How Women in Sales are Balancing Work and Family in 2021

November 02, 2021
Written by
Twilion

Women in sales

This past September, Twilio had the privilege of being a gold sponsor of the 4th Annual Sistas In Sales Summit 2021. For those who aren't aware, Sistas in Sales is an organization that unites women of color together in a series of networking events, panel discussions, and socials to provide mentorship, access to sales leaders, and community.

Why is work/life balance important? And why now?

According to McKinsey's latest Women in the Workplace report, a year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, women in corporate jobs are even more burned out than they were a year ago—and increasingly more so than men. Despite this, it's women who are stepping up to support employee well-being and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. That's especially true of women of color who have ambitions to be top executives despite facing so many challenges to advancement — not the least of which is work-life balance.

Juggling family and career has always been difficult, but the pandemic threw a proverbial wrench into the works when much of the world's workforce began working remotely. Overnight, it became harder than ever to manage a good balance between private and work life — especially if you never leave the "home office."

That brings us to a panel discussion, "How to Balance Work and Family With a Career in Sales," that took place at the Sistas In Sales Summit. The panel consisted entirely of Twilio employees — specifically women of color — moderated by Saura Johnston, an enterprise account executive. On the panel were LeAndra Pitts, a senior business analyst in the sales operations team; Jill Barrientos, a mid-market account executive; and Tiffany Traylor, an executive engagement manager.

View the panel discussion here, or keep reading for key takeaways.

Takeaway 1:

Kids VS. Clients

Starting a family while being in the workforce can be challenging. The panel discussed common concerns about returning to work after having a baby and working moms' strategies to juggle raising children while pursuing a career.

The big "aha" is that there is no playbook when it comes to raising kids and staying productive at work, and everyone's experience is different. The commonality is that it's crucial to have balance and a stable but flexible support system. A flexible corporate culture and a workplace that supports nursing with a dedicated space are critical for working moms with newborns, as routines are just as necessary for children as they are for employees.  

Younger moms may also be trying to fit in the time needed to complete an education. Going back to school adds to the complexities and takes away from family and work responsibilities, or both. "What worried me," said Jill when talking about her daughter, "was being in that mentality of always going, always going but not having that quality time with her."

Trying to stay sane and above water is a constant challenge when balancing family and work. Leandra alluded to the fact that even when she took work breaks, "they weren't my own. I had all of these other things that, now, were on my plate as a mother."

Jill reflected on what all this means for her place as a role model to her family. "I want my daughter to see that if you are in a situation that is not ideal for you — whether it's at work or relationships or in school — you don't have to stay there," she offered. "You always have to have the mentality to better yourself, whether that is by self-learning or being in a situation that's better for you, your future, or your mental health."

"I would like her to learn from my experience in sales — going in and getting it, and hustling, of course," added Jill, citing that being a go-getter and having a positive personality has helped her have a successful career in sales. “That's my message to her."

Takeway 2:

Automate, Delegate, Eliminate

Another aspect of being a career mom in this new world of remote working is trying to find ways to reduce time spent on tasks in order to clear more time for either your family, your work, or yourself. As Saura mentioned, you're lucky if you have an extended family that can help you negotiate some aspects of childcare, but "you live and die by your calendar."

The conversation swerved into automation. "Automate, delegate, or eliminate" became a rallying cry, a necessity because time is a commodity that you can't get back. "You can make more money, but you can't create more time," the panel agreed.

Tiffany then mentioned that she takes some cues from nature. "There's a time for things to spring forth and bud, there's a time for things to fall off, and there's a time for things to go dormant," she says. "Nature has a rhythm: we should also have that rhythm as well. We can't maintain the same strong momentum all the time." To that end, it was suggested that time is needed to retreat and revive.

During these retreats, Tiffany looks for tasks that can be automated, like bill paying and retirement savings, or delegated tasks like house cleaning and laundry. These are the sorts of things that can give her back an hour or two to spend with the family or wrap up a client deliverable. As for reducing responsibilities through the process of elimination, she removed herself as the sole source of meal prep. It's now a shared family responsibility. "Why do I have to do all this myself," she asked the panel.

Jill brought our attention to a Twilio perk that she found surprising and a big difference from the culture at her last employer: Think Week, a global initiative during which Twilions everywhere focus on whatever is important to them without disruption of internal meetings. It's an opportunity to unplug and step away and reflect on personal and professional goals rather than just getting stuff done.

"I really have to give it to Twilio on the fact that they say, 'hey, now, we're all going to take a week break," recalled Jill. "And this is not even a holiday. They created a week to take a break, and they're doing it consistently. Just surprising."

Takeway 3:

Marking your territory

Some things that are not as tangible as laundry and finances are boundaries. Women in the workplace — especially when the workplace is the home — need family time uninterrupted by the job and vice versa. One member of the panel coined it "work/life integration" rather than work/life balance.

That's been uber-challenging for Leandra, who joined Twilio during the pandemic after a layoff from her previous job. Leandra's kids were used to her being home but not used to her being home and working. "Mommy has to be in this meeting," Leandra would say while shutting the door to her home office. "If you see the sign on the door — unless your arm is falling off —do not come in here," she laughed.

Tiffany took to blocking time off on her calendar for meals. "If anyone goes to my calendar right now, you're going to see three times that are blocked off until eternity," she said. Doing so, she explains, is just to protect her time, whether she's actually eating or not. "If you don't respect your own time, no one else will," she says. "Own it."

This idea morphed into the strategy of reserving chunks of time to get work done. As we all know, meetings will fill up your calendar if you let them, so the tip here is that if there's something that you want to accomplish — whether it's making calls, updating presentations, working uninterrupted in Salesforce — mark it as "busy."

Another popular strategy is having a family routine, which can be a lifesaver when a career in sales has you traveling overnight or being away for days at a time. Having a household that runs like clockwork because you've established a structure — whether you're present or not — is a blessing. "It's also easier to ask for help," they agreed, when a routine is already in place.

Takeway 4:

Asking for help & giving yourself a break

Setting up a routine sounds great, but it's not for everyone. Saura admitted to operating on a different level. "Every day is different for me," she said. "I decide what my big rocks are for the day, and I just get them done at some point. I always have all of my tabs open, with all the different tasks that I'm working on."

The inability to stick to a routine caused Saura to take advantage of BetterUp, a counseling and coaching resource offered by Twilio to all employees. After speaking with her coach, Saura realized that she could spend time organizing and making a to-do list, or she could spend that time just getting stuff done. Her lesson learned is that if you're happy with your performance, just do what works for you. There's no single solution. "Maybe it's a little bit about forgiving yourself," she said.

This idea of giving yourself a break resonated with the group, especially when relating it to career progression and mobility. "What's exciting to me is watching how the company is growing and seeing how I can shift and progress my career with that growth," said Leandra.

While it's true that a career in sales can have significant financial opportunities, according to the panel, it also forces you to be uncomfortable as you venture into uncharted territories — especially in tech. The silver lining, though, is that it also forces you to learn new skills and be exposed to various industries that open inroads to other career paths, often within Twilio itself. With Twilio's recent acquisitions, our sales and sales support teams regularly find themselves working with other companies, learning how to integrate new offerings into multi-faceted customer solutions. This exposure to different industries offers growth, new opportunities for advancement, and the ability to expand your client roster as your network and relationships grow.

Sales at Twilio is ever-evolving

Sales careers at Twilio, like at many technology companies, are constantly changing. As the panel touches on towards the end of their session, the rules of yesteryear don't apply. Things move fast, and the landscape is ever-evolving. Corporations are trying to figure it out, as are men, women — and women of color — in the workforce.

"I look at women who are successful and women who I admire, and a lot of them started in sales," said Tiffany. "Just give yourself some grace. Understand that (today's sales environment) looks a little bit different. Be honest with yourself, and take time off. Build some time in to actually take a break and just understand that there are ebbs and flows in business. Your needs will change, and how you interact with your company will change."

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Remember, you can view the "How to Balance Work and Family With a Career in Sales" panel discussion in its entirety here. Or check out other sessions in the 4th Annual Sistas In Sales Summit by clicking here.

Want to explore opportunities and open positions with Twilio Sales or other departments within the organization? Check out our job listings.