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Being A Woman

Jayanthi Sampathkumar
Jayanthi Sampathkumar
Senior Development Lead, Microsoft- India
Jayanthi is a Senior Development Lead at Microsoft. She has 12+ experience in software product de... more>>
Looking back at my tenure of 13 years at Microsoft, I realize that there have been many instances where I have wondered if I have struck the right balance of time and energy between my work and family. I have two boys, aged 11 and 8 years old. I nursed them for more than a year each while working full time. I had taken just 2 months of maternity leave for each kid and came straight back to work. I have debugged and written code for a critical bug fix from home while nursing my son. I have tried all possible options with work such as working from home, splitting time with my husband so that one of us is there at home with our kids, working only half days when my kids needed me etc…
 
The biggest learning I have from all these years of experience is to never compromise one for the other – interactions, commitments and achievements on the work and family front nourish different parts of the being. Hence it is best to never compromise work for family or the other way round. That said there will always be heart tearing situations when we have to make choices. Here are my thoughts and recommendations on what we can do in those situations.
 
•    Every situation is different: Give each one its full attention and the merit it deserves. Don’t be hard on yourself with thoughts such as this should be easy, I have done this before, ABC person made it work etc. We all learn from our experiences but, any experience is only as good as how much of learning it gave you and how much of it you apply to the present moment, problem and situation. Be pliable and solve every problem like it is new.

•    Know your changing priorities:
Our lives are driven by priorities and we make decisions based on our priorities. These are things that vie for our time and there are only 16 hours in a day (I deliberately did not say 24 since sleep is a priority too for good long term health). There are no set global truths that work for everyone when it comes to priorities. Figure out yours and also know that it will change day to day/hour to hour. There will be times when work will have to wait due to a sick child crying for the mother or times when family will have to wait when you have to make an important presentation to a VP.

•    Delegate, delegate, delegate:
Figure out what you are comfortable with delegating (and the answer cannot be nothing) and delegate it whole heartedly. Delegate as much as you can in every situation to someone whom you trust. Delegate it to capable individuals or train a potential capable individual to do your task fully. A common trap that many fall into is that we are able to delegate at work but not at home. Delegate with the knowledge that there will be a difference in how the other person does it. Here too understand your priorities on what needs to get done in the delegated task and focus only on the top ones. It is about how much we can delegate, whether it be your trusted family member taking care of your kid or a maid who takes care of the household.

•    Keep your commitments: Keeping commitments that we made or being upfront to the person we made the commitment to (mainly our own selves) with care and respect when the commitment cannot be met is important. Keeping commitments starts with us and we need to sensitize everyone around us with that. The commitments may range from showing up for an hour at work to attend an important meeting while a trusted care giver takes care of your sick child, to taking time off from work to be there for your kids’ annual day performance.

•    Be 100% where you are:
We have to be at peace with our choices whatever they might be. Once you have made a choice on work or family for that day/hour/minute based on your priorities, give it your 100%. If you have committed to spend an hour a day of dedicated time with your kids, do not think about work at that time. No open laptops. If you have committed to work 2 hours every weekend to catch up with work, make sure that your family understands that and helps you keep that commitment. Of course we need to be strict and close the laptop after those two hours to spend 100% of the time with the family.
 
In summary, be open and transparent about the commitments that take your time (and energy), acknowledging them and the priorities of the current hour and minute and being fully happy with the choices you are making for the current hour will help in having a satisfying work and family life .

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