Realistic expectations

Ilaria Gregotti is Director, People and Change, at global consulting firm KPMG, and a working mum with two young sons. She talks to about how she manages her work life balance in a challenging job.

Ilaria Gregotti was appointed Director, People and Change, at global consulting firm KPMG last November. She is a working mum with two young sons and has been working four days a week since her first son was born 10 years ago.

Her career progression shows that working part time is not necessarily a hindrance to getting to the top level in your job, if you are prepared to be flexible.

At KPMG Ilaria has gained a wealth of experience working with multinationals on wide-ranging HR and IT restructuring projects and has recently led the design of a new global IT operating model for a well known multinational company.

Ilaria says flexibility in all aspects of her life is the key to getting all that she needs to get done in four days: “I couldn’t do my job between 9 and 6pm. It puts too much pressure on me to get all the work I need to do done,” she says.

On the four days she works, Ilaria leaves home between 7.30 and 8am. She has a nanny who arrives at 7.30am and finishes at 8pm and occasionally babysits. Flexibility is again key here. When she doesn’t have to go out with clients Ilaria is always home by 8pm. By then her children have had their dinner and are in their pyjamas.

“We have quality time together. I can see them and read them a story,” she says.When she does have to work late, Ilaria’s husband normally looks after the children. He has an equally intensive job and normally leaves earlier than her and comes home later. However, he does not do as many evenings as her, and has a more predictable work pattern, making childcare a shared responsibility.

Ilaria, who is also on the board of trustees of a London charity and on the fundraising committee of another, sometimes has to travel for her work. “When I first started as a consultant I used to pack my bags on Monday and come home on a Friday,” she says. “That would kill me now. I do the odd trip abroad; it comes with a client-facing job.”

To ensure she keeps up to date with her work, she logs back on at least two nights of the week, although occasionally the demands are higher.

She recognises that there are peaks and troughs in the work cycle and that sometimes she will, for instance, have to work on a Friday, but she says it all washes out in the end and she gets days off in lieu for overtime. Also logging on in the evenings allows her to keep her weekends free. “I switch off totally at the weekend,” she says.

Having it all

As part of her role at KPMG she stresses to other part-time team members that work-life balance is different for everyone, but she hopes she is a positive role model for working mums.

“My career is proof that having children and working part time does not need to slow down your career. Mums who are part time and work in consulting do not get penalised,” she says. “I have never experienced any discrimination from a performance management point of view. Progression up the ranks is very possible and a realistic target for everyone who may want to achieve it, particularly at KPMG who are very keen to support their female and part-time employees.”

She adds, however, that it is important for both work and individual working mums to be realistic about their expectations. She gives an example: “If you are a consultant and you are measured on client delivery and sales, an internal role after having a child is a great option to stay in a career, but you should not expect it to necessarily deliver grade progression. It will, however, broaden your skills.”

For many women, though, there are occasional practical complications that sometimes mean that work has to take second place for a short time. The way Ilaria has made it work for her is by not giving up on her aspiration to progress with her career, whilst at the same time setting realistic goals for herself and accepting that work is only a part of her life and that there will be moments when she cannot give it 100%.

She says: “Being open with your organisation about the challenges that you may be facing at any point in time is critical to maintaining a healthy relationship with your employer.

“In my team we really welcome people coming to us and talking about what is happening so we can find mutual solutions. We don’t want them to assume there is no other way than to leave. I want to encourage women to talk to us about how we can work for them and find a solution.”

Picture credit: and renjith krishnan

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