Lessons I’ve Learned from Parents at HubSpot

Alison Elworthy
Nov 28, 2018 · 6 min read

I started my career at HubSpot in 2010 as an intern. I wasn’t sure where to go after finishing my MBA at Tuck, but knew I was driven to keep learning. I did just that at HubSpot as I moved my way left, right, up and down throughout the organization.

A few years later, I got married. Despite planning a wedding, my career ambition never faltered. Then in 2014, I got pregnant with our first child. And I remember my first reaction wasn’t just the excitement or panic that all new parents feel. It was also a small feeling of guilt. For a brief moment, I felt guilty for putting my personal life first, and work second.

I waited as long as possible to tell people at work until I couldn’t hide my bump with oversized sweaters claiming it was “fashionable” anymore. Once I did share the news with my boss and team, I was met with overwhelming support. I even rang the NYSE bell when we went public at six-months pregnant. When I got pregnant with my second, I told my boss the minute we got the clear from my doctor and celebrated my growing family up until my maternity leave.

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So what changed? It was a combination of societal views of working parents, my own confidence in balancing work and life, and the growing community of parents at HubSpot.

While it’s no secret that parenting is hard, the feelings of isolation and guilt can sometimes creep up on you. What I’ve had to actively tell myself since becoming a parent four years ago, is that there is at least one person who has gone through what I’m experiencing. Having a supportive network who not only understands, but has been through similar challenges and experiences, can make a world of difference.

Luckily for me, I have access to a community of over 200 current and future parents at work who are just a Slack, email or a couple feet away. They’re the parents I work with everyday and they’re a part of ParentSpot, HubSpot’s employee resource group. It’s a shared space for all things parenting while working at HubSpot — from resources about our benefits, programming like Bring Your Kid to Work Day (it actually went much smoother than one would expect), to perks encouraging parents to spend time with their families like museum or zoo passes. There’s an active Slack channel where we share everything from how to vacation with toddlers to group discussions on easing back into work after parental leave.

What I love most about these conversations is that they aren’t just limited to parents, but they welcome anyone considering starting a family to ask questions, something that historically has been difficult to voice at work.

As the co-executive sponsor of ParentSpot, my role is to communicate the challenges, concerns and ideas to the leadership team and push for action that continues to make HubSpot an inclusive community for all types of working parents.

And in return, the community of ParentSpot has helped me learn how to parent better. Here are just a few things I’ve learned throughout this wild and crazy journey called parenting from my fellow HubSpotters:

Sometimes a Sanity Check is All You Need

Loe Lee, a Product Design Lead at HubSpot, recently posted in our #parents Slack channel “I had my first two hour screaming flight alone with my one year old and I have a whole new found respect for all of you. You’re all amazing. Keep on keepin’ on.” Not only did we immediately feel for Loe, but coworkers quickly jumped in to share words of encouragement, and tell their own tales of crying toddlers.

We can’t always solve each others’ parenting woes, but we can offer a sanity check. They’re a small reminder that you are doing the best you can, and that you are not alone. Sometimes all you need to hear is “I’ve been there before, here’s what I tried.” Having that level of support at work is rare. We need to be able to connect in a human-to-human way, and to not feel silly about asking questions or feeling overwhelmed.

No One Has Any Idea What They’re Doing

There’s no right or wrong way to balance family and work. There’s no secret sauce that will ensure success in your career and as a parent. Rather, it takes constant trial and error.

I vividly remember when Christopher ODonnell, our SVP of Product, became a parent. Like any great project manager, he spent several months testing out a variety of flexible work schedules, dissecting the pros and cons of each at the end. He found that leaving at 3PM to pick up the kids from school actually caused more harm than good as he ended up being glued to his Slack and email late at night. The sweet spot for him and his family was to leave work later, but be strict about completely disconnecting so that he was fully present while with his children.

There’s something to be said about having a community that you trust to share what has worked and what hasn’t. Learning from parents with kids the same age as yours, or those who can provide a glimpse into the future, is like having a parenting playbook everyone dreams for, making it that much less daunting.

Let’s Talk About Failure

At HubSpot, our company culture is built on transparency. These core values are demonstrated throughout the organization — from benefits that lead with flexibility to sharing almost everything with all employees. Part of being a part of a transparent culture is not only welcoming failure, but encouraging it. And that theme stays true within ParentSpot.

It can be intimidating to admit times when you’ve failed as a parent. Whether that’s missing your son’s soccer game due to traffic, or feeling as if no matter what you cook your kids for dinner they won’t eat it. ParentSpot has encouraged me to be vulnerable, to ask for help when I need it, and to talk openly about the challenges of being a working parent. Being this open and transparent has not only helped me be a better parent and learn from my mistakes, but has been a catalyst for building relationships with my colleagues that are truly invaluable.

Parenting Should Be on Your Resume

By the time I was pregnant with my second child, working parents at HubSpot had grown into a strong, supportive community that I could lean on. I was able to celebrate my pregnancy, lean into our culture of flexibility to attend doctors appointments and wasn’t ashamed for taking full advantage of HubSpot’s 16- weeks of parental leave.

ParentSpot has helped me learn that being a parent is an important part of my resume. I’ve learned that successful companies and leaders recognize accomplishments in one’s personal and professional life, providing resources and opportunities for employees to continue their successes — from tuition reimbursement for continued learning to family planning benefits and backup care programs.

HubSpot’s culture of flexibility empowers me to be a mom and a VP, without having to compromise one for the other. We’ve worked hard to build a supportive community where raising children is celebrated. In fact, our founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah both spoke about their children in their keynote talks at INBOUND this year.

So thanks to the parents of HubSpot, I’ve learned to be a better parent, that failures will happen, and that together, we can succeed in having a career and raising remarkable children.

Want to learn more about working at HubSpot? Follow #hubspotlife on Instagram and Facebook.

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