Professional space, support and trust helps one tech recruiter navigate infertility, pregnancy loss and working motherhood
Shannan Farmer’s journey to motherhood wasn’t easy: she experienced pregnancy loss, infertility and IVF - but now wears the proud title of mom to two sons.
She couldn’t have gotten through it all without the medical and emotional support of her employer, Calendly, where she works as a remote recruiter. They gave Shannan space to process what she went through and then cheered along with her when she got pregnant.
When it was time to prepare for her parental leave, Shannan worked very closely with her team and manager to detail all of her responsibilities, projects and meetings – including how to handle various scenarios while she was off. This helped her enjoy the time away from work – and enabled her to hit the ground running when she returned.
Her manager also checked in with her on a personal level during maternity leave, which helped Shannan feel connected to the broader team and company.
The genuine care and compassion Calendly shows its employees has made all the difference to Shannan–who boomeranged back to the company last year. She rocks her role, giving it 110% of her effort because she knows she can devote the same time to her family without work interruptions when she’s off the clock.
Being a recruiter gives Shannan a front row seat to see how important supporting working parents is to jobseekers–even those without kids. As a working parent herself, she shared that it makes her incredibly happy when candidates ask about parental leave policies because it means they’re advocating for themselves and their families.
Read Shannan’s full Q&A below to learn more about her journey to parenthood and how she’s built a life that fulfills her professionally without missing out on time with her family
You’ve been vocal on LinkedIn about how Calendly is an extremely parent-friendly place to work. Can you share a few highlights about your experience? What do they do well that other companies could learn from?
“The best part about being a working parent at Calendly is that I am always given the space and support to be a mother first. From having to step away to be at preschool activities, handling sick days or school closures and the occasional surprise guest on my Zoom calls, Calendly and my team are there every step of the way.
I think what Calendly does really well is our hiring—the recruiting and interview process is so intentional and effective that when we hire someone, there is a high level of trust and autonomy given to that person. When your employer trusts you to get your job done and meet your OKRs, you have a sense of freedom to really embrace whatever level of work/life balance you need.”
As a parent who has been vocal about experiencing pregnancy loss and going through the IVF journey, how has having a supportive employer during these times impacted your life? Feel free to share personally and professionally.
“I probably wouldn’t have been able to get through pregnancy loss, infertility and IVF without a supportive employer and manager. It wasn’t just about the medical benefits, but their emotional support in that journey was huge for me. I feel like they went through a lot of it with me and really gave me the space I needed to deal with it all. And then, when I finally got pregnant with my second via IVF, I truly felt like they were right there with me screaming with excitement. When a manager truly, genuinely cares about you as an individual outside of work, everything changes, and it makes all the difference.”
As a recruiter, you must get a lot of questions about benefits during the interview process. Based on your experience, how important is parental leave to active jobseekers?
“It’s becoming more important to jobseekers–even if someone isn’t currently expecting or family planning, they need to know what those benefits are and whether or not they align with what they’re wanting out of an employer. It makes me incredibly happy to see candidates advocating for themselves and their families.”
What did you do in preparation for parental leave to help set yourself up for longer-term career success?
“I wrote out all of the projects I was solely responsible for as well as where things stood with my direct reports. I wrote out the cadence in which I met with various people, the purpose of the meeting and my proposal for what to do with everything while I was gone. I shared that with my manager and we continued to iterate on it during my pregnancy. Once we got closer, we had a more ‘final’ plan and, since I had a scheduled C-section, we were able to make sure everything was in a good place before I signed off for maternity leave.”
What was the most challenging part of taking parental leave, and how did you address or overcome it?
“Accepting that so much can change in such a short period of time is important to really embracing your time away. Trust that you will be brought up-to-speed once you’re back, and trust the leadership team in place to make decisions that are in the best interest of everyone involved.”
What did your manager or company do that was really helpful to your success transitioning back to work?
“We stayed in touch during my leave on a personal level. Having those personal check-ins and conversations while I was gone helped me feel connected to the broader team and company. My department head also trusted me to get my work done around my chaotic schedule upon returning—never questioning where I was or why I was slower to respond at times.”
What is one professional achievement that you’re most proud of since becoming a parent and why?
“Coming into an early-stage startup that had very few processes and policies in place, I helped design and build out an entire team and department alongside some brilliant recruiters and leaders. This is one of my greatest career achievements (and joys!) to-date.”
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?
“Childcare and an extremely organized calendar, always.”
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?
“I definitely don’t enjoy unproductive meetings and try to work asynchronously as much as possible. I also gained so much more confidence once I became a working mom and even more so after having my second. In a way, becoming a mom makes you fearless, so I feel completely comfortable speaking up in meetings and voicing my opinions and/or objections.”
How would you describe the difference between returning to work after your first child vs. your second child?
“Life turns into a cute but chaotic circus real fast! You have to accept that you can’t do everything and learn how to prioritize your time really well. When I am working, I give 110% to work and give it my full attention. When I am with my kids, I give 110% to them, and they have my full attention. This helps with balance and working mom guilt.”
What boundaries do you maintain as it relates to work/home? How have these boundaries shifted over time?
“I define and make my working hours known. I don’t work outside of those. We aren’t saving lives and most anything can wait until the next work day.”
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?
“Go out with a bang. Knock out as many projects, goals and accomplishments as you can leading up to your leave. Give it your all and stay laser-focused on work. Then when you’re on leave, you know you laid everything out on the table before you signed off and can really embrace your leave.”
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