Career Tips

Are you seeking to have it all or happy to have what you want?

Kate is a full time working mum who believes the secret to having what you want is a supportive spouse, great childcare and help around the house.

Kate and her husband both work full time in very senior positions. Kate is an equities portfolio manager with Fidelity International and Dig, her husband, is President, Asia Pacific, for Cochlear Ltd. They also have their hands full at home with a 10-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son.

Managing logistics and finding the time to dedicate to their work, family and themselves is a constant challenge. One that would potentially be unsurmountable without being clear on what is important to their family, and Rebecca, the family nanny for the past 11 years. They have found a balance that works really well for their family and careers. Here is Kate’s success story:

How has your career progressed over the years?

After my MBA in the US, I moved back to Australia with the Boston Consulting Group. It took me a little while to migrate from there into funds management via a stint in Group Finance at AMP Ltd. After a couple of years as an analyst, I was promoted to Portfolio Manager in 2007. Funds management is a little strange in that I’d be really happy to have no further career progression from here! Clients like to have continuity in their fund manager, and being a Portfolio Manager is so interesting and ever-changing and challenging that I will sit in my current role for another decade or two if I can.

What do you believe has been the catalyst to your career success?

Well, there is always an element of right place, right time, but nothing beats working hard, being diligent and trustworthy – and biting off more than you can chew! It’s well documented that women can be too conservative in their assessments of the roles they believe they are ready for – you have to mentally get beyond that go after roles that will stretch you. If you’re SURE you can do the role then you haven’t aimed high enough.

What advice would you give to women wanting to break through senior management barriers?

Part of it is to pick the right firm – some companies take people on their merits and some still operate with unconscious bias. Beyond that, you’ve got to work hard and back yourself. Excellent child care is part of that – it’s very hard to give your best effort if you have no flexibility in your schedule and no back ups when things go pear-shaped. Our nanny calls herself “the wife to the wife.” She is clearly the best investment we’ve ever made – she makes sure our kids are taken care of in the afternoons, and takes a load off us in terms of laundry and shopping and errands so that on the weekends we can focus on the kids and their activities. Because that all works, Dig and I have both been confident to continue to invest in our careers.

What attributes are essential for high performing women in the workplace of today?

Competence, diligence, self-confidence. Self-confidence is about speaking up and contributing to the team at work – but it also has to include knowing that your work commitments aren’t short-changing your family. A supportive spouse, great childcare and help around the house are must-haves. A female colleague of mine in London put it best: there’s family / work / fitness / friends: you can have 2 1/2 of the 4, you just have to know which 2 1/2 you want. I’m probably 1 / 1 / 1/4 / 1/4. I could certainly stand to spend a bit more time on the treadmill – but for right now my kids would prefer me to be available to them. I don’t think you can have it all – but I think you can have what you want.

What surprised you the most when you returned to work after having children/a child?

How little I had missed! The challenge in investment markets is staying on top of everything and figuring out in real time what’s “noise” and what matters. But that’s only hard and time-consuming real-time – with hindsight it’s easy and obvious! So my second maternity leave I spent a lot less time trying to “stay connected” – I was more confident that I’d be able to come back up to speed quickly when I went back to work so instead I just looked after my baby and had fun with my toddler.

What is your biggest challenge juggling work and family?

It’s all logistics! We use a google calendar on a first-in, best-dressed system: whoever puts a work dinner or work trip first in the gcal gets it! More seriously, my sisters-in-law tell me that teenagers need much more time and availability than you expect – so maybe the challenge steps up over the next few years.

What’s your best advice for working parents?

Pay to get quality childcare – the benefits in terms of settled children and more confidence in your choices is worth it. Make use of modern technology to streamline your life and stay connected. Use Coles online!

If you could change one thing about being a working parent, what would it be?

Homework schedules! If the school gives homework on Monday and expects it back on Fridays it can be really hard to have the involvement you want. Our daughter’s school has just shifted to a Wednesday-to-Wednesday schedule and it makes a huge difference in us being able to be engaged with her. Schools really can be quite un-family-friendly, for example sending home a note that your child will have an open classroom the day after tomorrow. I can do almost anything if given enough notice, but I can do almost nothing at short notice…


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