Work/life balance on the board

The image of the IT industry is young, informal and hip and where you might expect to find a more progressive attitude to flexible working – after all, they have pioneered the kind of technology that makes a lot of the flexibility we have possible. For Paula Hudspith the more informal work culture of the IT industry, coupled with having her first child in Australia, has helped her build up a good career post children and rise to board level in her new role at IT training firm IO1.

The image of the IT industry is young, informal and hip and owes a lot to articles on how creative types at organisations like Google sit around playing computer games or table football in jeans and t-shirts in between coming up with fantastic new ideas. Such organisations are where you might expect to find a more progressive attitude to flexible working – after all, they have pioneered the kind of technology that makes a lot of the flexibility we have possible.
For Paula Hudspith the more informal work culture of the IT industry, coupled with having her first child in Australia, has helped her build up a good career post children and rise to board level in her new role at IT training firm IO1.
Paula has two sons, aged 12 and 7. The first, Jack, was born in Australia which she moved to when she was in her 20s after completing a bilingual economics business management degree and going into IT training. She had originally planned to go for a year to have “an adventure”, but found her IT skills were much in demand. She started a training business and travelled around in a single engine plane, giving training in mining villages and rural farming areas. “At first it blended well with doing site-seeing, but it suddenly snowballed,“ she says. The big demand was in the cities and, in a short time, she found herself running a company with 40 full-time employees.
Even at this stage, before I had children, I was in favour of flexible working,” she says, adding that she encouraged staff to be in charge of their own timetable and understood they had commitments outside of work. She met her husband, who was Irish and running a similar business to hers – “he says our relationship was like a friendly merger,” she laughs.
 
Premature birth

She stayed in Australia for 14 years and says she found it very progressive on the family friendly front, but it was when Jack was born, just after she had sold her business, that she began to really miss home. He was eight weeks premature and, although the couple had very good friends, it was not the same as having family on hand.
When Jack was five months old, Paula began taking on consultancy work, a lot of which she could do from home. She would also take Jack with her to meetings and said her clients were very laid back about it. “I could balance being a mum and working and I had always nurtured that kind of work culture anyway,” she says.
It was not long, however, before the family decided to move to Ireland. Paula’s husband David had a big family and he set up his business there. Paula spent a lot of time with Jack, but kept her hand in at IT training. When her second son Sam came along Jack was four and her husband’s business was doing well. Paula was approached to write some publications for an education authority, which she could do from home, juggling her work around his sleep patterns. Her husband was doing quite a bit of work in the UK and Paula was doing some training for his company. The family decided that it made more sense to move to the UK for business and visit family regularly in Ireland so in 2005 they upped sticks.
David’s company began working with corporate IT departments and Paula wrote the content for his training publications and did some face to face training.
Then earlier this year , after Jack had settled into secondary school, Paula decided to move out of self employment and took up a job at IO1, a company she had known for a few years. She went on “a test trip” to New York with her managing director before taking up her post officially in March.
"I like the ethos of the company,” she says. “They are very big promoters of working mums and have other mums working for them in different locations. They are very understanding and trust that people will get the work done when left to their own devices. It’s very progressive, innovative and cool.”
Drupal
For her it was a win-win situation. She could use her years of experience to work on the kind of open source products which are all the rage in the IT industry.
The company specialises in professional web development using Drupal, an open source tool for web development, as well as implementing high level search engine optimisation. “It’s a very dynamic area to work in,” says Paula, who is the company’s learning and development director.
She says she has a huge learning curve ahead of her and is excited by the prospect of recruiting a new team which will deliver web training in a variety of different ways, including face to face and via the internet. “Being able to do training from home via the web is fantastic for working mums,” she says. “It cuts out so much of the commuting time.”
Her husband’s work is near home too and she says, apart from Jack’s secondary school, most things are within a two-mile radius of her home. “IT training is a good career for working mums,” she adds. “Most training runs from 9.30-4.30pm so you can get back for the evening shift.”





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