ARA Chicago

Desperately Seeking Balance: How One IT Professional Found It

As I sit by the pool watching my 8-year-old daughter perfect her underwater handstand, I also am on my laptop finishing off some work documents. I smile – knowing that I’m blessed with a pretty unique work situation. But, it wasn’t quite so easy to get here.

Many years ago, I was working like a dog in my first consulting job at the height of the dot-com boom. I thrived on the intensity, loved the problem solving and was inspired by my teammates – and did I mention the travel? Life was great. It was where I met my husband, who was on the same ride as me. But, after a few years, I could no longer live out of a suitcase. I longed for roots, an address and kids.

After I quit consulting and settled into a full-time position close to home, life became more structured. My husband and I were blessed with two children. Life was great again. However, as our kids started to grow, I began to miss their milestones. I forget when it was my turn to carpool. I struggled with successfully managing my personal and professional lives. I felt the pull of running an IT department, as well as the pull of motherhood. In my head, I heard the echoes of my parents telling me I could be anything I wanted. But, at the same time, I also heard the nagging little voice telling me that I desperately missed my kids. So, one day in the middle of a meeting, I looked at my boss and said, “I’m done.”

PowersFamilyWeddingI tried the stay-at-home thing but it was too lonely for me. I would often daydream with my husband, saying, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could work in IT, but only a few days a week?” Then we’d both laugh until we cried into our cabernet. Part-time IT, what’s that?! Well guess what? I ended up finding the perfect work-life balance for me. Here are the things I needed to change before that happened.

  • Realize that times have changed. IT has evolved over the years, as have many work cultures in America. People telecommute. Companies employ departments of people on the other side of the world. And, it is perfectly acceptable to walk out of a meeting to pick up a sick child.
  • Change your attitude. Once I decided that I wanted to go back to work, I started telling myself all the reasons why I would never find a position that would work for me. Without even trying, I convinced myself that I would never find an ideal situation. I had to learn that the universe is rigged in my favor. Drop all the negative reasons why it won’t work and start acting like it’s going to work.
  • Develop a support system. If your instincts are telling you that you want to go back to work, surround yourself with people who want to see you reach that goal. Ignore the naysayers.
  • Find a Great Recruiter. I spoke to a lot of recruiters before finding the one that I trusted to find the right job for me. Be sure to ask your recruiter about flexible hours and working remotely. If there is an awkward pause after you ask the question, find another recruiter. Your recruiter should be part of your support system and be on board with helping you reach your goals. Ask them how many employees they have placed at the kind of company that offers the work-life balance you want.

If you find yourself struggling with these same issues, my advice to you is this: try it. It just might work for you, as well. I’m pleased to have found a work schedule that fits into my life. And, I’m proud to say, my daughter’s underwater handstand continues to improve.

Amy Powers is an IT management consultant with 15 years experience. Her experience ranges from managing large teams in a corporate setting to overseeing small teams in a nonprofit setting. Amy started her career as a developer and quickly moved into the role of team lead on large scale projects in predominantly the retail and e-commerce sector. Her expertise is in building and leading geographically-dispersed teams to solve complex business problems. She is currently implementing cloud-based and open source technology solutions for a nonprofit in the Chicago area. When not running IT initiatives,  Amy is raising two school aged children along with her husband, as well as coaching three travel soccer teams.