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This blog is about the intersection of wife, mother, and employee.

Set boundaries. Find balance. Experience joy. Explore new technology.

Write your own definition of success.

Thursday
Aug302012

More press for the Working Mother Experience

Recently, I was asked to do a telephone interview to talk about the Working Mother Experience Book and how it came to be.

It is wonderful that with each new wave of working mothers the book becomes new and relevant all over again.

Enjoy the article which you can find here (text below).

 

 

On the morning of an important meeting, Rachel Koh, senior director of strategic initiatives for the computing data company EMC, pulled into the parking lot at her U.S. workplace only to receive a disconcerting call form her son’s daycare. The nine-month-old had a fever from teething and even though it was low-grade, she needed to pick him up immediately. Since the day had already begun for her husband hours earlier, she doubted he could respond to this emergency. But she also had to send a presentation to others and participate in a meeting, so it would be exceedingly difficult for her to juggle.

After some thinking, she decided to bring her son to work, e-mail her presentation while he napped with her lights turned off, and then call into the meeting. “I was in such a rush to get to the building that I forgot his diaper bag. Of course, he took advantage of the situation, giving me a big surprise in his diaper.

“This kept him from wanting to nap and so I started the ‘baby dance.’ Remember the jiggling, rocking, swaying, bouncing dance to get babies to sleep or stop crying? So there I was, presentation e-mailed, phone muted, lights off, dancing to the sweet stink while trying to gracefully answer questions in between ‘shhs’ and ‘hushes.’ I committed to that meeting and got through it successfully. Balance, right?” she recalls.

The balancing of child and work is, of course, far from common these days, even if that specific situation is a bit out of the ordinary. What’s really unique, however, is that the anecdote is not one that Ms. Koh has kept to herself, or shared with only a few friends and select workmates. Instead it’s a story she has shared with the entire work force of the international company, through a unique, 245-page coffee-table book EMC produced called The Working Mother Experience, compiling short essays from 96 women (and one father) from 15 countries.

With over 200,000 copies produced and a PDF version downloadable at the corporate website, their stories – some flattering to EMC, some discomfiting – sit on the desks of managers trying to understand the challenges facing working mothers, in the homes of staff and potential recruits who feel supported by this open sharing, and in the offices of clients and other partnering companies, some of whom are considering undertaking similar projects.

It’s the brainchild of Natalie Corridan-Gregg, who had been editor of her college paper, and who after having a baby found herself on maternity leave writing about her experiences. President of EMC Women’s Leadership Forum, a networking group for the firm’s professional women, and then a product manager for the enterprise storage division, she mused about the idea of a collection of similar stories from EMC employees around the world.

In a 2007 meeting, Frank Hauck, executive vice-president of global marketing and customer quality, asked her what one thing EMC could do to make women feel more appreciated. She hesitated. Mr. Hauck is someone she and others cherish for his open-mindedness and humility, but he was also her “boss’s, boss’s, boss’s, boss,” and she wasn’t sure how all those intermediate layers might receive the proposal. After she relayed the notion, he left the room briefly, returning with another senior executive in charge of EMC marketing, to share the idea.

“Can we write a book?” they asked each other. “Let’s do it,” declared Mr. Hauck. “I’ll find the money.”

His commitment to what he called “a snapshot in time” was unwavering. “This is where we are today for working mothers. We want to learn from each other, and improve,” he told her. She is awed that the company let the stories go in uncensored, offering a grassroots take on EMC and working mothers: “I give EMC a ton of credit for not changing the stories but publishing them all.”

Her own contribution tells of how she used the Excel spreadsheet she routinely applies to work puzzles to chart her son’s first few months, when he would scream all the time except when held upright. “When I presented my Excel diary to a gastrointestinal specialist, he initially thought I was psycho. After reading it, he then agreed with me that the issue was more than simple colic. My son had acid reflux, and once it was treated, the screaming stopped. Suddenly he was a happy baby,” she recalls.

Rachel Paulo, a company legal counsel in Singapore and a mother of two, shares that her biggest fear is that she will disappoint her kids, and disappointment can be crushing when you are a toddler. “Being a working mom at EMC means that I often have to decide which hurts the least – disappointing myself, disappointing my colleagues, or disappointing my customers (both internal and external),” she declares candidly.

“If asked what it takes to meet the demands of being a working mum at EMC, I would say it requires a great deal of understanding of the business, good time management skills, and imaginative scheduling. What is clear to me too, however, is that disappointing EMC’s customers is not an option – we are all here because we believe the customers must come first.”

Ann Gagliano, a project co-ordinator in the U.S., shared her concerns about nursing her daughter after returning to work from maternity leave, since that meant breast pumping in the office, where she had no place to store the milk. She approached her boss, who she is sure was quite uncomfortable with the discussion, but who proposed she buy a small refrigerator and expense it to the company. On her second maternity leave, the guys she worked with gave her a gift certificate she used to buy a double stroller. “When was the last time you heard of a group of men taking up a collection for a baby gift?” she writes.

Stories like those have shown working mothers at EMC they are not alone, but just as importantly, Ms. Corridan-Gregg notes, they have enriched the conversation about work-life balance at the company, so that women are more willing to ask for small changes that can make their juggling act less chaotic and managers who have read the book are more alert to how they can help out.

Do you have a child-care emergency story that affected your work? Share it with us. E-mail it to careerquestion@globeandmail.com. We’ll publish the best ones.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter

Saturday
Aug252012

Decisions and Travel

Contrary to what everyone normally feels, I think this summer was long.  Of course, I would like more fun filled summer days and nights, but there are never enough of those.

I feel like a lot of the summer has been waiting.  Waiting on decisions at work, struggling to coordinate vacations with friends, needing to hire some new talent.  Super busy, but lots of hurry up and wait.

Q3 has lots of travel in store for me.  I wish I was a better packer (and unpacker).  No teacher like necessity, but I can't help but feel that others have a gene I am missing when it comes to patience and travel skill.

Happy end of summer everyone!

Friday
Aug032012

Gabby Douglas

I have really enjoyed the London Olympics 2012 thus far.  I found the opening ceremonies a bit bizzare and confusing, but the array and coverage of the events is amazing.  When I was little we sat around the tv for the Olympics and I could barely see what was going on.  On television today, espcially in HD, we can see the difference in microsecond touches at the end of the pool.  We can see the tiny details of every sport and every event.  I am amazed how sports are Olympic events...who knew Canoe and Handball were pumping out gold medal Olympians?  Mike Downey wrote an intersting article on the Joys of Obscure Olympic Sports if you would like to read more on that subject here.

I have always been in awe of the Olympians (the ones who got the TV screen time). Gymnastics, Track, Diving, Swimming etc.  Their bodies were just capable of things this clutzy geek could not eve dream of tackling.  I was inspired by their dedication, their will to win, and their representation of the United States of America.

My son has been very interested in the Olympics.  Prefering to spend his earned screentime on Tivo'd prime time coverage to his normal kiddo shows.  He roots for the USA.

After Gabby Douglas won the gold medal he wanted to watch the award ceremony.  So did I.  We watched it and he was excited to hear the National Anthem.  I had to explain the designations of Gold, Silver, and Bronze.  I had to explain why the platform had different heights.  I did not expect to have to explain the words of Bob Costas...

"You know, it's a happy measure of how far we've come that it doesn't seem all that remarkable, but still it's noteworthy, Gabby Douglas is, as it happens, the first African-American to win the women's all-around in gymnastics,"

Costas' comment caused my son to furrow his brow and say:

"Mommy, I thought Gabby was American like me." 

Beyond saying, of course she is, my words failed me.  My son wanted to understand what the color of Gabby's face had to do with Gymnastics ability. 

I am thrilled that he does not understand.  I am thrilled that he lives in a colorful world of amazing talents.  I told him that we would be considered of Irish ancestry and that everyone comes from somewhere....he was happy with that answer.

Congratulations to Gabby Douglas for her gold medal performance!

 

Wednesday
Jul182012

Yahoo!

I can not tell you the number of working mothers I have spoken to in the last few days about Yahoo's decision to hire a Pregnant female as CEO.  Marissa Ann Mayer is an American business executive and the president and CEO of Yahoo! Inc. Previously, she was a long-time executive and key spokesperson for Google.

No pressure Marissa, just turn that tech company around and make it look easy will ya? 

Thanks and support,

Working Mothers everywhere!

 

 

Thursday
Jul052012

Home Organization

For as much as I prefer (even enjoy) home organization it is difficult to keep it up with the pace of life and family.  This comic strip really spoke to me today!