Name: Lauren Smith
Location: Portland, OR
Occupation: Global Operations Manager CS Payments at a vacation rental company
Some people say there aren’t enough hours in the day. Lauren Smith, the Global Operations Manager CS Payments for a popular vacation rental site that we can’t identify by name, is a master of getting the most out of hers. “Because my role supports the entire global team, it can be a twenty-four/seven job. Someone on my team is always working and often in a single day I have to balance meetings and challenges that happen in Asia, Europe and the U.S.” As if having a high-powered job that pulls you across latitude and longitude to every corner of the world isn’t enough to keep busy, Lauren manages to do it all while balancing family life with two young children at home.
How could anyone possibly keep up?
“You often hear people say, ‘Work hard now, play hard later.’ But in my life, with two small children, I feel like I would miss out on too much. I believe in working hard and working smartly. That includes planning as much in advance with my work schedule so I have a clear dedicated time to the “life” part of “work-life balance” that I cherish so much.”
Lauren is a manager for one of the fastest-growing tech companies in the world, but she didn’t always envision her career going this direction. In fact, she had a hard time seeing herself doing anything with math or dollar amounts, which her current job very much does. “I absolutely hated math in school. I always preferred studying history or literature. I would rather theorize a situation rather than be faced with a black and white answer. I always wanted to be a teacher or a fashion designer. I still have sketches of dresses I would have Susan Sarandon wear to the Oscars.”
Lauren began down her current career path when she took a high school job at, of all places, Wells Fargo. “I still remember the look on my math teacher’s face when he walked in and saw that I was working at a bank.” She worked primarily in the risk management and fraud services department and it proved to be a great fit. So great, in fact, that she decided to pursue a management track. She started interviewing for supervisory roles at Wells Fargo.
But it didn’t work out at first. “I interviewed for supervisor position after supervisor position and was always told the same thing, ‘you have no supervisor experience and we need people with supervisor experience.’” Dismayed that Wells Fargo wouldn’t give her the opportunity she felt she deserved, Lauren took a risk and accepted a supervisory role with a different company to gain valuable experience that would bolster her resume. A year and a half later, she returned to Wells Fargo in a management role. All told, she spent seventeen years there before interviewing with the vacation rental company where she currently works.
Given the long road to get here, we asked Lauren if she has any advice for young women just getting started with an entry-level job at a large tech company. “No one cares more about your career than you. Do what you have to do to get the role you want. And BE BEYONCE. Or Lady Gaga or Oprah or Ru Paul or whatever Queen inspires you. Women notoriously talk themselves down or out of going for the next level or new roles. We can be very self critical. Be confident and then multiply by ten. I truly credit channeling Beyonce with getting my current job.”
It takes a superstar, or at least someone exceptionally skilled at the art of time management, to balance the job that means so much to her with the family she loves more than anything. Lauren’s secret is a combination of technology and a willingness to set boundaries. “I draw lines firmly in the sand. There is power in saying no. I wish I had discovered that earlier. People respect that you have your priorities and when they still see you working hard and delivering, you will earn that next no in the future.”
“I am gone for almost two weeks at a time when I’m gone. It’s not easy to be away from my children or my husband. My husband and I discussed openly how taking this global role would impact our family and relationship and made very clear promises to each other after weighing all the pros and cons. When I decided to take the job, I made it very clear to my boss that all of my travel would have to be planned in advance, and that to any additional travel requested, I would say no. I also decided that it would be easier to do longer trips versus more frequent shorter trips and found ways to rotate my working hours to support the other time zones instead of actually going there.”
“And without modern technology, quite frankly, I wouldn’t be able to do it. For example, when I’m in Asia, I Facetime with my children to wake them up in the morning and I put them to bed each night through Facetime. I block those times out on my work calendar when I travel, so they’re reserved for my children. I can even wake up early to attend my daughter’s dance class. My awesome partner stands there with his phone for the entirety of the class while I watch her in real-time. She knows I am there watching.”
Despite her careful planning, any women with both a career and family inevitably comes across misplaced negativity. Lauren calls it “Mom Shaming” and says it ranges from passive-aggressive to just-plain aggressive.
“Most of the time I get it from moms, which is disappointing because we should be supporting each other. It’s often a comment like, ‘Oh I could never do that, leave my children.’ Or they will commend my husband for doing so much ‘more’ of the parenting. I had one person actually tell me family is more important to them than money, assuming that that was what it was about for me.”
“Shortly after I returned from maternity leave after having my first child, I was given some poor but well-meaning advice from someone in a high-ranking leadership position who was also a mother. This woman told me point blank to never talk about being a mother, never talk about your children or your family. To make up reasons why you have to leave to take children to doctor appointments or dance recitals, because people will see it as a weakness. I took her advice and was miserable. I was working twice as hard to try and prove something and was hiding a HUGE part of myself.”
“I finally woke up, embraced it with both arms and made it a part of my work identity. I knew I could do both and do them both well. That’s when I drew the lines about my schedule, started working smarter and made sure my work delivered. I gained trust and had the support of my boss. I was very transparent with how I planned to balance that life and made sure in turn to offer the same trust to my team for their work/life balance needs.”
“I love my job, I love to travel and I love my family. I don’t always respond to Mom Shamers because life is good and my family is good and I don’t care if they don’t understand how that is possible.”
And that’s really what it comes down to: striking a life-work balance that works for you and your family. That’s why, for not compromising her dreams and being extremely successful in a career she loves while being a mom to two awesome kids she loves, we think Lauren Smith is a very Cool Girl!
We made a $200 donation to The Q Center on behalf of Lauren. We encourage you to make a donation too!