Because having kids doesn't mean the end of an innovative career (obvs)
In Partnership with Neutrogena
It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man, whether you’re in your early twenties or in your early fifties, the worry of not keeping up in your career is very real.
With the modern working world moving so fast (think about it: the internet was originally invented in 1983, Twitter in 2006, Instagram in 2010, Snapchat in 2011 etc,) it’s no wonder that digital ‘am I keeping up with the times?’ paranoia has struck us hard.
Now, imagine how scary it can be when you’re a woman going on maternity leave? (Oh, and thanks very much, BBC maternity drama The Replacement).
It’d be easy to feel disheartened, threatened and worried about future-proofing your career from any type of sabbatical but these three women – and lots more – have done just that.
They didn’t just survive their time away from work, they thrived. Here are three inspiring mums who made the digital world work for them…
Anna Whitehouse (AKA Mother Pukka)
‘Adapt, change, and try new things on a nearly daily basis.’
Anna Whitehouse, 35, mother of Mae, 3, and six-months pregnant with her second founded Mother Pukka after realising there was a market for it. ‘I was working on a fashion magazine as a lifestyle journalist when I saw how much a 24-year-old blogger was paid for one hour of work,’ she admits. ‘It was five times my daily rate.’
What did she do next? ‘I Googled ‘vlogger’ and simply went from there,’ Anna tells us. ‘I worked out all the kit I needed, sketched out some vlog ideas, registered the name ‘Mother Pukka’ and went for it.’
‘It was nothing more complicated than having a point and pressing some buttons at first. I was learning as I went and I think that’s key to making the digital sphere work for you – adapt, change, try new things on a nearly daily basis.’
‘While you need consistency on a blog, there’s always room for playing with apps to make your content stand out. It wasn’t ever about a huge financial investment for me – it was simply using the free digital tools in front of me to broadcast my message.’
‘For me, it’s not about making lots of dosh, it’s about having the choice of where I work and when I work. I can run my business from my phone, which is a powerful set-up in a modern world that doesn’t have to mean ‘having it all’ but definitely having ’something’.’
The social media manager
Lucy James of Pure Social
‘Dig deep, take a deep breath and ‘just do it’!’
Lucy James, 38, and mum to Alice, two and Jessie, one was a solicitor before she realised she wanted a more flexible career and to move out of London. ‘I re-trained with Digital Mums while on maternity leave and I’m now a freelance social media manager with my own social media agency business Pure Social.’
Her tip? Upskill. ‘Digital Mums kick-started my digital career and gave me the confidence to go it alone. Choosing the right course is key so avoid ones that focus too much on theoretical learning and instead choose ones with an emphasis on getting you job-ready.’
And make sure to invest in your own brand, say says: ‘Spend time building your own profile and network online. It sounds obvious but it’s your visual CV and will help you stand out from the competition as well as form valuable connections.’ ‘There are hundreds of Facebook groups out there for freelancers. Digital Mums has its own one for its graduates and the support is unbelievable. Freelancing can be a lonely place so having a network to bounce ideas off, share best practice and indulge in ‘water cooler’ moments with is invaluable.’
Finally, Lucy says to embark on some work experience. ‘It’s given me invaluable experience and kept my skills updated – and it does sometimes lead to paid work. Besides, working for social enterprises and charities makes me feel like I’m giving something back, too.’
The social network CEO
Michelle Kennedy of Peanut
‘If you’re not sure whether your decision-making is emotion-based or based on rationale, ask someone independent who you trust.’
Michelle Kennedy, 34, is the co-founder and CEO of social network for like-minded women (who happen to be mamas!) Peanut. She’s also mama to three-year-old Finlay – and used to be a lawyer.
‘My career was pretty far from anything digital or online but I was introduced to the founder of dating site Badoo and joined as their in-house counsel. Partly due to me being nosey and partly because of sheer tenacity, having established the legal function for the group, I started to acquire other functions of the business, before moving into a role working alongside the founder as his Deputy…’ she recounts.
‘I wouldn’t describe the move into tech as intentional so much as inevitable. That inquisitive approach has never left me. Having been so involved at Badoo, and then integral to the launch of dating app, Bumble, it was a somewhat obvious move for me to create a product aimed at women who were going through a similar life experience as me (becoming a mother).’
Then, it was all about understanding algorithms, user experience and ‘the types of metrics which are critical to the success of a product like this,’ explains Michelle.
But don’t let the tech jargon scare you, all you need to know is your product. Michelle also advises to ‘really know your pitch – and anticipate any downsides and objections you’re going to face.’
Her other tips? ‘Call in favours and ask for help – the more input you get, the more robust your plan will become. And be humble. If you’re making a shift from one career path to another, you might have to undertake tasks you feel are below your skillset. Keep your eye on the long game though and just do it. Oh, and have a lot of coffees with people – getting face time with the right people and showing your willingness will lead them to you when they are thinking about new opportunities.’
‘But, remember that business and friendship are different. If you’re not sure whether your decision-making is emotion-based or based on rationale, ask someone independent who you trust. That would have saved me some pain during my career – although I regret nothing, mistakes make you fix up and work smarter.’