Flex Success® Archives - Diversity & Flexibility Alliance

Spotlight on Flex – Anne Marie Pisano

 

The Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Anne Marie Pisano, Principal at Goldberg Kohn, in Chicago, IL

Anne Marie PisanoDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your career?

Anne Marie Pisano:  Goldberg Kohn is a one office firm based in Chicago, and I started here as a summer associate and then as a first year associate after graduation. My husband and I are very passionate about pursuing our careers while at the same time being completely committed to each other. When an amazing professional opportunity presented itself for him in DC, we knew we had to take it. I was a mid-level associate at the time, pregnant with our first child, and I really loved working at Goldberg – I didn’t know what my options were. I spoke with the chairperson of the commercial finance practice group, and he told me that even if I moved to DC, he and the firm didn’t want to lose me as an associate. It was incredible, and we worked together to create a telecommuting arrangement. I would work the same amount of hours, for the same compensation, and have the same expectations as any other full time, Chicago-based associate – I would just be based in the DC-metro area. It was a very organic arrangement; I would come to Chicago when deals closed and to meet with clients as I deemed necessary.

This arrangement started over 14 years ago. What I love about Goldberg Kohn is that over the years, my family and professional situation has evolved, and my flex arrangement has evolved to match my needs as well. When I started telecommuting, technology was not what it is today, and during my first maternity leave, there was a desire to push our tech options forward. This was not just for me but for other attorneys at GK who wanted to leave the office in the evening to spend time with their families and log back into the system later, if necessary. The firm made the investment to make this happen, and I had complete, remote access to the firm’s system. I was able to recreate my entire office desktop at home, and it’s been a win for all attorneys since then.

After I had my second child, I realized that in addition to telecommuting, I wanted to work reduced hours. Without question, the firm supported my request, and we agreed on a flex schedule where I would work 80 percent. In fact, I made principal (we are a single-tier partnership), while telecommuting and working reduced hours! We stayed in the DC area for 12 years, and two years ago, we moved to Pennsylvania (where my husband and I grew up) to be closer to family. Now that my third child is in school full time, I returned to working full time. I’ll go into the office in Chicago about once a month for two/three days at a time, but I still telecommute about 95 percent of the time.

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Spotlight on Flex – Nerissa Coyle McGinn

The Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Nerissa Coyle McGinn, Chief Diversity Partner, in the Chicago, IL Office of Loeb & Loeb.

Nerissa Coyle McGinnDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your career?

Nerissa Coyle McGinn:  When I was a sixth year associate, four partners left my law firm and started Loeb & Loeb’s Chicago office. They brought me with them as the only associate. At the time, I was in my early 30’s, married, and I knew I wanted to start a family very soon. The partners also knew this, and I asked for immediate vesting with my benefits to be eligible for Loeb’s maternity leave (now our parental leave policy).

Looking back, it’s amazing how supportive the firm has always been. Even from my first request regarding the vesting of my child care benefits, the partners who brought me to Loeb negotiated on my behalf, and the firm agreed to my vesting request. They worked with me to create a reduced hours schedule even before the firm had a reduced hours policy. I had my first child just after my one year anniversary with Loeb & Loeb in 2005. I returned from that leave at a 60 percent, reduced hours schedule, and I’ve been on this schedule ever since. Over the years, how my 60 percent looks has changed as my family’s needs and the firm’s expectations of me have changed. At first, I was in the office Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. I wanted to have two back-to-back days in the office for more consistency rather than work every other day and feel like I was always playing “catch up.” As my kids got older, I started coming into the office every day but working shorter hours. I made partner five years ago, and because I work shorter days, I’m also able to telecommute part of the workday. This arrangement has worked for as long as it has because the firm is flexible with me, and I’m flexible with the firm.

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Are You Ready to Transform Your Approach To Working Flex? In Just Six Hours
You Could Completely Change Your Future

Do you have the right mindset to be successful working flex? Have you taken stock of your professional and personal successes? Do you know how to train your brain for positive results? These and many other questions were answered last Thursday in the first session of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance’s Flex Success® Institute We want to congratulate those flex professionals who have already set off down this life-changing road by committing to spending a total of six hours with the Institute this summer. The Institute is a five-session virtual professional development program, plus a one-hour individual coaching session, that is guaranteed to transform your approach to working flexibly.

Last week’s participants also learned how to harness the power of goal setting to achieve their vision. They uncovered their biggest confidence killers and discovered how to persevere in the face of failure. They identified their own unique key to empowerment and ways to increase their productivity. They learned about the importance of rituals and risk-taking and how self-care and authenticity are essential. In just one hour these participants already have a step up on building their self-esteem, their career success and finding true happiness in their personal and professional lives.

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Education is the Key to Your Organization’s Flex Success®

When implementing a flexible work initiative, it’s important to remember that everyone in the organization has a role in its success. Whether working a flexible schedule or not, everyone must understand the importance of the policy and fulfill his or her role in supporting it. Flex education tailored to the myriad professionals with differing perspectives throughout the organization is key to the success of the flex policy.

At the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance, we advise organizations to offer three different types of flexibility education customized for three different audiences within your organization:

Flex Professionals must understand their role and responsibilities. Educational components for flex professionals must encompass the importance of understanding exactly what is expected of the individual in the flex agreement. The flex professionals should be trained in the following skills:

    1. Articulating exactly what they hope to achieve through the flex schedule and what they intend to accomplish in their career development;
    2. Demonstrating commitment to their schedules and careers;
    3. Exploring realistic approaches to communications and face-time expectations;
    4. Providing workable solutions to devoting time to important aspects of career development including business development and organizational citizenship;
    5. Maintaining visibility even when physically out of the office;
    6. Leveraging technology;
    7. Handling bias.
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Business Development: An Integral Part of Your Flex Success®

This is the sixth in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success®. Check back as we walk you through the seven steps that will guarantee your success while working flexibly: Define Your Success; Own Your ValueActivate Your Mindset; Create A Strong Personal Brand; Build Your Networks; Expand Your Ideas on Business Development; and Enhance Your Work-Life Control.

No matter what industry you’re in, it’s always good to stay one step ahead of your business, your clients, your customers or your marketplace. You always want to be thinking about tomorrow and where your career is headed and where your income is coming from. While you might approach business development in a slightly different manner in light of your flexible schedule, it’s still imperative that you dedicate time to business development and to generating your future revenue.

The sixth strategy in our Seven Strategies for Flex Success® is Expand Your Business Development. Whether you’re working with clients or reporting to internal supervisors, make sure you’re demonstrating a deep understanding of their needs, business realities and serving as a trusted advisor to help them accomplish their current and future goals. To help you build future clients, projects and customers, you should turn to the network of colleagues, mentors, sponsors and former classmates that you built in the Fifth Strategy (Build Your Networks and Personal Board of Advisors). This network can help you expand your reach and enhance your ideas on business development, key elements to creating more autonomy in your career and ultimately greater work-life control.

You may be concerned about investing time in business development when you’re working a reduced hours schedule and therefore already have less time for work. However, many professionals working a reduced hours schedule have told us that their flexible schedule has allowed them to excel at business development and, in fact, has become integral to their career success. It’s important to incorporate time into your flex schedule for business development as well as for activities that will raise your personal profile such as speaking engagements, publishing articles and papers and networking.

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Spotlight on Flex – Jessica Brown

The Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Jessica Brown, Partner, in the Denver, CO Office of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.

Jessica BrownDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your career?

Jessica Brown: It’s almost surprising to me, but I’ve been at the firm for more than 22 years. I was a summer associate here, clerked for a judge after graduating from law school, and then started as an associate in January 1995.

I made partner effective 2002, had my first child in 2006, and started working a reduced hours schedule in 2007. There have been times when I’ve been working full time hours or traveling extensively, and I have to be able to roll with that. I never expect to work reduced hours on a daily or weekly basis but rather over the course of the year. Fortunately, I have an incredible support system through my husband, our nanny, and the firm.

I’m in the office every day, and I’m required to bill 1300 hours per year. I don’t adhere to a set schedule because I don’t know how that could work in a client services industry. You could have an “aspirational schedule,” where you choose to be off or work from home a certain day of the week, but it’s important to be flexible about your flexibility. Work priorities won’t always align with your schedule, and you have to adjust seamlessly.

For me, working every day makes sense because I’m always busy, though not always with billable work. I recently reviewed my hours for the past five years and was amazed to find that I worked almost the exact same number of total hours each year. The only thing that fluctuated was the ratio of my billable hours to my non-billable (e.g., community service and pro bono) hours.

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Spotlight on Flex – Jennifer Nowlin

The Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Jennifer Nowlin, Associate General Counsel, Labor and Employment, in the Bentonville, AR Office of Walmart Legal.

Jennifer NowlinDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your career? 

Jennifer Nowlin: I started practicing law as a commercial litigator at a Dallas firm. I’d been practicing for less than one year when my husband was offered a job at Walmart in Bentonville, AR. We had to decide whether it was time for us to relocate, but I knew my marketability was limited with such little experience under my belt. From the beginning, Walmart supported my family’s needs; the company allowed us to stay in Dallas while my husband traveled back and forth to Bentonville. We kept this arrangement for a year and finally relocated to Bentonville when I joined Walmart’s legal department in 2005. I started with the employment practices legal team, but in 2009, I joined the legal team supporting labor relations, and I’ve been with them ever since.

Walmart had developed a Professional Work Option Program, and when I had my first child in 2007, I was one of the early participants in it. I really wanted to spend time at home with my newborn, but I also wasn’t ready to stop working all together. I talked with my supervisor at the time, and she encouraged me to develop different work scenarios that would work for me. If my first choice wasn’t accepted, then I would move on to my next scenario and so forth. My first choice was to work a 3/5 schedule which meant three days in the office, and two days off.

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Flex Success® – It Takes a Village

This is the fifth in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success®. Check back as we walk you through the seven steps that will guarantee your success while working flexibly: Define Your Success; Own Your ValueActivate Your Mindset; Create A Strong Personal Brand; Build Your Networks; Expand Your Ideas on Business Development; and Enhance Your Work-Life Control.

Seven Strategies for Flex SuccessMost successful corporations are led by a CEO who is advised and counseled by an experienced Board of Directors. As a professional working a flexible schedule, you should view yourself as the CEO of your own corporation, and you undoubtedly need a “Board of Directors” to support you. No matter how effective you are on your own, it is critical that you surround yourself with a group of experienced people who can advise you, guide you, mentor you, and open doors for you.

Our fifth strategy for Flex Success® is “Build Your Networks and Personal Board of Advisors.” This personal board of advisors should consist of individuals from inside and outside of your organization. It should include both mentors who can give you advice, and sponsors who invest in and advocate for you. The internal perspectives can assist you in your career advancement and help you to address blind spots in your career path, especially those related to your flex schedule. Your external advisors can provide you with outside perspectives from an industry point of view and can help open doors to new opportunities, if necessary.

As you build your network and personal board of advisors, it’s important to keep in mind that you want to find people who you trust, who you respect, and who will be candid with you. These individuals should be open to constructive conversations about your career as well as the challenges and opportunities your flexible schedule might bring. It’s important to value and maintain your relationships with these mentors and advisors and make sure to meet with them on a regular basis.

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It’s All About Marketing

This is the fourth in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success™. Check back as we walk you through the seven steps that will guarantee your success while working flexibly: Define Your Success; Own Your ValueActivate Your Mindset; Create A Strong Personal Brand; Build Your Networks; Expand Your Ideas on Business Development; and Enhance Your Work-Life Control.

The Fourth Step to Ensuring Your Flex Success™ –
Create A Strong Personal Brand

Seven Strategies For Flex SuccessIn Step Two of our Seven Strategies for Flex Success™ you worked on Owning Your Value. You identified what makes you unique and what only you can bring to the table.   Knowing what makes you special gives you confidence and self-esteem. The fourth strategy revolves around harnessing this self-esteem and creating your personal brand. Just as a corporation would market a product, you need to market yourself to make sure others perceive you the way you want to be perceived.

There is power in perception.

As a professional working a flexible schedule, it’s particularly important to control how others see you to counteract flex stigma that others in your office may harbor.

Make sure that you are speaking positively about your schedule and your work. Remember that how you talk about yourself drives how others are talking about you. Ask for feedback about how people perceive you. In particular, ask your mentor or sponsor if others have a positive perception of you and your work and how you can improve your image. Your career trajectory not only depends on the quality of your work but also your reputation as someone who is serious about your own success and the success of the organization.

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The Third Step to Ensuring Your Flex Success™ – Activate Your Mindset and Grit to Overcome Flex Stigma

This is the third in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success™. Check back as we walk you through the seven steps that will guarantee your success while working flexibly: Define Your Success; Own Your ValueActivate Your Mindset; Create A Strong Personal Brand; Build Your Networks; Expand Your Ideas on Business Development; and Enhance Your Work-Life Control.

seven-strategies-for-flex-successWe’re not going to lie to you. It’s not always going to be easy to transition from being in the office full-time to a flexible work schedule. While many industries have come a long way in understanding the value flexible work policies provide, biases still exist. No matter where you work, you may come across co-workers who think you’re less committed to the job because you work reduced hours. You may also be faced with supervisors who question your time at home and whether you are actually working when you’re not physically in the office.

It’s best to be prepared for these obstacles, and when they do arise, it’s important to maintain your confidence and harness your grit. You know you are meeting the needs and deadlines of your team and clients. You know you are following your company’s flexible work policy guidelines as well as your own personal flex plan. And, you know the quality of your work has not diminished at all (in fact it may have improved.)

Most of these hurdles and biases should be temporary bumps in the road. Activate your “big-picture,” growth mindset and remind yourself that working flexibly is actually better for you and your organization because it’s helping ensure a longer, more steadfast relationship.

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