Paula Billington is a member of the FlexCareers community and she is also one of our team members. She recently returned to Australia after working for 8 years in Silicon Valley for a successful start up. We’re very fortunate to be able to engage her skills and experience and share her insights with you as a working mum who has moved countries whilst on maternity leave. Paula has 2 very high-energy little boys and is working flexibly for FlexCareers as the Head of Customer Success.
How has your career progressed over the years?
I have always been very interested in technology and passionate about the customer experience. I started my career working for an ISP were I was able to get hands on experience with both hardware and software environments – and most importantly customers. From there I continued to pursue operational and technology focused roles, while always remaining close to the customer experience. It was when we relocated to San Francisco that I was able to experience being on the leading edge of SaaS innovation. I joined an early stage start-up focused on delivering a Health IT platform, and was the 13th employee. With limited resources and budget, we all rolled up our sleeves and wore many hats. Working directly with the CEO and an amazing team, over the next 5 years we learned a lot and created an award winning platform, and the company grew to over 400 employees. I have since returned to Australia, where I am excited to bring what I have learned in Silicon Valley to FlexCareers.
So you worked in Silicon Valley – how was that? Did they embrace women and was flexible working even an option?
I loved working in Silicon Valley. The innovation and speed to deliver meaningful and successful platforms is truly impressive. There is a very rich talent pool across a wide variety of specialities, and from my experience women, equality and flexibility were all embraced. While flexible working was not mainstream, it was definitely available and assessed on a case by case basis depending on the unique situation of the person and the needs of the business.
What was your biggest challenge when looking for your new role? How did you come across FlexCareers?
I was on maternity leave and starting to entertain the idea of returning to work in a part-time capacity. I looked through all the usual channels and it quickly became obvious that executive level roles with some sort of flexibility were few and far between. One day I Googled “flexible executive roles”, and FlexCareers was the first result. They had a wide range of highly skilled roles available that all came with flexibility, and one of those roles happened to be a perfect match for my skill set.
What attributes are essential for high performing women in the workplace of today?
To be a high performer at work, and at home, I believe an exceptional level of organisation, and a positive attitude will help one succeed . On top of professional responsibilities and continuing to drive your career forward, the dinners still need to be cooked, clothes washed and house cleaned etc. I’m not saying it isn’t exhausting, but a highly organised person with excellent multitasking skills can accomplish many things. A helpful husband also goes a long way.
What surprised you the most when you returned to work after having children/a child?
After my first child I returned to work full-time quite early. I was surprised that I was able to return to work full-time and still be a good mum (even though it didn’t always feel like that). I have always loved this quote by A.A Milne and looking back it’s quite fitting, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think”.
What are your top tips for mums returning to (Australia and ) the workforce to help them find their ideal role?
I have a slightly biased answer, but sign up for FlexCareers! We have an amazing selection of employment opportunities with top tier employers who offer flexibility. I would also recommend leveraging your network of professional contacts and be proactive. Make sure your resume is up-to-date and concise – you don’t need an exhaustive list of accomplishments and responsibilities. Keep it simple and to the point.
What is your biggest challenge juggling work and family?
Haha, likely the same answer as every other parent – lack of sleep.