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Successful working mothers > Stories of Success > A Working Mother’s Perspective

A Working Mother’s Perspective

By Galia BarHava-Monteith

I always wonder how women who are in very interesting-sounding jobs got to do what they do. I also often wonder how the heck they manage it all. So I thought I’d ask!

Jacquie Sherborne was the then HR manager of The Auckland Regional Council. At the time we spoke she had been with the ARC for just a year and was finding it to be a great experience. Jacquie loves being involved in environmentally and socially related causes and is very committed to change and improvement.

Jacquie is married and has two children under five. She works full time from 7am to 4pm so that she can spend her evenings with her children.

How Did You Get to Do What You Do? How Did You End Up in HR and Was It Planned?

I was interested in the behavioural side of work. I wanted to study psychology, but I was also really interested in the business side of things. So I did HR including industrial relations and psychology. But I really didn’t have much of a clue about what HR actually was. I didn’t know anyone who was doing it and at the time the careers advisor at school wasn’t a strong presence. I think those sources would better serve young people today, and youth would be more aware of that source of information.

I started work in industrial relations and moved on to many different roles in the health, education and corporate sectors and now I am with local government!

When I think back now, on the whole my career is pretty much what I expected it to be in the work I do. What I definitely under-estimated, or didn’t even consider at University, is the politics of work…

What Do You Love About Your Job?

I love being able to create, fix and improve things. I love change and continuous improvement – it’s the transformation of HR using systems and technologies and new processes which I get a real kick out of!

I’m at my best in project-based work, which is where the transformation and change comes in. I love the integration of different things like HR and technology which is a little bit risky and edgy type work. It also provides the opportunity to learn new skills and work with other people from other functions (e.g. Finance, IS) and from other organisations as well. The work I prefer to do is all about approaching the old problems differently or at least that is what I certainly strive for. I like selling it to staff through writing, communicating and interacting with them, so that I can bring them along and create a story and sense of interest in the future we are trying to create.

Is There Anything You Hate About Your Job?

Hate is a too strong word, but I really dislike having to manage the political interests and expectations of others at times – at least when I think they are motivated merely by self rather than what’s in the organisation’s interest.

What I do hate is financial monthly reporting!

What Are Your Greatest Challenges in Your Work and Your Life?

Building a high performing and satisfied team and bringing them along with whatever it is we are doing. A real challenge as a manager is developing people and trying to build them and the team for mutual benefit. It is always hard trying to determine the right balance of how much direction a person needs and would like vs. how much you would like. People don’t always give their managers a lot of feedback or let them know what they need!

Of course the greatest challenge is balancing work and the rest of life. It means that I have to constantly compromise. For example, I would love to have done the OXFAM walk in April but there is no way I could work, be a mum, study and train! I am doing some study at present in Project Management so the Oxfam walk will be next year (maybe there is a group of like-minded women who have joined Professionelle who would be interested also?!).

I find it very challenging that I constantly have to give things up, that I have to accept compromise all the time. I am a bit of an ‘all or nothing person’ so having to be 75-80% on things is a bit disappointing at times, but I think it builds wider perspectives. Besides, I have just recently realised that I have probably still got a few years left on the tyres, so everything doesn’t have to be done this year and right now!

How Do You Make It All Work?

I think the biggest thing is managing my own expectations of myself. I think we always have much higher expectations of ourselves than others have of us. For me it’s ‘don’t worry about the state of the house, don’t use your thirty minutes to vacuum, just read a book!’

I also have learned in the last year or so to still do things but drop the intensity a bit, so instead of doing the 100km OXFAM trail walk I’m going to do the 10km Devonport classic. It might not give me the same sense of achievement, but it still means that I am participating in something and being a role model for my kids.

What Do You Consider to Be Your Best Achievements?

My family. I never really aspired to have a family and be a mum and it’s been an incredibly fulfilling and developmental experience so far (not to mention sleep-depriving). It has given me all sorts of experiences that I would never have had from anything else and the best part for me is that I wasn’t expecting any of it.

I have done a few different things that I guess could be considered achievements, like riding the Taupo challenge while pregnant with my first child and doing the Dusky Track in Fiordland. I was surprised to see in the Herald recently that Fiordland was on the list of the top 100-odd things to experience in New Zealand – it can’t have been referring to that track!

What Was the Best Advice You Ever Received and Who Gave It to You?

‘Marry a friend’ – my father told me that in a sombre moment. I think I managed to do that one, maybe I could consider it an achievement as I am a bit short there!

What Are Your Thoughts About the Reality of Being a Professional Working Woman?

I believe being a professional working mother is very doable and achievable. I think it requires focus and self discipline and constant organisation. You have to constantly balance, you just can’t overdo one thing. It is very hard but I think anything worth doing for some time has to be a challenge.

I have never experienced the glass ceiling at all. I think I have limited and pre-judged myself in my career more than others ever have.

What advice can you give other professional working women out there?

Work out what you want as early as you can but be open to changing it – and then go after it.

Don’t act purely out of self-interest, it won’t be a fair prize that you win.

If You Could Do Things Differently What Would You Change?

I’d do more Psychology and Finance – learn the numbers side of business earlier. Take more chances. Work out what I want earlier (remember that ‘Sunshine’ song)? Get less emotionally involved – give it up a bit sooner at times!

Where Do You See Yourself in the Next 10-15 Years?

Fulfilled, doing something I love – maybe a combination of things. It is quite likely to be outside of an internal HR role. I don’t have a focus in mind, just some orienting values and a core need to be interested and learning something.

Reading the paper in bed at the weekends instead of reading Green Eggs and Ham at 6.30am to a couple of kids who are raring to go!

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