Role: Founder and Fashion Fanatic of Shopgirls Gallery Boutique
Role: Founder and Fashion Fanatic of Shopgirls Gallery Boutique
It feels odd to answer my own questions.
But since I started sharing these profiles, I’ve consistently had comments and feedback asking when I’m going to share my story.
So, awkward at it is, here goes:
Name: Reva Seth
Role: Author, The MomShift: Finding The Opportunity In Maternity (Random House: 2014); Founder, 7 Step Communications
Kids: Seth (6), Avery (3) and Devan (5 months)
“I grew up believing that kids really did mean the end of your career dreams, a viewpoint that I feel the media helped reinforce. With each of my children, I’ve had a career or professional moment and each time, I feel shocked that its worked out or come together.
After Seth (my eldest) was born I left my job at a PR agency and started by own freelance consulting practice which allowed me to significantly jump up both the career and salary ladder. Almost exactly two years after he was born, my first book was released by a global publishing house. With Avery (my second), I was back to work within a month but within that year, I decided to go part time in order to launch The MomShift project and work on my second book. I submitted my first draft of the book to Random House three weeks after Devan was born! (he was early, it wasn’t supposed to happen like that)”
It Wasn’t Always Easy: “I would say its still not easy! But I’m not sure it ever was or will be (kids or no kids). One thing I’ve noticed in my interviews, is that, regardless of what their CV shows or job title says, very few women feel successful on a day to day basis. There are moments and flashes of course, but that is the exception.
For me, my real MomShift low point is what actually inspired the book and project. Three days after my wedding, I found out I was unexpectedly also three month’s pregnant (which is why my dress, despite all those appointments, didn’t actually fit the way it was supposed to!) At the time, I was at a career low point. I had left my career as a lawyer in Toronto, moved to London and decided to build a new career in public relations. It was a better personality fit, but I was earning pennies on the dollar to my old salary, had to start at the very bottom (where I was much older than my colleagues) and at the time it seemed that all my education was essentially pointless. The idea of a baby made me feel that my career (such as it was) would now be over, even before it started. That’s what first led to me to start looking for positive stories of post baby career success.”
Making It Work: “Its easy to get overwhelmed on a day to day basis by babies, the massive to do list, being tired, all the life admin that comes kids -my biggest piece of advice is to think long term and to take some steps, no matter how small towards your personal and professional goals. When my first was born, everything seemed overwhelming. But even getting up 20 minutes earlier and taking notes on my book proposal or finding one potential client to pitch for my business, gave me sense of momentum. And it adds up, until suddenly you’re there. You’ve done it.”
Whats Next: “I’m looking forward to The MomShift being released, but I’m also looking forward to the launch of 7 Step Communications - my new agency. I’ve also started working on my next book – so I’m excited by whats ahead – but to be honest, also anxious about how much I have to do!”
Director of Marketing, Foods, Unilever Canada
“A big achievement for me, post-babies, was finally reaching Director level at my company. I remember when I started at Unilever as an Assistant Brand Manager, Directors seemed like a BIG DEAL…so senior and important! When I first came back from my maternity leaves, I wasn’t certain that I was going to ‘go for it’…I didn’t want to sell out on my family, I didn’t know if I wanted to take on that level of responsibility, etc,. etc. But I had a lot of support, and I went for it, and I LOVE what I do. I am happy with my life, and I actually feel like I can have a career and be a good mom — so far, looks like my kids are turning out OK! And by the way, now that I’ve “made it” I realize that despite what I thought when I was an Assistant Brand Manager, I’m really not that big of a deal.”
“Guilt. I think it’s part of a woman’s DNA. I have felt guilty that because I have a demanding job, sometimes I miss things (like my daughter’s Christmas concert this year, because my boss was in town on that day). What I’ve learned, is rather than dwelling on the guilt, when I can’t be there, it’s OK for someone else who loves my kids dearly (eg. their dad, their grandparents, their nanny, etc) to be there to support them. I also hope there are some benefits to my kids seeing I have a career. 1) I want my kids to know the world doesn’t only revolve around them and 2) when they see that I love my job, I hope it reinforces that they need to work hard, so they will have the opportunity to find a job they love, too.”
“As you take great care of your family, and work really hard at your job, take care of yourself, too. It’s too easy to forget and ignore that you should be eating healthy, getting exercise and sleep. If you’re doing something that’s good for you, chances are, it’s good for everyone in your life. You also want to set a good example for your kids – a really good friend and mentor of mine eloquently said “martyrs who run themselves into the ground are setting awful examples for the next generation.”
“I’m going to keep doing what makes me happy. It’s not about job titles or timing, it’s about loving what I do and jumping in with both feet. I’m totally open to a bigger job. As long as I love it, I’m not afraid of what’s next. Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement speech at Barnard college in NY really inspired me. Her words “do not leave before you leave. Do not lean back; lean in. Put your foot on that gas pedal and keep it there until the day you have to make a decision, and then make a decision.” I feel really empowered by this sentiment.”
Role: Senior manager, Communications, Deloitte
Kids: Daniel, age 15
“My MomShift moment occurred during my first meeting with the new business leader who had taken over responsibility for the department where I worked. I already knew that I had a personal challenge – my son’s disability was not properly supported in his school and we needed to home school him indefinitely while we searched for other options.
I needed to ask my new boss about career/flexibility options during our very first meeting! To my amazement, he was fully supportive and encouraged me to do ‘whatever I needed to help my son’, while giving me the ability to work ‘on a schedule of my choosing’. His willingness to support my unique flexibility requirements and his reassurance that I was an ‘important member of his team’ were incredible morale boosters personally – and sent a message to everyone in my team that personal flexibility was important to him and our organization.
Because of his actions and ongoing support, I still make a strong contribution at the same organization and have been successfully home schooling my son for over seven years. Definitely a win-win situation!“
It Wasn’t Always Easy:
“Probably one of the most difficult times was the first year after my son’s diagnosis with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
As a parent, you are trying deal with this blow to your original hopes and dreams for your child; explain his challenges to others who don’t understand; and search for options, alternatives and help (which is very hard to find!). In addition, I was still working full-time in a demanding job where I had just been promoted. So there was a certain amount of stress in both my personal and professional lives.
In addition, a few times a week, my son’s school would call to say he was having a behavioral issue that they were having trouble dealing with. Sometimes he would try to run away when he was upset. Apparently, I was the only one who could solve these issues by talking to him over the phone or giving them advice-on-the-go.
Needless to say it was rather distracting to get called out of meetings at work and try to calm my distraught child down over the phone – or imagine where in the school he might be hiding so I could suggest where they search. When I look back on the work I did that year, I am amazed that I accomplished as much as I did and didn’t have some sort of meltdown myself.“
Making It Work:
“Never stop telling your story. Be open about your requirements for flexibility and provide lots of details. People were much more supportive when they knew my whole story.
I’d also add that you really never do know who your strongest supporters will be so don’t make assumptions about potential allies. For example, I never expected my strongest supporter to be a male business leader. I assumed I would need a female leader to really understand my personal situation and my flexibility needs. Was I ever wrong.)”
“Right now, I’m focused on supporting my son through high school online. (It actually does get easier the longer we participate in this home schooling journey!) And at work, I’m very busy supporting the organization’s Communications Services department.”
Senior Manage, ING Direct
Two Kids a 11 year old son and 9 year old daughter
“Before I had kids, I was a type A eager to please employee, I would take on whatever I could get my hands on and burning myself out felt normal for me.
Maternity leave was my “AHA moment”. It gave me the chance to reprioritize and refocus my attention. At work I became smarter about getting things done, I started saying “no” began delegating more. This change was recognized and I was promoted to a job with less travel and a better salary
Two years later, when I was on maternity leave with my daughter and changing two sets of diapers, I wondered how I was going to manage the logistics of dropping two children at two different daycares (with different opening times) and still mange to get downtown on time. That was when I got the call from ING Direct for a senior job, with a better salary and only a 2 km commute. I’ve been here ever since – and in the last 8 years have held four management positions. In 2011 I began a two year leadership rotation program that allows you to learn all aspects of the business.”
It Wasn’t Always Easy:
“It wasn’t always easy trying to balance a busy job and be a mom at the same time. I always felt I wasn’t doing enough for the kids. Were they fed enough? Are they healthy? Am I paying enough attention to them?
One rough patch was that my second child, my daughter went on a hunger strike when she went to her daycare. She refused to drink anything and was losing weight. I used to run to the daycare at lunch every day to nurse her and then one day I was in a meeting, running late and then bang….my milk let go and I was drenched. I had to quickly cross my arms and run out of there!”
Making It Work:
“My advice to all Moms is to ensure your children are weaned before you return to work! I also take my children with me almost everywhere – grocery shopping, restaurants, community events, meetings – we not only get to be together but the more I expose them to, the better adjusted they seem.”
“I want to be the best Mom I can be to my children. They are growing up in a totally different world from when I was little and I want to be there to help them grow into healthy, happy and civic minded adults. Eventually, I would like to have my own business, consulting in the things I love like wellness, personal development and governance.”
“As the kid get older, I am able to take on some more projects and activities. In 2012, I became a Diversity Fellow. This amazing one-year leadership development program brings together city builders from the public, private and non-profit sectors to work on issues that are critical to the future health and wealth of the greater Toronto area. I am currently working on a city building project with the city of Toronto to create a Diversity Charter for the City”.
NAME: Michelle Lochan
ROLE Owner/ Managing Director, MarketStart
CITY : Toronto
“The most challenging and life changing moment in my life was making the decision to leave an unhealthy marriage and take on the full responsibility to raise my children alone. I thought leaving and struggling had to be better than staying and killing my passion daily to make others happy.
Making It Work:
“My business vision is to encourage self suffciency for generations. It is my goal to assist business owners plan effectively to develop and grow viable businesses that will benefit themeselves and their families as well as the communities they live in. With the help of an amazing business partner we have created an opportunity called Prepare for Tomorrow, to help more businesses by licensing our business system and making it available to other business consultants. Prepare for Tomorrow gives consultants a strong proven system to run their operations.
For a quick snapshot of the impact that the lack of media diversity has had, take a look at the organizations advocating to change the stereotypes that its left us with (two of my favorites: the Black Daddies Club which is a movement to change the negative media image of black fathers and the Womens Media Center, their tag-line, “Amplifying women’s voices. Changing the conversation.” just says it all).
For me, it was the now infamous and disappointing way in which the New York Times covered the brutal rape of an 11 year old girl that brought to mind the need for more diversity in the newsroom, specifically at the editorial level. And which also got me thinking about how lack of newsroom diversity, well racial diversity to be specific, impacts the MomShift issues of: women, careers and post-baby professional success.
For instance,the media stories on the topic are overwhelming defined by the struggles and concerns of professional, middle class women. Take the entire debate on the “choice” to return to work, it presumes a partner, who is willing and able to support the family.
Almost entirely absent from the larger mainstream discussion are the stories of immigrant woman and those outside the so called “professional” strata. And while, I don’t believe its intentional the result is the same. Overlooked stories and absent view points.
I recently experienced how this happens and with it, the reminder of how important diversity at the editorial and production level really is.
A magazine editor I was working with, a wonderful women who gets the MomShift goals and why we need to hear these positive stories suggested removing one of the interviews from the piece. For her, this woman’s story didn’t resonate because, “Really, no one can be working that hard, it sounds made up.”
It wasn’t. The story in question was about a recent immigrant who, with a 1 year old in tow, was doing her MBA full time and working five nights a week. Her husband was doing the same. Finances were tight and they had no family support in their new city. The story ends well (today they both have excellent jobs and a second child) but it didn’t reflect the experiences of this editor or any of the women she knew, so out it went.
So how do you change this? Well, initiatives that are actively adding new viewpoints to mainstream issues by connecting time and resource pressed journalists to different perspectives is a great start. Part of the problem, (as I’m increasingly realizing) is that finding stories from your own professional and social circle is dangerously easy.
So far, I’ve interviewed a few women who found post baby success while adapting to a new country, or who first had kids and then went to university or college to start their career, but only because their stories just happened to come my way. But I’ve decided that for my target of the next 100 interviews, I am going to actively do my small part to help bring more missing voices forward by deliberately reaching out to new networks and organizations that can help me showcase that post baby professional success is happening in all communities and among a diverse spectrum of women.
Ideas or suggestions on who to contact – very much welcome. And since I edit this website, at least I know their profiles will be included here. I can’t promise anything on the grammar though.
As part of their feature look at work life balance, today’s Globe and Mail features an op-ed on The MomShift called, “Balancing babies with career.”
Very exciting for the project – but also for the chance to feature the stories of 3 MomShifters: Kristin Taylor a partner at Fraser Milner Casgrain, Angela Mitchell an associate partner at KPMG and Bushra Aafaqi.
Am looking forward to being able to share more stories and use opportunities like this to identify new women to feature in the project.
If your story might be a fit or if you know someone who might be – please get in touch, I would love to hear from you! I’m on twitter@RevaSeth or at: reva(at) centerforcareerinnovation.com