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Win-win for Lightbend: ex-Estate Agent mother and her manager share their flexible working success story

Inspiration

2to3days

We love hearing how the women in our community get on finding great roles through 2to3days. So we were delighted to catch up with Holly Wilson, who secured a brilliant flexible position with Lightbend, a fully remote working company. This was also an opportunity to find out what the experience was like for the hiring manager, Kathleen Hayes, VP of Marketing for Lightbend.

Following a successful career as an Estate Agent, Holly was looking for a role that would work for her and her new job as a mother of one. She found the great role at Lightbend, a global company leading the enterprise transformation toward real-time, cloud-native applications, on a part-time basis through 2to3days. Holly has since been promoted several times and is now Business Development Lead for EMEA

How did you feel about returning to work after becoming a mother? 

I was excited, but nervous that I wouldn’t be able to commit the focus and energy as I was able to before becoming a mum. I was nervous that I would have no support and that I wouldn’t be considered in a ‘serious’ role whereby I could come in with little or no experience and grow within.

What are the hardest things about job hunting when children are involved?

Going for interviews at short notice was tricky - I don’t have a support network, so I found that aspect very challenging. I also wasn’t too sure what I was going to be able to do - I knew all my previous experience was in property, but those hours were far too demanding so I felt I was starting from scratch in my late thirties! I was concerned that I wouldn’t be given the opportunity and that instead younger, more experienced candidates would get the job. There is also a huge guilt - for me. I had tried to have a child for several years and wanted to cherish every moment but my situation doesn’t allow me not to work, so I needed to make sure that whatever job I went for would allow for flexibility. This definitely minimised the number of decent opportunities that were out there.

How did you come across 2to3days?

I was looking for jobs that were part time, but business roles as opposed to retail or admin roles. I googled jobs for mums and 2to3days appeared!

How did you find the experience of applying via 2to3days?

It was very straightforward and non pushy. It allowed me to do my own research in my own time.

What was the value to you to work for a flexible working based organisation?

I knew that being a mum (and more recently a single mum), I needed to work for a company that was happy for me to work the hours required whenever I could fit them in. I wanted them to know they could trust me to do that in a way that wouldn’t be of negative value to them. I also knew that I wanted to work for a company that would allow me to up my hours in school time, and reduce them during school holidays. This was invaluable to me.

How has the journey been so far - including career progression etc?

Amazing, I stumbled across Lightbend - a totally new industry for me and jumped straight into a role I had never done before - within 8 months I was promoted to Senior ADR and within a year I was promoted to Team Lead. I have been trusted from the beginning and empowered to grow my own role.

What are the advantages/challenges of remote working and what are your top tips for making it work?

Remote working, particularly for mums is a huge advantage. Being able to work when the little ones wake you up super early or when they are home poorly etc is hugely valuable. Disadvantages include lack of interaction/social engagement - you do have to be very focused and it helps to create a specific work zone in your home. I make sure that I work in that zone at all times and that I switch off when I am in family areas. Another disadvantage is that I react immediately to any messages that come through - whenever they do. I find switching off very tricky so end up working far more hours that I am contractually obliged to. This was recognised and I am now on a full time contract with the ability to scale my hours down should I need to!

Kathleen Hayes, Vice President, Marketing, shares her side of the flexible working story.

Why did you approach 2to3days?

Lightbend is a results-oriented workplace. We hire the best people for the job, no matter where in the world they live. Consequently, our culture already has firm roots in supporting a work-from-home model. Our marketing organisation was looking to hire people that wanted to work part-time and had a high degree of maturity to engage directly with enterprise leaders and represent our brand. 2to3days was directly aligned with these goals.  

What have been the benefits to the organisation of specifically choosing mothers going back into the workplace?

Our start-up is at a phase where we need creative problem solvers. People that can look at a situation from many angles to uncover where the possibilities for enhancements to processes and programs could offer the greatest uplift to the business. I am not sure if it is because Holly is a mother, or if relentless creativity is simply embodied in her nature, but this has been a great benefit to the team. 

What are your top tips for making flexible working work?

When I think of flexible working, the ability to work remotely plays a critical role. We are lucky at Lightbend in that remote working is in our DNA: 140 employees are working in 14 countries. We are also an open source software company, so openness and trust are woven into the fabric of our culture. These create a welcoming climate for flexible, remote working. 

Because so many of us work remotely, we are very comfortable using video conferencing to meet and collaborate. My personal recommendation is to turn on the video. The visual connection enhances communication and the ability to build personal relationships. 

Have you noticed any difference when it comes to productivity with flexible working contracts/remote working?

My viewpoint may be biased because Lightbend is primarily a remote working company. I find the productivity of the team is not diminished by working offsite. Because working from home allows employees to shift between personal and work contexts more seamlessly, they may be even more productive. Many leaders talk about supporting work-life balance. I think this is a bit misguided. We have one life, with many contexts. Embracing this understanding is to embrace the dynamism of life. Thankfully, we work at a place where we have flexibility in determining when—and where—work gets done.

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