In 2004, life was “busy” to say the least. I was married, 29 years old with a three-year-old and an infant, eight years into my career with TEKsystems, the same company I joined after graduating college, and one year into a new role. I was achieving some of my major career and life goals and felt like I was pushing full steam ahead. On top of everything going on in my own world, my husband had just been given a phenomenal career opportunity – on the opposite side of the country. With young children and my own blossoming career, we had a huge decision to make: Do we move to the west coast when all our family is on the east? And, if we do, what role do I take in our family? I didn’t even ask myself about what role I would take in my company because I didn’t think staying with TEKsystems was even an option.
It seemed like an “either–or” proposition to me at the time. If we decided to move, I thought I would have to resign because our corporate office and the team I managed were in Maryland. I didn’t think it was an option for me to be 3,000 miles away in my current job. I didn’t even stop to think whether or not I was actually capable of managing a team and partnering with leaders from somewhere other than our corporate office – I just assumed my leadership would tell me it wasn’t a possibility.
Yet the timing was right, the move was right, and the location in Southern California amazing. I decided that making the move meant taking a new role in our family and likely changing to a more flexible job. Maybe, I would find a new passion and take time to transition our family. It was exciting. I hadn’t lived further than a few hours from home and this was a beautiful place to live and didn’t want to look back with regret.
I prepared myself for the conversation with my VP and our President to resign. I thought this was the perfect time to spend with my family. I thought I was leaning in to my family at the exact time they needed me— young children and a new move for my husband—so I had to be there 100%. Working remotely or virtually seemed too hard, so I didn’t consider asking.
When I began discussing the move with my leaders and preparing to tell them likely I would be “moving on,” I didn’t finish before they responded, “Great. We have always wanted to have a presence on the west coast. It’ll be great to have you out there.” I was stunned.
They immediately made adjustments to my role, working with me to develop a schedule that was right for my family and would allow me to travel back to Maryland to manage the team, as well as ensuring I had local and regional support on the west coast. While I already knew my leaders were invested in me, in that moment, I could feel it.
I realized that while I thought I was leaning into my family, I was actually leaning back from my career. I made some assumptions and cornered myself into an “either-or” decision. But I didn’t need to choose one over the other—no matter what I chose, I still would have been there for my husband and my daughters.
But my leaders knew what I needed and didn’t allow me to lean back; through them I realized I could do both. It was not easy and there were days I wish I would have chosen a different path; long cross country commutes, managing a team remotely, and the craziness of a young family took its toll. But over time, I found I was more focused and built stronger relationships with my leaders and team because our face-to-face time was precious. I became a stronger leader and partner because of that decision and because of my leaders’ ongoing support and mentorship. It doesn’t surprise me that over the last nine years since that day, my career has flourished more than I could have imagined—I have a larger team, increased responsibility and built amazing relationships with people that I would have never had without this experience.
My husband ended up leaning into our family more as I leaned in to my career. As we were both pursuing our careers at the same time, we had to be true partners at home—sharing the kids’ schedules, practices, homework, and housework. It is a must now more than ever with three daughters in three schools and at three different phases of their lives (they’re 12, 9, and 4 now). While life still seems chaotic at times, I am so proud of the example that my husband and I can give the girls. We want them to know that you can have a career and a family. It requires sacrifice, a lot of hard work, love and support, but you can have options.
This past year, we moved cross-country again. Yet this time, there was no professional decision to be made, but just the question: “What city are you all headed to now?”