Not to flatter myself, but I am exactly who Sheryl Sandberg had in mind when she decided to write Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Thirty-five, married, mother of two young (but not too young) children, MBA who has worked consistently in one high-status industry for over a decade, and who is grappling with the next steps in her career. I’ve even got her name. And I am completely ready and willing to take in Sandberg’s advice, because I know I’m on the precipice of something. Maybe something big.
I’m a year or two away from my next promotion at the investment firm where I’ve worked since 2005. Our product is growing, I believe in it, and the opportunities arrive at a relentless pace. I’m in the office for dedicated hours four days a week, altered to meet the needs of my family, and work from home the fifth day. Working with international clients, I am generally available to respond to emails and join the occasional conference call at off hours, so that more time isn’t lost to time zone differences. I’m a highly organized and efficient employee, and I work hard.
But in my off hours, when I’m not taking care of my kids, trying to be a good wife, running a household and maintaining some semblance of a social life, I’m blogging. Admittedly, there’s not a lot of time left for blogging with all of these other things, but I’m trying because it’s accessing a part of me that is none of those other things, yet all of those things combined. What started off as a modern day baby book has evolved into a mission. For years, I’ve chronicled my struggles to manage working while parenting and parenting while working, saying “I do know how she does it” and “having it all, at the exact same time.” Now I’ve launched The Having It All Project, giving others an opportunity to reclaim that phrase in a supportive environment where we can see just how much we do have, even if we’re still struggling to manage it all. I’ve gotten so much joy from blogging -- made amazing connections and had wonderful experiences -- but I haven’t gotten a cent of compensation.
Now I’m not giving up my day job. It’s a core part of my identity, and having a degree of professional success means a lot to me (so does the paycheck). But if some day, my life veers away from what Sandberg feels is most important, which seems to be getting more women into C-level corporate positions, will I have failed her? What if I want to write a book? Or find a more flexible job that affords me more time at home when my elementary school age kids are high schoolers? What if I want to start a small business, or work in the non-profit sector? These are all valid options in my eyes, and my path might meander around a bit in the coming decades. My overriding goal, though, is to keep building on the solid foundation I have now, through as many varied experiences as I can find.
I’m looking forward to reading Sandberg’s book. I hope it will have lots of valuable insights. And hopefully, those insights will follow me no matter where my career is headed.