Being an exec and a mother - a juggling act

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Less than a year passed since our veteran exec, Lara Attard, stepped into her new roles of mother and head of client services. She shares some thoughts about what it takes to be a good exec and what parenthood has taught her… so far.

Anyone who ever worked as a client exec will know it’s no easy job. It’s a 24-hour juggling act of meeting deadlines, managing clients, dealing with colleagues and constantly learning new things. 

Lara fell into the job. Before jumping onto the wagon she worked in marketing. She wanted a change, but had no clue what she wanted to do. Then a friend mentioned Peter Grech, the CEO of BRND WGN. She called him and went for a job interview. 

“One of the things I loved was that I just walked into a room and had ‘a chat’ and not ‘an interview’,” she says. “I didn’t know what the role meant. Branding was new to me. But the company seemed young, fresh and exciting. So I went for it,” she says.

So on May 10, 2010, Lara turned up for her first day at work. “It was hilarious. Gareth (now the Chief Financial Officer) was on the floor building my desk. Pete made a mistake. I started the following day,” she smiles.

Since the day she started her career as an exec, Lara never looked back. “I love it. It’s never boring. You’re constantly meeting different people from different sectors and learning new things. Then there’s the achievement of winning projects and getting clients’ go-ahead. I love the thrill of it,” she says.

Learning the ropes

But the beginning was tough. It took a year to adjust. Back then, a shy Lara had so much to learn in the context of a young BRND WGN that had about six employees, compared to some 40 Wagoneers today. Execs did a bit of everything: from dealing with clients to helping with copy. 

Six months into the job Pete, who saw her struggling, asked her if this was what she really wanted to do. “I said yes. After that conversation I pulled my socks up.” 

Lara gathered every shred of determination. She pushed herself to fight through her timid nature and take control during meetings. Slowly, clients started responding to her newfound confidence. They started asking for ‘Lara’. They started trusting her. 

“That was the hardest, and most rewarding, part - gaining clients’ trust,” she says, adding that the job also helped her build her character and gave her lots of confidence.

Qualities of a good exec

Lara lists confidence as an important skill for an exec, along with being honest, outgoing, organised and a multi-tasker. Her new role, as Head of Client Services, revolves around supporting the exec team to nurture those skills.

New team members, she says, face the same challenges she faced in the beginning. “I call it the starter pack: learning how to deal with particular situations, approaching deadlines, quoting, the fear of giving feedback to the team. It’s not easy to be an exec. It can be very overwhelming.”

That’s why Lara is always telling her team to take things one step at a time. “I’m also a firm believer that honesty takes you everywhere. If you think you’re not going to make it or you’re not happy with something, don’t be scared,” she says.

This stems from building trusting relationships with clients, that go beyond meeting deadlines. 

“Getting to know the person helps you understand why they want to reach objectives and why they love the brand. I believe that, when you do build a relationship, they get to trust you. They start to understand that you actually love the brand as much as they do. I started to love a lot of the brands I worked with,” she says.

Juggling work and motherhood

Lara now uses the skills she learnt as an exec — especially multi-tasking — in her role as a mother to Emily. 

“Becoming a mother is obviously one of the greatest things. But it also comes with a challenge. As a mother I don’t want to feel I can’t continue being me. I want to do everything. I want to be a mother. I want to work. I want to be a wife and a friend - which is very, very, very tough,” she says. 

And as any working mother will know, getting to the office in the morning can be a daily challenge when you also have a child to take care of.  “Thankfully, we have extremely supportive employers,” she adds.

Motherhood is also enriching her with skills she can apply at work. “Being a mother taught me patience and understanding. I catch myself listening and understanding more,” she says. “It’s funny. Everyone says I’m the mummy at work too.”