Tell us about yourself and your current role.
I’m a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend and the president of Partners + Napier. About six years ago, my daughter Lennon was born and I became a working mom. Then 23 months later, my son Reese arrived. Meanwhile I earned two promotions: first to managing director, and then two years later to president. How was I going to balance it? I wasn’t. But I made a commitment to myself that every day I would give it all I’ve got. My family is the most important thing to me and you better believe I’m at as many T-ball games and reading days as I can get to. But I know I can’t make them all – and that it’s okay to sometimes serve French Toast sticks for dinner.
But when I’m at work, I’m all in. A huge part of my role at Partners + Napier is to grow revenue and people. I am focused on growing business with our existing clients, as well as bringing in new ones. I’m also responsible for attracting the hybrid talent that we need for every part of our business, from account leadership to creative to digital, and more, as well as to keep those employees growing in their own careers. I’m determined to lead through empathy, optimism and being real.
What is the culture like at your agency?
Every day we come to work at Partners + Napier to leave a mark – on business, people and culture. And we do that guided by our core belief: Business, it’s personal. We care deeply about our clients, their business, and each other. For us, it’s always personal.
We recently moved and designed 40K square feet of space based on how people work today – as co-creators who are immersed in our clients’ business. But also with the whole person in mind. Our business is incredibly intense, so we try and balance that with things that are important to people like a gym, free snacks and drinks and more. And when they need a break, they can take one because we’ve designed a “resi-mercial space” that mimics the way they would work at home.
We also have top-notch health coverage, paid paternity leave, a private, tranquil wellness room to pump breast milk, unlimited sick days, and flex time so parents can be with their kids when needed.
How does that culture mesh with the juggling act that is being a working mother?
Remember our view of business: it’s personal. We understand that working moms – and dads – are better at work when they have time away and with their families to reconnect – whether it’s a vacation together, dinner at home or a “quiet” weekend. It all comes down to a culture of accountability and freedom. You can have the freedom you need for your family as long as you are delivering.
There’s absolutely no doubt it’s a crazy job. I personally couldn’t do it without my husband – for me parenting is a team sport.
In what ways has being a mother changed how you approach certain aspects of your job?
My kids aren’t the same and need to be nurtured (and disciplined) differently. It’s a great reminder that every employee is different too – they process information differently, listen differently, take direction differently. So my management style needs to adjust based on who that person is.
My intent has also changed since becoming a working mom. I focus more on the purpose of whatever it is I’m working on. Is it providing value? If not, shelve it. I thought I was busy before I had kids – I had no idea! But somehow you squeeze it in. And I think it’s made me more productive, more intentional with my actions and more empathetic. It’s also made me more ambitious – now I’ve got two people totally depending on my husband and me!
What would you say are some of the most rewarding aspects of being a working mother?
Instead of having one reason to get up in the morning, I have two:
The first is my kids. With two of them, ages 6 and 4, sleeping past 5:30 am is not really an option. That said, it’s a great time to sneak in a workout before the day starts and enjoy some quality time with my favorite people. And that includes my husband.
And second is work…really, I mean it! It’s so important for me to love what I do and instill that in my kids. I stay positive when it comes to going to work. I never say, “I have to go to work,” I say, “I’m going to work.” I want my kids to learn that work should be a place you want to go, not a burden or a place of negativity.
And speaking of work, is there a better place to commiserate with other working moms and dads? We all support and learn from each another. When’s the deadline to sign up for summer camp? How about soccer? What are the tastiest non-dairy kid snacks? Which doctors/dentists connect best with kids? The list goes on.
What are the biggest challenges that you’ve dealt with?
A few years ago, I was 37, married, the mother of a one-year-old, and on track to be named managing director of Partners + Napier, when I found out baby #2 was on the way.
I knew I wanted to take another 90-day maternity leave – not the best of times to take on a big new job. But I was lucky to work for Sharon Napier. She had faced similar circumstances 25 years earlier, when the times were far less accommodating. She hugged me when I told her the news.
Being gone for three months would leave a void, but since team is one of the agency’s three core values, I knew the Partners team would step up to the plate for me, just as I’ve done for them.
I also knew that I had a true partner in my husband, who was already helping me leap the hurdles of working motherhood. He and I are a true team, picking up where the other leaves off. He’s always 100% supportive, whether I’m running off to a morning meeting, traveling for days on end, or attending a late-night event.
What steps do you take to ensure you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
I honestly believe the idea of work-life balance is b.s. When your work life is awesome, your home life could suck. And vice versa. But it never stays that way for long. Just try to be 100% where you are when you’re there, making the most of the moment you’re in.
What professional achievement are you most proud of? Tell us about it.
About a year and a half ago, I was promoted to President of Partners + Napier. Out of the gate, I helped lead an acquisition and revenue has since gone up 31%. We’ve since added a bunch of new clients and new capabilities like Media. While proudly based in Rochester, New York, we’re pumped to have firmly established ourselves as a nationally recognized agency with global reach. In fact, we now rank as one of the most effective agencies in North America, per Effie Worldwide.
Where do you see the possibility for change for future working parents?
We need to replace this idyllic yet impossible need for perfection with optimism, and trade in judgement for support. And while there’s a big focus on celebrating working moms, as someone who works alongside some pretty amazing dads, I’d really like to shift attention to focus more on working families and working teams.
Who are some working mothers you admire/look up to?
My mother, Ginny Gray. She is an amazing role model, with an unbeatable work ethic. She taught me the importance of being true to your word – and fulfilling commitments no matter what. As a working mom, I’m trying to instill those same values in my own kids so they see this as a point of strength.
Another is Sharon Napier. She’s been my boss for more than 15 years, and she’s taught me a lot over the years. To her credit, she says she’s learned a lot from me, too. Sharon earned her Master’s at 43, while raising two young daughters AND working full-time, all so she could realize her dream of opening her own agency. I couldn’t ask for a more inspiring role model.