Mothers In Advertising: Lara O’Shea, Global Consulting Partner/Digital Strategy at OgilvyRED

To celebrate Mother’s Day, AdForum sat down with a series of mothers to hear first hand what it is like to be a working mother in the advertising industry.

by Sarah Cullen , Adforum

To celebrate Mother’s Day, AdForum sat down with a series of mothers to hear first hand what it is like to be a working mother in the advertising industry. We would like to thank Lara O’Shea, Global Consulting Partner/Digital Strategy at OgilvyRED for taking part in this interview series.

By Sarah Cullen 


Perspectives: Mothers In Advertising

How would you describe the culture at your agency?
Moving from client to agency, and from London to New York, away from all my family was, on paper, probably not the most sensible thing to do as I started a family. However, in the main, I’ve found the culture at Ogilvy to be incredibly supportive throughout both my pregnancies and subsequent return to work. We are fortunate to have a strong focus on diversity, which includes working parents, and I feel with amenities like the pumping rooms, the agency tries to make the transition as easy as possible. There are times when it is challenging to be a working mother, but I have always found the right support through teams and mentors in the end; it just sometimes takes a little effort! I feel we are on the right track, and with great support from leadership and management we will continue to have a strong culture for working moms (and dads).
What advice would you give to other mothers who are trying to find the right work and life balance?
Create strong routines and habits that take the thinking out of daily choices, e.g. what to wear, what time to leave the apartment, what you will do first when you arrive at the office; these techniques have been discussed in academia recently (think Barack Obama’s ‘uniform’), and I find that wearing a dress every day and getting the same ferry every day frees my mind to focus on enjoying breakfasts with my family, and the task at hand at work. Also, know how you work best through every 24 hour cycle; I know that I tend to do my best work in the morning, so I arrive at the office before most people, and block out until 11am to focus on getting the most important work done. I’d also say to be kind on yourself, get enough sleep, exercise, water, and eat to fuel your body and mind!
What changes do you hope to see for future working parents?
Longer maternity leave, and more flexible return to work policies, such as Ogilvy’s recent policy. Flexible working, and better use of technology to enable closer team collaboration without being in the office. More focus and prioritization to help teams make better use of time and enable more actual work to get done during the work-day. More of a focus on outcome rather than long hours or ‘presenteeism’.
Has being a mother changed how you approach any aspects of your job; how?
Yes, it has helped me to focus and prioritize—nothing like a childcare deadline to focus on the big wins. It has also helped me become more understanding of different styles of working and the different challenges people face, and empowered me to communicate with a wider range of people—with two energetic toddlers at home I always try to ensure explain clearly, praise, and reward, and this I try to bring this into my working style.
What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of being a working mother?
Working in the home and working outside the home are both challenging, and in many ways being at home with children is more challenging than being in the office. However, balancing work and children is a constant emotional challenge, and I often have a feeling of ‘missing out’; this does mean that I really value the time I have with my children and try to make the most of the mornings, evenings, and weekends, and focus on the good that comes out of each day. Also, I strongly believe that I’m able to bring the tools I learn in the workplace to improve my parenting—an example of this is that at work I advise large clients on digital transformation, and how to address issues like the impact that technology will have on the workplace; I try to use this insight, combined my with prior experience as a teacher, to help shape the kinds of skills and behaviors I want my toddlers to be able to learn to be able to succeed in an AI-enabled workplace.