It’s easy to see why our Director of Product & Marketing, Layla Marshall’s talents have been recognised, despite a record number of entries for this year’s Outstanding Returner Award.
Aligning work life and family life is a perpetual challenge for everyone, regardless of gender. But in the continuously and rapidly evolving tech industry, making the choice to start or expand a family can have massive career implications - and getting back into the fast lane can feel daunting without the full backing of your employer.
Against the backdrop of a pandemic with virtually no active external post-natal support services, 2020 was a tough year to return to work. As many women faced a unique set of unforeseen challenges, Layla had to design a route back into her leadership role in a period where the world was on lockdown and juggling home working and childcare had created an even greater balancing act.
Ascent supported Layla’s personal drive and commitment when she needed it most, giving her the freedom, trust and empathy to plan and execute a custom working schedule that balanced the business’ priorities with the real-world complexities of looking after 2 under threes.
Layla’s strategy was built on 4 principles:
There are 7 days in a week, not 5 - therefore 21 ‘sessions’ to work with (morning, afternoon, evening)
A ramp-up period of 3 months would be necessary to re-acclimatise to a full working week
The right expectations would need to be formally set with both Layla’s and her husband’s employers, focussing on pragmatism
Good communication would be critical: key stakeholders and collaborators would have to be well-briefed to help them understand and respect new working patterns (and the inevitability of short-notice change).
From Ascent CEO Stewart Smythe’s perspective, in addition to the support that Ascent would naturally extend to any employee, the flexibility ‘give’ more than lived up to the productivity ‘get’:
“It worked really well – Layla’s focus was clear and she was highly visible in her stated timeslots - never once dropping her quality bar or missing a deadline (not always easy as customers and children have a habit of throwing curve balls). The role of the business was to prioritise successfully and avoid any ‘scope creep’ that could disrupt the collective routine.”
She’s achieved an astonishing amount since her return: being recognised in The Software Report’s Top 25 Women Leaders in Software of Europe 2021, shaping Ascent’s digital transformation proposition, leading a cross-functional organisational change programme and bringing on a talented, customer-focussed Marketing team. Her energy and determination to succeed - despite the challenges - have been innovative and commendable during a testing time and are certainly award-worthy in our view…!
We can’t wait for the awards dinner on 24th November where we will be congratulating Layla on her achievements alongside colleague Sara Hamilton, Mango’s Deputy Director of Product & Managed Services, who has also been shortlisted for the Transformation Leader: Tech category.