Her, Work: Be Bold Enough to Name What You Need

10 Minute Read

Jacqueline Hee | Talent Acquisition Leader @Rivian | Connector of Possibilities | Thriving Mom Advocate | Keeping the World Adventurous Forever

Tell us a little bit about who you are, your career journey so far, what your family is like, and what you're passionate about.

My name is Jacqueline. I am a working mom and wife, and I have four little kids ranging from the ages of 11 down to three. I've been in talent acquisition for just over 15 years. I've worked in a variety of industries, from healthcare to retail, specialty retail,  consulting,  and then currently in an electric vehicle automotive manufacturer. 

What made you want to go into talent acquisition?

I had an early job experience recruiting volunteers for a big event. I enjoyed interviewing people, finding out what lights them up, and matching them to roles. A leader mentioned I could be a recruiter full-time. And I was blown away by that. I had no idea. I'd never heard of that as a function in college. So, I relocated from the Midwest and took my first job as a recruiter in a tech agency in San Diego.

How far were you into your career journey when you had your first child?

About six years in. I'd worked for a few companies by then. I met my husband, and we quickly decided to start a family. I was about a year and a half into my position when I got pregnant. Looking back, it was a really supportive environment. The majority of people on the team that I worked for at the time were parents, including my direct leader. 

You've done this four times now at various companies. Did you have different types of leave and types of support?

Yeah, I think they were all so uniquely different. I worked at a different company for each one of my children, which is kind of funny. But I will also share that in 2019, I experienced two miscarriages, and that was significant for me. No one talked about that, and I felt very much alone while trying to figure out how to physically and emotionally work through those losses. No one really knew how to support me in that in terms of my professional environment. I had great supportive friends and family, but I didn't know how to advocate for myself or ask for support in that way. 

Since then, I’ve seen so many great companies coming out with policies to support miscarriages and allow for extended time off and leave during that life event. But I think that's been a silent thing that people are uncomfortable talking about.

And it really rocked my world both times. It was such a surprise. Not only was it a very physically painful process, but emotionally as well. And I felt like I had to just keep pushing through, or I had to just keep going. We're getting better, but I wish that at that point in time, I had someone give me permission to rest. So that's something I'm really passionate about, just in terms of journeys that people go through to have babies, whether that's IVF or surrogacy or adoption. There are so many ways that physical and emotional journey can be really intense and make it very difficult to show up as your full self at work.

Thank you for sharing that. It’s so hard.

But going back to your question about what my experience was like, I did work for a pretty traditional large corporate company for my first child. So that was a really smooth process. I took almost six months off. It was a combination of leave and their disability, as well as some vacation time, that I built up. It was honestly really lovely, and I felt very supported in that environment.

When I had my second child, I actually elected to leave that company because I was experiencing some challenges earlier on in the pregnancy, and I just needed a break from stress. It was like my body was completely overwhelmed and showing signs of concern and at-risk pregnancy, so I decided to leave. Then I found a part-time opportunity through a friend that was way less stressful.

 I didn't even know that something like that could exist. I just thought that I would take the rest of the time off. But then, this part-time opportunity fell into my lap. 

It was such a gift because it allowed me to continue to contribute to the family financially. It also sparked my curiosity. I could show up in this way and still contribute and feel like I was using my gifts and talents. I was energized by doing that.

It set the stage for the next four years of my career. So after my second child, I thought I'd take more time off. But then, someone approached me with a role in talent acquisition. I said, hey, I'm flattered, but at this point in time I'm still pretty early in my leave, and I don't have plans to return for probably six months or so. That was my hope. And she was great. She said, well, what could you give until then? I realistically shared a schedule or a timeframe that I could work from home and proposed that to her. She said yes. Then I was like, oh wait, she actually said yes for me to, you know, work in this part-time capacity for a massive, huge healthcare company at the time.

I had proposed pretty high contract hourly rates. It started to give me the confidence that I had a skill set to offer that's really valuable. 

So I say that to people as encouragement now. Say, hey, this is what I can offer. You never know what might work out.

From your perspective, if someone is looking for a role and they are thinking about family planning or even maybe being pregnant at the time, how do they approach that?

Yeah, it's tricky. I think more established, larger companies have existing policies in place. think it's great to be really forthcoming about that information and just be honest.

But I know that's hard when you’re in that position. If you’re wondering when to disclose it, how to disclose it, or how to find the information you need, you’re not alone. Ideally, that's a conversation you could have initially with that recruiter within talent acquisition. The recruiter's role is to be that middle person advocating for you as the candidate but also ensuring that there's a really good match.

They're able to give you the information that you need to make the best decision. Because you're interviewing the company. Take back that power to determine if it’s going to be a good fit for you. That’s equally important. 

But it's tricky. It is really tricky, especially for smaller organizations where they might hear that information and think, well, okay, gosh, now we're going to have a gap, whether it's six months, three, whatever time frame from now, however long they’re out, they see it as a risk. That's real. It's unfortunate, but it is real. 

At what point in the conversation is it most appropriate to ask about benefits or policies around parental leave, or whatever benefits are really important to you?

I would ask as soon as possible. And I think anyone should be able to ask that question. Ask if they can send the benefits package for your review. Iit really should be a selling point, too, for the company to share. Hopefully, those are really thoughtful and well-documented policies or benefits. There are so many factors that contribute to overall compensation, and benefits are a part of that package. 

Are you noticing any trends with companies regarding better benefits for parents, or are there conversations happening in the talent acquisition world about what the new norm should be?

Yes. Especially in the tech world there's been good competition around this. In order to attract and retain female talent, and overall the population of parents—it doesn't have to be gender specific—your offerings have to be getting better. Everybody's trying to compete for that top talent and one way a company can differentiate themselves is to offer something unique. 

Do you think expectations from candidates have increased? Are they more thoughtful about benefits offerings? 

Yeah, yeah, totally. We, as a company at Rivian, are at this intersection of tech and automotive and manufacturing, and even sustainability. So we have these pockets of talent from all different places and backgrounds and I would say typically the talent from the tech companies have a different expectation around what we offer. And it's good to expect that and to demand that. I think there's more surprise and delight from others that don't come from another tech company. 

I love that. I still live in the Midwest, and here people still just get six weeks for the most part, and typically unpaid. I think, especially in tech, we live in our own little world sometimes where we think what we do is normal. It's not.

No, it's not. And as a mom at the six-week mark, I wasn't even fully functioning. You're still in the trenches of figuring it all out and adjusting to this new baby and what their personality is like and what they need and all of the dynamics happening in your family. So although six weeks is that standard expectation, at least from state and federal disability leave, I don't feel like it's enough. I feel like it's way too fast.

I would say it's abysmal. It's awful. Okay, switching gears a bit, do you have career advice or advice in general for new moms navigating all of this for the first time?

Just know that you are not alone. It can feel like everybody else has it together, and you need to get up to that speed immediately. But it takes a village and we are meant to do life that way—together. We're not meant to be alone in our bedrooms 24-7 without any contact.

I'm very passionate about encouraging other new moms, and new parents along the way. Reach out for support, whether you lean on family, friends, or even online groups and resources that are available. We don’t talk enough about the amount of physiological changes happening in our bodies. It’s soimportant to reach out for support and establish that very quickly, even before having the baby. Ideally, those are things that you're doing in your pregnancy, because that really is a game changer for sure.

If you are planning to return to work or if you haven't made that decision yet, that can feel really difficult, too. How do you thrive as a mom when this little baby and yourself are constantly changing rapidly every day through that postpartum timeframe and beyond? 

And then we put this pressure on ourselves to prove ourselves in the workplace. We try to do even more or better than we previously did so that we can really make sure we’re an asset or valued and no one thinks less of us because we have a new baby or responsibility. It’s a bit backward. 

But in those early years, my first and second child, I was just thinking, “I don't want anyone ever to think that I'm not as good or to be passed up for promotion or passed up on a project opportunity because I'm distracted by kids.” So I have to fight that a lot in myself for sure. Even now.

I'm so glad that you said that because I feel the exact same way all the time. It’s so hard.

Yes. And it’s also on us because burnout is really real. No matter how high of a capacity we can handle, when we do too much, it shows up. Maybe it’s health-related challenges in our own bodies or anxiety or sleep disruption. There are all kinds of ways our bodies let us know we’re pushing too much. That's what I continue to learn all the time. I want to be able to go a million miles an hour. For so many years, I was my worst critic. I was always trying to figure out—how many hours do I work? And how many hours do I spend like fully present with my kids? And, you know, it just looks different all the time depending on what's happening in life and in your heart. I was my worst critic about how that time pie was sliced and it's so much more fluid than that. When I'm operating in a vibrant, healthy place, that serves everyone in my life

That's incredible. Anything else that we didn't cover that you want to talk about?

Be bold enough to name what it is that you need.

That goes back to the foundation of goal setting and really doing the work to figure out what it is that you really desire. There are so many great resources available out there and coaches and therapy groups who can help you figure that out. If you don't know it, that's okay. It's a journey to get there and to figure out what that looks like for you. 

And it could also be okay to say the five years of when your kids are really little, you’re going to put your career on pause or that it’s going to look a little bit different than what you thought it would. And that's okay. Hopefully, our lives and careers are a long journey, and we get to be the driver and decide how we want to spend that time.

Don’y be afraid to really tune in to what lights you up. What sets your heart on fire? Don’t sign up for a job or a company or a career because you feel like it's the right thing to do, or because that's what you've always done. Challenge that.

I love that. I've actually talked to several women lately that were career driven, had a baby, and thought, this is weird, I just want to stay home. And that was a huge identity crisis for them. And it's so true that the journey can look however it needs to look, and you're still you. You can still crush it if you take a break for a little bit. 

In fact, I would say a lot of times, people come back even stronger. I think it's beautiful when people have made a complete career pivot or they've discovered something about themselves that they then pursue professionally. How can we continue to reinvent ourselves in all of these different journeys and things that happen along our way? 

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