in her next role: a PM job in a fast-paced environment that encouraged innovation and had the resources to support it.
"YouGov attracted me because they were a 'scale-up,' and they still are. Even though they're public. The role I interviewed for was creating a product from scratch, setting up a team from scratch, but within the safety of a funded company: the best of both worlds," she says.
Since coming over to the data analysis firm, Victoria has led several products and features through ideation, prototyping, creation, and deployment. Her first product was Audience Explorer,helping marketers understand their audiences in more detail. A recent favorite was a feature with a goal to increase conversion rates for YouGov's freemium product.
"It was a really great collaboration," says Victoria. "We worked together with marketing, the design side, the product side, and engineering to really quickly embed our data within the business website, and as a result, we increased lead generation by 300% in just a few months."
The 9 principles of PMing
Victoria's favorite part of her job is how much she learns by constantly collaborating with peers across the business. "It can feel like there's a lot going on because there's so many moving parts, but when you really start to understand how it works, there's a lot of opportunity to have impact," she says. "And YouGov really gives you opportunities to grow and get exposed to lots of different things."
To make the most of those opportunities, Victoria has a set of hard-learned lessons and best practices for successfully managing products with a diverse range of stakeholders that she applies time and time again, and that we're excited to share here.
1. Bring people together as early as possible.
Silos impede collaboration, says Victoria, so a process that is a series of direct handoffs—product requirements handed to the design team, designs handed to the development team—means "[the team] never gets a chance to really discuss it and make sure that they're solving the right problem."
Instead, she makes sure to involve her stakeholders, including engineering and design, but also sales, marketing, and client service teams to get their input on a new problem or solution as early as possible.
2. Define the problem.
"Make sure you're solving the right one," she says.
For YouGov, explains Victoria, the product vision comes from the business's five-year objectives. "We want to make sure we're aligned with the whole company," she says. "We have to ask how we achieve those big, overarching goals while also making sure that what we build is what our customers want."
3. Make room for creative ideas.
"How can we get the best ideas and get the best out of people?" That's the question Victoria asks herself before she takes on any new initiative. A good first step is asking for insight from people who are customer-facing and thus have more exposure to how customers are using the product.
And a vital approach is being curious and humble about what the best idea really is. "We all come with our own ideas and we're really keen on them, but spending a lot of time actively listening helps tremendously," she says. "Don't come with an agenda to get your idea done."
4. Don't be afraid to challenge authority.
If something doesn't make sense to Victoria, she doesn't demure and defer—she asks about it.
"If you're at the beginning of your career or lack confidence, there's a way of challenging authority without being too abrupt," she says. "The best way I've found to challenge an idea is to ask questions." Unpacking assumptions and ideas either gets everyone on the same page or leads to a better final idea, she says.
5. Use meetings sparingly.
50%. That's how much of her time Victoria spends in meetings. That's reasonable for a senior product manager, she notes, but that wouldn't be reasonable for other roles, which is why her team has recently started restructuring the meetings they run.
"We're having a think about different types of communications and flows. If there's an information meeting, can we just record it and send it out? We did a dev summit recently and it was pre-recorded with live Q&A, and that worked," she says.
6. Embrace deep work.
Victoria takes meetings on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, but her Thursdays and Fridays are bare beyond a quick stand-up. That's because she saves that time for uninterrupted problem solving and creative work.
"I try to get at least a day and a half where I have solid blocks of three, four hours to really get my head down and get things done," she says.
7. Keep learning.
There are plenty of product management frameworks, tools, and software out there, says Victoria, so don't be afraid to keep looking up new ones to try. She's a particular fan of Miro, an online collaboration tool, and the ICE—impact, confidence, ease for prioritization—framework, along with standard product tools for prototyping and remote user testing like Marvel.
8. Learn how to say no.
"Cross-functionality is the heart of everything, which means we get so many different ideas. And we have to translate them into decisions, into what goes in and what doesn't. There's a lot of expectations, deadlines, and challenges. You have to be comfortable with saying no," she says.
9. "Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it."
Victoria's final piece of advice for product managers? If you want to get into or stay in the field, don't give up.
"Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it because at the end of the day, the landscape has changed in what an engineer looks like, or maybe acts like, or what a product manager looks or acts like; it's very different now," says Victoria. That means there's room for plenty of interpretation of what a great PM really is—though Victoria's example is certainly a great one to start with.
If you've been paying attention to the news recently, you likely have noticed a sharp rise in Anti-Asian racism. Members of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities have been vocal in bringing awareness to the heightened racial discrimination they have faced since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, which, in some cases, have had tragic consequences.
If you are not a member of the Asian-American community, you might feel powerless– as if you have no say in the matter. It's easy to believe that your actions aren't effective and cannot lend support to your colleagues and friends from the Asian-American community. But that is not the case– in reality, there are a number of actions you can take against Asian hate that can have real impact, in both your professional and personal life.
Acknowledge the problem
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, you should recognize that anti-Asian discrimination is a real problem, and that its effects are on par with some of the more visible forms of racism in America. There is a long history of anti-Asian discrimination in the US, dating back more than a century, and this has recently been heightened by the irresponsible comments of some politicians.
Nevertheless, many people are still in denial. Some commentators– even in the mainstream media– continue to perpetrate the Model Minority Myth, which points to the fact that Asian-Americans are wealthier than other minorities, and use it as evidence that they do not experience racism. Further, when businesses focus on diversifying their customer base, they often make the same kind of assumption– that in order to appeal to Asian-Americans, they must target a number of dated and dangerous stereotypes. Perhaps the biggest stereotype that Asian-Americans must contend with is the idea that they are inherently foreign and not American.
The reality is that anti-Asian discrimination is very real. Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition documenting and addressing anti-Asian discrimination during the pandemic, has recently released sobering reports on discrimination and hate in the community. The organization said it received 3,795 self reports of anti-Asian hate incidents between March 2020 and March 2021. Women are more likely to be targeted and accounted for 68% of the reports, versus 29% for men.
Recognizing and combating anti-Asian racism is a key part of spreading and practicing anti-racism.
Check in and offer support
One of the simplest, and yet most effective, ways of combating anti-Asian discrimination is checking in with colleagues and friends who might be experiencing it. Showing that you are aware of what is happening in the news and showing your support for anti-racism campaigns can help your Asian-American colleagues feel supported and empowered.
This does not mean, however, that you should identify all of the Asian-Americans in your workplace and send them an email about the latest instance of anti-Asian discrimination. Similarly, asking colleagues open-ended questions such as "how are you feeling?" or "is there anything I can do for you?" can create more stress, because the person you are asking can feel unwarranted pressure to respond.
Instead, take a look at some of the materials on how to promote inclusion in the workplace. Most guides to creating a truly open and inclusive workplace stress that it's important that staff– of all ethnic and racial backgrounds and groups– be regularly educated about the impact of discrimination in the workplace around all minorities, Asian-Americans included. Often, the best thing you can do is to spend some time reading about the subject or enroll in a course that will help you understand these complex issues.
If you are a manager, you can take this one step further, and make sure that all of your employees are aware of these issues surrounding racism and discrimination.
If you are ready to take more direct action, a good place to start is your workplace. Stop AAPI Hate, in the aforementioned report, found that, in the last year, workplaces have been the primary sites of discrimination, accounting for 35.4% of logged hate incidents; 25.3% of reported incidents took place in public streets, followed by 9.8% that occurred in public parks.
First and foremost, this highlights the importance of reporting any anti-Asian incidents through the channels available to you, and making sure they are followed up by your employer. In order to do this, it can be helpful to review the literature on the differences between "incidents of bias" and "hate crimes". Knowing the nomenclature, and how to express yourself clearly, can make all the difference when it comes to reporting racially fueled incidents.
Depending on the industry you work in, it might also be possible to look at some systemic issues. Most industries exhibit some form of bias when it comes to hiring practices, and some are particularly reticent when hiring Asian-Americans. Even where this group is over-represented, in the Fintech industry for example, diversity issues remain, such as the fact that Fintech lags behind in female representation, and this disproportionately affects Asian-American women.
If you are in a position where you are hiring staff, it is therefore possible to shepherd your industry in the right direction by putting monitoring and direct action tools in place to improve the racial and gender mix in your own organization.
Donate to the cause
Another great way to help Asian-American communities is to donate to organizations that directly support them. This is a fast and simple way to make a real difference, and there are many ways to do it– this list from New York magazine shares more than sixty ways to donate in support of Asian communities.
Many of these groups are focused on advocacy for Asian-Americans, and will help those directly impacted by discrimination. In recent years, given the trends in the types of discrimination the community faces, there has also been a focus on supporting women within the Asian-American community. If you feel the same, organizations such as the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum can be a good place to get information on further ways you can help.
It's not necessary to make a charitable donation to support the community– supporting business run or owned by Asian-Americans can also make a huge difference. Multiple research studies have shown that, nationwide, Chinatown businesses have been hit disproportionately hard during the pandemic– between decreased foot traffic and rising xenophobia, they are greatly suffering. So the next time you go grocery shopping, consider passing through your local Asian supermarket.
Look to the future
Ultimately, building racial justice in America is not going to happen overnight. Instead, it will require sustained work by many communities and individuals. The first step is to recognize the problem and to seek more information about it.
That's why civil rights activist and Rise founder Amanda Nguyen has argued that greater education about the experiences of Asians in America is crucial to bridging the gaps to end anti-Asian racism.
Nguyen has said that, often the most effective step in combating racism is to start from home. "Turn on your computer and find out more information about the AAPI community and listen to the grassroots organizers on the ground," she says, and you'll be taking this important first step.
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!