Kids, pandemic & career, the ultimate balancing act
What is your name and role at NOTHS?
My Name is Gareth Chapman and I am a Principal Engineer here at NOTHS.
What was your family situation when you joined NOTHS?
In 2014 we had three kids under the age of three and so I took a bit of time off so we could look after the kids together. When I returned to work I wasn’t consciously looking for somewhere flexible, but now I realise just how good NOTHS has been in that respect. It didn’t just enable me to get through those early years, it enabled me to really enjoy them.
How have NOTHS helped you manage home life?
My other half manages the house and kids full time, so having flexibility to help massively reduces the stress on all of us. Even before the pandemic I was able to work one day per week from home and have flexibility for more if required. On my work from home day I would get to spend more time with the kids and do the school drop off. Also there have been emergency situations where I’ve been in the office and literally had to drop everything. The worst of which was a trip to A&E, but no questions were asked, everyone just understands and accepts that when you have to leave you have to leave. The message isn’t that NOTHS is fine with me taking an afternoon off, it’s that NOTHS is flexible, and this obviously works both ways. So I’ll take the time off and then I’ll put in a couple of extra hours a day later in the week to make it up.
Which NOTHS benefits have been particularly positive for you and your family?
The flexibility for training has really helped me. A lot of people’s training and self-improvement comes outside of work hours. 10 years ago I was up all night tinkering, programming, and compiling stuff. I used to love it. I still do love it, but I just don’t have time to do it. When work ends there are kids to bathe and stories to read. However at NOTHS we are given half a day per week dedicated to training. I didn’t think of it as a family friendly benefit at the time, but now I really do. It works for me because it is a time when I can step back from the weeds of the day to day and look at the long term.
Also If you look at our team structure, we don’t only have ownership for our own code base, we own the entire journey, so continuous integration, the pipeline and the infrastructure in AWS. When the decision was first made to run the teams in this way, NOTHS didn’t just expect us to magically up-skill in our own time, they set aside time for us to learn. Whereas in a lot of other companies there would be an expectation for people to up-skill in their own time. Of course it’s fine for some people, it’s just priorities that don’t allow it for me, and so it’s nice to have the recognition that your improvement is part of your career progression.
Finally, during the pandemic, NOTHS has been really flexible and understanding of employees’ needs. I was allowed to be flexible with my hours which allowed me to help with the home schooling. On top of that, all employees have been given three hours a week to give something back to the community or help with the family — this has been really invaluable. We’ve also been given a couple of “mental health days” where the whole company takes the day off!