Recently, I spoke with our Field Marketing Manager, Brittany Dunn, about her role at InterWorks through the lens of motherhood. Brittany is a bomb professional and someone I trust to come in clutch when the pressure is high. The fact that she’s able to accomplish her countless responsibilities every day as a working mom of two makes her even more impressive.
The Experience of Being a Working Mom in Tech
What’s it like being a working mom?
I’ve been two versions of a working mom: a new mom and a working mom of two girls. You would think it’d be easier with two since you’ve done it with one, but that’s not the case. But it makes me more productive. I get more done at work because I don’t take it home with me when I leave the office. I’m more empathetic to others and what they have going on in their lives because I see from a broader perspective now. Being a working mom who provides nutrition for her child is even harder. That’s something I didn’t do with our oldest, but I did for our second, which prompts an additional consideration of how you will provide for your child when you’re away, whether on a normal workday or at an out-of-town conference. But being a working mom isn’t my narrative. It’s a privilege that I have, but that’s not all of who I am.
What’s it like being a working mom in the tech industry and at InterWorks specifically?
As you might expect, the tech industry is a bit more ahead of the game in some ways, including parental leave (even though the US is behind globally). At Tableau Conference 2019, there were mothers’ room available that could be booked far in advance and were furnished with everything a breastfeeding mom might need—even a fridge. I have friends who work in other industries, and they have little to no privacy or support.
At InterWorks, family is put first in so many areas, and I’ve always felt supported by my team here. I can take as much time as I need at doctors’ appointments, pumping or doing whatever I have to without feeling guilty or like I’m taking advantage of something. InterWorks affords its employees lots of flexibility to find the time to complete my work on any given day. And when it comes to privacy, it’s not even a question. It’s always people asking how they can support me, not why I need to do certain things in the first place.
How have you seen adjustments in the industry? What have people done to show they see, honor and respect you as a working mom?
With my first daughter, I was the first mom in our Oklahoma City office, and because of that, I’m often a resource for our Employee Experience team when it comes to knowing what’s best for moms and how to best support them. Jenny has also been incredibly understanding and supportive as a manager. It’s tough to find the line between asking for too much and asking for what you really need. She’s helped me grow more empathy for myself in that way. The industry as a whole is showing moms they’re seen and valued by making accommodations like having mothers’ rooms at conferences. These may seem small, but they’re huge in the day-to-day of a mom’s life.
Honoring and Empowering Working Women
What is it like finding your voice as a woman and a mom?
I’ve never been one to just sit back and let things happen in general. The support system of who I work with has given me confidence to know that I can assert myself without worrying about losing my job. Most of my approach to using my voice is informed by thinking about my kids. If I don’t fight to change something now, what are my girls going to be up against in the workplace when they’re my age? What steps am I not taking today that may affect them in the future? What should I do today that will make things better for them later on? These are the questions I have to ask myself when I’m struggling to find or use my voice.
Above: Brittany’s daughters, Anniston and Olivia. Photo courtesy of Wei-Haas Creative.
What are some things you’ve learned since becoming a mother?
Motherhood causes you to grow entirely. I am a new person. I’m a better worker because I am supported by my company to be able to be a working mom. I’m more confident. I wish I would have known to ask for help and ask my questions more freely with my first. It’s something people tell you all the time, but there’s a reluctance there because you don’t want to be a nuisance or a hindrance to others. But there is lots of support out there. With my second daughter, I can’t believe how much easier it’s been to simply state my needs as facts and advocate for myself. Most people are very understanding and supportive, and a lot of them have their own kids, too, so they get it.
What should people understand about working moms/moms-to-be/women in general?
Being a mom isn’t my narrative. It does not define me. Having kids has enhanced my growth. My girls are a branch off of me, growing on their own while also helping me grow myself. They will always be a part of my decisions in life, but they aren’t the sole center of my life. It’s not healthy for that to be true, and moms are guilted into a belief that their identity is automatically subsumed in their children’s. Our culture tells them that this should manifest in staying at home to be 100% all in with their kids 24/7 when that might not be what they want. Some women do, which is admirable and amazing, but it’s just not my desire.
I find guilt all the time in being at work doing my own thing. When I get to work, that’s who I am—a working mom. I enjoy working and having a voice in other areas outside of my family. All of my decisions are fueled by me as a person, but also filtered through the idea of how I’m going to improve things for my daughters and family. I am me first before I am a wife or a mother. That’s how I can be a good mom or a good wife. The fundamental struggle is to ask, What do you really want in this moment? What makes you happy? If I’m happy, it’s because they’re happy. But they’re not going to be happy unless I’m genuinely happy.
All of my decisions are fueled by me as a person, but also filtered through the idea of how I’m going to improve things for my daughters and family. I am me first before I am a wife or a mother. That’s how I can be a good mom or a good wife.
You as a person have to be remembered in the story of your family.
How can people “remember” working moms for who they are and in their roles? How can we better support them?
The US as a whole needs to work on this, but I think we’re on our way. Supporting moms so they can travel and do what they need to without their kids is a step forward. But when I’m planning an event, I always try to consider every person’s story when they walk in. How can I ask them what they need without being intrusive? How can we provide for that without it seeming like a liability? This is essentially what we need to do for moms. Consider who they are and their story and support them in it.
What unique value do mothers bring to their workplace/culture/teams? Why are they important?
Once you come back to work with a family and kids behind you that you’re providing for, your sense of work is much different than before. What used to be just a job for its own sake is no longer that. You work there for your kids now, and maybe not every mom feels that, but I do. Your priorities and perspectives shift. Part of what’s so special about parenthood—especially motherhood—is that it’s unique and unexpected in the ways it affects you. There are pieces of you that don’t get unlocked until you become a parent. As full and as whole as a person is, becoming a parent makes you even fuller and more whole. There’s more community behind you, there’s more at stake, but you also have more to offer now.
The Impact of Being Fully Understood
What is the impact of being known as a whole person, not just in one aspect of who you are or limited by that?
It makes doing life in general a lot easier. I’m a working mom who has no choice but to work, and I’m fortunate in that I want to work. It causes me to wake up in the morning and know what my purpose is. People don’t say, “Oh, it’s Brittany. That’s the mom.” They say, “It’s Brittany, the field marketing manager.” At every step of my seven years with InterWorks, people have worked to help me feel known and seen completely. During my time here, I’ve gotten married and had two daughters, and being supported and empowered to not only adapt to those changes but to also thrive in those seasons has helped me become the woman, wife, mother and professional I am today.
I’ve had the opportunity to find my happiness professionally because InterWorks has never made me feel like I can’t go do or pursue something because I’m a mom. My husband is able to flourish professionally and chase his own goals because I’m doing the same thing. Our family gets to experience freedom, which is priceless, because I’m able to realize my full potential. I’m empowered to be the best mom I can be, which allows me to be the best version of myself in every other aspect of my life, including my work.
Above: Brittany, her husband, Chris, and their daughters. Photo courtesy of Wei-Haas Creative.