The past two (plus) years have afforded us zero predictability, zero consistency, and have left us with a sense that things are in constant flux — a concept especially familiar to working moms, and even more so to moms who have attempted to get "back to work" recently — as if there was ever an interruption. It's not unlike the idea in the tech world of being in beta — constantly working the bugs out, constantly troubleshooting — only it's not in anticipation of a launch, it's just how things are.
So this Mother's Day, we'd like to give a little nod all to the moms in tech — be it moms of blended families, moms of fur babies, moms who serve the role by choice rather than by blood, etc. — who have been doing ALL THE THINGS, working out the kinks, and who know that in the end, the only U/X that matters is that your kids feel loved. To that end, we spoke to a few mothers who work in this industry — and whose own experiences were very much in beta — about what they’ve learned while iterating in this new landscape.
Entering into motherhood brings about unprecedented changes enough on its own, without having it happen during an unprecedented global pandemic. For first-time Mom Katarina Borg, she almost added “Professional Multitasker” to her title for all of the times she was working-while-pumping, forgot her camera was on, and luckily caught herself before she nearly flashed her Heady team while pumping during Zoom calls.
But despite the occupational hazards of video conferencing while Mom-ing, Katarina has found the silver lining to this past few years. In her words, “Being pregnant during the first part of quarantine and later adjusting to life with a newborn, the pandemic was a blessing in disguise. Working from home has allowed me to spend more time with my daughter after returning from parental leave, and to more easily balance work and family. Going back to the office will require some adjustments, but I’m happy we retain a flexible and hybrid in-office/working from home policy at Heady.”
And even though she’s been staring at one sweet face that never gets old, she’s excited about getting some IRL facetime with some other faces, too. “Ultimately I’m looking forward to connecting more with my colleagues, and working together in person on a regular basis, but I’m also very grateful for the extra moments I get to spend with my daughter the days I’m working from home.”
Being a second parent is so impressive because the learning curve is steeper and comes with a shorter runway — especially if you’re a stepmom to a teenager. Add to that the nuances of finding love and forging a new family during a pandemic, and Tierra’s motherhood in beta moments have been all the more poignant and unexpectedly beautiful. She credits having surrounded herself with the right people for making the transition as rewarding as it’s turned out to be.
“Like most people, COVID rocked my world, but I did not expect it to define it. I was one of the many who found love and married during this pandemic. With that, I instantly became a stepmom to a beautiful, caring, and warm-spirited teen. Since then, we've both had the pleasure of watching her get into her dream school and start college. Some families are inherited, and though I am a total newbie, I do not want stepmoms to feel minimized as your presence and impact is still grand. The biggest challenge for me beyond settling into my new role is settling into the balance of wanting to check in and be there, while still juggling work obligations.”
“Luckily,” she continues, “I am now at Heady, and thriving in a culture that truly is ‘people first.’ I can take breaks, shoot off text messages, answer her calls, and facetime on weekends. She's at Berkley, and she comes to visit a lot, but it is tough! She has had to learn to navigate an NYC apartment with two parents on conference calls. We are all taking it day by day and having fun. My advice? There's no rulebook to surviving a pandemic and doing it all. We just need to allow ourselves grace in every area and things will naturally flourish and develop.”
For women in tech who head up large teams, like CEO Kim Miller, motherhood in beta has come in the form of merging the parenting of her two sons with being an effective manager while remote. Her trial and error phase found her essentially landing on the right combination of empathy (for her employees and her family), flexibility and clear communication.
“It has been vitally important that, as leaders, we support our teams through one of the most challenging global crises of our lifetime. All of us are juggling multiple complexities in our lives right now. Making sure we provide flexibility and support is critical to our collective well-being.”
All the while Kim was also being mindful of her own well-being through outlets like daily exercise and doing The New York Times crossword puzzle. In the end, she has relied on keeping things honest to help navigate this unconventional shift in the workforce. “I think good communication is a way of caring,” she admits. “Staying in touch with the team on a regular cadence has been vital to making sure everyone is OK, everyone understands expectations, and we are all clear on the business objectives.”
A good three years before the pandemic started, we all understood the pain of having your children make an unwanted appearance on-screen (thanks to a video that never gets old). We are all now the BBC Dad in some way. Cristina Laryea’s motherhood in beta moments often came in the form of frantically hitting the mute button as her three daughters argued while she was on a video call, a #Zoomfail move we’ve all come to know well two years in.
Despite them trying to make the occasional appearance in a meeting, (Is it us or do these interns keep getting younger and younger?) Cristina is grateful for the everyday Mom moments she might’ve otherwise missed had she not been working from home. “Though I’m a good multitasker, it has been quite the challenge to navigate work while having three children. When they went to school virtually it was more of a challenge juggling their Google Meet meetings with my own. But now that they are back to school in person, I have enjoyed being able to take them to the bus stop, pick them up, and have early dinners with them.”
Ultimately, she says, the positives outweigh the negatives in the setup. “At the end of the day, it can be a challenging blessing to be able to work from home and be able to have the kids around making the day fun. When they smile and do silly things, all is forgotten.”