Smita Hashim is Chief Product Officer at Zoom and has also held senior positions at Microsoft and Google.
Hashim is a first-generation immigrant who has struggled with cultural expectations of a “good mother.”
She says everyone should have the opportunity to start a family and have a job — it’s not an either/or situation.
Both what I did and how I did it played a role in my personal career path. When you’ve built a solid reputation over the years, you’ll be preferred for executive and C-suite positions because they know your reputation and know how to work with you.
I did my PhD and had my daughter within two years of starting work. It was still pretty early in my life Career, but I knew I wanted a child, so I made the decision early on. I’m so glad I did – it brings me so much joy and I’m so glad I got it.
My daughter is all grown up and working now and I feel like I’m on the other side now and maternity and can reconcile a career. Everyone should have the opportunity to have one Family to start a business and have a job. It’s not an either/or. I imagined that I could do both – and both are possible
Here are my top six strategies for working moms who are also drawn to the boardroom:
1. Be aware that sometimes it will be difficult, but you have to stay in the game
My advice to women on their own career path is: Adjust your work hours if necessary – find a more flexible schedule and try to balance your work and personal commitments – but stay in the game. If you don’t stay in the game, it’s harder to maintain momentum.
I never felt like giving up was an option for me. If you stay in the game, you will also find other strategies to stay in the game. There were times when I enlisted help, or some of our meals were bought more often than we made them, but it was important to me to both provide for my family and continue my career.
2. Seek diverse experiences and don’t be afraid of change
The other part that comes into play is the variety of experiences you have. I’ve had a lot of different work experiences over the course of my career. I was in product management but have worked on both technical and go-to-market products in various cross-functional teams.
All of that experience comes into play when you take on a leadership position. Some focus on a linear path, but that linear path doesn’t really prepare you for a C-suite position.
3. Embrace flexible working and look for jobs that give you the opportunity to work the way that suits you
I am grateful that I have worked in many supportive environments as I have been able to balance corporate leadership with being a mother. I was also very lucky because the work was tough, but I was in a good environment. I worked long hours but they were flexible so I could fit my schedule and still pick my daughter up from school on time. I also had supportive supervisors.
Not only should you accept flexible working arrangements and find a job that gives you the opportunity to work in the way that is best for you, but you should also be able to proactively make decisions about your own working style.
Something that made a big difference for me was video conferencing. My first product was working on a video conferencing system and I was fortunate to have access to video communications early in my career and to work for companies with distributed teams.
Flexible working has become a way of life, and it keeps opening up new opportunities for working parents. I’m a big proponent of flexible working. It is good for all of us as human beings and for sustainability. I feel happy and grateful to Zoom To be and be at the forefront of developing products that enable flexible working for the whole world.
4. Let others support you
Make sure you have a support system: a family member, a friend, a paid caregiver.
I knew early on that I wanted to have a career, but I also wanted to provide for my family. So I decided to seek more help when needed, even if it impacted other areas of my life.
For example, if I had someone who picked my daughter up from school early, that relieved me of some of the responsibility. The gain you get from your free time really makes a difference.
The support from spouse is the other trick – my husband is very supportive. He helps me when I’m as busy as I am now. I also realized that I can’t strive for perfection and that helps me a lot.
5. Stay true to your own core values as you navigate your professional life
You have to define what your core values are. I believe in quality work that helps clients and the company, that brings strength, authenticity and also kindness. I value teamwork and empathy for my colleagues.
You will be confronted with all sorts of environments on your professional path, and only by staying true to your core values can you assert yourself.
One thing I struggled with was the cultural expectations – I’m a first-generation immigrant and there are expectations of what a ‘good mother’ should look like. Over time, I’ve learned to reject these norms. There are many ways to raise a child and no “normal” way.
6. Set up a personal counseling group
Sometimes it gets really difficult and confusing and the right trusted advisors can help you focus on your purpose, why you work and how you take care of yourself.
These can be therapists, mentors or friends who are familiar with professional challenges and whom you can ask for support.“>
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