Paula Parkes at Adobe shares her realities of juggling an APAC role, a toddler and a newborn.

by Liz Marchant

Paula Parkes,  Senior director, enterprise marketing, Asia Pacific, Adobe.
Number of kids: Two
Age of kids: 2 years, 7 months; newborn

What’s important to you in a role?   

The flexibility to be yourself, challenge yourself and balance your life while being able to bring your best performance and deliver business results. Also, a great leadership team is a non-negotiable to me. Being surrounded by people that are top of their game only serves to develop your own leadership skills.

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

I spend a lot of time in strategy meetings. I manage the balance of my time by spending it with US colleagues (early mornings) and working with teams across Asia as they come online from Singapore to China and, later in the day, India.

Leadership and talent development are also a key part of my role. This involves supporting the team through key projects and ensuring that individuals have the opportunity to challenge themselves while achieving the results they aspire to.

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 think some parts of corporate Australia have a way to go when it comes to parental leave. I am very fortunate that Adobe’s global parental leave policy is industry leading. Adobe has proactively driven this but, often, when you look across some industries such as construction, engineering, and business, there is a long way to go to offer new families the support they need to flourish, while also recognising the broader economic benefits so society. This is intrinsically frustrating as families try to juggle the best outcomes for their professional and personal needs.

What kind of support do you have at work and outside of work? 

Adobe provides a very supportive work environment with a unique welcome back program that provides employees and managers with tools, resources, and flexibility to facilitate a seamless transition back to work after extended leave. Outside of work, I rely on great childcare that is a mix of my local community childcare centre, friends, and nanny support. I have an amazing network of friends and home support that helps me manage my time effectively and keep things organised. A great mentor once said ‘surround yourself with a village and treat them like an extension of your family’. This helps especially when all your relatives are offshore.

What are your work commitments? 

My role requires frequent international travel to work with global colleagues. I generally travel to the US three times a year and at least once a quarter across Asia. My work commitments revolve around driving Adobe’s Digital Experience enterprise strategy and managing a regional Asia marketing team that drives campaign marketing, experience marketing, executive marketing, digital, and customer success marketing.

Your role involves managing an APAC team, and therefore working across different time zones. How do you manage this?

I tend to focus my mornings around US meetings, while focusing more on countries through Asia that come online later in the day such as Singapore, China, and India. I often plan travel that can tie into family trips where possible. This means that I can extend my working days and be flexible to different time zones. I have loved the flexibility of exposing my daughter to international travel early. She’s a great travel companion now.

What challenges does this pose? 

The toughest challenge is often the 5-7pm juggle of daycare pick-up, dinner, and bed routine. I have found that its easiest to block this time out in my calendar and really focus on family as the end of the day is often fraught with delicate tempers. The flexibility to come back online later makes its workable. With time and experience, I have learnt that all challenges can be overcome with workable solutions.

I’ve also learnt to be fearless with the guilt factor. I’ve had the realisation that sometimes you need to prioritise what matters most and at times you are the only person that can decide what comes first.

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

I have found that when you’re faced with inflexible child care options, this often causes the most stress. Having a mix of options has given me confidence to balance children with work commitments. Having a supportive work environment and manager also goes a long way to alleviating stressful situations. My motto has always been ‘Things work out best for those who make the best out of the way things work out’.

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

I initially took six months off with Lily and extended an extra month because we were just getting to the point where we were really having fun and enjoying each other’s company. It was really tough getting back into the swing of work. At drop-offs one wise parent said it never gets any easier, you just get better at dealing with it. There was some solace in that. On the flip side, enjoying a freshly-made coffee while sitting quietly at my desk at times felt like a treat.

You’ve just commenced maternity leave with your second child; how long are you planning to take this time? 

I’ve taken one year this time around to allow myself some flexibility. It also gives me some valuable time with my almost three-year-old.

What advice would you give someone before commencing maternity leave? 

I made an effort to connect well across my network before heading out on maternity leave. It’s a great time to reconnect with your professional network. My main advice would be to then disconnect and enjoy the special family time that comes with welcoming a newborn into the family. Time is one thing we can’t get back.

What plans (if any) do you have to keep in touch while you are on maternity leave this time? Is it any different to what you did last time? 

I’m planning to take my daughter for a few office visits to meet the team. I’ll reconnect with the team and key contacts at major events and make time to join them on a few work events through the year.

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

Be kind to yourself and allow yourself time to adjust. Make things work for you. I found I needed time to rekindle the fire, as my priorities had ultimately changed. Take solace in the fact that you’ll return with a new perspective, and this is a great thing for any business. In my case, becoming a mum matured my leadership style.

Are there many women at your level juggling family and work at your organisation? 

I find there are more woman than you think at a similar level doing the juggle, especially in a global context. It’s refreshing to connect with them and understand the challenges and issues that different countries have with respect to juggling family and work commitments. Ultimately, these women are all adapting their situations to suit their circumstance. I’ve often borrowed some great suggestions from international colleagues for making things work.

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

Absolutely. A great friend always reminds me to ‘put my own oxygen mask on first’. I like to prioritise my me time to rest, refocus, and rejuvenate. I mix it up with mediation, reiki, kinesiology, acupuncture, massage, and exercise.

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

I like to kickstart my day with a family walk, much to the satisfaction of my Jack Russell. That’s followed by breakfast and dropping my daughter at daycare. I like to find time in my day to get outside and soak up some vitamin D. I spend 5-7pm focused dinner, bath, and bed for the children. From 7pm, we declare mum-and-dad time.

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

As I look back, I have no regrets. Experience affords confidence so, if anything, I would have told my younger self to trust my intuition and follow my instinct even more than I did.