Some time ago, I shared the story of my Accenture journey with colleagues from HR during their two-day recruiting hackathon. One of the things I’d shared was that I get a lot of help and support in Accenture as an individual who enjoys her career and also has family commitments. I shared that, often, we find it difficult to relate to someone who has both a career and a family because she seems so mystical and the idea of achieving it ourselves seems so far-fetched.
I, too, have had my moments of doubt about achieving this. However, I have been extremely blessed to have gotten a lot of support and encouragement. The women leaders I have met are real, open and sincere about sharing their own stories with me. They motivated me and made me feel that being a mother and a professional is possible. We are not rare individuals; we are not unicorns.
I would like to share some of my key takeaways as a woman, professional and mother in Accenture:
1. Be clear about what you want, prioritize that and seek support.
My career counselor, Stephanie Gault, whom I absolutely adore, once shared, “You can have it all, but not all the time.”
She could not be more right, and I have to say that she has shaped my outlook as an individual more than she would take credit for. (Stephanie is very gracious like that!) That piece of wisdom has helped me to clarify my priorities and ask for help in meeting them.
For instance, as a first-time mom, I wanted to breastfeed my child for as long as possible, so I requested to extend my maternity leave. My leadership agreed without hesitation.
When I returned to work, I felt anxious about juggling work, breastfeeding and caring for my child. Again, my leadership soothed my worries and gave me the confidence that if this was my priority, it would be respected. In addition, they offered me support and advice subtly and gently, which I greatly appreciated.
I went on to breastfeed for 20 months whilst being on a full-time project. I also traveled to India for training with a huge cooler box, much to the bemusement of the Immigration Authorities.
2. Focus on the right things and ask for help.
Another great advice Stephanie gave me was to focus on quality time with my child. She is a mother of two lovely children and I admire her wonderful relationship with them.
As such, I try to spend one on one time with my three-and-a-half-year-old son. There may be times where I can’t make it home on time because of my work commitments but, whenever I can, I spend some one-on-one time with him. When my schedule permits, I take the day off to just have fun with him.
Spending quality time also means I need to focus on the things that matter and accept that I cannot be the “perfect mother”—there is no such thing and, often, women put a lot of pressure on themselves to cater to others’ every need.
After some reflection, I realized that perfection is not possible, and help is needed. After all, asking for, giving and receiving help are key ethos in Accenture! In school, I seek the support of my son’s teachers and the Centre Director. At home, I am lucky to have my mom and my husband, who is a super, hands-on father.
3. The men are important, too.
I must emphasize that, in addition to the support I get from women in Accenture, a huge part of my success can also be attributed to the men I work with. They are supportive of my needs and are very emphatic in reminding me that family comes first.
Of course, my husband plays a huge part. He is an understanding and confident individual who makes the time and effort to understand my needs and what makes me happy—and that includes being passionate about my career and having me time so I can be a better mother.
I would like to end with a final note that being a mother and a professional is challenging. In fact, being a woman with multi-faceted roles is challenging, regardless of what the roles are.
However, we should always manage this with openness and flexibility. Having priorities doesn’t mean that we insist on our way and, when we seek support, we must be open to implementing a few changes.
We can't always get it right. There have been so many times I have gotten things so wrong, but I always received the support that I needed to continue to grow. When we falter and fall, we can go ahead to moan or cry (I do), but let’s remember to get back up and continue with the journey.
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