By Roberta Hague
Can we “have it all” in terms work and family? The answer to that question has changed throughout life as I’ve reconsidered what “all” means for me. Generally, it has been about living passionately, having fun, aspiring to more, and feeling satisfied at the end of each day that it was another good day.
What has been consistently clear is that life doesn’t unfold as planned — that we all hit the occasional bump and have opportunities to take an interesting turn. How we move forward in those moments is a big part of what shapes our definition of “all.” A few things have shaped mine. Here are some highlights from those moments.
Define your “all,” and then be flexible.
My current position is senior vice-president of Communications and Public Affairs, at OMERS, the defined benefit pension plan which invests and administers pensions for almost 500,000 members from municipalities, school boards, emergency services and local agencies across Ontario. I love this role and feel a deep sense of commitment to the members of this plan. But being here, in this role, was not part of a long-term career plan.
As a kid I was sure I wanted to be a lawyer. An understandable goal, for an 11-year-old who admired her father. But that goal changed. At university, I was exposed to so many interesting people and compelling ideas that I shifted my aspirations toward business.
An ancient Roman philosopher described luck as what happens when preparation meets opportunity, and I feel like I have been very lucky! While I had a clear plan at a young age, I was prepared for opportunities that shaped a very different outcome.
Throughout my career I have always had a plan, yet tried to be open-minded. An active curiosity has led me to live abroad, to take on a variety of roles, to take uncomfortable risks, to even co-author a book, and to always look forward to what’s possible. “Having it all” has been about being prepared for the opportunities.
Understand the resources you’ll need — including both financial resources and champions.
Early in my career, I saw first-hand that even the most well-established business can fail. And I learned that you need to manage your personal finances thoughtfully — have the resources lined up so that when the unexpected strikes, you can take the time you need to find the right next role.
“Having it all” has been about being prepared for the opportunities.
I also learned the value of having champions. Every great opportunity for me has come through someone who knows me. Champions can come from across a spectrum of our networks. These are the people who have seen how we perform in good, and not so good times. They have confidence in us. We often think they have to be senior, but they can be our peers or people who have been on our teams. Ultimately, they are someone who knows you and who is willing to vouch for you and sometimes even create opportunities for you.
Be bold — know yourself and overcome your fears.
Some of the bumps we hit are bigger than others. When I was 30, I awoke one December morning with an indescribable headache. It turns out a vein in my head had burst, and it wasn’t clear that everything was going to be ok.
Days passed in the hospital, mostly in a blur. Then, early on the morning of December 25, a Santa-suited neurologist doing rounds whispered in my ear that my prognosis for a full recovery was the miracle of that holiday season.
In spite of this good news, it was hard to be bold. It took a while to get back to being myself, but first I had to get past my fears. My confidence had hit a low point and I was anxious that people might see me differently. As it turns out, they did, but in a good way. They viewed my recovery as a reflection of strength and resilience.
The lesson here was about having capacity to reach deep inside myself to find strength. To never let self-doubt chip away at my spirit. I’ve had to relearn this lesson a few times over the years, but always know that I can!
At this point, “having it all” is a balance of being reflective about the past and looking ahead at what’s possible with clear focus, determination and resilience. It is enjoying a life that’s still in progress, with a sense of purpose, terrific colleagues, deep friendships and a great family — every day.
We’ve partnered with Ricoh in engaging our community in important discussions about the advancement of women, focusing on “having it all.” How you define it, what factors enable you to achieve it, and how you have worked differently to meet your goals. Ricoh is a global technology company specializing in office imaging equipment, production print solutions, document management systems and IT services.