Time Is Precious: Susana Roges, VP, Client Partner, Critical Mass

Critical Mass embraces the reality of parenthood. There is actually a slack channel called “cmmammas” where working moms share working mom struggles.

Susana Roges
VP, Client Partner
 

Tell us about yourself and your current role.

As a Vice President, Client Partner I lead the team, like a mini-CEO. I manage the budget, make the team decisions, go wherever the client needs me to go. I try to act like I’m in charge, but let’s be frank, the clients are my boss. The demands are ceaseless, the hours grueling, the plates of spaghetti thrown without mercy. Luckily, I’m also able to work with another group clients—leaders from a large financial institution. They’re quite lovely and are firmly opposed to marinara-based projectiles.  

What is the culture like at your agency?

At Critical Mass the culture is unlike any other I have ever experienced. There are the tangible things—the bagels on bagel Friday, the beers at beer o’clock, the CMMY’s, the CMVP program, and other acronyms that would take a long time unpack but, take my work for it, are truly awesome. Above all, however, the culture is all about the people. Critical Mass places the utmost value in genuine, hard-working, open-minded folks that also happen to be incredibly talented—and nice. Genuinely nice! I’ve seen the niceness throw people off at first, but they adjust pretty quickly and then can’t imagine life without it.

How does that culture mesh with the juggling act that is being a working mother?

Critical Mass embraces the reality of parenthood. There is actually a slack channel called “cmmammas” where working moms share working mom struggles. They give advice, receive advice, and provide each other with a support system. It’s a nice thing to have when you’ve lost count of your sleepless nights because one of your kids was sick, then another, then another, and yet here you are, at work, making ALL THE THINGS happen (with one eye closed).

Critical Mass is also an incredibly family friendly agency. It understands that work and life never happen on schedule, especially during those brutal weeks. You know, the weeks where, on Monday, home is madness. On Tuesday, work is madness. By Wednesday and Thursday, the madness converges into something that science has no name for. Then the week closes out with a huge client presentation at 9am (gotta get in early) and your kid’s first piano recital at 3pm (gotta leave early). And in the end it all goes amazingly, and you’re present for everything, and you feel good about it. How could that be? Because managing it all is a lot easier when the place you work for believes in flexibility and knows that sometimes you have to WFH and move things around to make it all work. As long as work gets done, Critical Mass has your back through the good, the bad, and the snugly.

In what ways has being a mother changed how you approach certain aspects of your job?

So, I’m embarrassed that I ever complained about having too much work or being tired prior to having kids. But having kids is now a fact of my life. As such, I’ve learned to become more focused while at work. Now, not only do I get to work on time, I get there an hour early, which gives me almost a solid 90 minutes to myself to get stuff done, sans interruption. Overall, being smarter about how I use each hour of the day is key to being able to continue succeeding at work while assuming a huge new mental load and demand at home. And having three very different kids allows me to appreciate differences in other people. Adapting to others is something I’m good at—my kids taught me that.

What would you say are some of the most rewarding aspects of being a working mother?

The most rewarding thing would be knowing that I am setting a great example for my kids. Contrary to household myths, things like food and clothing don’t magically appear in our home. We have to work hard to get those items, and I make sure my kids see that. Also, time is precious, especially when it’s in short supply. So I make a conscious effort to be present in the hours and minutes we DO have and never take a second of it for granted. Lastly, I know first-hand how super-easy it is to be a new mother. The world greets you every morning with bouquets of roses and free smoothies and says “thanks for being you, awesome mommy.” OK, maybe we’re not there yet as a society. Until then, I’ll continue to be an advocate for new moms—especially as they enter the workforce. It’s never easy, and I believe that moms who have been there before have to have the backs of the ones who are trying to figure it out.

What are the biggest challenges that you’ve dealt with?

Having to be two to three places at once—again, without fictional superpowers. Business trips. Evening events. Guilt about everything. A two-hour commute (uphill, both ways).

What steps do you take to ensure you achieve a healthy work-life balance?

I sleep less—oh, so much less. Okay, that’s arguably not healthy (and by “arguably not healthy” I mean “scientifically proven not to be healthy”) but I want to be there for both lives: my work life and home life. I also don’t want to feel guilty about prioritizing my home life when I have to. Getting over the fear that I will be judged if I leave early for my son’s baseball game is paramount; I thank my lucky stars that I work for a place where that is never frowned upon.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Tell us a bit about it.

Let me tie all the threads together here: I won employee of the month (CMVP) the month I returned from maternity leave! Boom! As a woman, when you step away from the workforce to raise a child, it’s natural to experience certain inevitable fears: will my job be there? Will my team miss me? Will my boss notice how much crushingly harder  everything is without me? Will my clients weep sorrowfully if they don’t hear my voice rising from the polycom? Will some usurper step into my shoes and takeover? Am I replaceable? Do I even want to go back to work? What kind of person has these thoughts? All people, it turns out. And it all turned out just fine. After my mat leave with my third, so many of my life decisions felt right. There was that moment where I felt—“okay, yes, I can and do have it all.”

Where do you see the possibility for change for future working parents?

As the work world continues to see that working parents are actually terrific employees, smart employers will continually embrace flexible work arrangements and more elastic schedules.

Who are some working mothers that you admire/look up to?

The prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Arden. She’s everything, and then some, and she’s doing things that I personally admire. She is currently the youngest female head of state, had a child while in office, and is taking a strong position against gun control.  I also look up to my own mother, Rosa Roges, for having been a working mom all my life. I remember her power walking me down NYC streets to drop me off at school so that she could get to work on time. She then had to arrange afternoon activities until she was able to get out and come get my sibling and me (back in the 80s-90s, Dads were not as involved). To her I say “thank-you for paving the way and showing me that it could be done. You did it, you were amazing at it, and I’m not sure we thanked you enough!”

What is your all-time favorite Mother’s Day campaign?  

Does the Amy Schumer SNL The Day You Were Born.  ’ skit count? If so, that’s it. Otherwise, “The Unique Connection” for Pandora gets me every time. It reminds me how powerful the bond is between children and moms. They are so loving and so forgiving and know us better than anyone.