I had a knot in my stomach as I typed into Google: “How to tell your boss you’re pregnant.” The stories that popped up, combined with stories from my mom about how her boss had made her feel like her pregnancy was a big inconvenience to him, made me understandably nervous. How was I going to tell my manager I would need to take a couple months off work?
I work at MIND Research Institute, and like 45% of my colleagues, I work remotely. When I got on the phone and told my manager, his voice boomed over the line with a hearty “Congratulations!” He asked how I was doing and if I needed anything. He told me that if it was a girl he had a garage full of baby clothes for me. The conversation was so much easier than I thought it would be.
When I submitted my maternity leave plan, my manager said it was fine but that he wanted to be sure I understood I could take more than the six weeks I was planning to take after my son was born. He talked about how important his paternity leave had been and how being a mom was my most important job.
The support from my manager (and the three baby showers from my colleagues across the nation!) really exemplified that MIND is not only family oriented… it is a family.
Learning by Doing and Informative Feedback Isn’t Just for Students
I started at MIND six years ago as a part-time contractor and have been promoted several times over the years. I have trained and supported teachers in the Sacramento area, I’ve worked on our Professional Development team developing an onboarding process for new employees, and now I am the Manager of Staff Development and I promoted two incredible colleagues to join my team.
My experience of being promoted and moving through different departments is not unique. MIND is focused on developing great people within positions that benefit the individual as well as the organization.
In my current role, I get to do what I love: teach adults. While many educators may recognize MIND’s core values of learning by doing and informative feedback in our software program, ST Math, our core values extend to all aspects of our organization. For instance, right now one of my goals is to help our Education Consultants gain confidence developing classroom lessons centered around ST Math. Instead of organizing a webinar where I teach them the components and have them analyze lessons, I am organizing fluid groups on Yammer (our internal social media network) where they will discuss, share, and collaborate. They’ll learn from each other and from the actual act of creating and testing lessons, which will be so much more powerful than a traditional training experience.
Autonomy Creates Teams That Can Adapt
While MIND was just recently named one of the 100 Best Workplaces for Women 2015, I see MIND as a place where individuals can succeed regardless of gender. One of the core values that enables this path to success is autonomy. As a manager, it is rewarding to have the autonomy and freedom to hire and develop my team.
I find it important to allow my team members to identify what they are interested in and what they love to do, and then I get out of the way to let them do it! My role is to push them to innovate and remove roadblocks that prevent them from getting their job done. I am available as a resource and a sounding board but they own the work they do.
When I left for my maternity leave, I knew I didn’t need to keep checking on my work email or making calls to put out fires or advise my team. They are self-directed and highly capable, so I knew that if they ran into any trouble they would problem-solve and would likely come up with a better solution than I would have! Sure enough, I got back from my maternity leave to learn about the wonderful contributions my Staff Development team had made, and they welcomed me back with invitations to contribute to the projects they were working on instead of just giving me a long "to do" list.
Autonomy isn’t valued just so teams can function without a team member; it has allowed our team to face problems head on and creatively find the best solutions. We feel the freedom to fail and learn from our mistakes, which keeps our team growing and improving constantly.
Continue to Grow and Succeed
What really stands out to me about working at MIND is that the people here truly love each other and want each other to succeed. My manager has helped me get the right experiences and training I need to be successful in not just my current role, but also my career, and balance that with my personal goals. This includes supporting me as I use our tuition reimbursement program to continue my education, as I determine when and how much to travel for work, and even wrapping up my workday by 5:30 p.m. so I can take a daily walk with my beautiful family.
I can’t imagine having grown so much as a professional in such a short number of years if it weren’t for our culture that focuses on people, problem solving, and deep learning.
About the Author
Dorene Uhrich is Vice President of Education Success at MIND Research Institute. She holds an M.Ed. in Education and Human Resource Studies with a Specialization in Adult Education and Training from Colorado State University.