Working 9 to 5 (sometimes)

There’s a lot of conversation in the ad world about the role kickass women play.  Our contributions are getting more (rightfully deserved) glory than in the past.  This makes me proud of my industry, proud for my gender, and hopeful for the world where my daughters will grow up.  They will see that Mom has a strong career, and that women are leaders.  I’m on the leadership team at my agency.  I’m a Vice President.  I’m also part time.

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With the arrival of my first child, I wanted an alternative schedule.  I started doing 40 hours in four days a week. The eight hours that didn’t happen in the office were done during naps or in the evening.

When we discovered my daughter had a disability, this became even more important, with appointments to make and therapies to attend.  When kiddo two was on the way, I decided the hour shuffle wasn’t easy enough – it was time to be part time.

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Going part time worried me.  I thought my career would plateau.  Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

This past winter, I was promoted to VP of Media. I believe there are three factors that largely play into my opportunity to be part time while still growing professionally: ownership, reputation, and communication.

Ownership

It doesn’t matter what “your job” is, we are all responsible for team success.  I’m not saying a search expert should start designing banner ads – but everyone can look at work from a lens larger than what their title implies.

Team up to make each other better.  Complete deliverables and share feedback when there is still time for review or revision.  Make others’ jobs easier.  Speak up when you notice a gap.

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Basically, own your work and be a good team member.  And if you do these things, people will like working with you.  When supervisors or recruiters ask, they’ll say nice things about you.  You’ll have built up a goooooooooood…

Reputation

During my second maternity leave, I had a lot of time during baby feeding or snuggly baby naps, in which to contemplate my next step professionally.  By the end of leave, I had three options: the awesome agency I had been at for the last four years, a client-side gig, and Nina Hale (where I currently work). All three were willing to let me hold a director-level position at three days a week. They allowed this flexibility because they knew I was reliable, due to past relationships and the reputation I’d built.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “well my reputation with my boss isn’t great because he doesn’t know how smart I am…she doesn’t realize that campaign was my idea…” I have two things to say to you:

1) I’ve been there.
2) It’s up to YOU to fix it.

It’s tough but true – perception is reality.  And you’ve got to work twice as hard in the opposite direction to reverse a bad perception.

Communication

It gets frustrating for coworkers if they need me on days I’m not in the office, so I communicate with as much foresight as possible. Both my children still nap (oh what a sad day it will be when this ends), so I hop online when they go to sleep and check in with my client leads and direct reports.  Colleagues know that if they need me, text is the way to go.  I’m respectful about replying promptly, and they’re respectful about only texting if absolutely necessary.

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Thinking and communicating ahead of time is equally important in my personal-life “village” – with my husband, daycare provider, my oldest daughters’ therapists, etc. There will inevitably be the appointment that can’t happen on a day off, or the project that will require a late night. I try my best to never throw anyone a last minute schedule change.

Lastly: find your fit

As proactive as you can be, the three factors I’ve outlined won’t do any good if you aren’t surrounded by people who want to see you succeed and grow.   Strategically and thoughtfully immerse yourself in good company, literally. Seek out leadership and companies that you respect, and whose values align with yours.  This is easier said than done; you can’t change jobs every six months and still hold that good reputation.  But know when it is time to say goodbye to your current company, and ask all the questions, both to yourself and to potential employers, necessary to find the right opportunity.  Own your work, be worthy of a good reputation, and communicate clearly in all aspects, and you will find the fit you’re looking for.

(Because work should be fun, too)

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Who I Would Have Been Without You

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I would have spent a lot less time crying that first year.  Hearing something is “wrong” with your precious little one…I can’t even explain the lost, isolated feeling.

Who I would have been without you may have been less frustrated, had maybe a little less gray.  I’d also be less patient.  I might work more, and value time to teach you things less, because the need for that time to who I am is so very clear.

I’d worry less.  Or maybe not, but I’d spend my time worrying about what I can only assume are less important things.  Not if someone is going to be mean to you, exclude you because you are “different.”  Maybe when you don’t want to go to bed at night, I’d think “she doesn’t want to go to bed,’ rather than worrying that something is really wrong, but you can’t figure out how to tell me.

Who I would have been without you wouldn’t have been so defensive.  When your teacher says you need to be able to put your coat on by yourself, my reaction would probably be “Yeah okay, we’ll work on it” rather than “are you effing kidding me?  Do you REALIZE how much progress we’ve made?”

Speaking of those teachers…I would not appreciate them as whole heartedly as I do, if I would have been without you.  We’ve gotten so far because of their guidance.  They work with children who at times make little progress, and snarky parents who don’t want to hear what they have to say – these people are heros.

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Who I would have been without you would probably be less empathetic.  When nothing ever goes wrong, it’s easy to maintain a “sucks to be you, glad it’s not me” attitude.  Now when I see struggling, physical or emotional pain, I wonder how it is so easy for the rest of us to ignore it.  Whether it is families fleeing for a better life, or an accident survivor now confined to a wheelchair – I’m guessing none of them thought it could ever happen to them, either.

Who I would have been without you would have a smaller view of the world.  You’ve taught me so much.  I’d walk down the toy aisle and think “ice cream store, dial phone, cup and ball game, trampoline” rather than “social & behavioral, fine motor, object permanence, gross motor.”

I would have been less bold.  The courage to speak up when I hear someone say something mean – yes, words like “retarded” – but also cruel comments that have nothing to do with me, is because of you.

Who I would have been without you would appreciate her husband less.  This isn’t Sliding Doors, so I can’t see that life that might have been, but this one I’m sure of.  Seeing your husband care for your child takes “love” to a whole new level.  When there are extra challenges…I can’t explain it.  I’m just so thankful he is here to walk beside me.

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Who I would have been without you would have had less faith in herself.  She might have looked at someone like me and thought “I don’t know how you do it.”  But I know how.  You cry, you scream at God, you throw yourself a pity party for all the unfairness.  Then you tell yourself to get the f over it, dry those tears, and get to work, because that wonderful little love NEEDS you.

I don’t know all that might have been.  But this much I know is true; who I am, is so much better, than who I would have been without you.

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