Growing your career while growing your family as a woman in techFeatured

It is a choice to be a working parent, and it is not an easy choice to make.

When I was pregnant for the first time nine years ago, I thought my career could not stand a chance if I wanted to be a dedicated and present mother. I worked in a fast-paced IT environment as a Product Development Manager and a Project Manager, where continuous learning and growth while being stretched daily is the norm. Adding children to the equation seemed impossible. I had read many articles confirming career stagnation for women when they have children, and I believed the narrative. And I was very wrong.

I am a mother of two children, a woman in tech, and an immigrant in Germany – any person could say I have enough obstacles on my plate. I have been discriminated against far more than I have not been, but that did not put me down. I stand strong to break the barriers and encourage people – even in the fast-paced tech environment – to grow their careers on their own terms.

The reality vs. biases about careers and parenting

Despite all internet memes and TikTok videos on how people lose their cognitive abilities when they become parents, my reality is that I have a sharper focus and interest to develop new skills that help me have a secure job, financial stability, and independence. Parenting also helped me with prioritization and spending time and energy on what matters. Knowledge does not magically disappear when you become a parent, nor does responsibility and accountability.

It's important to remember that children learn by example. Architecting an environment for children to learn and grow their skills is best done by setting a good example. Their heroes are their parents – the people they learn from and copy the most. Good parenting is about instilling values that will guide children in their life. To be a good parent means to set a good example – walk the talk.

The key skills that balance career, children, and personal life

Having a career + children + personal life is not impossible because all these elements of life are based on the same key soft skills.

We all require consistent learning, introspection, and taking feedback seriously to help us advance our careers or change them altogether. Slacking is a real luxury for parents, productivity is their mission. The technical world is not much different. Fast-paced environments, where prioritization, learning, and taking feedback are the ingredients that result in technical excellence, which is highly awarded.

Parenting requires a high dose of project management, including rigorous time management, conflict management, a Ph.D. level of patience, and extensive knowledge of psychology – skills that we call soft but are very hard to learn. These soft skills are highly demanded in every job and are challenging to master in corporate training because trainees rarely practice them. Parents, on the other hand, practice them daily. It is sometimes difficult to recognize that parents master these soft skills, which is another reason to raise awareness.

Making It Work: How to Balance Work and Family

1. Outline your life. Be honest with yourself.

Know where you are now and what your wishes are: Children’s needs & schedules, Personal Health & Fitness, Career & Finances, Relationships & Social connections, Hobbies, Fun, Volunteering, etc.

Be honest about what you know, and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Knowing your talents, as well as your imperfections is good guidance for your successes in life and your career. Children are happy with a happy and positive parent, and they will be the biggest allies and supporters in your career. Those are the people that need you the most but also love you the most. Make the best of it. It is important to accept what you can influence and what you are not able to influence.

2. Ask for feedback and learn from it. Iterate often this step.

Yes, it is not easy, and yes, it will be uncomfortable, but it is better to know what people and colleagues consider you are doing right, and what they have noticed in your behavior that is holding you back.

We all have a side we know is our weakness, but we also have a corner side that everyone talks about behind our backs, but we are the only ones who do not know about it. Learn what it is - it will become your biggest strength.

There are many 360-degree feedback tools, and many books that help people learn how to be thankful for feedback, and how to filter which feedback is relevant and which one is not.

3. Know which of your skills can finance your life.

And always be three steps ahead to know which extra skills you need, and acquire them through training at work, free training and courses online, reading and practicing, etc. When people are highly skilled and possess the knowledge, it is very easy to guide people in conversations to the facts, thus having more win-win situations than not.

4. Be rigorous with your time - create habits.

Make a plan, and focus on one change at a time. More than one change is energy-draining, but once you make that one thing a habit, it is easy to add a new challenge to your list for change.

The book Atomic Habits has been my life savior, which I read after Hooked, which helped me with my professional product career and to reduce personal social network usage, as well as The Power of Habit, to help me with understanding the psychology of habits and the science behind it.

5. Create your village - find the people that help and support you and accept their help.

Mentorship at work, coaching, helping with childcare, helping with a project, being a responsibility buddy for sport, or just having a crying shoulder or someone to have a night out with. Architect your environment to help you succeed. Do not forget to create boundaries with people who take advantage of your generosity and time and damage your schedule or relationships.

6. Understand your feelings, and do not let discrimination put you down.

Express how you feel when you are hurt by someone’s behavior or language. Brene Brown’s and Adam Grant’s books and advice are very good for understanding the power of feelings and how to benefit from them.

Overcoming Challenges and Staying Motivated

Things will be bad, and things will be good. You control very little about how life is. Know what you can impact. Know what you cannot impact. Accept what you cannot impact, as you cannot change it. You have control over how you react to the events that happen in life.

Growing the next generation of good, kind, and hardworking people who break the barriers can only be done by walking in the shoes of good and kind parents, breaking barriers in society and business.

Be encouraged and motivated to keep learning, and growing the career while still being a good parent, despite all odds.