After her second child, marketing professional Jessica Janson began to feel the pull between family and career. “Constantly running between meetings, train stations and the pick-up in a mad panic”, Jessica set out to find a new way without taking a step down the career ladder. With a little reframing and whole lot of courage, mum-of-three Jessica set herself up as a contractor and launched passion project Dogshare, to let others know it’s OK to ask for help—even with your dog.
Can you tell us about your career journey so far?
I’m a marketing professional that has worked mostly in the construction sector for the past 16 years. More recently, I’ve become fascinated by technology and how it has the power to make our lives easier and bring people together.
You’re a mum of three young children. How has having children changed you? Are you more or less ambitious career-wise?
It’s changed me remarkably. Mostly I think it has turned on a very empathetic side of my personality. I am more emotional, and I feel things more deeply since having children. This scared me at first as I saw it as a weakness in the professional world, but I’ve learnt to harness it now. It’s such a great skill to have when building connections.
What was your parental leave and return to work experience like for your first child?
It was pretty awful actually. I was working for a large corporate organisation and I approached the HR team at about the 10-month mark of my leave to ask if there would be any opportunities to work part-time. They asked me to complete a form stating how I would complete my full-time work in part-time hours. I said that would not be possible and they agreed, suggesting I resign first and then they would help me find a part-time role. Afterwards they said there were no such roles.
What a challenging and frustrating experience that must have been. We’re pleased to hear there was a silver lining, and you went on to accept a dream role. But as chance would have it you discovered you were pregnant with your second child the next day! How was your parental leave and return to work experience different second time round?
Yes, that came as a big surprise! We had wanted a second child but were finding it wasn’t coming easily to us and, of course, the minute I accepted the most incredible job with architecture firm Woods Bagot, I discovered I was pregnant.
I told my manager when I was about 12-weeks pregnant. I was still in my probationary period and felt so awful about the whole thing, but she was incredibly kind and understanding. Despite not having worked for them for 12 months when I took my leave, they agreed to hold my job for me regardless. It was a breath of fresh air after my first parental leave experience.
As your family has grown, your family’s needs have changed. How has having a large family impacted your career?
I really started feeling the pull between home and career after having our second child. My husband’s career was also progressing quickly at this time, and I remember saying that I felt like by working part-time I had just signed up to never succeed in either of my roles (working and parenting). I got some details wrong for a kinder graduation and felt like I was constantly running between meetings, train stations and the pick-up in a mad panic. I started to have anxiety about going back to work in the city in a very demanding position that I cared about deeply. Not just from the perspective of how I would juggle my time but also how I would juggle my energy. I found coming home after a mentally exhausting work day, that I didn’t have the patience to read to my kids or listen to their worries from the day in the way I would like to.
On top of this, I had also been worried about returning to work as our dog had developed separation anxiety. A chance meeting with a neighbour who also had a young and needy dog, got me thinking about how other families coped in these busy life situations. I got thinking about the old adage that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and wondered if it was OK to reach out for help with your dog? It seemed pretty crazy, but the more research I did I found that a pretty unacceptable number of dogs are rehomed every year and a really high number (around 70%) of Australians don’t walk their dogs every day.
At the end of 2014, I resigned from the dream job at Woods Bagot and set myself up as a marketing contractor and approached my first employer, Easton, about some work. At the same time, I began working on the dogshare.com.au concept.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Three days per week I drop our youngest boys at childcare and head into the office. My eldest son goes to primary school, so the other two days I just have the little boys at home with me and I use those days to catch up on house duties and get out and play with my kids.
Every night I work on Dogshare, reviewing each one of our new applications that is received (I’m proud to say my eyes have been over close to 26,000 membership applications!), responding to enquiries, promoting our service and working on product development with my co-founder, Adriana.
How do you practically manage the juggle, and share responsibilities with your husband?
Look, I’m possibly going against the grain here, but I certainly do the lion’s share of both housework and stuff with kids during the week. My husband, Brad, has a consulting business that means he is often interstate or working very long days.
Initially we both fought (each other!) for our career importance, and I will admit that in the beginning I resented him when I watched his career soar and mine (seemingly!) wither away. However, somewhere along the line I came to the realisation that my family won’t stay young forever and the workforce isn’t going anywhere. It’s made me really appreciate the special role that I play, and I adore the bond I have with my kids. I realise I’m so lucky to have the time and experiences with them that I do.
I’m glad that I’ve worked hard to keep my career, as I think I’m a better parent for it and it’s something that I enjoy. I also think it’s a really important part of my identity and independence.
Why is flexibility so important as a working parent? How has it positively impacted your family and work life?
My life now feels far more balanced than it did when I was working a corporate job, and flexibility is absolutely the key to that. Working for my building client, Easton, is a dream come true. I work hard and am very committed to them and my role. I think there is great benefit to them as an employer having someone work for them that has a ‘side business’. They are getting all that ‘up to the minute’ knowledge that I am gaining running a lean start up, and I’m able to bring these learnings back to the business.
What advice would you give to other working parents wanting to create or negotiate more flexibility?
I think negotiating flexibility is often based on merit and relationships. There is a lot of trust involved to allow a staff member that autonomy of choosing their own hours or working from remote locations, and trust is really only established by a history of delivering great work previously.
Where do you see your career going next? What is one dream you have yet to accomplish?
I’m really excited by the merging of my areas of interest which is where marketing and technology meet. I’ve also really enjoyed building a product (Dogshare) that positively impacts people’s lives, contributes to the fabric of our society and encourages kindness and connection. Maybe in the future I’ll be able to use my learned skills to work on another project that really leaves our world a better place‒that would be very satisfying.
How do you stay sane with the juggle? What is your way of coping when you find yourself frustrated, overwhelmed or burned out? How do you look after yourself?
Switch my phone off/have a digital detox. Learn to say no to a few things and just get back to basics. Put my family needs first because I find once this is out, it flows into my professional life.
Favourite time of the day is…morning.
Instagram sites that inspire you…@bumblebizz.
I’m happiest when…I’m with the family headed on a weekend away or camping adventure.
I’m addicted to…looking at real estate.
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