Career Comeback: Supporting Working Mums, the Pacific Way

Diversity and Inclusion
Female Leaders
We are Pacific

Stepping back into the professional world after the beautiful chaos of maternity leave can be both an exciting and daunting journey for many women. The joy of welcoming a new family member is often followed by the challenges of reestablishing one’s career and striking a balance between the demands of motherhood and the workplace.

One of the facets of championing diversity at Pacific International is supporting our female employees throughout their maternity leave and easing the transition back to work when they choose to restart their careers. David Howells, Pacific’s CEO, talked at length about how Pacific International supports the career development and advancement of its female employees and its robust parental leave policy implemented across all offices during the interview for the “Walking the Talk: Diversity and Inclusion at Pacific International” article.

This time, I’ve had the pleasure of talking with my colleague Szilvia van de Sand about her maternity leave and the joys of motherhood, the newly found strength, and resilience of being a working mom, and the support she received from Pacific on the journey back to the office to continue her career as Executive Search Consultant.

Margaret Jaouadi
Thank you for joining me today, Szilvia. Please share with us your experience as a new mother.

Szilvia van de Sand
My colleagues’ support started during my pregnancy and carried on throughout my maternity leave. When going on maternity leave, I was very excited and very happy to become a mother. I was also looking forward to having a career break, so there was a mixture of emotions regarding this.

The arrival of my daughter brought me immense joy and I fully immersed myself in the world of mother and baby classes, helping my daughter explore the world and develop new skills every day and just spending this precious time together as a family.

It is important to me to become a role model for my daughter. I want to show her that women have choices and can pursue their careers and personal goals while living a fulfilling family life. Having a career and being a parent is challenging in different ways, but I know I need both to feel like an accomplished and happy person and I value both of these aspects of my life.

Margaret Jaouadi
How do you balance parenthood with the return to work?

Szilvia van de Sand
I am originally from Budapest, Hungary and I moved near to Düsseldorf (Krefeld) about four years ago. This is the hometown of my husband. Both he and my parents-in-law are very supportive of my choice to return to work. We found this lovely daycare a couple of streets away from where we live where my daughter can spend time playing with a small group of kids while I am at work. Both my husband and I work hybrid, and my in-laws live nearby, so we all share the kindergarten pick-ups and drop-offs.

Pacific has been very flexible about my working hours, so I have chosen to come back on a part-time basis to strike a balance between my professional and personal life.

Margaret Jaouadi
What was the biggest challenge you faced before deciding to return to work?

Szilvia van de Sand
As new mothers, women are very sensitive and often place high expectations on themselves. We also feel the external pressures of others’ expectations on us. In my case, it was an expectation to stay at home with my daughter until she was three years old, the approach customary in Hungary, that I had to face up to.

To please others, I was not listening to my voice. I listened to everybody else instead of myself as I thought others were right and I am not. Over time I learned to trust my instinct, trust my inner voice, and trust to know what is best for my daughter and my family. I don’t have all the answers but now I am confident that with the support of my immediate family and those who wish us well, I can continue pursuing my career while enjoying being a mum. I firmly believe that as a personally fulfilled person, I am going to be a better parent, too.

Margaret Jaouadi
How you found Pacific after a year and a half long break, I’m sure a lot has changed.

Szilvia van de Sand
While on maternity leave, I remained connected with the Pacific team, and I am truly appreciative of this opportunity. I made an effort to meet with the German team and our new colleagues whenever time allowed. I joined everybody for dinners and a two-day communications training course led by Allan Smith. I also visited the office during London colleagues’ visits and again in September when our CEO, David, stopped by during a client visit. Staying part of our company’s WhatsApp group allowed me to celebrate our successes with the team throughout my absence.

Every few months, Manuel Preg, our Managing Director, called me with company updates and invited me to the end-of-financial-year Town Hall meeting. Returning to work felt somewhat unfamiliar, but also surprisingly familiar. Staying up to date with all the company developments proved to be an excellent idea, and I highly recommend this approach to other firms.

Margaret Jaouadi
What has motherhood taught you that you can utilize at work?

Szilvia van de Sand
Combining motherhood with a career gave me a new sense of purpose. Juggling the two requires me to be resourceful and continually improve my time management skills. Staying in the office after hours is no longer an option so this is a great motivation to spend a working day as productively as I possibly can.

This past year and a half have helped me grow as a person and further developed my organizational skills. I became an excellent multitasker and an overall more resilient person who isn’t easily fazed by many situations, even after a sleepless night.

Today, for example, I plan to pick my daughter up when I finish at 3 p.m. and, if she’s not too tired, take her to a petting zoo where she can interact with and feed small animals. It’s a fantastic way to balance work and still spend quality time with my daughter.

Margaret Jaouadi
What are you most looking forward to at work and what would you like to achieve in the near future?

Szilvia van de Sand
To me, the most important is the continuous well-being of my daughter, and if I can achieve this by fulfilling both of my roles as a mother and by nurturing my career that would be amazing. There is a strong connection between the two and I am confident I can strike the right balance to make it work.

After some initial training on the latest processes and the new technology at Pacific, I have already started work on my first project with my colleagues. It’s a highly confidential leadership level search which I am excited about.

It’s a good feeling to be back to work and I have high hopes for the future and my Executive Search career prospects.

Margaret Jaouadi
Thank you for your insights, Szilvia, and we wish you every success.