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Building Your Village: Tricia Timm's Strategies for Professional Success as a Parent

Tricia Timm, the author of “Embrace the Power of You - Owning Your Identity at Work” shared with us how she forged her own path after stepping out of work for a while. Many of our Allies can relate to the challenges she faced in trying to be her authentic self at work and can learn insightful advice on how to do the same.

When Timm had a second child, she had already been working for ten years and was feeling burned out and guilty for not being home. This prompted her to take a year off and leave her role as in-house counsel to see what it would be like to spend that time as a full-time mom. It seems no matter if you’re working full-time or parenting full-time, women are still often judged and judging each other. After experiencing both sides, Timm found both could be lonely and challenging.

“Being home full-time wasn’t making me my best self either. I’m intellectually curious and need to work to satisfy that [curiosity]. But I also didn’t want to keep doing 80-hour work weeks.”

During her time as a stay-at-home mom, Timm had lunch with a friend who mentioned she needed help with a professional project. Timm saw an opportunity to utilize her skills and offered to step in and support her colleague with a few projects. This consulting job led to another and gave her an opportunity to hone skills, keep developing her network, and made it possible to work more flexibly and remotely. Flexible work schedules and remote work can be a game changer for a parent, especially when it comes to breastfeeding and trying to navigate having this new little human being in your life. Consulting gave Timm flexibility when her children were little and when she was ready, helped make it easier to find full-time opportunities.

When asked about the challenges and concerns about taking a break, hers was one we often hear at Her Allies - not getting the chance again. It wasn’t easy but she really listened to that voice inside that said something was off balance. Despite colleagues getting promotions, recruiters telling her the market was tight, she didn’t want to regret not spending time with children. What helped her achieve this was doing some careful planning with her husband so they could manage Timm taking a year off of work.

Pro Tip from Timm: Continue networking when you’re on leave! Timm took one project which led to another and another and eventually led to a consulting business, supporting in-house legal teams. She gradually reached out to her network and began to increase her client-base for her part-time consulting business. One challenge with consulting is that starting up can take time. Cash flow can be an issue so a lot of people start doing this while doing other jobs until they build it up enough to sustain full-time.

It has always been a challenge for parents to take time off to care for a new child, and each family faces their own challenges with this. However, how people and companies work has seen changes over the years in many ways for the better. We’re seeing an increase in parental leave, better facilities for breastfeeding, and changes in onboarding after a long leave. In the past, this was something Timm had to create for herself and now we’re seeing more support, especially for working moms. However, many workplaces still aren’t built for working parents. Childcare responsibilities are often the biggest challenge. What helped Timm was finding a village where parents could support each other. She and a group of parents formed a carpool so they only had to do pick-ups and drop-offs once a week. The stability of that group helped open up time and brain space to take care of other things for each of the parents. Another piece of advice Timm has is to find peers, mentors, sponsors and people at work who have empathy for the struggles of parenting and returning to the workplace. She didn’t have this when she first started, developed it later and also encouraged the creation of a parents group when she worked as General Counsel at Looker.

Find support both in the workplace and outside of it. Build your village so you can support each other.

That village can help support you and also help you fight imposter syndrome. One major challenge we hear from Her Allies returnees is that imposter syndrome creeps in and is so hard to fight. Timm says we are the best at creating stories about how we’re not good enough, or it’s been too long, etc. All these stories create fear and freeze us. The way to tackle it is to normalize it and then find strategies to deal with it. Timm talks about negative self-talk in her book, and here’s her advice on how to combat it:

  • Put time between those fears, ask yourself what am I going to think about in one year, five years?

  • Create an alter ego (whether a friend, coach, or mentor), what would they say and how would they coach you? Those voices are more kind to us than we are to ourselves.

  • Then… jump in despite the fear! Don’t worry, you won’t get it right or perfect the first time. Don’t be afraid of rejection and mistakes. You’ll find opportunities and things that are right for you. Take a chance and support yourself with people that identify with your identity. Find the support!

For more advice and to hear more about Timm’s journey, check out her book Embrace the Power of You! Her Allies will also be raffling off four copies of the book to those interested - to sign up for the raffle fill out this form.

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