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Deloitte’s Working Mother of the Year
Making work and life work together well
Balancing big career goals with a strong commitment to family is no easy feat. How to do it well? Talk to Charlotte Flynn and Jana Arbanas, each of whom were recently recognized as Deloitte’s Working Mother of the Year by Working Mother magazine. Here, we find out more about what helps them succeed at work and at home.
- More about Jana and Charlotte
- Flexible work arrangements
- A typical workweek
- Family, friends, and workloads
- Having children
More about the working mothers of the year
Charlotte Flynn, a senior manager with Deloitte Tax LLP in Houston, TX, lives with her four children, ages five, four, two, and one, and her husband, a full-time attorney, as well as her 90-year-old grandmother-in-law.
Jana Arbanas, a principal with Deloitte & Touche LLP based in the San Francisco office, has two sons, ages eight and four, with her husband who also works full-time in professional services.
Flexible work arrangements
Jana: When I returned from maternity leave with my first son, I used a formal flexible work arrangement to work 60 percent of a full-time schedule. That gave me comfort to feel like I could still spend time with my son but also start to engage from a work perspective. Over time, I dialed up to 100 percent as I felt comfortable. However, even at 100 percent, it’s been very flexible for me. I try to work from home at least one day a week when I’m not traveling, and with the ability to move my work hours around, I can participate in school activities or a not-for-profit that I’m a part of. I’m the well-being leader for Deloitte & Touche LLP and we’re trying to be less about big programs and more about helping all of our professionals—not just parents—feel empowered to make decisions to support their well-being.
Charlotte: I’ve done almost all of them. At one time, I’d come in really early—5 or 6 a.m.—and leave at 3 or 4 p.m. Then I did a reduced schedule for the first six months back after I had my fourth child. It was great to be able to ease back into full time little by little rather than try to find balance day one. But for me personally, I make a point to never work from home, because I want to be around the people I’m working with and my clients as much as possible. Work for me is not just about getting things done, it’s about, “Am I building relationships? Am I building eminence in the marketplace? Am I mentoring people so they can be their best?” Plus I have six other people in my house, that doesn’t make working at home very doable!
Which—if any—flexible work arrangements have you used over the course of your career to juggle work and home responsibilities?
A typical workweek
Jana: I literally don’t have a typical workweek, which is a challenge. I travel for work about three times a month, which can range from day trips to five days away. So it’s all about planning ahead and making sure I have additional support, either from my spouse or my childcare provider, when I need it.
Charlotte: I also don’t have a typical workweek. I probably travel every month, or my husband does, and every month there are late nights. It works because my husband is heavily involved with the kids, we have a full-time nanny, and the children attend school or church programs a few days a week and our nanny can then support me directly with things like laundry or groceries.
And a lot of it is about planning ahead. When I travel, for example, I pack and label children’s lunches for several days ahead. My five-year-old daughter and I also pick out all her clothes for the week on Sunday nights and put them in a separate box to make mornings easier.
What does a typical workweek look like for you now, and how do you make that work with your family?
Family, friends, and workloads
Jana: For me, it really simply is a matter of putting down my phone when it’s family time; leaving it in a separate area so that I’m not tempted. I try to block out at least 6 to 8 p.m. every evening for this. And I’m transparent with my team, that they shouldn’t expect a response from me during those hours. It is the nature of our business that families and friends get the short end of the stick sometimes, but you have to identify the times when you’re not totally slammed and dedicate it to them. You have to pay them back, in a sense.
Charlotte: People ask me how I do it all, and I tell them: “I don’t!” You have to choose what’s important to you, and prioritize that. For me, that’s my career, my family, and my church. I can’t make time for absolutely everything and still be really present for my family while balancing my career. I also put personal events on my Outlook calendar and I try to stick to them. It’s the same advice I give to the people who work for me: Your job could take 24 hours, if you don’t force yourself to leave, because there’s always something to do. I force myself to leave because I feel like it makes me a better person to be at my kids’ school for an hour or at the church volunteering, or spend an evening with friend; that’s what energizes me.
How do you make time for your family and friends while managing a challenging workload?
Jana: If you want to have kids, you should have them when you’re ready. Frankly, you can’t predict the future. There is an impact to having a child and taking time out of the workforce, but when you work together closely with your leaders and your sponsors, it doesn’t have to set you back. In fact, I made principal weeks before my second son was born.
Charlotte: I worked at least 10 years before I had a child, and I worked a lot during those 10 years. Looking back, I’m really glad I did it that way, because it pays off now. I feel like I can work a really balanced schedule because I’ve had a lot of experience. Everyone’s personal situation is different, but for me, it was good to have had those years of being able to be heavily career—focused before we had children and started balancing.
When do you think the ideal time in a career is to have children, assuming you have a choice?
Role models, mentors, and sponsors
Jana: I’ve had mentors, and I’ve also had sponsors, where we have a mutually beneficial relationship; they give you opportunities and you do things to help them out. One of my sponsors was Monica O’Reilly, who is our chief talent officer, Deloitte & Touche LLP. She helped me realize that my reputation stood for itself and that I had permission to use a flexible schedule; that I could continue to be successful after having children. I also had a male sponsor who encouraged me to take the flexibility I needed within a full-time schedule after I had my son. They really gave me the confidence to make tough decisions around how I spend my time.
Charlotte: I’ve had a lot of mentors, and for me, it’s been both men and women who exemplify what I want: to be successful in my career and also be a very present parent. My desire in my career is to also be that kind of mentor to others.
Have you had any role models—mentors or sponsors—who have been critical to your career?
Three things I’ve learned by Cathy Engelbert, CEO, Deloitte US
- Don’t compartmentalize: For me, it’s not about being a CEO or a mom… it’s about being a CEO and a mom. You can’t separate the two. And if you think about it, a lot of the skills we need in our professional lives are what we need as parents. Negotiation, communication, leadership, organization—all qualities you need at work and at home… like when you’re trying to navigate the college admissions process… or determine what curfew will be on Saturday night!
- Define what “doing it all” means to you: The age-old question is, “Can I have it all?” But to me, that’s defined by someone else. I like to think of it as, “Can I DO it all?” because that’s defined by me. But even then, you may not be able to do it all at the same time and in the same moment. I’ve had to accept my own human limitations and sometimes ask the tough question, “If I can’t do it all, what do I truly want?” It’s critical to acknowledge that your ability to balance is not always going to be perfect… and that’s okay!
- Focus your energy: This is something I do, and encourage others to do, year-round, but it’s especially important as we kick off the holiday season. During the holidays, I truly disconnect and focus my energy with my family. I’m from a very large family; there are probably 50 of us who spend Thanksgiving dinner together! When I’m with them over the holidays, I’m truly with them. And throughout the year, I make sure to focus my energy on whatever I’m doing in that moment. Part of that is about me putting away my phone when I'm with friends or family, or taking the time to exercise… but it is also about being open with my team about my commitments. It’s not something I always felt comfortable doing, and early in my career I would make up excuses if I was leaving work early because of my kids. I stopped when I found out that a talented young woman left Deloitte because she didn’t want to ‘live like I did.' I realized that by masking the real reasons I was leaving early, I wasn’t just hiding the truth… I was painting a false picture of what was required to succeed. So I changed. And I made it clear that my career is a priority… but my family is a bigger priority.