2020 has been an interesting year to say the least! From a global pandemic to racial unrest, wildfires, hurricanes and everything in between, we’ve all been through a lot. But, for those with kids, it has been exceptionally challenging to navigate a new type of work/life balance.
In early March, it’s fair to say that for some, the idea of being home with young children 24/7 for two weeks (ha!) was enough to cause some panic. As April has stretched past the start of virtual schooling in September, and now into early winter, we’ve realized this “new normal” (i.e. working-while-baby-wrangling-and-home-schooling) may be a longer-term adjustment than we originally anticipated.
In early April, a team member posted a pledge of support in our #tinyhumans Slack channel at Citrine (where parents, aunts, uncles, or anyone who just loves kids, can chat about their favorite littles):
“From now on, no one apologizes for having a kid in the room during an online meeting. Let’s all give each other a bit of slack. There are going to be times when we are feeling stir crazy. Let’s give people a pass and a virtual hug.”
That’s exactly what we’ve done as a collective team at Citrine.
Encouraging the personal and professional growth of new parents
Our CTO, Julia Ling is a data-driven, fair and fearless leader. Her quick, witty humor is always there when you need support, but first and foremost, she’s a mother of her 2-year-old son, Zev in Redwood City, California.
Julia shared, “Becoming a new parent is always an adventure, but beyond that, I was the first woman to have a baby while working at Citrine, so we didn’t have a good benchmark for what the process would be like. From end-to-end, I was relieved at the generous and caring approach that my manager took. She told me not to worry about missing meetings for all the doctor’s appointments I had to go to, she worked with me to reduce my work hours in my third trimester when I was getting fatigued more easily, and she supported me in planning my maternity leave so that I wouldn’t have any work-related stress while I was away.”
From Julia’s perspective, “Citrine’s leadership was not only supportive of my work-life balance, they also provided me advancement opportunities. I was promoted from manager to director of the data science team while I was 6 months pregnant, and my manager helped me navigate how to transition into my new role smoothly even while tapering my hours. I know how unfortunately rare it is for companies to provide advancement opportunities to pregnant women, and I feel really lucky to have had Citrine’s full support.”
Supporting families as they navigate a full house
Josh Friend, Software Engineering Manager at Citrine, manages a team of engineers who appreciate his warm and personable leadership style. Even with a supportive team, Josh has had his work cut out working from home while parenting Jackson and Jacob, who are navigating virtual school in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Josh shares, “My children are in high school, so they can tackle school independently, but regardless, it still requires flexibility. Jacob is a Senior applying for university and Jackson is a Freshman faced with the new challenges of high school. Spending time as a family during these difficult times is so important – Jacob literally schedules time on our ‘family calendar’, so we ensure we meet all deadlines.”
At Citrine, we’re a team of talented scientists, engineers, executives, ops leaders, client specialists, sales managers, etc., but, most importantly, we’re humans. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s just how real “Real Life” can be.
Josh explained, “Empathy is in Citrine’s DNA. We take a human-first approach to help parents navigate the complexity of our always changing reality. This begins with resilient leadership recognizing and prioritizing human needs. From the onset of these challenging times, Citrine’s leadership made it clear: above all else, we need to take care of ourselves and our families first.”
Using our core values to navigate challenges
Our CEO, Greg Mulholland, has been quick to reiterate one of our core values at nearly every virtual all-hands meeting: the importance of autonomy. At Citrine, we act with autonomy and we trust each other to be accountable for keeping our bar of excellence high.
Whether we get things done in between nap times or while littles sit beside us logged into their Zoom classrooms doesn’t matter. What matters is that we know we’ve all had some ups and downs this year, but there’s a shared understanding across the team that we’re all doing our best.
It’s a part of our culture to support each other, whatever that looks like to each of our teammates, because we are committed to each other and to performing at the best of our ability as individuals contributing to the greater good of the organization.