Studies of how men and women behave in the workplace suggest men are more likely to ask for what they want than women. Our Rocket Women posts shine a light on women who have asked for something in their professional life that has had a significant impact on their career. We hope they fuel your resolve to ask for what you need to get on.
Jessica Brookes is the global analyst relations lead for Avanade and head of Avanade’s communications (analyst, press and corporate communications) for Europe, Africa and America. She is a member of the CIPR and IIAR and has degrees in communications and political science from Portland State University in the US. Her previous roles include international communications for Microsoft, EMEA communications for Microsoft and head of communications in emerging markets for BlackBerry. Jessica is working towards a strategic advisor role within Avanade’s Global Strategy and Growth division and has set steps in place to transition into that within 2-4 years. She travels a fair bit and talks to her children via Skype which has left them thinking she lives in the computer when she’s not at home.
Taking stock whilst on maternity leave
About half way through my maternity leave, I took stock of what I wanted from my career and what I expected from my employer given my new role at home. I made the very difficult decision to leave the company I was working for. I did not feel they would not be able to offer me the work life balance I wanted because to establish new boundaries with an old team (particularly given the company) would be nearly impossible. Even with two new additions to our household it never occurred to me to not work, but I knew I couldn’t go back to work as I knew it.
I resigned from my old company which in 2010 felt like a massive gamble. The economy was dipping into a recession, I had technically been out of the workforce for nearly a year and I thought job prospects might be slim. Never the less I felt sure that I needed to work for a company that respected the boundaries that I would set in relation to my home life. When Avanade approached me through a head hunter, I felt I had nothing to lose by being completely up front with them about my needs and expectations.
Jessica’s ask – blow the 9-5, let me work flexibly
I had no idea how they would respond but when they asked me what I was looking for in my new role, what I wanted to achieve etc; I clearly told them that I was looking for a company that was flexible and had a modern approach to work. I explained that my family was my number 1 priority but that I was willing to give my employer 110% provided it was on my terms. The result has been a much more flexible working environment where I work from home frequently, travel less (well normally, not right now) and rarely have anything resembling a 9-5 day. Yes, I do calls late at night and I often work on the weekends, but I also go to gymnastics with my kids most Fridays, I take them to lunch at least once a week, I reclaim my morning as often as possible and have the nanny come in late so that she gets a little break and I get more quality time with my kids.
I don’t explain myself
I never say that I can’t do a call because…..I always say, I can’t take a meeting at that time unfortunately, but I can do XXX. I think this empowers me to try and be the best employee I can be as well as the best mum. Nothing is perfect, but by being honest with what I wanted in my interviews two years ago, I never feel like I need to make excuses now when my family comes first. If I could tell the Jessica starting out 13 years ago one thing, it would be to follow her dreams. Although given where I have ended up, she may have already known that.
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