We had a chat with Ellie about what companies can do to support people when they are having a baby.
- Ellie Mosley
- 23 mins
Tom: Hello and welcome to episode 30 of the Make Things Better podcast. Today I'm joined by Ellie Mosley.
Tom: Hello and welcome on Ellie. Really glad to have you here. We've been working together now for close to two years. Do you want to start off by introducing yourself, what you do at Hive and how you got into it?
Ellie: Yeah, sure. Hello, everybody. So I am a project manager at Hive. I first kind of got into the digital industry purely by fluke. I was 18, 19 at the time, and I was not really sure which direction I wanted to take in life, as probably not many 18, 19-year-olds do. And I was working a few different jobs in kind of childcare. I was actually working as a dinner lady at this point, as well.
And yeah, I wanted to make some money and just be able to have a good time. So I went along to a recruitment agency in Sheffield, and they got me an interview for a position at a company called Technophobia, which I'm sure many of our viewers are aware of.
Tom: I think half of our podcast guests have worked at Technophobia at some point. That always seems to be the back story.
Ellie The starting point, "well I used to work at Technophobia."
Tom: Yeah, yeah.
Ellie: So yeah I went along for this interview which I thought I absolutely nailed. I thought it went really well. I really got on with everyone and I didn't get the job.
And I didn't really get much feedback about it and I was just a bit gutted because I thought it'd gone really well so I called them up and just kind of said look you know absolutely fine but I'd like a bit of feedback about you know what went wrong what could I do better and that clearly went down really well because they managed to find another job that they were looking for to fill a position for and I got that one so I started off as an account exec which wasn't anything to do with finance that I thought it was.
I thought it was like a kind of accountancy position and didn't know anything about that. It was essentially supporting project management and account management and then the natural progression was kind of you know working through to junior project manager, project manager, a bit of account management and a few companies later I ended up at Hive.
Tom: Yeah, yeah, and I'm glad that you did.
Ellie: Thank you.
Tom: Yeah. So, in today's episode, we're going to be talking a bit about maternity leave, and Hive haven't had anyone go on maternity leave before, so we're kind of on this journey trying to learn more, I think, and do better. So, do you want to tell us about when you went on maternity leave and when you came back and sort of how it was really?
Ellie: Yeah, sure. So yeah, it wasn't my first rodeo, it was my second maternity leave because I've got a nearly four-year-old son as well. But that was, I had maternity leave while I was at a previous company. So with this one, I think the first hurdle for me was I was a few months into the job at Hive when I found out that I was pregnant with our daughter.
And that, yeah, that was the first kind of, "oh God, is this going to be okay? You know?"
Tom: How did you feel at the time?
Ellie: I was ecstatic about it. But I think the thought of going off on maternity leave, potentially so soon after starting the job.
Even though it shouldn't, it made me quite anxious thinking about having that conversation and how it might go down. I needn't have worried because it, you know, right from the get-go it was taken with absolute support and care and kindness.
Tom: We had that little party out ther as well.
Ellie: We had the little party, yeah.
But yeah, I guess I think it's just important to note that it can straight away come with quite a lot of nervousness and anxiety around what's going to happen.
Tom: Is that that first sort of initial conversation? Yeah. That's a bit scary as well.
Ellie: Yeah. Because I think no matter how well you think you will be supported and looked after, it's still the thought of having quite a lot of time off work away from something that you've been doing and something that is so integral to your life, yeah, it's nerve-wracking.
So, but you know, it was incredibly well received, I was really supported. And so yeah, I went off on maternity leave last June and had my daughter in July and I've been back at work now since the end of March. So, yeah, it's been a bit of a roller coaster.
Tom: Yeah do you think in that time Hive could have done anything differently to improve how it's been for you on maternity leave, right from the start to coming back?
Ellie: So I think the biggest thing for me to start off with was as soon as I told my manager, Liz, it was just met with an awful lot of care and not only that but luckily a lot of real kind of genuine empathy.
Liz has got two sons herself so she's been through, although she wasn't at Hive at the time, she has been through the kind of the maternity leave process and more importantly she's had children, she understands kind of the physical and emotional and intenseness that it is to have a child.
So I think the fact that I was able to talk really openly with her about it all from very, very early on was massively helpful to me. I think another thing that was really helpful was having very open conversations about what my maternity leave could look like and how I would like it to look whilst kind of staying quite flexible with it.
Liz was able to understand that what you might decide you want when you first get pregnant isn't necessarily then what you'll end up wanting when you've got a six-month old baby and therefore it's really important for you and the people employing you to be able to stay quite flexible with that and to keep really open communication throughout it all.
Tom: Yeah, how much do you think like structure sort of plays a part because in other companies I'm sure they have like quite solid like policies and like we'll help you in this way, this way, and this way.
Whereas at Hive, I think we have to be honest and just be like we don't really know. It's like...
Ellie: No, totally and I think yes in an ideal world all companies should have a pretty structured policy in place because you know some people will only take a job if they know that they've got a maternity or paternity policy in place that they're happy with.
Tom: Yeah, because also that might help that sort of initial conversation, is that you know at least right this is what's sort of in place, whereas at Hive we didn't really have anything as far as I know, so it's kind of like, it's understandable that you're going to feel a lot of uncertainty around how that conversation's going to go if there's no real information on it right.
Ellie: Yeah, and I mean the benefit that I had was that it wasn't my first pregnancy or first maternity leave, so I had a little more confidence than I would have had the first time around. I think if it had been my first one, I would have been quite anxious, not knowing the full process up front.
So yeah, I would say definitely it would be beneficial for everybody if that was in place to reduce some of that angst and worry.
Ellie: But I think more importantly than that is that it's all very well having a policy, but you need to communicate it and action it in the right way. And I think it's really helpful for a company to just kind of take that on board and make sure that they're giving the information across in a really easily digestible way to that person who is thinking about a lot of other things at that point.
Tom: Yeah, just making it easily accessible as well.
Ellie: Yeah, yeah and not just having kind of you know reams and reams of documentation that you go right here you go look through that and tell us that you're happy with everything. It's working through it together and explaining the really important bits about it.
So you know how long they might be able to have off, how long do you think that you might want to have, explaining the whole pay structure around it. Yeah, I think that's the key thing.
Tom: Yeah, yeah. So it's kind of like a combination of structure with that flexibility. Right?
Tom: Yeah. Makes sense.
Ellie: Yeah, yeah. I remember when I had my son and I remember getting pregnant and thinking, right, okay, I love work, I never want to not work and, you know, as soon as he's born I'm going to want to come back to work straight away. And then as soon as he was born I was like, I never want to leave him, I don't want anyone else to look after him, I never want to go back to work. So, yeah, it's important to understand that your mind can change depending on what's going on.
Tom: Yeah, and with this maternity leave that you've just returned from, did you have a set date that you were like going to return? Or was it a bit more flexible?
Ellie: I did have a set date but it was very much with the understanding that it could change if I needed it to. And I did feel a lot better this time around about coming back and I guess just the support that I'd received you know when I first told the company and then throughout it all I felt really confident that I was going to get the support that I needed to ease back into work at what can be a really difficult time you know taking your child to nursery or having someone else look after them at that point.
So yeah I did stick to the date that I was going to but I know that it would have been fine I'd have wanted to.
Tom: Yeah, definitely. And having come back, how have things been so far over the last few weeks and what do you think like a company could do to maybe support people coming back as well? Because as we were talking about earlier, that's like a massive thing is that you don't really know how it's gonna be once you return and it's sort of having that continual support, right?
Ellie: Yeah, yeah. So I think that for me, my first morning back, I set myself really stupidly, stupidly high expectations of what that morning would go like.
And in my head, it was like, "Okay, you know, we're all going to sit down as a family and have a lovely breakfast, going to get the kids ready on time, going to get them out the door, we're going to skip down the road to nursery, everyone's going to be super happy. I'll be sat at my desk by half eight with a cup of coffee and ready to go.".
And in reality, it was just as far from that as you can imagine. It was utter chaos. Both of the kids had to be like peeled off me at the nursery doors, screaming. I burst into tears as soon as I turned around. Didn't even have a shower before logging back on. Thank goodness for remote working.
And I had a meeting booked in with Liz, my manager, I think it was 11 o'clock that morning, to catch up, kind of back to work catch up. And the way that she framed the meeting was not "Right, okay, this is the work that I want you to dive into.". It was "How are you feeling? Are you all right? How was this morning?".
And I burst into tears and sobbed at her for about half an hour and talked it all through. And then felt great. It's like, right, actually, do you know what, I'm ready to start now. I feel really good. And I think if she hadn't framed it in that way, then we wouldn't have been able to have that really honest conversation about, "Yeah, I've struggled this morning. It's really hard. And I feel a little bit heartbroken." But I feel comfortable enough to tell you that because it's not a reflection of how I feel about work. It's just the situation, the balance, you know.
Tom: Sounds like it really helped having Liz there to support you, especially she's kind of been through you know having kids herself in the past right, so she's had that experience.
Do you think more managers should be sort of trained in dealing with like people coming back because say for like myself you know I've never had kids, I can't fathom how difficult that whole process must be for so many reasons, so you know if in the future I was to manage someone and they were coming back from maternity leave, do you think I should like probably have some like training or something to help them?
Ellie: Yeah, I don't know what that kind of training would look like. I think it's interesting.
I think the most important thing for people to try and be aware of and remember throughout is that, you know, anyone who has a significant amount of time away from work, you know, 9, 10, 11, 12 months off work, is bound to feel a little bit less confident than they would have done beforehand about coming back to work.
And they're gonna have a bit of a foggy brain. And then if you add on top of that the fact that it's not just the time away from work that you've had, but you've also created another life that you've not been used to before and you're trying to keep someone else going and keep them fed and keep them warm and keep them happy. It's a lot to think about. And it's a lot to distract you.
And baby brain, which is a term I find quite belittling because it makes it, it kind of diminishes it a little bit. It's a real thing. You've got a lot going on there.
But I just think if everyone kind of keeps that in mind and knows that with a bit of support and a bit of care and a bit of time, you come out of the other side and you work out how to manage both sides of your life.
And I think if you can do that, then you're nurturing some people whose talent might otherwise kind of be forgotten about.
Because they could lose themselves in that, not feeling confident and not having someone kind of help raise them up a little bit.
Tom: That makes sense, yeah. And do you think the tech industry as a whole support people enough really at this point or do you think there is a lot more that could be done?
Ellie: I've only got experience of it in the tech industry.
Ellie: But I can't imagine it being that different in other industries. I guess the only difference might be that I still think the tech industry is quite male heavy and I think it's changing very, very rapidly.
And that's not to say that men don't understand and you've got a lot of men who now have kind of shared paternity leave or they take the bulk of the paternity leave, but I think that there's still a big difference.
They're not giving birth for example. And there's no two ways around it. You know, you can never understand what that's like. Unfortunately, it'd be amazing if you could, but that's never gonna happen. So yeah, whether it's the tech industry or just any industry, I think that it is probably improving because I think people are just becoming a lot more aware about different experiences and that's what it is. It's just another kind of different lived experience that we have to be aware of and kind to.
Tom: Yeah, yeah, brilliant. So yeah, before we move on to the final question of the podcast, has there been anything that we've not covered yet so far?
Ellie: We had a conversation kind of ahead of the podcast and I know it was really important for us all to be really honest about anything that could have been done better at Hive and I can't really think of much.
One thing that I did think about which isn't a Hive specific thing, it's just kind of where we are in the world and the climate post-pandemic was that for me coming back after maternity leave and not coming into an office full of people, which I chose because home working works really well for me most of the time, but I think it meant that the return to work was a bit of an anti-climax.
Tom: Yeah I see that.
Ellie: Because, you know, it's really important to get away from your environment, especially at the moment as my environment is covered in kids stuff everywhere and you know piles of washing that are waiting to get done. And I think in hindsight, if I were to do it again, I would probably have got in touch with my team ahead of time and just said, "Look, if you want, like, come into the office for my first day back.". And it might have made it just a bit more of an event.
Tom: Yeah. Do you feel like you didn't really have that great of a separation from going on maternity leave to returning because you were still at home?
Ellie: Yeah, yeah, partly that and you know it didn't help that I came back just ahead of the Easter Bank holidays as well. So it was like a few days here, a few days there but yeah I think like you say the separation when you're starting back can be a really positive thing to have to help you back in.
Tom: Yeah, to help you feel sort of really integrated again.
Ellie: Yeah, yeah, just you know being able to sit and have a coffee with someone and have a chat about work things or not work things. But to be in the environment and have those adult interactions. Yeah can be really helpful.
Tom: Yeah. It makes me think, would you have any tips for people going on maternity leave? Like that might be one, but is there anything else that comes to mind?
Ellie: Actually, yeah, I did something this time that I didn't when I was pregnant with Finn, which was I used these things called Keeping In Touch days, kit days, which are, you can have up to 10 of them during your maternity leave and they're actually paid, you know, you get paid to do a day at work.
It doesn't have to be a full day, it could be half, it could be a few hours here and there, but it's a chance for you to, when you feel ready, start easing yourself back in or just make sure that you're still in the loop with things going on.
And again, that was communicated in a really good way at the start of my pregnancy when I told work. It was very much a, you have got these available to you if you want to use them and we'll support you with them and we'll help you organise, but don't feel pressured to take them. But I found them really, really beneficial.
Tom: In what way were they beneficial?
Ellie: I think it was partly being able to kind of keep in the loop of projects going on and, you know, I'm nosy, I want to know what's going on with the project that I've handed over to someone, but partly just being able to have a bit of interaction with the team and keep a little bit of my work brain switched on and feel like I'm still in the loop.
Tom: Yeah, did it help you feel more prepared when you were overturning?
Ellie: Yeah, it did, definitely. And financially it's really helpful as well.
Tom: Yeah, sure.
Ellie; Because at that point, for most people, you are on statutory maternity pay, which, you know, is tough. And so having a little bit of a cash injection at that point is really helpful.
Tom: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. That's a great tip. Okay, and the final question is what can people do to make things better? And you can interpret this however you like.
Ellie: I think I've probably covered it in, you know, kind of different ways of expressing it, but I think for everyone to keep in mind that going on maternity leave and having a baby and starting a family shouldn't and doesn't need to be a setback in your career.
And I think that if everyone kind of works together and supports each other in the right way and communicates about it, then it doesn't need to feel like a big scary, scary setback, you know.
Ellie: And that you can work together to kind of ease your way back in and you can, you can have both.
Tom: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I love that. Okay, so where can people find you? Are you on LinkedIn or anything like that?
Ellie: I am on LinkedIn, Ellie Mosley on LinkedIn.
Tom: Okay, brilliant. Yeah, so thank you so much for watching or listening or reading today's podcast and I hope you have an amazing rest of your day!
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