Leadership Lessons from Lenovo’s Working Mother of the Year

By Laura Laltrello, Vice President, Datacenter Group Services at Lenovo

I am thrilled to have Lenovo recognized in the Top 100 Best companies for Working Mothers. I am also honored to represent all of the working parents of Lenovo. I have seen my peers work miracles to manage through disasters at work while handling tragedies at home. Every day we face tough choices on what and how to prioritize our lives for the optimal, though not always ideal, outcome. I am humbled to be representing all that each of us has juggled to achieve balance. 

Balancing career and family requires a strong support system both at home and at work.   Lenovo is one piece of that support system for me.  This company has always valued outcome not hours; performance not presence.  They have committed to policies and an environment that makes it possible for a parent to have the time needed with a newborn then return to work focused.  I am proud to represent the company and all of the working parents, as Lenovo makes the “2017 Working Mother 100 Best Company.” list. In light of our placement within the list, I sat down to reflect on my role as a leader within our organization and a mother to my six-year-old daughter, and provide advice to anyone aspiring to be, or is already a working parent, or perhaps wants to support our amazing talent.

I’m delighted to share my interview on what works best for me as I strive for work/life balance here at Lenovo and at home with my family:

Q: How does it feel to represent Lenovo, who has been named a “2017 Working Mother 100 Best Company?”

A: First, I’m honored that Lenovo has been named a “2017 Working Mother 100 Best Company.” We have put policies and practices in place to create a really good work/life balance for working mothers.

I’m humbled that they’ve chosen me to represent our working mothers. I have a very high-demand job as well as a very high-demand six-year-old daughter. I have witnessed many other parents in Lenovo who have balanced much more. I hope I can represent their dedication and sacrifice as well. Being able to balance my responsibilities and represent all the other women and men that do the same or more is quite the honor.

Q: Can you expand on how Lenovo’s policies allow you to have such a robust work/life balance?

A: The great thing about Lenovo is that it is truly a global company. I’ve worked for “international” companies before that were not truly global. At Lenovo we are fortunate enough to be able to work with people 24/7. I’m working with people in Asia at night and early in the morning. I’m also working with people in the eastern and Pacific Time zones in the middle of the day. All of this allows me to work while my daughter is sleeping or at school, and when she is awake and has free time I am able take the time to be with her. I’m very fortunate to be part of a global company.

Tell us more about your daughter.

Vinca is a precocious six year old who is sweet, kind and funny. She has just started first grade. I spend every minute of my free time with both Vinca and my husband, Joe. Sometimes, when I travel for work, I incorporate her into that travel so she can be exposed to the world at an early age. Because of Lenovo, she has already traveled to multiple countries and been exposed to different cultures.

  

Q. How are you able to accomplish everything you have to do in your personal life, while also balancing a career?

A: With help from my husband! If I didn’t have him, I could not do everything I do. He is fantastic about making sure that if I cannot get something done, he is able to get it done and vice versa. We highly depend on each other so that we can both have full time jobs and raise our daughter.

Q: How do you support your fellow working mothers, your colleagues and your team?

A: When I first came back from maternity leave I started a group called Mentoring Other Mothers. It is mostly made up of women who have young children or are pregnant and about to have children. After becoming a mother myself, one of the things I noticed is that people do not always take the time to think about decisions they are making regarding having a career and a baby at the same time. I wanted to help them think through it, so that is how this group came to be.

We get together as a group and provide each other with support and coping skills, and answer questions like, “What do you do to get this done?” and “How do you find a nanny? Is a nanny or daycare better? Which one is optimal?” It helps all of us work as a community so we learn from each other and be the best mothers and employees that we can be.

Q: What advice would you give to new working moms? What tips, lifehacks, shortcuts, etc. would you give?

A: Prioritize, keep your commitments and be in one place at one time. For example, when I am with my daughter, I’m with my daughter. When I’m at work, I’m at work. I try not to mix the two so neither of them feels I am valuing the one over the other, and it tends to keep everyone calm and happy.

Make decisions on what you want for maternity leave, returning to work, hours worked, etc…There are policies in place, but these are policies.  They are your decisions.  If you have the ability to choose, think about the decision then do what’s right for you, your family and your career. 

Q: What advice would you give to people like you who were simultaneously starting a family and moving up in their career? How can they do both?

A: Drop other things that aren’t as important. For example, there are three things that are really important to me: my family, my career and my fitness. If I do not have those three, I am lost. I love my friends, but right now they are squeezed into my schedule only when possible. Date nights? Those ended years ago. There are things my family sacrificed when we said, “we are just not going to spend the time doing those things right now” in order to prioritize those precious 18 years I will spend with my daughter before she goes to college. Figure out what is important for you and make the time to do those things. Everything else can wait.  Others may have different priorities but it’s important to know what yours are and prioritize.

Q: What was the professional side of your life like after having a child? How is it different than before?

A: I’ve had several people tell me that when I came back after having my daughter that I was a better leader than I was before because I was more patient, more relaxed and I helped them more. I think there are a lot of life lessons from having a child and being a parent that you can apply to work that can help you grow as a person. Find a way to embrace those life lessons and use them in your career so that you are being a better person and leader than you were before.

Q: Anything else that is important that you would like to mention?

A: I think that for everything we do, the decisions are tough. It’s tough whether you should have a career and be a mom, or if you should choose one over the other. Spend time, think about it and ask other people what their decisions were and how they accomplished it. Learn from their successes and mistakes. Then reflect on your own circumstance, ensure you have the right support group to be successful – regardless of what you choose – and you will choose more wisely.  

Thank you for taking the time to read.  I would love to hear your feedback and input. 

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