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Emily White

Director, Business Operations

San Francisco, CA

I leaned back: opting for the familiar and stable environment I’d come to know over the past eight years.

I had a serious “lean back” moment in 2008. At the time, I was running the Asia Pacific and Latin American online sales teams for a large tech company. The role was challenging and included extensive travel to places I didn’t know well. On the flip side, I had been with the company for almost eight years, so I knew the culture well. Everything was comfortable and stable—the perfect time to have a baby.

Around that time, I received an offer from Facebook for a role I was very much interested in taking. Given I was thinking about having a child, I decided to turn down the position. I leaned back: opting for the familiar and stable environment I’d come to know over the past eight years.

Saying no to Facebook was very hard. I regretted it as soon as I hung up the phone, but instead of changing my mind, I stuck with my decision, worked hard in my current role, and had a baby.

As rewarding as maternity leave was, I also wanted to have a fulfilling career. I’d always been so committed to my role, team and company that I never explored my alternatives; I thought doing so was disloyal. After all, wasn’t it my job to put my team and the company first?

I talked with friends and family, soliciting advice about my situation. One person told me to never change more than one of three key elements when coming back from maternity: where you work, the people you work with or the role you are in. It seemed to make sense. With a new world at home, why would disturb my situation at work? Why make things more complicated?

But, I didn’t take that advice. Near the end of my leave I got another call from Facebook, this time to take on an even better role than my previous offer. Determined to right my past mistake, I accepted the offer immediately. And while it was tough to say goodbye to my former company, I was excited about my new opportunity.

I found going back to work after maternity leave invigorating, mostly because I was totally enthralled with the new landscape – new people, new company, new challenges. I’m not sure I have ever worked harder than I did that first year back. It turned out to be a hugely rewarding time for me and a decision I would never take back.

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