How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents: “Success is not just about getting to a final destination” with Bolanle Williams-Olley & Dr. Ely Weinschneider

Success for me starts with first understanding that we are all part of a larger purpose. Then, it moves to being present and enjoying the journey to fulfilling that God-given purpose personally and professionally. It is celebrating the small and big wins along the way realizing that success is not just about getting to a […]

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Success for me starts with first understanding that we are all part of a larger purpose. Then, it moves to being present and enjoying the journey to fulfilling that God-given purpose personally and professionally. It is celebrating the small and big wins along the way realizing that success is not just about getting to a final destination.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Bolanle Williams-Olley.Bolanle Williams-Olley is the Chief Financial Officer at Mancini Duffy, a technology-first design firm based in NYC where she oversees the firm’s financial and operational performance. She has over 12 years of experience working in the AEC industry with a strong background in financial analysis and strategic initiatives. At her core, she thrives on building relationships between finance and management teams to ensure the overall financial success of projects and her firm. She is passionate about service and is the founder of 3 impact organizations: SheBuildsWaves — a community that provides support, resources and gives back to professional women in the built industry, BolaKrafts Cares — a non-profit focused on addressing the needs of children and improving the quality of education in low-income schools in Nigeria, and REACHNigeria — a connector hub that creates awareness about NGOs and volunteer opportunities across Nigeria.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, an only child to a single mum who did everything she could to make sure I had a wonderful childhood. She worked hard to put me in great primary and secondary schools, she made sure I had fun throwing the best parties for my birthdays, she instilled in me discipline — I had to wake up at 6:00am every day and she unfailingly dropped and picked me up from school, overall she created great memories for me — Christmas holidays being my favorite, she would cook up a storm, have our home surrounded with family and when we woke up Christmas day would somehow have our tree up with presents. In addition to the awesomeness that is my mum, the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” rings so true for me, was always surrounded with extended family and friends who poured into my childhood, you couldn’t tell me I didn’t have an uncountable number of siblings that loved me just like their own.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

This story takes me back almost 17 years ago, when I moved to the States to attend City University of New York, Hunter College. I originally wanted to study computer engineering, took physics my first year and quickly decided that engineering wasn’t for me. I have always had an affinity for numbers and enjoyed my Math classes at Hunter, so I switched majors, taking on an accelerated Bachelor’s and Master’s program in Mathematics that allowed for real life application to different career fields.

While looking for a job towards the end of my program in 2007, I came across a job listing in the New York times classified for a junior project accountant in an Architectural firm called HLW International. I had taken technical drawing back in High School in Nigeria and thought it would be interesting to put my skills to work in the Industry. Thankfully, I got the job and spent 5 foundation building years at HLW, before moving on to a Senior Project Accountant role at Skidmore Owings & Merill LLP in New York. In 2017, I was approached with an opportunity to come run and revamp the finance team at another Architectural and Design firm called Mancini Duffy. I joined the firm, as Controller and within a year, I was promoted to Chief Financial Officer, a high point for me in my career. Fast forward another year to June 2019, I am still CFO and now, part-owner of Mancini Duffy!

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

I am an early riser and so my typical work day starts with my first alarm going off at 4:30am. I have my “Me” time between 4:30 am — 5:30am during which I do a mix of things: my devotional and prayers, as well as a quick check of email and social media to catch up before heading down to our home gym to workout. This usually takes about an hour maximum after which I get ready and wake our two kids; we have a 5 year old daughter and a 3 year old son, up at about 7am. My husband and I both rally the troops and then we all head down to have breakfast, pack up and head out for daycare drop-off. Our goal is to be in the car by 8:15am which doesn’t always happen because getting 4 people into a car and out the house is a full production.

I get to the office between 9:30am — 10:00 am and hit the ground running. My day is usually filled with meetings, working with my team and getting through my tasks for the day with plans to leave between 5:30pm — 5:45pm to pick up the kids. We get home by 7:30pm, unwind, and then my husband and I get the kids ready for bed. Most nights I am in bed by 10:00pm, ready to crash from my very early start.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

A trap a lot of us fall into is thinking that we have all the time in the world, but when we realize that the clock starts ticking from the moment our children are born, it changes everything. For me, the biggest detriment of not spending time with our children is the opportunity to form a foundational bond with them, especially knowing that the first 5 years of their lives are really formative developmentally. We lose out significantly by not being intentional about carving out space to prioritize them first. Children are sponges, they soak up things from their environment, and so, if you are not deliberate about what you pour into them and about providing what they need foundationally, they will get it from somewhere else.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

Personally, I’m a very hands-on mother, so, in my experience, I’ve found that my children not only survive but thrive on the time we spend together. I want my children to not just know that they are loved but feel that love with our presence. In addition, spending time with our children isn’t only important for them but for us as parents too. My husband and I value what that time does for us; there is a lightheartedness that comes when we pick up our children from daycare, their excitement and smiles that melts away the stress of the day.

Most especially, we treasure connecting with them every single day, when you think about it, our kids are away with caregivers 9 hrs a day, that’s a long time. So we choose to be intentional in talking and connecting with our children to make sure that the long term bond we are building grows stronger over time. We encourage them to tell us about their day, find out what new things they learnt and in general work to create a safe space built on trust, where they know that we are always there for them and that we can also instill values that will help shape them as they get older.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

The truth for our family and I’m sure for other families is that our time during the work week with our children is quite limited and so with this in mind, we create morning and evening family rituals to engage our children. Some of the things we do are : play music, have fun schedules for getting ready, make them laugh when they are not saying Mommy and Daddy a hundred times, basically just making the pockets of time we have together meaningful and enjoyable. Over the weekend, I am even more intentional about activities and things we do so that it’s time well spent. Going to the park, taking them to their swimming lessons, and spending time with family and friends are some of the things we do together as a family to nurture our time.

Celebrating milestones, birthdays, accomplishments no matter the size is important to me. I want my children to have great memories of their childhood. One way I work towards this with them, is through fun countdowns in anticipation of events. This always gets them excited for things to come. For example for my daughters big 5th birthday we had a countdown calendar printed out and both our kids loved the act of going to cross off the days each morning. This seemingly small task meant the world to them and was an easy way for us to bond as a family.

On a larger scale, we plan staycations or vacations where we get to take a break and enjoy ourselves. My kids really love going to chocolate world (Hershey Park) and also the beach, till today they tell us stories that they remember from these trips.This is why it is so important to us.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

The first thing I would suggest is to define the season you and your family are currently in and take stock of your priorities. Once you’ve reprioritized; taking out space fillers, organize your days/schedule around what is important. You’ll be amazed how much time frees up to spend with your children.

After, setting the right priorities, the next thing would be to understand that while we can do all, we can’t and don’t have to do everything. So building a strong support system can help create more space. I’ve come to realize that support system for me isn’t just people but literally anything that can provide support to ease my day. I order my groceries online and outsource cleaning, so that automatically frees up multiple hours of my weekend. The trick is to determine what tasks are of lower priority to you and find other ways to relieve yourself from it, if possible.

From a work perspective and depending on the ages of your children talk to your employer about building a flexible work schedule to afford you that space you need.

Step away from the phone now: seriously, the technology struggle that a lot of us face is simply to disconnect from the external. Work to setting healthy boundaries especially when at home so that your children can enjoy your undivided attention.

Involve your children from the most mundane to big things in your lives, our children are at the stage where they love to help and so bringing them into tasks such as making their breakfast, picking out their clothes and so on only helps to maximize time spent with them.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

I think first we have to acknowledge that being a good parent is unique to every family. However for me the underlying quality of defining good parenting always falls back to intentionality, commitment and consistency in doing what is best for our children. Being present and plugged in, having our children feeling safe, confident and secure in us as parents are some traits I value. I also think being a good parent comes with experience and time, we have to allow ourselves to learn from our parenting mistakes and work to only get better from them.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

I inspire my children to dream big first by inspiring them with words; I’m a firm believer in the power of our minds and then following up with a consistent pattern of actions. Children are fully capable of understanding as best as they know how what we as parents do. I went back to get a second masters 6 months pregnant with my second child, my son. Both my kids where at my graduation last may, I talk to my kids about my work and the importance of my role not just for my firm but for myself. I encourage them to dream big, even in the little things they do, pushing their imagination and keying into their excitement. My daughter wants to become multiples things when she grows up. Currently she wants to be a teacher, a doctor and a baker and so I inspire her by either watching shows where she sees other kids not just grownups doing the things she loves or she comes to my office and spends the day with me so she can watch me work.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

Success for me starts with first understanding that we are all part of a larger purpose. Then, it moves to being present and enjoying the journey to fulfilling that God-given purpose personally and professionally. It is celebrating the small and big wins along the way realizing that success is not just about getting to a final destination.

I consider success in things such as seeing the twinkle in my little ones eyes when we surprise them with a bouncy castle and they spend hours in the yard playing with no worries in the world to providing children in low income communities with more conducive learning environments to investing and growing in a fantastic company such as Mancini Duffy.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

My favorite resources right now that inspire me to be a better parent are actually a few Instagram accounts which are full on and offline platforms. The list is long but I’ll share 3; @gracetoparent I love simply because of the practical tools the page gives to help parents lead with grace, @motherhonestly a collective of ambitious mom bosses that provides empowerment and tools to help us live out fulfilling lives in motherhood and @perfete a women’s publication that celebrates all that life brings our way, it gives me inspiration on parenting, parties and travel ideas to curate for my family.

I read a lot of parenting/ family devotionals that help ground me spiritually — I am currently reading and enjoying Parenting God’s Way by Charles Stanley on the YouVersion app.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’ll share two, because I think they go hand in hand in my life and experiences; “Just do it” and “failure is just a lesson learned, success is a lesson applied”. I truly believe in maximizing my potential, so I tend to dream big, visualize, leap and execute. I always ask myself, what is the worst that would happen, if it doesn’t work out — you learn a life lesson and move on to the next chapter.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am incredibly passionate about leaving a legacy of giving and community, and so because of this, I currently have 3 movements/initiatives that I hope will inspire people to action. It is my hope that these initiatives grow bigger and surpass what I have envisioned.

BolaKrafts Cares is my non-profit, that helps to improve the quality of education for children and schools in low-income communities in Nigeria. My dream is to open up free schools and learning centers all across these communities.

REACH Nigeria is my one-stop hub that connects people with causes and non-profit organizations in Nigeria, I would love to see that expand into REACH Africa, so that people are more aware and in tune with what and how they can help in their communities across Africa.

Last but not least, SheBuildsWaves — a community that provides support, resources and offline engagements for professional women in the built industry. Inclusion and community are very important to me, so it is my hope that SheBuildsWaves grows and expands even beyond the industry.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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