I started this post as a reflection of what I’ve been up too since I left Doghead Simulations last summer. But I think it needs to be about something else. The other day, I participated in the Women in Tech Twitter Chat. It was all about success. The chat consisted of questions like,
- Do you consider yourself to be successful?
- What is success?
- What brings success?
I think it hit such a cord because my career took a sharp left turn when I left IT consulting for a virtual reality startup. At least I was working in tech. Then I had my son and everything really changed. I was overwhelmed trying to balance work and being a new mom. I read blog posts and articles about work life balance and the depressing stats of what happens to a woman’s earning potential when she leaves the workplace to be a mom.
I felt conflicted because my idea of being a successful person was intertwined with my career. #Career #WomeninTechTweet
I felt conflicted because my idea of being a successful person was intertwined with my career. In my eyes, the only way to think of myself as successful was to reach the top. But, in a way I had reached the top. I was the COO of Doghead Simulations. Why wasn’t that enough?
I realized I no longer felt like a success because I felt like I was failing as a new mom. I realized I couldn’t balance work with the mom I wanted to be. I knew in my heart, I had to quit. I achieved what I wanted to with my startup. Now, it was time to take on motherhood. The only way I would feel successful is if I gave my son my all.
It seems like a lifetime ago, my first ever trip to China to meet my co-founders, some for the first time. My first experience in virtual reality with the original HTC Vive. That was three iterations ago! I met Alvin Graylin (China President at HTC and President VRVCA) and pitched in HTC’s Beijing offices.
I pitched many more times since then. I started speaking at conferences. I launched a product and announced a partnership with our first customer…and then I quit.
It was not an easy decision. I read article after article on how to know when it was time to leave a company, especially a startup you co-founded. My son was only a few months old at the time and I felt overwhelmed between him and work. I felt like I wasn’t giving my all to either, so I quit.
Leaving a startup you co-founded isn’t like leaving an established company. When I quit Atos to go to Doghead Simulations, I didn’t feel sad. I was excited for what awaited me. Virtual reality was uncharted territory. However, my name was all over Doghead. Even though I haven’t been part of the company for a year, I’m still out there. I’m in YouTube videos and podcast interviews. The posts I wrote for the Doghead blog are still live and I’m in the old company photos.
When I see the product, I remember being part of the early discussions. I remember discussing what needed to be done to the VR software, virtually inside of it. What other app can you literally walk around in to point out specific spots that need improvement? There’s nothing else like it.
One of my biggest fears of quitting was that I didn’t have anything else lined up. That was the point. I was going to be a stay at home mom. Talk about uncharted territory. For years, I would wake up, take my dog for a walk, then sit at my computer and get to work. My son no longer made that routine possible.
I missed the calm, almost meditative state of diving into work. My happy place is having an article to write or test case to run while sipping coffee. Thanks to nap time, those days are not over, but they’re not as reliable.
After a few months, I started to feel restless. So, I volunteered to be the treasurer for my FRG (Family Readiness Unit). I continued to stay involved with the VR industry online, writing blog posts on the subject.
I learned that there is no road map for moms with career aspirations. #WomeninTech #CareerTweet
I learned that there is no road map for moms with career aspirations. We abandon the traditional career ladder. We forgo the stairs. For me, it took mindfulness. I had to determine my own work/life balance. My life is being there for my husband, especially while he serves in the Army. Since he can’t always be home, I wanted to make sure my son had the stability of me being home.
For me, work/life balance is not a 50/50 split. It more closely follows the 80/20 rule. 80% life, 20% work. It took me a while to figure that out, but now that I’m there I’m very happy.
It may not always be this way. The ratio may change over time as my son gets older and my husband’s career evolves. Work is important to me because I love stretching that part of my brain. I enjoy helping people overcome challenges, especially when it comes to technology.
In my farewell post to Doghead Simulations, I mentioned that I would like to write professionally. Well, I made that goal come true with posts published on Military by Owner, Cintrifuse, and SMSS among others. I’ve been lucky enough to do more than write too. I’m having a blast working with the Society of Military Spouses in STEM.
What do you think about work-life balance? How do you define success? Let me know in the comments below!