Confessions of a Silicon Valley Mom

Not so long ago, but long before I had kids, I had very clear visions of the type of professional parent I would one day become. I was a b-school graduate with high hopes for a world where a working mom had a career in the fast lane without having to make any hard sacrifices. I snickered at moms who left work at 5 PM sharp. I didn’t understand why they dreaded working late. How would they ever achieve their true career potential with their “I have other priorities waiting for me at home” attitude?

I was slightly baffled but mostly dismissive. I told myself I would do it differently. I would do it all, unapologetically. 

Fast forward 7 years and I am the proud parent of a beautiful 6 and 3 year old. We’ve all heard this before, but it’s worth saying that having kids truly transforms every part of you, for better or worse. If you have children you know how annoyed you get when your single friends tell you how ‘busy’ they are. You pretend to empathize, but you don’t. “Oh you had to entertain out of town friends and have dinner with your parents in the same weekend? Wow, I don’t know how you do it!” C’mon, we all do it. I’m sure there is a reason our single friends stop hanging out with us. We become slightly judgmental people who act like we carry the world on our shoulders.  You’re welcome world.

There are days it would be nice to get a medal, but for now we settle for the annual mothers day brunch.

But I digress. Back to being the perfect working mom. There are many debates on having it all and whether it’s possible, not possible or somewhere in between. I personally have gone back and forth on this. I thought I could have it all when I worked a job where I had the title, but not the growth opportunity. I fooled myself into thinking I had it all, but really I just had an easy job that allowed me to focus on my family. That was great until I got the itch to want more ‘stimulation’, career growth and the thrill of working for a start-up.

I live in the bay area so naturally it wasn’t impossible to find that job. I left behind a comfortable career and set off to find the next awesome tech company. I couldn’t be more fortunate to have the job I have today (which checks the box on all three criteria – stimulation, career growth and fast paced start-up). I get to help lead one of the world’s most successful mobile development platform’s sales team (shout out to my pals at Xamarin). These guys and gals are truly brilliant. I went from walking on the ‘mental treadmill’ to running at full speed. However, it is at this point that I started to wonder just how women in the fast lane do it.

I find myself wondering if working moms have a fair chance in this race. It’s the equivalent of running a professional race where everyone is in their best shape, and you are running with two kids strapped on your back. Sure I felt like I was winning when everyone was walking, but competing in the big leagues comes with higher standards.

While I have found this race is slightly handicapped and at times defeating,  I also feel like we working moms can succeed and have the comfort in knowing that while it’s not easy, it’s both doable and immensely rewarding (and yes tiring at times).

To succeed in this race you have to do three things:

Do your job with incredible passion and dedication. You might not be able to work sixteen hours a day in the office, but you are capable of bringing incredible experience and leadership to the table. There is no excuse for mediocrity. Find other working moms to connect with at work and share tips if you are lucky enough to have these amazing women at your company. If not, read their blogsJ

Hire people who can be in the office when you can’t. My amazing boss taught me this (sorry, let me wipe the brown off my nose). But it’s true, she reminded me hire people that complement my schedule so I can give myself the flexibility I need to be both a great professional and mom without feeling like I had compromised both or either. This was one of my biggest aha moments this year. I always thought I had to do it all. It’s freeing to know I don’t. Outsource all things that are within your control. You will regain much of your sanity when you do this.

Let you’re self off the hook once in a while. I recently threw my son’s birthday party 6 weeks late. The evite I sent out had the wrong date, three times. It took me several apologetic edits before I finally got all the details correct. Did I feel judged? Slightly….but I was determined to throw my 3 year old an awesome party regardless of the small details. Ok maybe getting the date right is important, but I eventually got it right. All the guests made it and most importantly, my son had a great time! 

So what exactly does this all mean? If you are a single women without kids, wait before you judge the mom who leaves the building every day likes its on fire. You’ll want the same consideration one day. If you are a working mom, don’t be afraid to ask for help. And most importantly, thank the stay at home moms that spend an immense amount of time volunteering at your child’s school when you can’t be there.

Also fantasize about what you would do if you ever became a stay at home mom (tennis lessons anyone) and tell yourself that you will take a year off one day and travel the world with your children.  

But in all honestly working moms do have it all. They get to experience one of life’s greatest joys –raising children while making great professional strides. I feel so fortunate every day to think I get to experience two very emotionally fulfilling experiences on completely different levels. It may not be easy, but I’d like to think that it is possible to work, raise a beautiful family and still keep your sanity!

Searching for meaning and a job in Silicon Valley (in no particular order)

By Arwa Kaddoura

 Everyone remembers his or her answer to the age old question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Few of us can actually tie our current careers back to that hopeful answer. And let’s face it, that’s probably a good thing. None of us imagined careers beyond Doctor, Lawyer or Firefighter. The words venture capitalist didn’t yet enter our vocabulary, and neither did entrepreneurship, analytics or marketing. Our view of the world was limited to people who wore nice looking uniforms.

As I find myself navigating the world of recruiting again I remember two things. First, I hate sharing facts about myself multiple times in a short sitting of back-to-back interviews. Secondly, I really despise interviews. I love conversations, connecting and brainstorming but absolutely hate twenty questions. I certainly can’t be alone in this.

My current career search has sent me down a fun path of many interesting conversations. I categorize them as follows:

Desperate Headhunter trying to make quota:  These are the conversations with the recruiter at an agency who is desperately trying to tell you what a fantastic fit you are for the position they probably don’t yet have. You will get excited, tell them your salary range and potentially even land a screening. But many of your expectation will fizzle as you find out you were the wrong fit with the wrong salary expectation.

Busy Bee Hiring Manager: These are the Hiring managers who are in desperate need of help but somehow are too disorganized to keep the details about your interview straight. You wait for the interview phone call, ten minutes pass so you assume it’s cancelled, but when you least expect it, your phone rings. They start the conversation by asking, “Is this still a good time”. Now you are standing at a Starbucks ordering your latte and have to think of some clever to say that also accomplishes ordering your beverage.

Talent & Culture Royalty:  These are the internal HR coordinators who want to sniff out any chance that you might not be hip enough for their joint. They naturally call this ‘cultural fit’ and can expertly detect it by asking you questions such as “What’s your favorite food” and “What do you do with your free time”, both questions that I still haven’t found perfect answers to.

Surprised Colleagues: These are the colleagues who were barely briefed on the position or what they should be asking you. They may be used as fillers to kill the six hours they asked you to come in for. Most will not know what the role or job description entails, so to make the time pass they ask open ended questions like “Tell me about yourself”. This is your chance to dominate the conversation and get the scoop on what this company is really like.

To get through these conversations I find it helpful to inject myself with a healthy dose of humor and a slight bit of optimism. I have to admit though; I have been very fortunate to have had some great conversations and connections during my search.  The business leaders I have most enjoyed meeting understand the value of hiring good talent and building great teams (not just individual contributors). They disrupt internally what has become comfortable/safe/familiar and externally what has become conventional wisdom in their industry. These leaders share a strong dose of optimism and are far more likely to achieve disruptive results as compared with leaders who call themselves “realists”. Further, this optimism is executed with discipline that leaves enough room for creative teams to execute with flexibility. It is that leader I feel fortunate enough to be working with next. Wish me luck in my new endeavor! Maybe I’ll share some stereotypical first day experiences with you next. Who loves orientations?