How Audrey Barucchi found balance with a company that shares her values and supports her need for flexibility

by Liz Marchant

Audrey Barucchi, marketing manager, Calix.
Number of kids: Two
Age of kids: A seven-year-old son and 15-month-old daughter.

What’s important to you in a role?

Using my professional skills, which means using everything I got out of my education, travelling, and overall experiences to make a positive impact in the world. I’ve learned over the years how to use my communications skills to impact for good. Since discovering that, I promised myself I would never let that go. Wherever I work, I need to make sure the values of the company are right.

The vision of the company I work for currently is to innovate for the earth. This gives me a chance to challenge the CEO on how, as a team, we can make a positive difference for the longer term. Beyond growing revenue, I need a higher, positive purpose for my role.

Can you describe what’s involved in doing your job on a day-to-day basis?

I have two main roles.

The first is global brand management. This includes corporate comms and a lot of aspects behind the brand: the website; company newsletter; investor relations; and PR.

The second aspect is related to sales, with some lead-generation and conversion responsibilities. This involves content marketing and lead nurturing.

Did you have any personal concerns or worries in relation to family or out-of-work commitments when you started combining working and parenting?

I wasn’t at Calix when I had my son seven years ago. I went back to work and put my son in day-care when he was four months old. It was very challenging those first few months. I was breastfeeding, expressing milk in the bathroom at the office, storing the milk alongside sandwiches in the fridge. I didn’t feel very welcome at work; it was nothing to do with management, but just the way people looked at a woman going back to work so early.

Within those first few months, Calix contacted me as they were looking for someone to head up marketing and communications. This let me use my skills to do something I believed in. On top of that, there was a day-care at the front door. This was a sign that this is where I needed to be.

What kind of support do you have?

I’ve received a lot of support from Calix as a woman and mother (in a company where there are very few of us). 15 months ago, I went on maternity leave again to have my daughter. When I asked the CEO about a maternity leave policy, we realised that none existed so he asked me to work on one. As a result, we now provide four months’ full pay, and then a part-time return arrangement to encourage and welcome our women employees back. I first did two days a week, then three, now four days a week. I’m about to return to full-time. This transition is a gift.

I have the flexibility I need to work from home, or arrive late or leave early. No one asks questions. I do my job and I do it well, and that’s what is required of me.

Our CEO is an inspiration showing how you can be a father of five children, be there for them, and at the same time be the CEO of a global company. He’s the first one to say you need to switch off and take time off. He’s a great leader and very inspiring.

I’m French originally so I don’t have family here. My support is day-care and I did have an au pair for six months last year which helped me transition back to work.

My partner is also amazing. We share everything. For example, he also asked to work four days a week. Unfortunately, his workplace didn’t support it, which was upsetting. Men and women should have an equal share and companies should support that. By not supporting it, you’re asking women to put their careers on hold or go part-time. If more men ask for this, things will start to change.

What are your work commitments?

I will be traveling a lot for the next month, but that’s another area where work is really supportive. I’m basically managing my own travel. Last year I was supposed to go to Asia but couldn’t because my baby was too young. I always manage to dial into meetings and it works fine.

I currently work four days a week so I have to be efficient as my days are condensed. I try to have shorter days, for example sometimes I come in at 9am because I have to drop my son off at school. I also have a meeting at 4pm which I will do via Skype. I’ll be home on time to pick up the kids and give them a bath. I can always find time once the kids are busy, or in bed to finish my work.

About once every fortnight I have to stay a bit later, which means I’m home by 6:30 or 7pm when we have a meeting with the US and Europe. I could dial in at home if needed however it’s easier to do it in the office where it’s quiet and let my partner manage the kids.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced finding a balance between work and parenting commitments?

Working in a very male-oriented environment, I sometimes feel like I go home and I’ve got so much to do. I feel like I have to think about everything for everyone at work and at home. Too often as women we carry the heavy mental burden.

It’s like you have a second job, being a parent. Some nights after the day is over, you feel like you’ve done a marathon!

This is why I love doing yoga; it helps me let go. If things don’t go to plan, we’ll just deal with it on the day.

Sometimes you feel like you’re not doing either of your jobs really well. I have to be mindful that I don’t carry the guilt all the time or it has a negative effect. I have to be proud of myself for what I am achieving and just thinking I’m doing what I can and doing the best I can.

I’ve met a lot of women over the years who have experienced depression because they feel like they’re not a good mum. Or who almost lost their jobs because they can’t really be there because they need to be with kids. It’s hard to combine being a parent and being a professional, caring for yourself and reminding yourself you’re doing a great job.

Letting go of guilt has been important.

How long did you take maternity leave/time out of your career with each of your children?

Four months.

What advice would you give someone before commencing maternity leave?

My first advice is to not completely disconnect from work. When you finish your maternity leave, you’re still a mum and you will have to juggle both for the next 20 years. Don’t just disconnect. Take your time to recover and then settle into a new chaotic routine!

The second thing I would advise is that it’s going to be extremely difficult to leave your kids. Even today, I have a lot of guilt for leaving my children however it’s good for them and good for me.

I was fortunate in my job. I wanted to come back slowly to the level I feel comfortable with. It’s a lot easier than being with your baby all the time and then being completely without.

Also, I’d say don’t take so much time off that you’ll be dreading going back to work. If you decide to be a working mum, it’s for the long haul. Accept that, and do the transition little by little.

What advice would you give someone returning to their career after having kids?

Look after yourself. If you look after yourself, you’ll be able to look after your children better and do a better job. Remind yourself every day that you’re doing a fantastic job, being a parent, going to work, and it’s OK if things aren’t bang on perfect. You’re not trying to achieve perfection. Excellence is good enough!

Do you find time for yourself? And if so, how and what do you use it for?

Yes, I have time for myself and use it for yoga. I do different practices two or three hours per week, and meditation. I also teach the team at Calix on Friday lunchtime.

I’ll sometimes go away for the weekend to do a yoga retreat. It helps me disconnect from everything. It also helps me remember that I’m not just a mum and not just an employee.

Do you have a daily routine, and if so, what does it look like?

I wake up early, 6am or 6:30 even on weekends, and get everyone ready.

Before I had my daughter, I used to meditate in the morning. Now it’s homework in the morning in our house. I also take time to get myself ready, which is an important part of my day. I need to look after myself.

Then I drop my son at school while my partner does the day-care run. I come into the office and I usually have a pretty busy day because I’m not here every day. I try to take a real break for lunch if I can. I try to disconnect for at least half an hour.

In the afternoon around 4pm or 5pm, I leave the office, to pick up my son. We then spend a bit of time outside if possible and then it’s on to dinner. My partner does bath and shower time with the kids.

After we put the little one to bed, we have dinner with my son. This is an important part of the day because that’s the only time I have with him so we talk or play a board game. When he’s in bed, it’s time with my partner. We don’t have TV at home so we spend time talking, reading, etc. We also do yoga every day, and sometimes meditation together. I try to go to sleep around 10 or 11 to get as much sleep as I can.

If you could do anything differently in relation to developing your career over the years, what would it be (if anything)?  

Every year is a milestone. My perspectives have changed. The way I see the world today is different to the way I saw the world five years ago. You have to go and grab the opportunity when it arrives. It all depends on the perspective you have: opportunities I see today, I might not have seen five years ago.

It’s hard to say what I would do differently, because the things I would do differently are based on knowing new things now. There’s a time for everything and everything happens at that time.

I travelled the whole world before I got to Australia and had lots of different experiences in different countries. That brought me here. For me, all of this plus work plus being a parent plus doing yoga, is about expanding my perspective on life. The more you know, the more you experience, the more you live, the greater perspective you have on things.

I look at work and parenting as a learning journey, it’s shaping my future me. I’ll be different again in five years as a result of what I’m doing now. It’s a puzzle that keeps building…