Workday Chief People Officer: Balancing a Career and Life as a Working Mom

Workday Chief People Officer Ashley Goldsmith reflects on her experience as a working mom. As both a parent and the leader of Workday’s People & Purpose organization, she shares how she's been able to embrace her experiences and help ensure that Workday is a great place to work for parents.

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much my life has changed over the past couple years. I became a mom while leading Workday’s People & Purpose organization, which has allowed me to embrace my experiences and help ensure that Workday is a great place to work for parents.

For me, being a working mom means that I have the privilege of caring for two things that are important to me—my son and my company. However, like most wonderful things, balancing these two passions has proven to have its challenges.

So, how is it possible to balance both? It’s all about staying agile, prioritizing, being intentional . . . and keeping your sense of humor! Here are a few ways that I’ve embraced my mom status in everything I do:

Be Prepared for the Unexpected

Sometimes no matter how hard you try to stay organized, things can slip through the cracks. I’ll never forget a morning where my husband and I were getting ready for work when he mentioned a business meeting in New York later in the week. I stopped, looked at him, and said, “I’m flying to D.C. this afternoon and will be gone until Friday.” We both froze and just looked at each other like two deer in the headlights. After a quick laugh, we discussed the importance of each of our trips, as well as the lack of potential babysitting options, and realized that one of us had to stay home.

As working parents, we’re often faced with circumstances that force us to ask ourselves, “What’s more important right now? This work, or time with family?” To minimize these snafus, my husband and I have found success in having a shared calendar and sending each other “FYI invites” for all business trips, work dinners, and other events that are outside our normal schedules. When we encounter a conflict in schedules, we talk about it and ask each other questions like, “How important is this to the company or your team?” And, “Could this possibly be rescheduled to another day/week?” About 75 percent of the time, one of us recognizes that our event can be moved or that we can ask someone else to attend in our place. It’s a give and take, and because of the respect we have for each other’s careers, we usually find the balance by simply talking it through. 

Setting Ground Rules

As a parent who works outside of the home, I’ve realized the significance of uninterrupted, quality time both in the projects I take on at work and in my personal life with my husband and son. What my mom always told me really is true—your kids change so fast, and with every minute comes something different and new. You don’t want to miss a second of it, and as a working parent, you have to set ground rules.

The minute I come home and through my front door, I’m 100 percent focused on spending time with my family.

I regularly travel around the world to visit our global offices and help ensure that Workday remains a great place to work across all regions, which is an extremely rewarding aspect of my job. On the other hand, it requires me to often be away from home and family.

To ensure I’m making the most of the time I have with my family, I’ve set clear expectations with my team at work. I’m a strong advocate for having employees take off the time they need, and in turn, they understand that I need to leave the office at a certain time when I’m not traveling, so I’m able to enjoy dinner and playtime with my family in the evening. The minute I come home and through my front door, I’m 100 percent focused on spending time with my family for the next couple of hours. We play games, have dinner together, go for walks, and my phone and computer aren’t invited to the party.

I believe that a focused hour is more valuable than two distracted hours, so I strive to make every moment count.

Creating a Parent-Friendly Workplace

As I previously mentioned, I realize that I’m in a unique position where I can make a significant impact on the lives of our employees, which includes many parents. I understand this is important not only because it’s my job, but also because of my own personal experience becoming a parent.

My husband and I tried for a really long time to have kids, which was over the course of a couple different roles. During this time, there were many instances when I thought to myself, “How could I possibly tell my boss if I was pregnant?” Or, “They’ll think I won’t be able to work as much.”

At Workday, I had a completely different and positive experience. I knew when I told our CEO about the news, Aneel [Bhusri] would be thrilled. And he was.

I try to extend that in as many ways possible to ensure Workday embraces everything about a person—including being a parent—and encourages people to bring their best selves to work every day.

It’s important that employees understand that we can take the time we need to be there for our families.

One of the ways my team and I strive to do this is by creating programs and initiatives to support their needs. For example, I’m extremely proud that we’re rolling out an in-house “returnship” program for people who have taken extended time off to care for their loved ones and want to return to the workforce. And in the U.S., we offer up to 18 weeks of paid maternity leave for mothers, 12 weeks for fathers, and we provide employees with a flexible time off policy (in addition to comparable policies around the world). It’s important that employees understand that we can take the time we need to be there for our families, even after maternity and paternity leave ends.

So here’s to celebrating moms everywhere. I hope that you can relate to some of my shared experiences, embrace your own unique lessons learned, and have a fantastic Mother’s Day with your loved ones.

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