From parenthood with a Navy spouse to working for a supportive, female-only sales firm, one sales professional finds the balance she needs
The pandemic certainly put a wrench in many parents’ work-life arrangements. Now imagine balancing your schedule as a military spouse at the same time.
While pregnant with her son in 2021, Megan Coughlin Taylor’s organization was acquired by a company that didn’t place much value on supporting working parents. She knew she’d have to find a better fit in the long-term if she wanted to excel as a working mother with a partner in the Navy.
She did some soul searching and took the time to whiteboard her values and what she wanted life to look like post-maternity leave. She also saved most of her commission checks so that she’d have some padding to make her next career move without feeling too much financial strain.
A self-described high-achiever, becoming a mother represented another facet of Megan’s life she could master. She quickly realized that it’s impossible to truly track “progress” as a first-time parent. So, she took the time to slow down and get to know two new people: herself as a mother and her newborn son.
Having moved cross-country twice due to her husband’s Navy career, Megan also found a local mom’s group in San Diego that met several times a week to work out with their little ones while enjoying the outdoors. This made a huge difference in Megan’s mood and sense of community.
To support her husband as he completed his medical residency for the Navy, Megan decided to take about eight months off after her last sales role to be a full-time mom.
After her brief hiatus, Megan’s values and work ethic landed her a great role at sales consulting firm #samsales, where she joined an all-women team of sales experts.
“I have a manager that appreciates me and encourages me every time we talk,” Megan says. “I'm surrounded by amazing women…nothing beats that.”
Read Megan’s full Q&A below to learn more about how she’s juggled career and parenthood as a military spouse by setting firm boundaries and working with ultra-supportive female colleagues.
As a military spouse, you’ve moved coast to coast—but currently work for a remote company with a female/parent-forward culture. What does this support mean to you (personally and professionally?)
“I have tears in my eyes as I answer this question. I have a manager that appreciates me and encourages me every time we talk. I'm surrounded by amazing women—many who are also military spouses juggling multiple babies and PCS moves (a move between one duty station to another). Nothing beats that. You cannot put a value on being surrounded by individuals that you admire. As I'm responding to you, our company Slack is cracking me up! These women are incredible, and I wish everyone could feel the pride and gratitude that I feel when I represent #samsales.”
What did you do in preparation for parental leave to help set yourself up for longer-term career success?
“I’ve always maintained relationships with past colleagues and leaders that I knew I’d love to work with again. While I was pregnant with my son, I worked for a company that (unfortunately) didn’t place much value in parental leave or supporting working parents, so I knew that it wasn’t the best fit for me in the long-term.
I spent plenty of time personally outlining my values and knowing what I would want my personal and family life to look like once I started working again. I also saved most of my commission checks so that I’d have some padding to make a decision without feeling too much financial strain. This preparation made it much easier for me to comfortably step back into a working role at a pace that has been appropriate for my family.”
What was the most challenging part of taking parental leave and how did you address or overcome it?
“I’ve always been a high achiever and I prefer to feel like I’m always making progress; however, it is nearly impossible to measure ‘progress’ as a first-time mother. To overcome the challenges I faced, I really had to focus on slowing down and learning everything about myself as a mother, as well as learning about my son and his preferences! I also found a wonderful local mom’s group that met several times a week to work out with our little ones while enjoying the outdoors—it made a huge difference in my mood and sense of community.”
What is one professional achievement that you’re most proud of since becoming a parent and why?
“I am proud of the projects that I've been able to be a part of while on the #samsales team. I've been able to provide call coaching and contribute to sales playbook build-outs, all while actively playing a role in my son's life! The balance between work and parenting has given me so much joy.”
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?
“Wow! This is a really great question, and I want to make sure I give you a great answer. For me, the most important thing I've done to impact my ability to manage working parenthood would be setting firm boundaries and advocating for myself. It is so easy to fall back into work or to prove that you can ‘do it all.’
The reality is, you can't do everything well on your own without taking care of yourself. You just can't. I've been successful by expressing my need for help or support, prioritizing exercise, utilizing meal deliveries or ordering groceries to be delivered to the house. There is no shame in slowing down, and there is no shame in asking for help. I am also very clear on what I am (or am not) willing to miss out on regarding my son—which helps quite a bit.”
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?
“This question evokes so many feelings for me! I believe that our society has done a disservice to working professionals as a whole–not just to parents–by expecting them to work all hours of the day and to respond to every email and call immediately. So many people don't understand that it is OK, if not admirable, to be clear on their priorities and to have boundaries.
Fortunately, I realized this long before I had my son. I don't think it is fair that parents are seen any differently than individuals who do not choose to have children. Every employee's time should be treated with respect. Wasteful work is just that— wasteful. We all should be respectful of our colleagues' time and resources regardless of whether or not they have children.”
As your child has gotten older, how has that changed your perspective on how to balance parenthood with career (if at all)?
“I'm realizing that I will have to juggle balancing my career and parenthood for the rest of my life. I want to make memories with my son, but I also want to contribute at work. I need a trusting and mutually respectful relationship with my employer. My husband is in the Navy, and there are many times that I have to solo-parent, which requires a lot of flexibility and the inability to travel. To be successful, I need to work for a company that values work/life balance. When you work for a company that makes you feel valued, it is so much easier to put in the long hours that you are choosing to spend away from your family.”
What boundaries do you maintain as it relates to work/home? How have these boundaries shifted over time?
“I am committed to being present both at work and at home. When I am working, I make sure that I have reliable childcare for my son. It is nearly impossible for me to pour myself into my job unless I know that my son is safe and content. The same goes in my personal life. When I'm playing with my son or on PTO with my family, I'm not paying attention to my work email or calls.”
What tips and tricks do you have specifically for sales reps who are taking parental leave?
“Communicate early and often! Hopefully you’re working in a supportive environment and able to work closely with your manager to ensure that your clients are taken care of while you are away.
Talk to your clients openly about your timeline and provide introductions so that when you are gone, your clients know exactly who they will be working with in your place. Be clear with each and every client regarding projects, timelines, etc.
Be clear with your management and colleagues on what commissions will look like while you are away. Understand exactly what the onboarding/ramp period looks like when you return.”
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?
“As salespeople, we're trained and skilled in negotiations, aren't we?! Be clear with your manager on what expectations are upon your return. Understand exactly what is expected of you. If expectations are fair, great! If not, work with your manager to achieve a fair balance that leaves you both feeling valued. The best managers know that employees truly perform when they're supported.”
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