Interview

Establishing goals and listening to your gut are important when deciding to go back to work, says Laurel Grey, senior digital analyst at RSM Australia

by Liz Marchant

Age: 36
Number of kids: 1
Age of kids: 8 months

What’s important to you in a role?

I came to RSM after having my own business doing cloud technology advisory because I always felt it was going to be an emerging profession. At the time when I set up my business, people had not heard of apps that much and they weren’t as commonplace in business 10 years ago as they are now. My business was acquired by RSM so I’m lucky they value that expertise. 

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

I have a national role looking after change transformation at RSM and working with our clients in developing programs so they can move their businesses to the cloud. My role is more a business development job. I work with RSM’s 30 offices to generate new work for the firm on the basis of digital transformation and guiding our clients along that journey. I also develop thought leadership content around change transformation, adopting new technology in businesses, and how people can put it together in a practical way. 

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

Definitely. I am
 American and my partner is Canadian, so we don’t have family here, especially with COVID-19I was really worried about not being able to go back to work at all because I didn’t know if we could afford childcare. 

What kind of support do you have?

I was really lucky that 
our neighbour was able to look after our son for one day a week, and we have a nanny we found on Facebook. Even though it is expensive because I spend half of my salary on nannies, it’s so nice to have that peace of mind knowing my son is being taken care of and he’s close by, and that I can also work on something that I’m really passionate about which gives me really amazing projects. Work is really flexible and has allowed me to come back on my own terms, and do a job that holds me to account around outcomes rather than being available at certain hours. 

What are your work commitments?

I have to be 
there for regular work meetings, especially when I’m engaging with stakeholders, but otherwise a lot of thought leadership and content writing happens when I’m comfortable doing it, which works out really well. 

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

T
rying not to be too controlling in my personal life has been easier than I thoughtI like to normally have an idea of whats going on all the timehave transparency and holthe team accountable at work. With my son it’s much easier to completely give up control. Parenting is not really my area of expertise, so it has helped me a lot to find balance at work as well. It has helped me better enable the team by spreading more knowledge internally and upskill staff rather than feeling like I have to manage things all the time. It’s probably just a natural thing that happens with people as they let go of some of that perfectionism. 

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

I took 
seven months and my reason for coming back quickly was because of the great opportunity we’ve had with COVID-19 to work from home the majority of the time. I’m still going to the office maybe once a month as necessary but being able to work at home has been great. 

What advice would you give someone before commencing maternity leave?

One of the things that
 worked really well for me was I did a big handover plan. I wrote it eight weeks before going on maternity leave to outline exactly all the things I was handing over and that gave me an end point. I used project and task management tool to map out the plan, which allowed me to get the right stakeholders in and do a proper handover so that my team felt supported while I was gone 

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

Do your own due diligence for
 yourself about what you want. If you are not locked into a contract and are looking for a new job, be really clear about what you want. Write down your goals and things you desire, for example, how many days a week do you want to be working or what type of work do you want to be doing? This will give you leverageAlso, talk to somebody. For me it was actually really hard making the decision to return early. A lot of my friends couldn’t believe I was going back to work so soon but that wasn’t really an issue for me because I have a fun career that I was looking forward to returning to. I did go and talk to a counsellor just to get that weight off my chest. I think, ultimately, don’t listen to what anyone else says but go with your own gut. You’re the only one who is going to know what is right for you and your family. There’s going to be a lot of people in your ear but do what’s right for you and, if you are passionate about your job and your career, go and make it happen because it’s not just going to be handed to you. 

Were there many women at your level juggling family and work at RSM?  

Probably not that many. There are a few I can think of but a lot of people at our organisation are still not in the stage of having a family quite yet. 

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

definitely book in time to go to the sauna by myself or with my partner. I also book in time for exercise and things outside of the houseYou definitely have to do that, otherwise it will never happenI have to book a lot of the time with my partner and send him a calendar invite so he knows when he gets home that night he has to take the baby to give me 45 minutes just to get out of the house. 

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

W
e don’t really have a daily routine. We let our son sleep whenever he wants, so we tend to work around that. I work part-time. On my workdays, I hand my son to the nanny who looks after him and I’m able to get stuck into work for the day. On the days I’m not working, I usually get a coffee around 7.30am and take the baby and the dog for a walk to the beach. I also book in playdates for my son. 

How has COVID-19 impacted your work environment? 

It has been a unique challenge but I’m in cloud technology, so I think it’s also been a really good opportunity for me to come back and connect with my clients and RSM partners completely in the cloudAdditionally, I get to share a bit of my personal life considering I’m at home, so clients and colleagues can meet the baby and the dog, and that flexibility has been great. My workplace is also flexible. You have to sign an agreement, so its quite structured but you can work flexible hours, which works really well. I already had a home office set up because I loved working from home beforeI think you can use this situation as an opportunity to really drive your career, but you need to have the right mechanisms in place to support that.  

What are you reading right now and what do you recommend? 

My favourite book is Getting Things Done by David AllenI’m also reading a book called Chillpreneur by Denise Duffield-Thomas, which is about how to be a relaxed entrepreneur. There’s not really a difference between being an employee and being an entrepreneur when it comes to mindset for me.