Tell us about yourself and your current role.
I am VP, Human Resources for RAPP U.S., based in the New York City office. I’m responsible for providing strategic guidance for Human Resources across our six U.S. locations, comprised of three brands. I have 20+ years’ experience crafting sound HR strategies focused on talent management and acquisition, organizational design and development, employee engagement, compensation, employee relations, and performance management. Most importantly, I am a wife to my husband Marc, and mother to my two beautiful daughters Reese (9) and Morgan (7).
What is the culture like at your agency?
RAPP’s culture continues to be one of growth with a strong focus on employee individuality, engagement, wellness and inclusion. RAPP has done a lot, over the last few years, to ensure employees are comfortable bringing their whole selves to the office, encouraging our talent to be fearless and embrace their individuality. For me, that’s about working hard to drive HR strategies that foster employee engagement, while also being a mom and having the flexibility to focus on both my professional and personal goals – and knowing it’s supported.
How does that culture mesh with the juggling act that is being a working mother?
Because I receive support and encouragement in creating that balance, one of the things I love most about RAPP’s culture, I strive to offer the same to our talent. While I am very fortunate to work at an agency that values, and truly exercises policies for, flexibility and wellness, I also think that I, personally have made it a priority, which has positively impacted my ability to juggle my home life and career. It can’t just be about what the company is doing for you – if you don’t make yourself a priority, you can’t expect others to. Coworkers are not always thinking about what another employee needs, or the impact of a last-minute meeting or deliverable on others, they are just thinking in the moment about an end-goal. RAPP absolutely supports our employees’ ability to push back, but it’s up to the employee to say, “I can’t make that meeting,” and suggest another time, or work to reprioritize deliverables. I have allowed myself to feel comfortable with leaving at 5:00 PM, so I can get home and have dinner with my husband and children; to work from home, so I can see my daughter’s winter concert. While I’m at an agency that supports these decisions 100%, I think it’s incumbent upon us working mothers to not feel guilty about asking for it and doing it. As long as the work gets done, who cares what time of day you are doing it – or from where? I think that is the best advice that I can give new working mothers: find a way to make it work for you and don’t apologize for it. Own it.
In what ways has being a mother changed how you approach certain aspects of your job?
Being a working mother has absolutely changed my approach – I’ve learned to better prioritize, I’ve become more empathetic, and I’ve honed my time management skills. Most importantly, though, I think being a working mother has given me a voice and sense of fearlessness which has allowed me to speak up – and not let being a working mother be a disadvantage. It’s an advantage because where-ever I work is getting a stronger, more passionate me in and out of the office. I can do both and I can care passionately about both. And I do. Women don’t have to choose one or the other, and they don’t have to apologize for it.
What would you say are some of the most rewarding aspects of being a working mother?
I will never forget the feeling of my first day back at work, after having my first daughter, Reese. That night, I remember rocking her in a rocking chair, crying – no uncontrollably sobbing – wondering how I would ever leave her again the next day. I probably shared fears that every new working mom has. Will she know I’m her mother if I’m gone for so many hours? Will she think the nanny is her mom? Am I doing the right thing – going to work and not staying home with her? But, I am glad I did push through those feelings, because I know that being a working mom does more for my children than just provide their necessities or pay for their activities. Working mothers set examples for their children – I’m setting an example for my daughters. They’re seeing, first-hand, that I’m a successful business woman, with a job I love and a career that I built – and that’s something they can do, too. That, as women, they can be whatever it is they want to be and that they don’t have to choose between dreams and motherhood. They can do both, without sacrifice because both are possible and I am a living example of this every day. They’re growing up with a mom that may work, but also volunteers at their school and attends their softball and soccer games. That is absolutely the most rewarding thing about being a working mom.
What are the biggest challenges that you’ve dealt with?
Realizing that I can’t be good at everything, including finding balance, all the time. Something always gives. There are moments when I’m missing out on time with my kids, even though we’re both home, because I’m on a call – or I’m working on a big project instead of playing in the snow with them on a snow day. And let’s not mention when I forgot it was PJ day at school! The flip side also occurs, of course. When I don’t take a call or attend a meeting, or leave early – I do feel like, in some ways, that impacts perception. Fortunately, though, over time, I’ve become ok with that. At the end of the day, I know I’m getting the work done, but the balance is definitely a challenge. You just have to forgive yourself and remind yourself that you’re not going to be perfect all of the time at either role. I am also very fortunate to have a supportive husband who supports me in both my career and motherhood. He constantly reminds me that my kids will survive and supports my work and travel, and is extremely complementary of all I have accomplished.
What steps do you take to ensure you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
First thing’s first – I always ensure that I am taking all my allocated vacation time each year and I’m not apologetic about it. I know a lot of companies debate the idea of unlimited vacation time. I personally believe that dedicated vacation, which is lost if not used, is actually a better way to ensure that people the taking the time they need for their own balance and wellbeing. Additionally, the ability to work from home a couple of days a week has been life-changing in that it’s made me feel like I am not losing valuable time with my kids. Simply being able get them to and from the bus a couple of days a week ensures that I have balance. Combined, these two things allow me the time that I need to focus on my family and my own wellbeing.
What professional achievement are you most proud of? Tell us a bit about it.
I’m most proud of the amazing HR team I’ve built at RAPP and feel extremely proud of them. Without them, being a working mom would be harder. Together, we have rolled out some really great HR practices and strategies and are truly making a difference in acquisition and engagement. It’s important to me that whether they have children yet, or not, that they realize that balance is important for them, too, so I encourage them to take their vacation time, work from home to be with their families or just to focus on their own wellbeing. This HR team, and the work we are doing together, is definitely my greatest professional achievement.
Where do you see the possibility for change for future working parents?
Companies must continue to allow for flexibility, especially in the advertising world. We have to understand that, with today’s technology changing work environment, hours and locations can and should be more flexible and we need to ensure, as managers, that we’re measuring against productivity and output – not face-time in an office. I think the industry is getting a lot better, but we’re not quite there yet.
Who are some working mothers that you admire/look up to?
Without thinking twice, I’d definitely say my own mother, who was a working mom while I grew up – during a time when most of my friends had stay-at-home moms. She showed me that it was possible to be both a successful business woman and a loving mom, just as she was, because she worked hard but gracefully balanced always being there for me and my sister. She was the role model, for me, that I strive to be for my own children. And while I hope Reese and Morgan say that I’m the working mother they admire most in an article on day, I also hope they don’t – because, by the time they start a career, I hope this isn’t even a topic of discussion anymore, it’s just a way of life.