From Building Businesses to Building a Family: My Parental Leave Experience at BCGDV

In celebration of World Parents Day, David Viljoen, Partner & Director at BCG Digital Ventures Sydney, shares an inside look at his parental leave experience

By David Viljoen, Partner & Director Venture Architect at BCG Digital Ventures, Sydney

Following four months of paid parental leave, David Viljoen, Partner & Director Venture Architect at BCG Digital Ventures (BCGDV), Sydney, authored a personal piece to provide a first-hand account of the paid parental leave benefits he was able to utilize as a full-time Venture Architect and first-time Dad.

David has more than 10 years of experience working as a start-up founder, strategy consultant, angel investor, and venture architect across Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and South East Asia. He has a deep passion for how new technology unlocks new business models and has built seven businesses during his 6.5 years with BCGDV. However, David candidly admits that nothing prepared him for the biggest venture of them all — fatherhood! In this personal essay, David shares his unique insight into what 16 weeks of paid parental leave allowed him to experience with his family — including the opportunity for him and his wife, Meg, to take Theo back home to South Africa to meet the rest of his family and create an unbreakable bond. Read on for David’s experience, in his own words.

It’s safe to say that BCGDV is a truly unique place to work. We partner with the world’s leading organizations to build new businesses that drive impact for our clients and society. During my time with the company I’ve built seven businesses, but today I am excited to share my experience with how BCGDV supported me outside of work to focus on building my family. I’m happy to share that it’s been a few months back on the ground at BCGDV since my paid parental leave, the highlight of which included showing off our new son Theo to his South African family.

I’m proud to work at a place that not only offers 16 weeks paid parental leave with no strings attached, but also one where taking parental leave is encouraged — and even celebrated — across all levels of the business. It’s a company where launching a human is viewed as the most important venture of them all.

With four months of dedicated family time ahead of us, we had grand ideas of camper vanning in New Zealand or Patagonia, but unfortunately, as has been the pattern recently, COVID-19 got the better of us and it ended up being a mad scramble (and a number of flight changes) to get back to South Africa just as Omicron was spreading across the world.

My wife and I both grew up in South Africa and in many ways, it is still home. They say Africa is not a place — it’s a feeling. This is an apt description for somewhere that ignites the senses for its natural wonder, diverse culture, and pristine wildlife. We couldn’t imagine a better place or time to introduce Theo to the place we call “home.”

We started our trip with a full month of isolation in a village of 100 houses 200km up the east coast from Cape Town, a place I’ve been visiting since I was Theo’s age. The days were punctuated by swims in the ocean and fires (braai’s) at night where we cooked what we had caught and scavenged from the ocean that day — fish, mussels, oysters and alikreukel (a limpet of sorts).

After a month on the coast, we headed inland on safari. The raw energy of the African wilderness is hard to describe — a delicate balance between harshness and beauty that manifests in an endless dance of survival for animals big and small. One highlight included tracking a male lion at night and turning off the vehicle’s engine, three meters away in the pitch black of night to feel the power of his territorial roar.

The rest of our time involved road tripping to Durban where Theo met his maternal grandparents, and we were able to settle into everyday rhythms that would be unachievable on shorter breaks.

We have emerged on the other side of our trip as a tight family unit with stronger ties to our family and heritage which are such a massive part of our identity. It’s not clear when we will be able to plan something similar with life even more busy than before, but I’m hugely grateful for the opportunity and support I received from BCGDV to truly unplug from work and savor the start of our journey as parents to Theo.

Having worked at BCGDV for the better part of 6.5 years, the team I work alongside are all naturally in differing life stages, but for me, it was important for everyone at BCGDV to know that if they choose or want to start a family, BCGDV Sydney is the type of workplace that wholly encourages and supports you on this wild ride into parenthood.

The support from colleagues during my return to the office, and the flexibility offered to me with our current hybrid work policy, allows me to catch some precious extra time with Theo. And while it’s been great to get back into the office and immerse myself in the camaraderie of the venture building teams, it’s also reassuring to know that there are days where I will also be able to participate in both breakfast and bath time and not miss out on all those in-between and extra-special moments with Theo.

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BCG Digital Ventures, part of BCG X, builds and scales innovative businesses with the world’s most influential companies.