The 2021 Working Dads of the Yr’s Finest Recommendation for Making It Work
Kailash Purohit, Finance Systems Portfolio Manager, AbbVie, Inc.
I have been fortunate to work with an organization like AbbVie, a company which emphasizes work-life well-being and focuses on the health needs of its employees. I am a proud father of two handsome boys who have seen me balance my civilian career at AbbVie with my military commitments as a United States Navy officer. It is a real balancing act to prioritize commitments as the situation calls for it. In 2017, I received overseas military deployment orders for nine months. My kids were young at the time, and my wife had her own commitments as an oncologist and Navy officer. Like other military families, it was a challenging time. The fear that I might not get to see our kids grow up (as a worst case scenario), made me appreciate what I had even more. We pivoted as a family to make the best of our circumstances. Through vulnerable, authentic conversations expressing our love, and heartfelt letters during my time away, our bond strengthened, and we became closer as a family. We have the future of our world growing up in our homes. While we cannot easily predict the next generation of leaders, professionals, scientists, artists, and athletes in our kids and their friends, they are watching us, absorbing our every action and reaction. I enjoy conversations with my kids and their friends, and am impressed with their viewpoint, experiences, visions, and dreams. My kids understand that while my wife and I might not have a lot of time due to our existing commitments, the time we do have is sacred and protected. Whether it’s no-judgement, no-filter daily dinner table conversations or one-on-ones, they are our biggest priority, and we are always available to listen.
Rahnold Thomas, Managing Director, Accenture Technology, Accenture
Growing up, my single mom worked miracles keeping four kids active. She found ways to shuttle us to sports activities, afterschool programs, and she kept us connected to our extended family and the community. The best advice she gave me was to surround yourself with good people—because you might not always be the voice that reaches your children. The absence of my incarcerated father kept me motivated to remain present. I am grateful to my surrounding community—both personally and professionally—that supports my commitment to share my story in the hopes of helping others. It’s made me who I am: an advocate for those enduring similar obstacles, and a better father to my three kids. I’m blessed to work for a company that encourages agility, allowing me to be present at a school play, ballet, or sports practice. Coaching my oldest son’s football team gave me a richer experience than being in the bleachers. I learned to simplify the playbook, literally. I’ve also put that into practice in the office, serving as an executive sponsor for inclusion and diversity, something that’s close to my heart, and contributing my expertise across multiple teams. I continue to encourage clients to simplify their efforts to make their operations more efficient. Simplification allows me to be present, to be the coach and advisor. They learn to trust me and trust themselves, and that’s good—whether it’s my family, or my client.
David Moore, Business Analyst Specialist, Allianz Life
“You can do the hard stuff now and enjoy the easy stuff later, or you can take it easy now, then you’ll have to struggle through the hard stuff later.” In my community, I led a group of men who talk about relevant topics to challenge each other to be better fathers and husbands. One man in the group who has a child in college and young toddlers, shared the above quote from his experience. He pointed out to our group that if we slack in our responsibilities to raise our child when they are young, then the harder it will be to connect with them later in life. We are blessed to have seven tax credits, I mean children, whose age range is between 1 and 13. It goes without saying that things get chaotic. On a daily basis, there are diapers to be changed, Cheerios to be swept off the floor, arguments to be resolved, and apologizes to be made. I can either throw my hands up in exhaustion or I can deeply engage with the struggles now to help my children grow and develop with strong values, minds, and hearts. We know that this proverb rings true: “Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.” Training is hard. It requires lots of time and dedication, but ultimately you train for a purpose. Knowing our family purpose enables me to find success in the workplace and manage our time to live a fulfilled life. My wife and I work together to set the expectations high and hold our children accountable not just for their actions but, more importantly, their attitudes. We have found that encouragement is one of the keys to success. The days are long but the years are short around our house. With this reality and that quote above, it helps me prioritize what I need to do now so that the growth of our family bends towards connectedness and living a life of joy.
Stara Wilkins, Mid-America Area Sales Director, Astellas Pharma US, Inc.
Being a working dad or mom has its challenges, but is so rewarding! One of the best tips I can share is creating a culture of inclusion, understanding and growth. One way we support this environment is including our children in our world. We have always practiced explaining our careers, what roles we own and, more importantly, why we do it. When your children feel included, they’re more understanding when it requires flexibility with family time. My children know my company is in the business of helping people through innovative treatments for patients and how important that is. Two years ago, I had the opportunity to do a rotation at headquarters that required weekly travel. I explained how great of an opportunity it was and what it would mean for their daily lives. Because they were included from the beginning, they trusted me to show up in other ways during that time, which made them feel valued and appreciated. Another key part of achieving work-life balance is valuing the extended support team, which includes your spouse, extended family, friends, caretakers, etc., because it truly takes a village. To keep our parenting skills sharp, we also participate in group sessions with other parents to discuss and share parenting-related challenges and solutions. It’s important to be open to listening and hearing advice so you can learn from others. The support I get from my broader team, or village, makes it easier to find that balance and teaches me about how I can be a better parent. Finally, my wife and I always make sure we’re aligned in our parenting strategies and styles, providing the inclusive environment for a successful family team. We have a big antique framed sign in our dining room that says our last name with each person’s name below. Whenever we have a success to celebrate or a challenge to learn from, we take our children to that room to show them they’re a huge part of this team and remind them of our family commitment.
Brenton A. Hamlet, CIMA, Merrill Lynch Senior Vice President, Wealth Management Advisor, Sports & Entertainment Advisor, Portfolio Manager, Bank of America
No one prepares you for the moment that you stop working for your personal goals and the day you start working to provide for a family. At first glance, the two appear to be aligned. It doesn’t take long to realize that they are, at best, two separate parallel lines. They seemingly run in the same direction, but never quite touch. Before kids, you work tirelessly to fulfill your childhood dreams. That may call for long hours, nights and weekends, but we plow forward. Once the little ones arrive, you try to maintain the pace, but then realize that the more you work and achieve, the further it removes you from the true loves of your life. I was feeling that guilt and strain of simultaneously providing for my kids and succeeding in the day job, but realizing that it was taking me further and further away from the hugs, kisses and smiles. I sought advice from a successful senior advisor and asked her opinion on being an advisor and a parent; I still remember her words, paraphrasing, “Don’t miss anything, make every play, recital, game, and every moment where they expect you to show up.” It was a wake-up call. What was the purpose of working if my kids end up not knowing Daddy? I vowed to change. I placed all kids’ activities on my calendar, like an important meeting. I also signed up to coach my son’s soccer team after skipping it for three years. I took my daughter for frozen yogurt and worked on her soccer skills. I took half of the doctors’ appointments so that they would know that when they were in pain or need that Daddy would be there. I did my best to make it home for supper so that I could kiss and hug them before bed. Moreover, I made sure I took evening walks with my wife to catch up. In short, I realized that there is no such thing as work guilt, just a choice between work and family. When given a choice—family wins.
Michael Sweet, Senior Instructional Designer, BDO USA, LLP
Over the past few years, I’ve learned to prioritize and find joy in the seemingly small, and oftentimes impromptu, moments with my family, which truly add up and significantly contribute to work-life fit. Some days, it is as simple as planning ahead to balance my workload to ensure we can eat breakfast or dinner together as a family. Other times, I utilize day-to-day informal flex to step away and spend quality time with my kids. My daughter is 9 years-old, and we love to get out and explore our neighborhood. Occasionally I’ll plan my day so that I can take a long lunch break with her to try a new restaurant or visit the library. While these aren’t elaborate outings, taking the time out of my day to spend a few hours one-on-one with her is instrumental to building a strong father-daughter relationship. I also use flex to ensure I’m able to be involved with my 18 month-old son. He was born with serious health concerns and requires in-home care. I’m easily able to step away to check in with him or attend doctor’s appointments, and to be present in the day-to-day of his life. I feel fortunate to work at a company that doesn’t just accept working parents, but actively partners with them to ensure they are able to effectively do their jobs while maintaining their responsibilities at home. I work with a team that has been very involved, understanding and supportive of my requests for flexibility and I always feel encouraged to express my needs. One of the most important things you can do as a working parent is to prioritize the everyday activities with your family. When you look back at the early days of parenthood, these are the moments that you—and your kids—will remember.
Ian Pancham, Managing Director and Partner, Boston Consulting Group
It is important to me that I have uninterrupted time with my family. To approach this goal requires being deliberate in limiting activities that may interrupt time I’ve scheduled to be with them. It could be bath time, meal time, playing a game, or just hanging out; but while I’m there, I try to be there. Even when I’m at home, it can be hard to block out the momentum of work, especially when complex projects leave me mentally puzzling through next steps. I am ineffective when I am juggling multiple activities at the same time; and I know that focused time increases my enjoyment and connection, whether that is with my wife or with our children. I’m also better at work when I’ve taken time to be present with my family; I return to work more energized and engaged. Practically, this means simple things, like not taking my phone with me into the living room when taking a break, scheduling time in my calendar to read, play and talk with the kids, and taking a moment every so often to check where my attention really is. And it means acknowledging when my mind is elsewhere, and asking for help from my wife or my friends at work when I need to turn my attention to work or family respectively.
Emmanuel Harrison II, Senior Manager, Operations Department, Capital One
When you can define your “WHY,” the weight of “what” and “how” become a lot more manageable. My children excelling in school, establishing a legacy of homeownership, and enjoying the fleeting years of just being a kid are a few of the reasons why I work as hard as I do. Working hard for me means excelling in my vocational responsibilities, while ensuring my kids see, know, and feel loved by me. One way I endeavored to show my love to my children is by establishing “Daddy Day Camp.” During the summer months, my children have been extremely patient and resourceful with entertaining themselves while Mommy and Daddy worked. Due to COVID-19 impacts, summer camps were either completely full or canceled, leaving my children to endure the summer months with working parents. In an attempt to grant my children some semblance of a fun-filled summer, I decided to utilize my vacation time and take Wednesdays off, devoting that time to activities throughout the Dallas Metroplex. Whether it’s enjoying the summer delicacy of Jeni’s Ice Cream in Deep Ellum or stimulating their intellectual curiosity at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, or finding relief from the Texas summer heat at Epic Indoor Water Park, or feeding giraffes at the Dallas Zoo, a simple bike ride through the neighborhood; my children and I are creating memories that make them feel prioritized. Daddy Day Camp has allowed my children and I to create a way to enjoy each other and all our community has to offer. Daddy Day Camp is going well for a few reasons I would like to share with you: Focused time with your family (no sneaking to the bathroom to check your email). Build the excitement (let the children know that you notice how patient they have been and now we get to have fun). Plan Ahead (anticipate the activity to ensure you have everything necessary to complete the activity). Have fun—a culture of love and fun is not created in a singular moment; rather, it is created in a series of intentional moments.
Mauricio A. España, Dechert LLP Litigation Partner, Co-Chair of Latino Affinity Group, Co-Hiring Partner for New York
Because my job often requires working long hours and, in a non-pandemic world, includes frequent traveling, I don’t always get to spend as much time as I would like with my three kids (ages 5, 7, and 9) and my wife, who is a pediatrician. One of several guiding principles that has helped me as I strive to be an engaged father and husband while simultaneously juggling work and family commitments is the principle that because time with them is often scarce, it is important that the limited time that we spend together is quality time. One of the ways that I try to implement this principle in our daily lives is by making time, no matter how busy things get, to participate in certain daily routines where my kids have my undivided attention. For instance, in our home I’m responsible for getting the kids up every morning, making them breakfast, preparing their school snack (I will admit that my wife has the harder task of preparing their lunches), and, when possible, walking them to school. Those 90 minutes, especially the walk to school, allow me to actively engage in uninterrupted conversations about school, sports, friends, or whatever silly thing they want to talk about. One other principle that guides my parenting (as well as my work life) is the importance of prioritizing events or activities that are important to my kids, e.g., school concerts, soccer games, or baseball games. Of course, prioritizing those important activities and events does not mean that work is ignored. Rather, it requires being able to delegate to teammates tasks that should be delegated. And for those tasks that cannot be delegated, in many instances it means getting up at 5 a.m. to get a headstart on those tasks or working until the early morning hours after everyone has gone to bed. In the end, the sleepless nights are a worthwhile sacrifice for being able to participate in and share in those important events and activities.
Michael Ruiz, Partner, GRC Technology Consulting, Ernst & Young
Being part of such a diverse and supportive GRC Technology Consulting team in Ernst & Young LLP, I’ve had the privilege to see so many successful mothers and fathers before me creatively tackle the daily struggles of parenthood. One thing I recognized was that they threw normal work hours out the window. This past year especially, work and life blended. Many of my clients and coworkers met my children on video. While work needed to get done, getting my family through a pandemic was what mattered. If I wanted to be there for my family and kids, I couldn’t make them wait until I finished work for the day. Instead, I threw out the norms and started my day in the early morning and finished late into the night, taking breaks throughout the day to help my son finish his homework, take my daughter to dance class, cuddle with the baby, and take the family to the park in the evenings, many times on the phone with my teams because that was a time that worked for them. On weekends, my wife and soulmate, Wendy, kept our family energized with hiking adventures despite her demanding work as a surgeon. With this flexibility, I was able to be present with my family. I’m also proud of our fully paid EY parental leave policy that offers up to 16 weeks of leave for all new parents, and happy to see an increase of our EY parents taking advantage of this benefit. Having taken leave, I know firsthand the importance of this time. Now, I serve as a resource for my team and encourage them to take the time to focus on their families. In fact, I have three people on my team currently on paternity leave! My advice to working parents is to not let the idea of perfection get in the way of the good. Be comfortable blending your work and home life. Everyone does it differently, and no one way is better than another. Do what you can to make it work, and don’t feel guilty if you need to ask for support.
Shahzad Sultan, Principal Analyst, FINRA
There are moments in your life that change you forever, and the birth of my first child was one of those moments. As I held my son in my arms, not only was I immensely grateful, but I knew that at that instant my life and my priorities would forever be changed. One thing I was certain of was that I did not want to look back at my life and regret not spending enough time with my kids. I realized quickly that my most precious asset now was time, and I knew that I would have to navigate parenthood with the intent to give my son as much quality time as I could. There is no formula that determines success in how you manage your work and your personal life. One of my favorite teachings of Jim Rohn is to think about work at work, and think about the beach at the beach. This piece of advice has helped me stay focused and in the moment with whatever I am doing, whether that is meeting a deadline at work or being there to cheer on my son at soccer practice. In addition, being disciplined with daily tasks and having a team approach not only at work, but at home as well, allows for quality time to be created. My biggest advocate and one of my daily inspirations is my wife. Not only does she help me be the best dad that I can be, but also works effortlessly to be the best mom. Although she is also a working parent, she always makes it a priority to make sure we are all spending quality family time together. We work together as a team so that each of us can be successful both at work and at home. I’m proud to say that FINRA has a community that understands the challenges working parents face. This community has helped me manage my work and personal life, and I hope that I can provide inspiration and support to others as has been provided to me.
Nathan Ellis, Senior Manager, Grant Thornton LLP
Proactive communication, understanding, flexibility and compromise are the keys to managing the demands of my dual-career family. My wife, Leah, and I both work in client-serving roles at Grant Thornton. In order to balance our work and personal responsibilities, we’ve learned the importance of a continuous and transparent dialogue to effectively manage our calendars to ensure we are maximizing time with our kids and each other while getting our work done. This was particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic when our kids’ daycare closed during the busiest work time of the year. This was made more challenging when my father passed away and I was responsible for managing his estate and caring for my mother who has dementia. During this time, we found ways to jointly prioritize what we had to get accomplished for our family and work through active listening and willingness to be flexible and compromise. We agreed to adjust our working hours to balance our work and family responsibilities to ensure we supported our family, each other, our colleagues and our clients. Each day we would discuss each other’s commitments, agree on work and family times based on each other’s expected schedules and priorities, and adapt accordingly as events and circumstances dictated. Looking back on it now, it was the most challenging period my family and I have ever faced, and we couldn’t have done it without the incredible support from each other and our Grant Thornton family. While our approach served us well, it wasn’t perfect and we learned quickly when to ask for help, that it is OK to say no, and to accept that no matter how well we planned everything, some things were simply out of our control.
Rishi Varma, General Counsel and Senior Vice President, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
The greatest piece of advice I learned about parenting came from my wife when our children were very young. At a time in my career when I was working hard to prove my worth and also juggling the responsibilities of parenthood, she had one simple guide: the people you work for are at home. And the corollary action associated with that was equally as simple: be home for dinner. Although simple and easy to remember, it was so hard to put into practice. Toddlers eat dinner at a relatively early hour and I had visions of my manager and peers chastising me for leaving them behind if I left the office too early. And yet, I chose to strike a balance between the office and home and make a point to be home every night (when not traveling) for dinner. Those early years now fill me with so much joy as I recall hearing all about their days, enjoying bathtime and bedtime stories and sharing a blissful two hours before thinking about work again. Fast forward many years later and our children are all grown—20, 18 and 16. Family dinners are still a sacred routine and one where we spend hours recounting our respective days and share our frustrations, concerns and anxieties all at once. Over the last year, our dinner table became a safe haven where we could question the lack of social justice in our country, ponder what lies ahead and share our fears and hopes about a “new normal” in a post-pandemic world. I often think back to those early dinners where the content of our discussion was less important than the fact that we were together. As parents, my wife and I were decidedly committed to raising our children to learn that the people you work for are at home and nothing else matters. As I see my children now, busy with college and high school and many extracurricular activities, I relish the fact that they want to come together for a meal with their parents, to share laughter, love and hope.
Matt Gierhart, Executive Partner, Global Go to Market Lead for IBM Garage
Being a working parent is hard work and at first, I really struggled and had a lot of guilt. I felt like I had a hand tied behind my back, both in being the best father I could be and in being an ambitious employee. There was never enough time or focus to get either as right as I knew I could. But that’s when I learned the most important lesson is that being a working parent isn’t about being a hero, it’s about learning how to rely on and learn from others. Now that I have three girls all under the age of 6, and a fourth one on the way (another girl!), my life is built in a way of always collaborating, always partnering, always learning both in work and at home. It feels like such an obvious thing to say now, but learning to let go has given me the space to be a dad and be proud of my work at IBM. That and having an amazing wife has really helped.
Elvis Vieira, Director of Quality Engineering, Robotics and Digital, Johnson & Johnson
I have always been committed to being a father who was there for my children, while balancing my passion for my work and desire to grow professionally. When I started at Johnson & Johnson 25 years ago, I was on the manufacturing floor in Brazil as a production operator and continued to work my way up through the organization—including a move to the US—making smart career moves and working with my teams to further my development. When my children were around 6 and 8, I met with my manager about wanting to be more involved and available at home during these critical years. My manager not only approved of it, but encouraged me to embrace a flexible work schedule that allowed me to spend more time with my children. This was also a critical time for my career advancement, so we worked together to align my career development with the development of my children. My advice for other working parents is to work with your manager and teams to advance your career at your pace so that you can prioritize your family. Whether you have a few minutes or a few hours with your family, make sure you are giving them 100 percent of your attention and disconnect from work—you can’t get back the time you didn’t spend with your family. When the pandemic hit, it was even more important to live by this advice. We were working on top of each other and had to learn to adapt to this transition, shifting from work to personal time. We took walks, made meals, learned more about each others’ work and school lives, and embraced our time together. I didn’t let this time deter me professionally; I continued evolving at work and ended up taking on a new role during the pandemic. Being a Working Dad of the Year, I hope I can inspire parents in similar positions and remind them it is possible advance your career, no matter where you start, and you can be a good parent while doing it.
Mike Piccarreta, Partner, Kearney
Mike Piccarreta had always imagined balancing his career ambitions with family responsibilities, but with five children 10 and under, the act of balancing often feels more like a juggling routine. “These early years are so fun and so important; I have fear of missing out, as I often have to make trade-offs between work and family,” Mike shared. The COVID-19 pandemic and the move to remote work was a real perspective-changer for Mike, as he transitioned from 80 percent on-the-road to 100 percent at home. The transition gave him more time to appreciate his family and a new perspective on how to strike a better balance between work and family to make parenting more manageable and rewarding. Part of the parenting juggling act is learning to seize opportunities. Remote work gave Mike his first real opportunity to coach a kid’s sports team, so he quickly jumped at the chance to coach 6-year-old Beckett’s football team. “For those 10 weeks, football gave us something new to do together and activities to look forward to every week.” With five children, Mike sees how easy it could be for someone to get lost in the shuffle, so he makes a point of carving out one-on-one time. This summer, with the big kids at camp, Mike took a day off to treat 3-year-old Corbin to Sesame Place. “It gave us a unique chance to create great memories and allowed the little guy the opportunity to call the shots for the day,” recalled Mike. Most importantly, Mike credits his strong relationship with his wife, Julie, for making him a better parent. “Julie is the lead orchestrator of managing the chaos that five children bring. She helps me be a better parent by reminding me when I’m too heads down in work and she finds ways for us to do more as a family.” Reflecting on how fast they’re growing up, Mike says, “Spending more time with my family is the priority, and I truly believe that I’m at my best in my professional life when I’m in a good place at home.”
David Mahin, Principal, L.E.K. Consulting
Preparing for our second child was nerve-wracking. How would our 2-year-old daughter, Grace, react to transitioning from an only child to a big sister? How would Erica and I handle a return to limited sleep without the ability to just “hand off the baby” so the other one could catch a midday nap? How would we balance family life with two careers, mine as a strategy consultant and Erica’s as a high school chemistry teacher? That last question was a focus of many late night discussions that eventually seeped into conversations with a Managing Director at L.E.K. who has children of his own that are now in college and high school. His advice was simple but powerful: your job has to fit around your family if consulting is going to be sustainable; you can’t let your family fit around your job. I’ve watched him live out his own advice in the decade I’ve been with L.E.K. I’ve seen him block time on his calendar with subjects such as “college admissions event‚” and “high school baseball game‚” signaling his priorities and not hiding from the fact that family life creates the occasional workday conflict. I’ve also seen him reading young adult novels on flights home after client workshops so he “knows what they’re reading,” and even heard him make phone calls to his children to “check in on how their big test went.” I’ve tried to learn from these examples as I’ve balanced my own family life and career. I’ve blocked time each evening for “dinner and bedtime,” and have used the time working remotely to have “daddy-daughter” walks with our toddler every weekday. I’ve also opted into stints in L.E.K.’s temporary adjustment program after the birth of both of our daughters, allowing me to take on roles that are non-client-facing to increase the predictability of work demands. And through intentional choices like these, I’ve been reminded that consulting can be a hard job on parents, but it can also be incredibly rewarding when the job fits around my family rather than the other way around.
Richard Manso, Chief Digital Marketing Officer, Active Cosmetics Division, L’Oréal USA
Having an executive role within a large organization comes with high expectations and heavy time commitments. My responsibilities include driving sales, leading and motivating a high-performing team, collaborating with global partners, all while thinking ahead about the next strategic opportunities for my business unit. All that being said, the biggest responsibility that I have in this world is my son Ricky. For me, that doesn’t just mean simply being a provider, it means being present. It means being a tutor, a coach, a disciplinarian, a protector, a source of comfort, a role model. Since Ricky is an only child, it means I’m not just Dad, but sometimes play the role of big brother who plays Pokémon or a game of chess with him in the evening, after a long workday that started at 7 a.m. Yes, I’m exhausted, but I reserve enough in the tank to spend quality time with him. Similarly, my wife owns and runs a pediatric dental practice, so one can imagine the day-to-day demands on a small business owner. One reason we work so well together as parents is because we prioritize family first, and put our son at the heart of every major professional decision we make. Some of the people that I mentor are working parents, and my advice to them is simple: put your family first and you will show up better as a professional. Your family is the reason you work so hard anyway. I’m honored to be recognized with this award. However, what means the most to me is that one day my son will be old enough to read and understand this article, and he will know that his dad always put him first.
Justin Ksen, Tax Manager, Moss Adams
My surprising piece of advice came not just from one of the partners I work with, but also from my father. Prior to becoming a parent, I did not have a lot of experience with small children at all, and I was uneasy about what it meant to be a parent and how to interact and treat infants and toddlers. The advice I was given was that a lot of the functions of becoming a father and becoming a parent come naturally, and both people that shared this with me were correct. I have more confidence than I have ever had before when it comes to dealing with my two children. Another aspect that ties in to being a successful parent is the support of my co-workers and senior managers and partners. In our workplace we emphasize that not everything is up to any one person to accomplish, it is about a team of people working together towards completion of a project or a specific goal. After I became a parent, it became clear to me that it is OK to ask for help, and that is something we emphasize as a team, and another piece of advice I have used to help with working parent guilt and getting more work done.
Domingo Riojas, Insurance Services Analyst II, Nationwide
For the first year of my daughter’s life, I was the dad who brought home the paycheck, while my amazing wife, Melissa, drove the household and took care of everything else. But in late 2020, I lost my beautiful wife, and baby Eliana Grace lost her mother to COVID-19. Just like that, I became the dad who did everything, and I needed to become Eliana’s superhero. I’d served in the Marine Corps, but nothing prepared me for the challenges I was facing. I’m realizing now how blessed I was to have someone like Melissa to learn from, so I’m raising Eliana the way Melissa would have wanted me to. Watching her smile, seeing her eyes light up after teaching her something new, these are the rewards. It’s been harder than I could have imagined, but I love being a dad and I love being a Nationwider. After Eliana’s second birthday, here’s what I’ve learned: work-life balance is difficult to explain, let alone live; I just try to prioritize what gets the best of my energy each day. To other parents, single or not, be purposeful with your time. Find your support system, people who you can learn from and grow with. If you have that, you’re already winning.
John Monarrez, Manager Research Services, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
One piece of advice, which I learned from a busy partner, was to write family time into my daily schedule like I would any other work appointment. There is something about actually seeing that time in your daily schedule that makes you feel more accountable. The day passes so fast with all the work and life demands we have upon us that we need to make sure we make time for the little things or else the big things really don’t matter that much. I am also very lucky to work for a firm like Pillsbury that allows me to have the flexibility that is needed to make a good work-life balance, which is very important to me and my family. You only get to raise your children once, so make sure you take the time to enjoy it.
Rich Haffey, Senior Vice President, Sales and Client Experience Leader, PNC Financial Services Group
As a father of three sons, a 10-year-old with special needs and 9-year-old twins, I have found it challenging at times to balance work life with family life. I am very committed to my career, and my job requires out-of-town travel. My kids are all very active in sports and other activities, so I often felt that I wasn’t spending enough quality time with them. When we were together, we were rushing to get them ready for school, to finish their homework, to eat dinner and to get them in bed. Frankly, it was stressful on our entire family and I was searching for a way to spend more quality time with them without all the stress. When I took a step back and looked at our weeknight schedules, I quickly realized that we were spending most of our evening hours at sports practices. So, in order to spend more time with them, I decided to become more involved in their activities. While I am not ready to take on the commitment of being a head coach, I found that I am able to dramatically increase my quality time with them by being an assistant coach for their sports teams. In fact, I help coach almost all their teams, including soccer, baseball, basketball and track. I have enjoyed spending the additional time with them and they love it. It enables me the opportunity to work directly with them on developing their skills, while teaching them life lessons along the way. In addition, I get to know their friends and their friends get to know me. Coaching their sports teams has been a game changer for my family. Now, I don’t feel guilty when I travel for work or have an evening meeting, because I know that we have a lot of upcoming scheduled time together. In addition, they know that I am there for them and we get to do the fun things that they enjoy, together.
Newman H. Rochester Jr., VP, Strategic Relationship Manager, Prudential Financial
The full support of my amazing wife is the only way I can be the Working Dad of the year; it’s important for me to note that she balances a full-time job as an executive and I’m still amazed by how she has so much love and support for all of us. Love you, Danielle! Here’s what I’ve learned about parenting: Don’ compromise; nothing is more important than the happiness and well-being of my family. I do my best (I am not perfect) to ensure I don’t compromise family time for the pressures at work. I set boundaries and have my kids keep me honest if I am not sticking to it. I do have late nights and early mornings, but it’s well worth it when Elijah wants to play UNO for the 10th time before bed. Share; share your challenges and successes with them. If they think that Dad does everything right, then how will they persevere through adversity? This has taken a long time for me to embrace and I suggest you start immediately. I am amazed by how I have changed my own perspective of my personal organizational challenges through their eyes and questions. Be proud of your entire family; even when your 3-year-old wakes up three nights in the row to “play,” I am proud of all that we do and make it a point to express this with my boss and colleagues, this provides me with a lot more depth in my relationships. Also a great laugh at times! Participate; get involved where you can. I typically get “voluntold” to coach/teach/mentor and enjoy every moment of it. If they see you do it, they will model that same behavior and know it’s important to participate—even if you are not expert level. I am far from perfect and am so blessed to have amazing colleagues, boss and support structure at Prudential to allow me to be successful, but more importantly allows me to be the best dad I can be. And that is worth more than any deal I can close with my sales partners at work.
Rich Campbell, Editor, RSM US LLP
I was dining with work buddies in July 2019 in Bourbonnais, Illinois, a nightly custom during training camp for us in the Chicago Bears media corps. As the conversation centered on youth baseball and elite travel leagues, I wondered whether my 18-month-old son and soon-to-be-born daughter would ever indulge their old man by picking up a ball. Suddenly, my friend Jeff threw me a question at which I had no intention of swinging: “So Rich, when are you moving to the suburbs?” he asked with borderline-offensive nonchalance. Surely, Jeff, a lifelong Chicagoland resident, knew how incredible the city’s Lakeview neighborhood is. He knew I lived five blocks south of Wrigley Field. I don’t remember what I said, but I’m sure I hemmed and hawed about perks only childless people enjoy. Besides, no decision was necessary until our son reached kindergarten, and travel baseball was years beyond that. The reporter and new dad in me joined forces; I put it to the suburbanites at the table: “Why should we move to the suburbs?” “It’s just what you do,” Jeff said. OK, now he was being smug. Or was he? Weeks passed, and I couldn’t shake the simplicity of his answer—or his tone. The more I thought about it, it wasn’t smugness, just matter-of-fact. The sky is blue, the sun is hot, and you move to the suburbs to benefit your family. It started to sink in. Jeff’s take on moving to the suburbs wasn’t about youth baseball. It was about giving to your family and being a leader for them. That notion, for me, knocked over some personal and professional dominoes that were ready to fall. Six months later, I joined RSM as an editor, steadied by my wife, Lauren, an RSM veteran of 13 years. Now, we both benefit from the firm’s understanding of parental challenges and its flexibility accommodating them. They enable us to give to our kids and keep giving. We’re especially grateful after a year of much upheaval. Ten months after my bittersweet choice to leave sports journalism, we moved to suburban Indianapolis. We’re about six miles from Grand Park, the 400-acre youth sports mecca. It’s a coincidence, I swear.
Rick Fordyce, Head of Data Science, S&P Global
There is a saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I have found this to be very true. What I’ve also realized is that it too takes a professional village to be a working parent. I have felt overwhelmed in balancing the home and professional responsibilities, and suffered through the parental guilt of being less patient, less available, or less engaged. As much as we like to think we can juggle it all, it is not always possible. I have realized that being authentic and transparent at work about my family has created opportunities, not obstacles. I have also learned that it is OK to admit we are not super-human and that we need support. I have been very fortunate to have built some amazing personal and professional “villages.” These villages are the people that I can count on to step in on a project when I need to focus on an emergency at home or someone to pick up my son from school so I can attend a late afternoon meeting. Life is complex and sometimes more so as a parent. I want to be the best possible role model for my kids, but without the right support system and willingness to ask for help, that becomes harder to achieve.
Brian Regan, Manufacturing Excellence Business Partner, Sanofi US
I began my journey at Sanofi as a manufacturing excellence business partner in January 2019. My career has been centered around process improvement, manufacturing management and strategic planning since 2001. In addition to my full-time work at Sanofi, I serve part-time in the Air National Guard as a strategist where I work one weekend per month and two to four weeks per year. I have served in this capacity for 15 years, and prior to this role, I served full-time active duty in the Air Force for five years as an engineer. I am honored to serve my community in both my careers: as an Air Force officer and as a Sanofi employee helping to improve public health. Alongside my work life, I am a father and a husband. My children, Carly, William, Rachel, and my wife, Holly, are a blessing. My wife, Holly, has been tremendously supportive of my career and takes care of our family when I am not around. What helps me to balance my work and family life is doing my best to not bring work home with me. When I am home, I like to focus on my family and vice versa when I am at work. Every year, our family vacations at the Thousand Islands in upstate New York. These vacations help bring my family together to relax and recharge. To further maintain balance in my life, I try to stay as active as possible; I enjoy jogging, golfing, fishing and generally doing anything that gets me outside.
Chip Dorsey, Sr. Director, Business Development, Zoetis
Growing up, my parents were doctors who owned a medical practice close to our home. My brothers and I were always surrounded by work. Whether it was spending time in the office, getting phone calls from patients at home, or as we got older, even being the receptionists, my parents continually modeled a comfortable overlap between parenting and working. My mother passed away at the beginning of the pandemic. What was already an intense time for families was compounded by our family working through the grieving process. In the time I had to reflect and celebrate my mother, I looked back on how my parents were able to balance their dedication to their patients and their three sons. From my childhood, I was always comfortable with the intersection between parenting and working. But the pandemic, especially with my wife and two young boys living in a Brooklyn apartment, took the definition of overlap between work and home to a different level. It is what ultimately led our family to relocate to California to be closer to my brothers. The support of my colleagues and the Zoetis culture has made this shift as smooth as possible, reinforcing that it was the right choice for my family. Zoetis provided me with the opportunity to work fully remotely, which has allowed me to spend so much more time with my two sons. I get to watch them learn and grow, while still pursuing a fulfilling career with growth and development potential. The balance my wife and I have created between work and life is very reminiscent of the balance my parents were able to create as doctors. Working with my wife to embrace the uniqueness of my career and optimize our time with family has been a challenging but incredibly rewarding experience. As I continue to settle into my new life in California, I have brought this experience into my mentoring relationships. I encourage young fathers to be transparent about what they want to accomplish and speak to them about prioritizing their values in order to find balance in their own life.
Kenan D. Wilkerson, AVP Construction Casualty Manager, Zurich
Becoming a father is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. Being a working dad with two small children is one thing, however, being a working dad with a newborn baby and toddler at the beginning of a pandemic is another completely! Assisting with changings, middle-of-the night feedings and educating a child at home due to child care closures while keeping up with client and internal meetings, deadlines for projects and all the other things that come with being a Zurich professional can be a challenging balance. The keys to getting the most enjoyment out of everything were committing to a system with my support network, including my lovely wife and family; having open communication with management, and prioritizing my time for maximum output. Notice I did not mention resting, as there was little time for that during the early months with my newborn. My commitment to my support network allowed me to set expectations with my family that kept me involved at home in daily duties and created time to remain highly productive at work. Communication with my management was a must due to work expectations, which included a promotion into a new role with my employer. Zurich is a great company and supported me 100 percent of the way in growing my family and balancing my work life by allowing me to work early, or some days really late, with breaks, which was fantastic. Prioritizing is fundamental; it was not simply about what was most or least important, but for me it was about getting the jobs done with my best possible effort both at home and work. This remains an ongoing process, and we are enjoying every minute. I appreciate Zurich for its support every step of the way.