Juggling Two Roles: A Sales Leader's Journey to Setting Boundaries and Enjoying Life as a New Mom
[This article was written in partnership with Fairygodboss]
Transitioning to a new role can be challenging — and this is especially true when you’re taking on two new roles simultaneously! This was the case for Li Ma, who was promoted to her role as a Regional Vice President at Appian just two weeks before she gave birth to her first child.
But how did she manage to balance these new roles? Well, the truth is, aiming for perfect work-life balance isn’t the answer, Ma reveals. “I think there's a misconception that women can achieve great work-life balance while maintaining a high-powered career during the earlier parts of their baby's life,” she shares. “I believe that no matter where you work, if you are an ambitious person, then there will always be a struggle in finding that balance if you want to exceed at work and at home. There are a lot of days where I feel guilty for not spending enough time with my baby, and other days where I feel guilty that I didn't give enough attention to my team at work. I also believe that it's even harder to prioritize yourself during this process.”
So, what can you do to address this as a working parent? For starters, “set boundaries and [enjoy] the precious moments,” emphasizes Ma. “Everything will get done, and it'll all work out!” For Ma, being able to prioritize different aspects of your life without feeling guilty about it is imperative!
And, “the best advice that I can offer new expectant moms is to be patient with yourself and try really hard to live in the present once the baby arrives,” Ma tells us. “Babies grow up so fast and, before you know it, you'll miss the newborn stage so much.”
Here, we caught up with Ma about what a typical day looks like for her, how Appian has been supportive throughout all the changes in her life, and more!
Tell us a bit about your job. What’s your current role and typical day like?
I am responsible for overseeing a team of six Account Executives as we create and manage our partnerships with the Department of Defense (DoD). My team is responsible for helping the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, and the 4th Estate agencies transform the way they support our warfighters through innovative technology such as low-code. Along the way, we help Appian achieve its ambitious growth targets in a dynamic economic environment.
My life now as a new mom is very different everyday as I am still learning how to maintain balance between work and life with a 10-month-old. I usually get up with the baby by 7:00 a.m. and tend to his needs (changing, feeding, etc.) until his nanny arrives at 8:30 a.m. I then get ready for a full day of work.
Work is never the same. I sometimes spend the day going to meetings with customers, and other days I either work in the office or from home. My days are always filled with meetings, such as with my team members as I help them navigate their deals.
Other times, I travel downtown or to the Pentagon to meet with customers. It is also typical for me to go on business trips for two to three days at a time. I usually take a break from work in the evening, starting around dinner time. This is the time that I spend playing with my child, feeding him dinner, and putting him to bed. I finish my day by catching up on emails.
Can you tell us more about this break from work you take at the end of the day?
The most important boundary that I've established is setting aside evening hours to spend time with my family every evening. My team and coworkers know that those hours are usually carved out for my family. I don't mind working late to catch up on conversations or emails as long as I am able to spend time with my family every evening.
What are you especially good at as a mom? What about at work?
As a new mom, I'm great at asking for help! I think most women might find it challenging to accept that they need a lot of help. I embrace all of the help around me, and I don't try to be overly ambitious by trying to do everything myself.
At work, I'm great at being a guide and mentor to other Account Executives as some of them are new to the company. I try to be great about empowering and enabling them to do their jobs.
Next, let’s talk about Appian’s culture. What’s your favorite aspect of it, and how does Appian aid you in achieving balance?
I've been at Appian for almost nine years, and I’ve found that the company has an extremely supportive culture for women, especially when it comes to our ambitions across the company. I've felt very grateful that Appian has empowered me to move into different roles, so I can constantly be challenged and work outside of my comfort zone.
Once I became a mom, Appian's leadership was very flexible in adjusting to my needs as I navigated maternity leave and returning back to work. Ever since I returned, Appian has been great by providing me with safe, clean, and comfortable wellness rooms. The company even provides Milk Stork services during my business trips, which has helped to significantly eliminate the logistical stress of shipping milk home. Overall, the culture here at Appian is very respectful of women who have experienced a significant life change.
What type of programs does Appian offer to new and expectant parents?
My company offers a lot of wellness activities. These range from meditation subscription services, yoga, a lively motherhood chatroom for connecting with each other, wellness rooms, and Milk Stork services. Appian is also great about being receptive to new ideas to help improve the entire experience.
Finally, why do you think Appian is a particularly great place to be a working mom?
Appian is a great place to be a working mom because the company provides so much flexibility in what parents need. Every new parent has a unique set of needs, especially during and after pregnancy. I've seen firsthand how the community of women at Appian has really helped each other tackle different challenges. Advice is given on various topic areas ranging from breastfeeding to day care needs. The company has all of the areas covered: maternity leave, remote work options, special reimbursements on childcare, and there's even an on-site daycare available at HQ.
Lastly, it's also very easy to reach out to HR to inquire about new services and obtain support from other leaders across the company to create new programs.