How this sales pro used the “firsts” of her maternity leave experience to define (and redefine) parental leave at her organization
What happens when your job success depends entirely on performance (like in sales), but you’re an expecting parent preparing for 12+ weeks of parental leave?
It takes serious cooperation from the employer, employee and their whole team to make a plan that works for everyone.
Jordan Arogeti is a successful sales professional, business owner and mom of two (with her third on the way!). Her first two children were born during her 7-year tenure at Salesloft, which put her in a unique position to help shape the parental leave experience as the company’s first individual contributor to go on parental leave and the only person to ever do it twice.
Salesloft had a generous 12-week maternity leave policy, which allowed Jordan to bond with her new babies (18 months apart). But turning off her “work brain” proved more difficult than expected, particularly during her first leave.
In a high-pressure and incentive-driven sales role, parental leave can be detrimental to an employee’s commission and performance if the right structures aren’t set. Jordan recalls that she “simply did not stop” working during her first leave, because she wasn’t 100% sure her accounts would be handled in a way that satisfied her.
Jordan recognized this was a shortcoming of pre-leave coverage planning the first time around, so as she prepared for her second leave, she worked closely with her team to create a process she felt comfortable with - and was mutually beneficial to all parties involved.
To build this plan, she thought deeply about incentive alignment: How could she create a plan where her team would want to work as hard for her as they would on their own book? She also found it incredibly valuable to take a leading role in managing expectations and figuring out HOW to let others help her with ideas that were fair and equitable to everyone.
Jordan has since moved on from Salesloft, and is now a partner at Arogeti Endeavors - one of the two successful businesses she launched after her first two children were born. She wholeheartedly believes that becoming a parent made her a leader - both professionally and as someone who’s been there and can help other women struggling with similar circumstances.
Jordan’s story is rich with lessons for expecting parents, especially those in sales who may be nervous about sacrificing OTE for time away. Read her full Q&A to see what she learned about motherhood, sales leadership, and the importance of creating space.
What did you do in preparation for parental leave to help set yourself up for longer term career success?
“I spent a ton of time with HR and my sales leaders trying to shape and, the second time around, redefine the maternity policy. It was critically important to me to know that I was set up for success when I returned back to work and I read and talked to as many individual contributors as I could find in other fast-growing SaaS companies to learn from.”
What mistakes did you make? Are there things you wish you had done differently before, during or after your parental leave?
“The first time around I simply didn’t stop. Working was almost a coping mechanism for me which I didn’t anticipate, and I wasn’t sure I fully trusted that things would be done in a way that I would be satisfied.
The second time was at the height of the pandemic so work couldn’t have been further from my mind. While it wasn’t any more ‘relaxing,’ I had a better structure and balance for how to communicate with work while I was out.”
What was the most challenging part of taking parental leave and how did you address or overcome it?
“The most challenging part of taking parental leave is coming back. You’re still balancing 1,000 emotions and it is completely mentally and physically exhausting to work through the logistics of childcare and an in-office commute. For me, it was hard to find the energy to enjoy the early days because I still very much felt like I was in survival mode - but in a different way.”
What worked really well in your re-onboarding experiences? What helped you feel good and up to speed faster?
“The second time I had a colleague that I trusted (who was pregnant a few months after me) and we set up a spreadsheet of all my accounts/opportunities/next steps etc. She was my advocate and my evangelist for my customers when I couldn't be, and I trusted she would get things done in a way that was good for everyone. The reason it worked is I gave her a percentage of my deals. It’s all about incentive alignment.”
What did your manager or company do that was really helpful to your success transitioning back to work?
“Adequate ramp time for quotas was so helpful!”
What is one professional achievement that you’re most proud of since becoming a parent?
“Since having kids, I’ve launched two businesses - all while putting my children first.”
If you had to name one thing (something you do, something you buy, something you have) that has had the greatest impact on your ability to manage working parenthood, what would it be?
“Probably not exactly how I’m supposed to respond, but I have the best husband/partner in the world. We are a complete team and I never feel like the burden is on me alone.”
Many parents say that once they had children their “bar” became higher. They no longer tolerated wasteful work, unproductive meetings, etc. What else would you say changed as it relates to your career or work style once you had kids?
“The book ‘Essentialism’ by Greg McKeown changed everything for me. I became a better salesperson after kids. I was more assertive and direct with prospects and customers because I didn’t have the emotional or mental energy to chase things that weren’t real or valuable.”
How would you describe the difference between returning to work after your first child vs. your second child?
“My kids are already only 18 months apart, and add in having a child [at the start of the pandemic] in March 2020 and it was like an alternative universe. The working world changed so much while I was on leave it’s almost impossible to compare the two. But I will say the WFH was a very nice perk.”
As your children have gotten older, how has that changed your perspective on how to balance parenthood with career (if at all)?
“You can have it all but you can’t have it all at the same time. My perspective has shifted from wanting to be everything to everyone to knowing that some days I can’t and won’t excel at every role I have to play.”
What boundaries do you maintain as it relates to work/home? How have these boundaries shifted over time?
“For me, it’s less about boundaries and more about creating space…creating space to go out with friends or to catch up with family. It’s too easy nowadays to blend work and life together.”
If you could give another parent in a similar position as you one piece of advice leading up to their parental leave, what would it be?
“Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions to HR/sales leaders. You have the ability to change things so that everyone wins.”
What tips and tricks do you have specifically for sales reps who are taking parental leave?
“It’s all in the details. I recommend really understanding your comp plan and finding where there could be holes. Think deeply about incentive alignment (for you, your manager, your teammates, SDRs, etc.) and how you can create a plan where they will want to work as hard for you as they would on their own book.”
Use data. I had Salesloft adjust the plan after my first baby because I had more data (e.g. average deal cycle timeline, average opportunity size) and worked backwards from there to understand how I could structure a governing document/policy that worked for everyone.”
How exactly did you handle transitioning over your pipeline before going on leave? What worked well? What did not?
“I built a very extensive spreadsheet, including key data from SFDC. I got input from my colleagues, boss, sales ops and SDRs. It became a living document and in some ways the foundational piece to ensure nothing fell through the cracks. Additionally, I kept a papertrail of everything to ensure that accounts/pipeline/splits were well communicated and agreed to.”
One of the biggest challenges for a sales rep returning from leave is having to rebuild their pipeline without a ramp goal. How did you approach the return to work period without getting overwhelmed?
“I cannot overstate the value of managing expectations with everyone: your boss, your senior leaders, SDR team, and your prospects/customers. In my experience and generally speaking, people want to help and want to make your experience positive. The challenge is HOW. You can’t be afraid to come with your ideas that are fair and equitable to everyone. You also have to be extremely organized. It’s incumbent upon you to make the proper transition docs and ensure that you're giving yourself the needed space and time to get back fully in seat.”
When you look back on your parental leaves, how do you think it helped your career?
“It helped me become a leader. I’ve spoken to dozens of women about these same challenges and it’s a passion of mine to help anyone struggling with these same circumstances.”
Sales is a profession with very few women in senior roles. Many wonder if parental leave - or parenthood in general - is a factor in that. What is your perspective?
“Sales is such a high-pressure role with metrics that clearly define whether you’re successful. Part of the reason I never wanted to go into a senior role is because it typically means that you are managing people. When you have young kids…there’s already PLENTY to manage.
By nature many women either choose not to go into leadership OR they abandon sales all together because there is simply too much pressure in all directions. I personally always loved being an individual contributor and, despite many times being approached with a management/senior role, I couldn’t find myself giving up the autonomy that I valued so much.”
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