I have a lot of empathy for younger employees and find myself being a natural mentor and wanting to help those around me because of this maternal drive.
Tell us about yourself and your current role.
I’m currently a Content Director at Critical Mass. I create enterprise content strategies for major brands and am currently at work on the US Army account.
What is the culture like at your agency?
The culture at Critical Mass is amazing. It’s one of the few places in the agency world where inclusivity is high. Women make up 43% of our staff and multicultural employees make up 29% across disciplines. To work in a place that values equality translates itself into many arenas, including being accepted for having diverse view points, and a great working culture for moms by way of offering flexible work from home options and a liquid talent policy, for moms and non-moms alike.
How does that culture mesh with the juggling act that is being a working mother?
I think it’s always hard to be a working mom, especially if you have young children. No matter what my work life looks like, my 3-year-old misses me terribly. But Critical Mass makes this easier. Some days I come in early so I can leave early to be home for dinner (my commute is an hour and half on most days) or make it to my daughter’s weekly ballet practice. I also work from home once a week to eliminate my commute and spend more time with my family. I’ve also been nicely surprised that at Critical Mass, work-life balance is present for most of the staff. Here, you don’t get rewarded for punching in more hours, but for the quality of work you produce. It’s not about quantity, but quality.
In what ways has being a mother changed how you approach certain aspects of your job?
I’m more focused on being present overall at work which allows me to be more productive, have solid time-management skills, and greater focus. This same presence can then be offered to my daughter when I get home. As family, we’re getting better about eliminating screens (tv and phones) in the evenings to ensure we are truly present for each other. Also, once I became a mom, a maternal instinct kicked in for me—not just for my daughter but for other children and young people. I have a lot of empathy for younger employees and find myself being a natural mentor and wanting to help those around me because of this maternal drive.
What would you say are some of the most rewarding aspects of being a working mother?
The best benefit hands down is being a good role model for my daughter. I’m also a very strategic thinker (because of my job) and I’m able to impart this to my daughter. We play a lot of board games at home like Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders. And even at this young age, she’s understanding the concept of strategy. Teaching these valuable ways of thinking—that I borrow from my job—will help my daughter no matter what she decides to do professionally one day. We’re also big on literacy, another byproduct of my chosen passions and profession, and my daughter has already started memorizing sight words and can partially read books on her own. I think it’s because of my professional life, that I’m able to teach these life-long skills to my child.
What are the biggest challenges that you’ve dealt with?
Sick days. Those were the worst—especially when my daughter was young. Her first two years were really rough and we would end up in the ER on a monthly basis due to ear infections, viruses and uncontrollably high fevers that wouldn’t go away no matter how much we gave her that concoction of alternating Tylenol and Motrin every few hours. Invariably, we would end up in the ER in the middle of the night to get her blood drawn from tiny veins that were hard to palpate and required multiple pokes. And she would always leave with super strong antibiotics, which was often given as an injection in her arms or thighs. It was always a traumatic visit for her, and also for me. We would be a sad mess, sitting in tears, in hospital waiting rooms. It was challenging to be working at that time, so I’m grateful to be in the field that I’m in that allowed me to work remote so I could care for her on sick days. If I’m being truthful, I felt guilty about putting her in daycare but feel fortunate that I was able to take her out as needed when she wasn’t feeling well physically or emotionally.
What steps do you take to ensure you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
Boundaries are the magic word. And having a supportive partner.
What professional achievement are you most proud of? Tell us a bit about it.
I’m most proud of my current gig, working on redesigning the website for the US Army. I served 6 years in the Army on active duty and to continue to serve the military, my country and truly showcase to a younger generation the benefits of joining (which is lost to most civilians), is both fulfilling professionally and emotionally.
Where do you see the possibility for change for future working parents?
The professional world has made great advancements to help parents, but there’s still a lot more that can be done. I would love to see more on-site daycares and greater subsidies for daycare, since it costs more than the tuition of most state colleges! More work from home and liquid talent policies, longer maternity leaves, and corporate initiatives that allow moms who take years off from the corporate track to care for kids to return to work. I’d also like to see programs that recognize fathers who also need parental leave, on-site daycare and the same benefits. It’s only with the other partner stepping in that a mom can have greater balance. It’s 2019, we don’t live in an antiquated time period where moms should always have to care for the children and clean the house. Or that only one parent needs to sacrifice their careers, it should be a joint partnership. But this balanced, joint, co-parenting partnership can only happen if forces outside of the home, like employers, help with programs to make it happen.
Who are some working mothers that you admire/look up to?
Um, all of them! Every working mom is a shero in her own right. But if you want specifics, I really admire our CEO, Dianne Wilkins, who started with Critical Mass when it was basically a startup and has grown it to span 12 offices across North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and South America. I’m enamored with Beyoncé who says in Homecoming that in order to work she had to fight her natural desires to stay with her kids—I can totally relate to this special type of sacrifice. I look up to Shonda Rhimes, who has built an empire while consciously choosing to become a single mother of three children, two were adopted and one was via surrogacy. Another shero is Marie Kondo, who is not only a minimalist super-organizer, but also has her toddler on board with the program. Now, only if I could also get my own toddler to start folding laundry!
What is your all-time favorite Mother’s Day campaign?
The Olympics ad from Proctor and Gamble gets me in tears every single time, no matter how many times I watch it. The ad does a stellar job of showing the love and sacrifice of moms all over the world who would move heaven and earth to help their children succeed.
Read more here: https://www.adforum.com/interviews/quality-over-quantity-supriya-venkatesan-content-director-critical-mass