We’ve all been pitched or at least heard of startup companies’ “perks.” Some of them include open vacation policies, unlimited sick leave, working the hours that are best for you (“as long as you get the work done, we don’t care”), and so many more. Many candidates leave the interview process feeling excited and motivated about these “perks,” but do they actually come to fruition once they land the job?
For some, yes. For others, I’m afraid no. Many companies are eager to pitch these perks, but the reality is often the complete opposite. Some employees find themselves working more hours than before, taking little to no vacation time, eating all meals in the office (because you know they are free), and working non-traditional hours to meet the demands of a hyper-growth startup.
It was the Fall of 2020 when I was first introduced to DeVaris Brown, CEO of Meroxa, as they were looking for a Head of People. I had just welcomed my first baby into the world in July and to be honest, was not eager or excited to go back to work just yet. I had just endured a covid pregnancy and just helped a company get acquired, an event that was a 24/7 job for three months straight. I was truly a little burnt out and thought maybe it was time I took a break from my professional career and spend my time at home raising my baby girl.
I preach to those I mentor the power of networking and how you should “always take the call” as you never know how that person could impact your life now or in the future. So, I took the call. My first conversation with DeVaris was casual, informative, and really was time used to get to know one another and really understand what he was looking for. I felt our conversation was genuine. I thought he was an easy guy to talk to and thought to myself, “you know, he is probably someone I could work with.” Still, though, even after having that initial positive experience, I left not really caring about the next steps or if he would ask me to proceed to the next rounds. (A very uncharacteristic behavior for me to feel, hello new mom emotions!) A few days later he reached out to me and asked me to conduct a panel interview with other Meroxa employees, I agreed to the call and we set it up.
My panel interview with the team went exceptionally well. They asked me questions I had never been asked before, they too were genuine, and I left the conversation excited. I then had a follow-up with DeVaris to really dig into the job itself and understand exactly what he needed out of this position. Note, at the time of my interviews, Meroxa only had about 12 employees. DeVaris also disclosed to me he was hiring a Head of Operations.
I allowed for a few days of self-reflection before asking DeVaris for an additional conversation. During those days of self-reflection, I came to the realization that I just wasn’t ready to jump back into a full-time position. I really wanted to focus on being the best Mom to my daughter.
Ultimately, I decided that during my next conversation with DeVaris, I would tell him he didn’t need a full-time Head of People just yet. My plan was to convince him to just hire me as a consultant and I could work as needed and as my busy life as a new Mom allowed. I knew I wanted to stay connected to this company as I believed in the founders, the product, and their vision. In my mind, a consultant was the perfect way to do that.
On my call with DeVaris, I did just that. I gave him my whole story (as described above), I told him I was not ready to commit to a full working day (and hours that come with that) and be away from my daughter at this time. He politely pushed back and asked why I couldn’t do both? He described to me that he wasn’t looking to demand a 14-hour work day from me, he wasn’t going to be bugging me at 2 AM on a “fire drill” that couldn’t wait, and he wasn’t looking to micromanage how I got my work done. Ultimately, he made it very clear that he respected my first job, being a mother, as the most important job I have.
Fast forward a few days later, I found myself accepting a job as the Head of People for Meroxa. Before signing, I was very clear that I wanted to be there when my daughter woke up each morning to feed her breakfast. I wanted to make her dinner at night, sit down with her at dinner, and most importantly tuck her in. This was all not only welcomed with open hands but encouraged. I felt comfortable accepting this offer because of the honest, open, and transparent conversation I was able to have DeVaris. I’ve firsthand seen and heard of so many moms wishing for this type of work-life relationship but never had the courage to speak to their manager about it and ultimately never saw it come to fruition. I am grateful to Meroxa and DeVaris for creating a culture where I feel comfortable expressing my needs and most importantly actually honoring those needs.
So in the spirit of full transparency because that is what we at Meroxa are all about, let’s talk about what a day in the life of Jane as a working Mom looks like. I have established clear, set, “working hours’’ in my calendar visible to everyone in the company. These working hours are from 10 AM-3 PM. What this means is that between 10 AM-3 PM, I have my most important meetings with my team and the rest of the company. It’s when I can guarantee a face-to-face Google Meet without a baby crying in the background or any other major type of distraction. I complete my other work which I categorize as “admin work” between the hours of 6 AM-8 AM before my daughter wakes up and again from 8:00 PM-10:00 PM after I put my daughter down for the night. Does this work for me? Yes. Does it work for every Mom? Maybe not. Most importantly, these hours are respected by my team and the entire Meroxa community. I feel fortunate every day to work for a company that REALLY means “family first.”