Snyk Voices: Returning from maternity leave
Motherhood is beautiful, it has its ups and downs and is definitely an ongoing learning experience. But what about being a working mom? How does that feel? What happens once you become pregnant, have a baby, and need to return to work? Today, I had the opportunity to speak with two super moms at Snyk, Noa Korem (Senior Director, EMEA Marketing) and Amanda Parks (Senior Director, Enterprise Sales), about how they felt returning to work after maternity leave.
Senior Director, EMEA Marketing, Tel Aviv
Noa, thank you for joining us! Can you tell me a bit about yourself before we talk about your experience as a mom?
Noa: I joined Snyk 3.5 years ago, and I was the second marketer on the team back then. I started in product marketing, and transitioned to build our marketing activity in EMEA in 2020. I’m based in Tel Aviv, and am a mother of three kids and one dog.
How was your maternity leave that you just returned from?
Noa: I just had my third child, Noemi. If I compare this maternity leave to the first one, it’s much easier because you already know what you’re doing and you can really enjoy it. When I first joined Snyk, I had just returned from my second maternity leave and it was such a rollercoaster. So the ability to get off this train for a few months to relax was important. It’s not a vacation, but I think taking some time off was super valuable. It’s also easier when it’s your third and not your first because you’re a bit more relaxed.
I want to take this back to the beginning. When you learned you were pregnant, what was the first thing that came to mind, and how did you communicate it to your workplace and manager?
Noa: I try to plan things and be transparent, so I wanted to communicate it as soon as I knew and build a plan with my manager on how to support the team and the work while I’m off. I also tried to be transparent about the time I would need for the maternity leave and how involved I wanted to be during the maternity leave. For me, this is also a part of the Snyk culture. We are one team, and my manager was very respectful of me being on maternity leave, and also respected that I still wanted to know what was going on while I was out and be involved. Transparency is tricky because it’s hard for managers to ask you these questions, but the honorable thing to do is to be as transparent as possible when it comes to managing expectations — even if you don’t have all the answers.
How does it feel to go from being at an amazing company that’s in hyper growth mode to suddenly disconnecting from work?
Noa: During the weekend or vacations I feel like I am okay with disconnecting, but during my maternity leave I didn’t totally disconnect. I checked in with my manager every three weeks because I wanted to, especially since many Snykers are my friends. I took a six month maternity leave. For me, it was important to take part in some of the 2022 planning. It was my decision and it wasn’t something I was expected to do, but it was very important for me. It wasn’t a total disconnection, but it did allow me to focus on building my relationship with my new baby. It felt like the right balance for me. My manager was very sensitive as well, and I knew my team was in good hands.
How was it returning to work after maternity leave?
Noa: If I go back to first becoming a mother, I remember how I suddenly understood that I couldn’t be the same type of employee I was before — I needed to be more focused. I can’t, for example, learn as many new things on my time off, so I need to make sure I leverage the time that I have. Just before I left for maternity leave, I helped with the marketing launch in APJ and would sometimes work at 4:00 am with the APJ team and in the evenings with our Boston office when my body allowed it. Now, I can’t do that because my baby wakes up in the middle of the night and I don’t have the ability to push my body to those limits anymore. Being a mother to a young baby means you can’t work the same hours you used to — even if you were a mother before. So, it’s important to be more focused, forgive your body, and be forgiving to yourself. It’s okay and it’s important to make sure you are being the parent you want to be.
Were you worried how your team would feel when your hours changed? Were people accepting when you put up those boundaries?
Noa: At a company like Snyk, it’s easier because we’ve always embodied our value of “one team”. Even before my maternity leave, I had issues with my other kids and there were some periods of time where I needed to miss work, and it always felt like one team and one family. People had me covered and supported me through whatever I needed. When you really care about what you do, it’s okay to take the time you need as long as you’re devoted while at work and passionate about the outcomes. At Snyk, it’s not just about mothers and fathers and caring about us becoming good parents. It’s always felt like the company wants me to take care of my family, and I think for those of us who are parents, it’s really important to choose places like that to work at.
What was the most difficult thing that challenged you in coming back to work and how did you overcome it?
Noa: For me, the most difficult part wasn’t about logistics, it was the separation. You have the most precious relationship after delivering a baby – my daughter feeds from my body, we sleep together, we didn’t separate for more than two or three hours for six months. So, ending this period was difficult and the thought that I’m responsible for this disconnection because it was my decision to go back to work was also challenging. Since this is my third child, I knew this would be my last maternity leave, and I knew that by going to work I would be ending something that had been so precious and enjoyable — it was a tough decision. That being said, going back to work was so much fun and really felt like a family. I love what I do and being able to work from home really separated this transition from the previous times, and made the disconnection so much easier for me.
Thank you for sharing everything with us. As a mother, is there anything else you would like to share?
Noa: When I speak with young parents, one thing that always comes to mind is the guilt some of us feel, and I want to share what has been helping me. The balance that I currently have in my life is something I have chosen. The amount of time I invest in my kids and my work is a special point that I’ve chosen, and I can make changes whenever I want. If you look at it like that, it’s easier to not feel guilty because you know it’s up to you and if you want to change the balance, you can. Of course, not everyone can, but hopefully people here at Snyk are able to make those changes if they want to. Also, try to think of your time as more flexible. Today, we can work very early and very late in the day. My advice is to try to be present when you’re with your kids, but also be very focused at work when you are working. It helps make your time more effective and meaningful wherever it’s spent.
Thank you so much Noa! Now, let’s hear from Amanda Parks who talks to us about returning to a new role after maternity leave.
Senior Director, Enterprise Sales, Boston
First of all, before we get into your personal story about maternity leave, I would love to get to know you better and hear about your experience at Snyk.
Amanda: It’s been a fun journey! I have been with Snyk for over 4 years. I was the 29th hire in North America, and the first salesperson hired for our go-to-market efforts. It’s been a wild ride, and I’ve been very fortunate to work in a bunch of different positions at Snyk.
How was your maternity leave that you recently returned from?
Amanda: It was great, it was a blur. I will say I cherished every minute I was able to spend with my son. There was a lot of not sleeping. My birth didn’t go very smoothly, so my recovery was actually a lot harder than I anticipated, which no one prepared me for and I don’t think I could have ever been prepared for. So it threw a wrench into things, but just as it was wrapping up I started to get my head above water and feel like a person again. It was amazing and beautiful, but also painful and really hard at the same time.
I’m actually going to take you a bit back to the beginning when you first found out you were pregnant. At some point you had to communicate it to your manager, how did that feel?
Amanda: It was a really hard thing to do, especially since there is never a great time. I’ve always been really career focused and I had just been promoted to lead our Enterprise Sales team. I had a new manager and new role, and I told my manager as soon as I could. I was 13 weeks along and it was such a heaviness on my shoulders. I wanted to tell my manager proactively so we would have a lot of time to plan, and I am so glad I did because he had a lot of great ideas that I wasn’t expecting to get from him or the department in general that resulted in more support than I could have imagined in a working capacity.
You work a lot and your career has definitely grown over the last couple of years. How did the thought of disconnecting from work and leaving Snyk for a period of time feel?
Amanda: It was overwhelming but I will say, we had a plan and we executed on the plan proactively. Even my husband jokes because he was like, “You’re going to be on your computer at the hospital, I know you are” because that’s the kind of person I am, but I really did take the time. I started going back to work a little early just to get into the swing of things because I didn’t want it to be a super abrupt return. I was able to hire someone to essentially backfill me and run the team while I was out because we knew we were expecting a lot of growth and were going to need another manager. It worked out perfectly because I have so much confidence and trust in the person I found, and knew that the team was in great hands.
How do you manage to juggle being a mom and continuing to excel at your role?
Amanda: I haven’t quite mastered it just yet. Right now it involves a lot of planning in advance, so we hired someone in my family to come to the house and I work remotely for the most part. I go into the office sometimes, but especially with breastfeeding, being at home has been a game changer. It’s helped me to not be so worried when dropping him off, which has helped me focus on work. I get a little anxious when things aren’t perfect and clean at home, and I do think I have a little postpartum anxiety because I still haven’t left him. He’s going to be seven months old and I’m just so nervous to be away — even though it’s healthy to have those boundaries. My house is not as clean as it once was, but I think it’s just accepting that and getting what you need to do done. It’s okay if the house is messy because you’re going to be happy you spent that hour cuddling with your baby versus having no dishes in the sink or whatever that might be.
What was the most difficult thing for you when going back to work?
Amanda: Part of me was excited to have structure back in my day and have a little bit of me time. Those 3.5-4 months were very focused on him and what he needs, so the hardest thing was just not being with him all day. And this is awful, but also trusting someone else to do what I would do for him. I struggle a little bit with postpartum anxiety so I am very focused on the scheduling — and that’s how I am in general and how I run my sales business — and I think it was hard for me to just let go a little bit and trust someone else.
Before we say goodbye, any piece of advice that you would like to share with others?
Amanda: I was very fortunate that one of my coworkers really took me under her wing. She had her baby two months before me, so having a work buddy who knows the high expectations at Snyk — rightfully so, we are on a rocketship — really helped. If I was going through challenges and something was hard for me, it was also hard for her and we could openly talk about what we were going through. It really helps to have a buddy, so I would definitely suggest finding a coworker with a due date close to you or someone who has already gone through it. Especially as a first time mom. You have no idea what you’re doing or what to expect, and finding someone who can give you a heads up really helps pave the way. And don’t be so hard on yourself! I decided to come back early and I don’t think I would do that again. I’d recommend taking the entire time you’re allotted and even a little bit more for medical leave if you have a hard birth. When you get back to work, everyone will be okay and you can pick up where you left off. As long as you’re proactive about your plan, people will support you. Just make sure that you’re taking care of yourself and using your support system. And we do have a mothers at Snyk support channel on Slack, which has been helpful.
Thanks again to Noa and Amanda for being so open. Being a mother is something that is so different for all of us and I thank you for sharing your experience.