In honor of The Second Shift’s #WomInspired campaign, I thought I would share my own story of empowerment and the very special professional role model I had that led me to a happier place as a woman, a mother, and a professional. The importance of women lifting each other up and serving as positive role models and mentors to those around us cannot be overstated. I was fortunate enough to work alongside Tracy Seng in my nearly five years at Los Angeles Magazine – someone who inspired my career, and has always supported those around her to follow their own path.
Over three years ago, I was just like any new mom struggling to fit all the pieces together. My boss at the time, even though she hated being called “boss” (so I endearingly called her “girl boss” or “boss friend”), was leading a very talented and diverse marketing team at Los Angeles Magazine. Tracy was one of those bosses whose door was literally always open, and who never once made you feel like your personal life and well-being was any less important than the professional role you played on her team. She was also the first to share her own struggles balancing life and work, which only made her all the more human and easier to talk to when push came to shove. I can still remember the first time I went to her, desperate to figure out how I was going to manage a full-time job and the overwhelming new feeling of being away from my baby. Even though she never had kids of her own, her compassion and empathy never made you feel like she didn’t relate or know how hard of a life-change you were going through. She always made a point to bring out the positive sides of any situation – saying how fortunate we were to work on an amazing team and actually enjoy the work we did. It was true, and more importantly she understood the need for flexibility in my schedule which was not something any of us anticipate before having children. But what was even more admirable about her role as a mentor, was that she also never discounted the individual passions that each of her team members held. For me, it was my blog. Instead of being threatened by the time it could take away from my work, I’ll never forget when she told me to never let go of what I’m passionate about. On a personal level, it meant the world to me to not have to feel like I had to hide what I also loved doing: writing and styling. On a professional level, looking back on it now, it’s probably the single most important thing a boss can do to support her team. It not only ensures your people stay happy, but it also enhances the work that they do because you’re fostering employees who are more enriched and diverse.
It had been two years of trying to settle into my new role as a mom, and figuring out how I was going to balance a career on top of all that. It definitely wasn’t an easy road, and I had more existential breakdowns in my “bosses” office than I’d like to admit, but one thing was for sure – Tracy always made me see the value of my work and the potential that I had, even when you feel like being a mom drains you of all your energy and drive. I still didn’t have all the answers, but something inside of me told me I had to be true to myself and more importantly to my role model who had been there for me from day one. As much as I wanted to push on and live up to every expectation she had for me, I knew in my heart something was pulling me in the opposite direction. So we talked about it and I told her how my husband and I were thinking of moving back home to Houston, and that I needed to figure out another way to get my life back in balance. It was the hardest thing I’ve had to do, because I felt like I was letting her down. She of course put on a strong front for me, and in later conversations told me that sometimes when we aren’t supposed to go down a certain path, the door stays shut so tight and that way we know we’ve made the right choice. In the months since our move from LA, I’ve found a peace that I didn’t even realize existed. Yes, life is still throwing curve-balls at us, but I’m settling into a place where I can now work from home and have more time to devote to my blog. My son and I have more of a bond now than I could have ever imagined, which I never once take for granted – especially since we’ll be welcoming a daughter into our family in August.
I look back now on the past three years and can’t believe how fast time has flown, and how much I’ve learned along the way. So much of that I have Tracy, my mentor and “boss friend,” to thank for. She keeps rolling with the punches and living up to her own standards every day, and I hope she knows how many lives she’s touched along the way.