There are always a million reasons not to do something – but I believe if there’s at least one good reason to do it, then it’s bound to be worthwhile.
Several years ago, I was faced with one of those choices. I was a wife and mother of two young children living in New York City, working long hours for Credit Suisse (as one does in the city that never sleeps, especially in the finance industry) and trying to be one of those amazing women who seemingly “does it all.” My husband at the time was also working long hours and traveling all the time, too – that was our life. I had already learned at that point in time that the idea of work-life balance doesn’t exist. Rather, it’s about prioritizing the things that matter most to you and making sacrifices without second guessing yourself. My kids have always understood that work is very important to me – I take my role as a corporate leader overseeing diversity, inclusion and social responsibility, very seriously – and they also know that just because I can’t make it to every Girls Scouts meeting or school presentation, it doesn’t mean that I’m not so very proud of them.
In this particular moment, I had been called in for my yearly review with my boss, which went really well. Naturally, the conversation turned to what was next for me and my role within Credit Suisse. I’ve always believed in the power of suggestion and putting things out into the universe, so on my way out, I told him, “I hope you won’t rule me out from an international assignment because I’m a mom.” I had heard of other women feeling that they were limited in their career choices after having kids, and I didn’t want to give the impression that I wasn’t a team player or up to a challenge just because I was a working mom.
A short time later, my boss called me with excitement in his voice. “Patsy,” he said, “We have a significant business initiative that we need to get off the ground in Asia, and we need your help.” The job would entail moving to Hong Kong to develop and head the talent function for all of Credit Suisse Asia – a position that would affect 10,000-15,000 employees in the company, spread across 14 countries. Wow, talk about impact. How could I pass up this amazing opportunity?
“Great,” I said, “Sign me up!” I’ve always believed that if you want something, you should first say yes, and then work out the details from there. Later, I went home and made a list of all the potential obstacles standing in the way of my being able to do this, and then I started to tackle each one. Breaking it down and creating actionable steps made this incredibly overwhelming situation a lot easier to wrap my head around.
First, my kids. Although I had slight hesitation at moving them so far from their home, I realized that because they were so little, it was the perfect time to do this. Neither was in school yet, and I didn’t feel like I was breaking any bonds of friendship or taking them away from a home that they were attached to. Moreover, I realized that it could be an incredible opportunity for them to grow and experience the world at a young age. Check! Next, my husband. Getting my husband on board didn’t happen overnight. He, too, had a great job in New York and was skeptical about the possibility of continuing his career abroad. So I focused the conversation around how this would be a great move for our family. I talked to him about the amazing cultural experience ahead of us, how great of a career move it would be for me, but he still wasn’t fully committed. We had the company fly us over so that my husband could experience the city for himself and we sat together and brainstormed job opportunities for him out of Hong Kong.The visit brought the possibilities to life and through more dialogue, he agreed to take this chance too, and so, we were off. Check!
Although it may have taken a bit of getting used to for my family at the beginning, it was absolutely phenomenal to move to a new region and have the cultural experience of building teams across 14 countries. I learned an incredible amount about how other countries do business, and what matters to them and motivates them. Additionally, taking on a role of this size in an emerging region exposed me to a wealth of other activities and new ways to expand my role. These added experiences have added and enhanced new skill sets that have equipped me to pursue roles I would never have considered before. For example, I had the opportunity to not only engage with our employees, but also to work with clients, give speeches about the company, and interview others and share ideas on Credit Suisse TV. The evolution from managing talent to becoming a public ambassador for the company resulted in a new level of confidence and even tighter control of communicating effectively to new and existing audiences very important messages we wanted to convey.
At the end of the day, saying “yes” to this opportunity was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, both professionally and personally. And though I don’t believe that work-life balance necessarily exists, it was a blessing to be able to combine work that I love with an enriching life experience for myself and for my family. My children learned at a very young age to view the world on a global scale, and how to look and live beyond their own circles and experiences, and I’m so proud of that. Professionally, I grew an incredible amount in that time, and proved that I was both a team player and capable of successfully managing impactful, global projects. So next time you think about saying no to something, think again, say yes, and work out the details. It’ll be worth it.