I come from what was considered a “traditional” childhood; my dad worked and my mom stayed home to care for me and my brother.
So, I spent significantly more time with my mother, which resulted in forming a much stronger relationship with her than with my dad. I promised myself that if I ever had a child, I would be more active in their childhood. I didn’t want to repeat the same pattern.
When my baby girl Lara was born, I decided to take the full paternity leave offered. I knew I would never regret the time to focus on my family.
At no time along the way did I feel that I would need to sacrifice my family life in order to succeed at Accenture.
Choosing family first
From the time my girlfriend became pregnant with Lara, we had an agreement that we would share parenting responsibilities. Deciding to take 3.5 months for parental leave was my first step in fulfilling that agreement.
One of the things I like to share with potential new joiners when considering an opportunity with Accenture is our work-life balance and how we are offered flexible work hours and arrangements when needed to balance our personal lives.
This benefit came to life for me when I talked to my manager regarding my parental leave. He not only encouraged me to take the full 3.5 months off; he suggested that I shut off my phone and enjoy the time with my daughter. There was not one point during my leave that I felt I was a “burden” on the team. It felt like the normal thing to do.
I would be lying if I didn’t say that I had doubts about the impact my leave would have on my career progression. However, I realized that this was possibly a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity and that there was still plenty of time to continue to build a career after returning.
Not only did taking parental leave give me firsthand experience in what it truly means to take care of a newborn, but it also strengthened the bond between Lara and me.
Growing my career
Initially, I feared that I would somehow lose everything I’d learned by being away on leave. But this was not even close to the case.
During my leave, I was contacted about a project to join when I returned to work. I didn’t spend time worrying about being “on the bench” when I returned, which eased my mind.
Since taking leave, I’ve been promoted twice, first to consultant and then to associate manager, while balancing my new family life and my career.
Currently, I’m working as a Test Architect on an agile project for a client. In simple terms, this means ensuring that the quality delivered meets the requirements identified by the business.
I am responsible for the quality of an Accenture-developed data analysis application used to identify correctness of data. It consists of 600+ requirements and analyzing more than a hundred million rows of data to determine whether each data item is meeting the quality standards identified in the requirements.
What really motivates me about testing is that I’ve transitioned from being specialized in just one area to becoming a hybrid expert, contributing on all phases of a development lifecycle—from analysis, development and testing to project management and client interactions.
One of the biggest differences in my day-to-day work after I returned from leave is that I’m better at prioritizing responsibilities and handing over tasks to others that I would previously just handle myself. Not only does this new-found delegation help build our more-junior team, it gives me the opportunity to spend more time with my family—a decent trade-off, I’d say.
After having Lara, I try to keep my mornings and evenings free from work, so I can have time with her early in the day and for a few hours before she goes to sleep. Any additional time required for work comes outside these timeslots, unless it’s absolutely critical.And my leaders and coworkers respect these boundaries. I never get the feeling that my work ethic is being questioned when I
leave early to pick up my daughter at daycare or if I need to work a day at home because she’s sick.
I think the biggest problem you can have as a consultant or in any role, is to put work ahead of everything else. Sometimes we get it in our heads that everyone demands this of us and that we are not doing our jobs if we are not putting our careers first.
Seize the opportunity
My advice to new parents?
Stop thinking about how going on leave or being an active parent will affect your career. Instead, look at it as one of those “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunities to spend time with your kids.
There’s nothing more joyful than to see your child running toward you with open arms because they’re happy to see you. Or the nights when your partner is putting your child to sleep, but she yells your name because she wants to say good night “just one more time.”
I would not trade these moments for anything career related, and I can honestly say that I have never second-guessed my decision to prioritize my family life.
It is possible to have both a family and a successful career. Prioritize, and make the most of both of them.
Join a team that knows you’re more than just your job. Find your fit with Accenture.
Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved. Accenture, its logo, and New Applied Now are trademarks of Accenture.