Pregnancy During a Technical Career with Caitlyn Bryan (2/2)

Welcome to episode 112 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss a personal experience with pregnancy during a tech career in the second half of our conversation with Caitlyn Bryan.

Original Recording Date: 02-08-2021

Topics – Pregnancy During a Technical Career

Caitlyn Bryan is an Enterprise Client Executive at VMware based in Dallas. Catch the first half of our conversation with her in Episode 111.

02:36 – Forced Leave and Unplugging

  • It’s a good idea to check out a company’s benefits before joining. Caitlyn’s current employer (VMware) gives 18 weeks paid maternity / paternity leave. This also goes for adoption.
  • Caitlyn’s son was born premature by 2 months, so her day-to-day came to a screeching halt.
    • She ended up with pre-eclampsia and was forced to be on bed rest for 3 weeks.
    • When she called her boss to tell him the issue, he said she was to stop working and focus on her health and her baby’s health (very supportive).
    • The 18 weeks did not start until after Caitlyn’s son was out of the NICU. She was on leave for a total of 6 months.
  • The culture of Caitlyn’s employer supports focusing on family first, and the support of her management chain helped force her to keep that focus during this time.
    • In Sales, you are always on and need to be there to support your customers. For Caitlyn, turning everything off so suddenly was a real challenge.
      • She had to take e-mail off her phone to help here.
      • Listen to the fun anecdote from one of Caitlyn’s customers on this.
    • From a maternity leave standpoint she was completely taken care of.
    • It was great to completely power down, and once her son arrived, it was not a problem.
    • When you’re used to being in charge or being "the warrior," you wonder how everything else can still be ok without you. It’s kind of a humble yourself moment.
    • Caitlyn was thankful she took the entire leave. She has seen so many people who only took a certain chunk, and they never could find an exit moment to take the rest.
    • Caitlyn’s husband only got 2 weeks of leave and had to go back to work soon after their son came home. Their family lives in another state. Amazon Prime came to the rescue.
    • Check in on your maternity leave from a personal perspective, and don’t be afraid to take it.
    • Caitlyn was afraid of her pregnancy being perceived as weakness.
  • Was there anxiety when asking to take the maternity leave early?
    • Caitlyn had fought so hard to get to this point in her career, and part of her did not want to give up on the projects in flight and the customers depending on her. She didn’t want to skip a beat and wanted to be able to jump right back in where she left off.
    • She had some reservations about revealing she was pregnant.
    • At one point she went to club based on her great performance. Not long after this, she learned she was pregnant.
    • The first trimester was many weeks of being extremely tired and craving sugar.
    • The VMworld conference was coming up soon, and she had over 30 customers to host. In addition to this, Caitlyn had volunteered to help train some new hires.
      • She thinks it was pure momentum that kept her going.
      • There was a certain level of fear about taking a step back at this point.
      • Maybe this is a sign of where gaps are in female representation.
      • Luckily she built in a couple of days between the conference and training the new hires to relax with her sister.
      • Caitlyn is so glad she did go because it allowed her to connect with customers and peers, especially other women in technology across the globe.
  • How long to really be disconnected?
    • Caitlyn had to forcefully make herself take e-mail off her phone. Listen to her story about working while she was on vacation in Venice.
    • It probably took about 3 months to really unplug.
    • She realized that 6 months away in the tech world is an eternity. Her employer had acquired multiple companies, and there were thousands of e-mails waiting on her.
    • Caitlyn hid her laptop to remove temptation.
    • She repositioned her office to make it look less enticing.
    • Once her son had gained weight and was sleeping through the night she felt like it was time to go back to work.
    • Before this experience, she really only knew one person who had pre-eclampsia.

25:35 – Coming Back

  • Many times the fear is coming back in a different position. Are there other fears?
    • When Caitlyn made the first call to her boss, she had the #1 performing territory. There was a feeling that she might be letting the team back.
    • Her boss was very reassuring and addressed the concerns. A peer of hers covered the customer base in her absence.
    • Caitlyn had decided a 5 year goal was progressing to Enterprise Field Rep. She went from 2 different inside Sales roles to a field role in the Commercial segment. But an opportunity in Enterprise came up just before she returned from leave.
    • She had to call her current boss and tell him about the opening that came up in the Dallas area.
      • Caitlyn was trying to figure out when she could interview between nursing, naps, and the dog barking.
      • The irrational fear of being replaced was substituted for another challenge – moving to an entirely new set of customers and a new role.
    • "Just because you are on maternity leave does not mean you are benched." – Caitlyn Bryan
      • Being on maternity leave can be a good time to evaluate career and make sure it is in line with your goals. Look for internal transfers, for example.
  • Caitlyn has been back since August 2020, and her son is about to turn 1. Before the maternity leave, she was way off balance.
    • She recently joined a book club and is making a conscious effort to spend time in other areas.
    • To get over the anxiety of learning new operational tools implemented while she was away and all of the acquisitions her company made, she really had to lean on others for support.
    • There was no more heavy driving or hopping on planes to visit customers because of the pandemic. The new role will require less travel and supports Caitlyn’s family life better than her previous role.
    • Caring for a small child is a challenge in and of itself as a new parent.
    • Caitlyn mentioned as a new mom it is important to communicate your needs. Raise your hand if you need something or need a break. As a woman, needing a break from something may appear as a sign of weakness. Learn to ask, and learn to delegate.
      • Figure out how to take moments for you.
    • Some of the issues with our feeling of "busy" may be cultural and not gender specific.

42:19 – Transitioning to a New Team

  • Caitlyn’s Engineer helped her understand that no one expected her to be completely plugged in for several weeks. He worked to build her up.
  • Be open with others about being new and being a new parent. Most are open to giving advice.
  • Caitlyn leveraged her teams to get up to speed and was extremely honest about what she knew. She leveraged a lot of internal training to help.
  • The first week back was challenging. She met a bunch of new customers and was trying to capture all of the important items.
  • Remember to pick a company that will embrace a little bit of change.
  • The week before Caitlyn came back to work, she wanted some "me" time. She got a haircut, took some walks with the dog, etc. She wanted to set her own schedule for a week to get acclimated to going back to work.
    • Do you have everything you need just to feel like yourself again?
  • Her Inbox was full of thousands of e-mails to go through.
    • She wanted to check in on how old projects turned out.
    • Lots of customers didn’t know about the maternity leave and her transition to a new role.
    • It was weird but good.
  • How likely is Caitlyn to take more vacation in the future?
    • It’s time to put up more walls and ask for coverage while she’s away.
    • She and her husband have an unnatural tendency to want to help their customers, peers, and bosses.
      • Once per quarter they used to take a week to get downtime but eventually found themselves cheating and work.
    • Knowing the world will continue, taking a couple of days, and coming back with fresh eyes is something we all need.
      • You definitely have to take time out to reset and put your best self forward.

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

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