Smita Hashim is the CPO at Zoom who has also held leadership positions at Microsoft and Google.
Hashim is a first-generation immigrant who struggled with cultural expectations of what a "good mother" looks like.
She says everyone should be able to have a family and have a job — it's not an either/or situation.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Smita Hashim, chief product officer at Zoom, about her advice for working moms. It has been edited for length and clarity.
When it comes to my personal career journey, both what I did and how I did it came into play. If you establish a good reputation over the years, people will seek you out for senior jobs and C-suite positions because they'll know your reputation and what you're like to work with.
I finished my PhD and within two years of starting work, I had my daughter. It was pretty early in my career, but I knew I wanted a child, so I made the choice early on. I'm so glad I did — she gives me so much joy and I'm so glad I had her.
My daughter is grown up now and she's a working adult, so I feel like I'm on the other side of balancing motherhood and my career now.
Everyone should be able to have a family and have a job. It's not either/or. I imagined that I should be able to do both and I assumed I could have both — it's possible to have both if that's your choice.
Here are my top six strategies for working moms who also aspire to the C-suite:
1. Know it will be tough at times, but you have to stay in the game
My advice to women on their own career journey is to adjust your hours if you need to — find a more flexible schedule, and try to adjust your work and home responsibilities — but stay in the game. If you don't stay in the game, it's harder to keep up the momentum.
I never felt like quitting was an option for me. If you stay in the game, you'll continue to figure out other strategies for staying in the game. There've been times when I've brought in help, or some of our dinners were bought more often than they were homemade, but it was important to me to both care for my family and continue my career.
2. Seek out diverse experiences, and don't be afraid to change
The other part that comes into play is the diversity of experiences you have. Throughout my career, I've had a lot of diverse work experiences. I've been in product management, but have worked on both products that are technical as well as go-to-market, across various cross-functional teams.
All of that experience comes into play when taking on a leadership position. Some focus on taking a linear path, but that linear path doesn't really get you ready for a C-suite position.
3. Embrace flexible styles of working, and find places that empower you to work in the way that works for you
In blending company leadership roles with being a working mom, I'm thankful that I worked in many supportive environments. I was also very lucky because the job was intense, but I was in a good environment. I worked a lot of hours, but they were flexible so I could work around my schedule, and still pick my daughter up from school on time. I also had supportive managers.
In addition to embracing flexible styles of working and finding places that empower you to work in the way that works for you, you should be able to make proactive choices for your own working style as well.
Something that made a big difference for me was video conferencing. In the early days, my first product was working on a video conferencing system, and I've been lucky to have access to video communications early on in my career, as well as working for companies with distributed teams.
Working flexibly became a way of life, and it continues to open up new avenues for working parents. I'm a huge believer in flexible work. It's good for all of us as human beings and for sustainability. I feel fortunate and grateful to be at Zoom and at the forefront of building products that are enabling flexible work for the world at large.
4. Actively think about setting up a support system as a project you should be thinking about and investing in
Make sure you have a support system — a family member, a friend, a paid caregiver — and approach setting this up as you would any other important project you would think about and invest in.
Early on, I realized I wanted to have a career, but I wanted to get good care for my family. So I chose to get more help as needed, even if it impacted other parts of my life.
For example, having someone pick up my daughter early from school took some of the responsibility off my plate. The dividends you get from your free time really make a difference.
Having a supportive spouse is the other trick — my husband is so supportive. He helps me out when it's so busy, like now. I also realized that I can't strive for perfection, and those things help a lot.
5. Stay true to your own core values as you're navigating through the workforce
You have to define what your personal core values are. For me, I believe in high-quality work that helps customers and the business, bringing strength, authenticity, and also kindness. I insist on teamwork and empathy for your peers.
As you go through your own work journeys, you'll encounter all sorts of environments, and being true to your core values is the only way to persist.
One thing I struggled with was the cultural expectations — I'm a first-generation immigrant, and there are expectations of what it looks like to be a "good mother." Over time, I've learned to outright reject those norms for what a "good mother" looks like, because there are many ways to raise a child; there's no "normal" way.
6. Set up a personal advisory group
It'll get really difficult and confusing at times, and the right trusted advisors can help you return to your purpose, why you work, and how you show up for yourself — and remind you to take care of yourself.
This could be a therapist or mentors, or friends who understand professional challenges that you can go to for support.
If you're a C-suite executive who would like to share how you climbed the corporate ladder, email Jennifer Eum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the original article on Business Insider