Best of both worlds – part time and promoted

Vicky Sandry

Vicky Sandry is General Counsel for the UK and Ireland at Sky. She talks about how she has been promoted to demanding roles while working part time and passes on some advice and lessons she has learnt along the way.

Someone once said to me that it’s impossible to have both a successful, fulfilling career and work part time. To be honest, I dismissed what they said, and it’s only recently, having been promoted to a great new role at Sky that I remembered it and thought, how wrong they were.

This year, my 16th year at Sky, I was promoted into the new role of General Counsel for the UK and Ireland. It’s a fantastic job, responsible for an amazing team of over 130 lawyers and support staff, providing legal and business affairs advice to all areas of UK and Irish businesses.

And what’s brilliant for me,  a working mum with two kids, is that I do this job working 3.5 days a week.

My journey at Sky began in 2000 when I joined Sky as a legal and regulatory advisor. I’d previously been a solicitor in London and Brussels, but was looking for a really interesting in-house competition law role and Sky fitted the bill. My sons Oliver and Henry came along in 2003 and 2006 and I’ve worked part time since returning from my first maternity leave in 2004 – first four days a week and then 3.5 days a week. Whilst working part time I’ve had two significant promotions, the first in 2005, to run the Regulatory & Competition legal team, and the second in July to the GC role.

It has been challenging, particularly when the boys were little and it was all a bit exhausting! But I felt lucky to have the best of both worlds – an incredibly interesting and engaging job, and the ability to spend time with the boys doing normal “mum” (or “dad”) stuff like picking them up from school, taking them to activities and making their dinner. Sometimes making the switch mid-afternoon from high-powered lawyer to (in my mind at least) domestic goddess was (and still is!) a bit tricky, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Along the way I’ve been given some great advice and have learnt a few things which I always vowed to pass on, in case it’s of use to others.

  • It’s what you deliver: you can work part time, or leave at 5pm every day, and still be a committed worker. It is what you put into the hours, not the hours, that counts.
  • Speak up: you can work part time and still be ambitious. Let other people know about your hopes and dreams so they can help.
  • Have determination: when I started working part time I didn’t want it to negatively affect my career so I gave it my all – but it wasn’t easy to begin with. Don’t give up at the first hurdle, try new ways, ask for help and persevere.
  • Be flexible: sometimes you may have to work when you don’t plan to. Find a way of managing this, in my case that has been relying on my supportive husband, or asking friends to do the school pick up.
  • Be kind to yourself: I find myself rushing around a lot. Slow down, make time for yourself (even 10 minutes can make a difference) and look after number one. Don’t feel guilty when you leave the office to do school pick up or when you leave the kids to head off to work.  You’ve got the best of both worlds and you’ll be a better parent and better at your job as a result.
  • Get used to the to ‘to do’ list never being done and don’t let it overwhelm you.
  • Get support where you can: from your boss, your network or a mentor.  I have been enabled by a boss who has a strong belief in and commitment to flexible working, and inspired by a network of women working part time in demanding roles.
  • Empower your team. Trust your team, and prioritise your time with what matters most.

I know that working part time or flexibly means different things to different people, and it’s easier in some roles than others. However, as a leader at Sky, I know that our company is committed to helping people balance their work and home lives and their careers, and I’m a great example of that.

 




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