Anna-Louise is a digital specialist with over 15 years in the industry working as client services leads and leading cross-functional teams to deliver award winning work.
Anna-Louise joined AKQA in 2005 and during her tenure has run the Xbox, Diageo, Unilever and Heineken global businesses.
Today Anna-Louise works across the AKQA network with responsibility for developing new client engagements and partnerships, and creating the optimum AKQA teams to support them. She also worked closely with the HR team to develop the current maternity policy at AKQA to help support working parents in their career development.
Four lessons I’ve learnt being a working mum
I am a mother of two, to Mia almost 7 and Max, 4. I work four days a week as Director of International business development at AKQA, the ideas and innovation company, where I’ve been for 11 years. I was one of the first women to return to AKQA after having a baby and have been very fortunate in how flexible and supportive the company has always been. I’ve now been working part time for the past six years and whilst I haven’t totally sussed the fine art of juggling parenthood whilst having a career (has anyone?!) I’ve learnt a few key lessons along the way and discovered what works for me, and what doesn’t.
1. The art of 80/20
I work to an 80/20 rule. If everything runs to structure and routine for 80% of the time, then I can deal with the 20% of unexpected, unforeseen curve balls that invariably crop up – work deadlines, last minute work travel, children’s illness, childcare challenges.
Some weeks it all runs smoothly, some weeks it just doesn’t. I’ve learnt to be pragmatic and realistic and I’m expert at spinning multiple plates and prioritising. I’ve not missed a nativity or sports day yet and I’ve always managed to deliver to key work deadlines.
2. Remember to switch off
I work four days a week and start my day early, responding to my first emails of the day over breakfast at 6am. I leave the house at 7am and my partner manages the morning child drop off. I use my walk to the station for calls to our offices in Asia, respond to the next batch of emails on the train and plan the day ahead, and then am at my desk at 8am.
My day is made up of meetings, with prospective and new clients, our team in London or calls with our other offices around the world. I rarely take a proper lunch out of the office (though you’ll find me eating and snacking throughout the day!) and prefer to work through so I can get as much done whilst I am in the office. I leave the office at 4.30pm to collect my children.
On the train home I try to respond to emails from the day and then from 6-8pm I try to be offline. Unless it’s critical, I don’t check my phone and leave the devices alone whilst I spend time with the children and catch up on their day. Once they are in bed I get back online. Most nights I do an hour of work, more if necessary.
I’m a big believer in switching off. I try not to check emails and close down the laptop by 10pm each night to stop my mind still whirring whilst I am trying to get to sleep. Once a week I force myself to go to the gym where a trainer takes me through my paces – it often seems hard to find the time but it works wonders in clearing my head and getting any stress out.
3. Make technology work for you
Over time, I’ve tried lots of different organisation and planning tools. For me what works best is a large family planner at home, a shared online calendar that both my partner and I use on the go – plus I would be lost without the Notes tool synced across my phone, iPad and laptop to record and track things I need to do.
I also like a list but I need to be able to access it wherever I am. Digital services streamline my life and I do as much as I can digitally – from grocery shopping to paying bills and booking tickets. Often by the time I’ve completed my commute to work I’ve ordered the weekly shop, paid the childminder and ordered the presents for the weekends kids parties. I’m probably Amazon’s best customer.
4. Be honest
Ultimately, I think the key to juggling having children and a career is to be honest with yourself and your employer – and set realistic goals with realistic timeframes. It takes time to find the right rhythm and just as you do your family’s needs change, or your job evolves, so you may need to adjust things.
I also think that flexibility has to work both ways – AKQA has always been very flexible around my family commitments but also if there’s an important deadline or meeting I need to be at then I have to be flexible and find a way to make it work.