Carey Stuart – Working Mother Interview
What were or are the biggest challenges you faced going back in to the work place after children?
From a practical perspective the biggest challenge was remembering on a day to day basis what I was supposed to be doing! When I first returned to work I’d look at my diary in the morning to see what meetings I had on that day, then by 10am I’d forgotten everything. I remember being really shocked by it. I’ve always been very organised and pride myself on my ability to juggle many things at once, it took a few months of being back at work to really feel like I was on top of everything again.
On a professional level, my biggest challenge was making sure I was counted as a strong performer, when my working presence was less than those around me. I think as women it’s not always in our nature to shout about how good we are (don’t get me wrong, some women are fantastic at it), but it doesn’t come naturally to me. Luckily at Deloitte I had reinforcement from a few of our partners who really support agile working and appreciate the extra effort that’s sometimes needed to raise yourself above the rest. Knowing there were many other working mothers in my position was why I helped establish Deloitte’s Audit Centre of Excellence across Newcastle and Leeds. The roles are very suited to agile and part time working, we have technically challenging work, and only a few direct external clients, which means working three days a week is much more manageable.
How do you achieve your work life balance of career woman and mother?
It’s really tough but I’m extremely lucky in the role I have at Deloitte. I work what we refer to as a 60% presence and spread this over four days. I usually do two full days in the office and two half days from home. It gives me the balance of having a professional work environment when I’m in the office, but also being able to get the piles of washing done and do the school run on my half days working at home. My youngest is starting school in September, so I’ll look to increase my working presence then, probably increasing to three days in the office and two short days at home. What’s great about Deloitte is that I’m supported in any decision I make. The WorkAgility approach here ensures that everyone is able to work in a way that enables them to balance a successful career with their other commitments. Anyone is able to take advantage of it, but it’s definitely used most widely by those with families. I have my formal arrangement of a 60% presence but how I make up that time is flexible so I can work it around what is going on at home when I need to. I am judged on the work I do, not the time I spend in the office. A high level of trust and open communication is what really helps make this work for both Deloitte and myself as there has to be flexibility on both sides so that it works for the individual, the team and the business.
If you could give your past self-one piece of advice about being a working mother what would it be?
Don’t try and please everyone all of the time. You need to work out what you can feasibly give of yourself, and prioritise. Don’t feel guilty about not being able to do it all.
Have your career goals and aspirations altered since becoming a working mother from that prior to your children?
I don’t think they’ve altered significantly, but your priorities change after children. It is not just you that you need to think about. It’s extremely important to me that I still feel fulfilled and challenged at work, I want my two young girls to see that I enjoy my career and being a good mum can go alongside being a strong and confident business woman. I guess that’s my aspiration now, to be a role model for a new generation of girls, you don’t have to sacrifice children or career, there are opportunities available now that really do allow you to do both.
What are your future goals in your career path in the next few years, what do you hope to achieve?
This is a tough one, I’ve never really had a long term career goal, I want to do my job well and see where it takes me. As long as I know I’m working to my full potential, and making the right decisions along the way I know I’ll get to where I need to be. I’ve always been terrified (and very envious) of those people who know exactly where they want to be in 5 years’ time, that’s just not me. Being happy with what I do is the most important thing to me.
If you had the power to change one thing in the business market for working mothers, what would you change?
I would have more role models for people starting out in their careers. I was really lucky to have a fantastic role model when I returned after maternity leave in Deloitte, a director working part time with young children who went on to become partner, and maintain her agile working. I think that if we had more people in top roles that young women can relate to, we’d inspire a whole new generation to aspire to be up there in those top positions that have been dominated by men for so long. There are some fantastic female partners in very senior positions in Deloitte now, people that inspire me on a daily basis.
What is the best piece of business advice you have been given?
Never underestimate how important it is to big yourself up at work. Women returning from a break in their career are often so focussed on doing their job well that they don’t take the time to let their peers and superiors know what they’re doing and how well they’re doing it. That’s often why promotions can take longer. So shout from the rooftops about what you’re achieving, the more people that can hear you the better.
If you could recommend one book to our readers- leisure or business what would it be?
I’ve just read “The Power” by Naomi Alderman, it won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction recently. It’s a dystopian novel about a world were women are physically superior to men. I’m a bit of a geek so I enjoyed it, it raises some really interesting questions about what power means and what happens when roles are suddenly reversed.
Question from previous interviewee, Zoe Burns-Shaw who is Head of Brand and Marketing at First Direct .
Would you define yourself as a working mother?
Yes. Although I think it’s odd to say that mothers who stay at home aren’t working, every single mum I know is a “working mother” just in different ways. It’s very much a personal choice as to what you do when you finish maternity leave, and I have so much respect for mums who stay at home full time. Those people who think it’s the easy option to stay at home have obviously never looked after a toddler or small child for more than 3 days running!
What question would you wish to ask our next working mother who takes this short interview?
“What do your children think that your job is?” (Mine think that I count things every day and write down numbers!)