It wasn’t so long ago that women have had to choose between career and family. But these days, it no longer needs to be either-or.
Take it from Sally, a Space Planning Manager at CommBank, who found the role that enabled her to pursue both.
Sally’s incredible story is proof that you can build a career and comfortably start (and grow) a family if you work with the right company. It’s all a matter of finding a role that lets you work in a way that works for you.
Making the difficult choice
Early one morning in 2018, Sally had her resignation letter ready and was set on leaving her job despite the many ways they’d been so good to her and her family.
For years, she and her husband had been trying to fall pregnant with their second baby. They decided she needed to take time off work to de-stress and reset. Ultimately, this also meant moving interstate to a more affordable city.
When Sally told her boss her plans to resign and move, she was sad but hopeful.
And then her boss said something that completely surprised her.
Without hesitating, Sally’s boss asked her if she’d considered a career break instead.
This was an opportunity Sally hadn’t thought about, but it turned out to be the one she would always be grateful for.
From small-town girl to world traveler
Like many who grew up in a small town, Sally longed to see more of the world since she was young.
Growing up in Birregurra (a country town in Victoria with 800 people), Sally moved to Melbourne when she turned 18. She studied at university there and soon started a career in property valuations. But after six years in Melbourne, Sally was ready to pursue one of her lifelong passions: travel.
She packed her bags and organized a two-year working holiday in London, kicking off her adventure with a three-month trip around South America, where she would also meet her future husband, Ben.
Sally stayed in London for the next six years, working with a large consulting firm that handled portfolio strategies for multinational corporations.
And then after almost a decade focusing on their careers, Sally and Ben felt it was time to start a family.
Avoiding the family-career trade-off
In 2010, the couple moved to Sydney, where Sally was reemployed by the Australian branch of the firm she worked for in London.
By this time, they had been trying to fall pregnant for years.
Eager to start a family, Sally decided to resign from the consulting firm to look for a role that gave her the flexibility she needed.
“I still wanted to work, but in an environment that’d provide better work-life balance.”
Sally knew that for her to start a family without stalling her career, she needed a role that would let her balance her work and family life
Finding the right company
Before leaving her consulting role in Sydney, Sally had already been keeping an eye on the job market.
“When I saw the Space Planning role in Group Property advertised, I was quick to apply since I’d heard great things about CommBank’s culture and flexibility.”
Big banks aren’t the first thing most people think of when they hear “great culture” and “flexibility”. But Sally was amazed to learn from her first interview just how seriously CommBank took these benefits.
Sally soon joined CommBank, and she was relieved to learn that everything she’d heard was true.
Getting support that matters
“This was such a special year for me since we had been trying to have a baby for over five years. And after three rounds of IVF, along came our little miracle!”
And the support kept coming.
When it was time for Sally to go back to work, she returned to a team that supported her with an ideal work schedule.
“My manager was happy for me to return on a three-day week basis, which I gradually increased to four, then five days. When my son was three years old, he was in day-care five days a week and wasn’t sleeping very well. So, I asked my manager if I could drop back to four days. She asked if I’d like to trial a five-day week compressed into four days to see if I could manage the same workload with more flexible timing. This was a great option as it meant I had a day to focus on my son and could manage my workload when it suited.”
This flexibility, Sally says, was priceless.
“Flexibility like this is so valuable for working parents. It recognizes that the output is still being delivered, despite the work being done over more flexible hours.”
A life-changing suggestion
When the couple decided to expand their family years later, they knew things would be different.
After five years of trying to get pregnant and six rounds of failed IVF sessions, they felt something had to change.
“We decided that the best thing would be for me to resign and take time off work, de-stress, and move somewhere that we could afford a comfortable lifestyle on a single salary. My husband had successfully applied for a role with the CommBank Group in Adelaide, and we’d agreed to move interstate.”
This was when Sally was ready to resign that early morning, despite not wanting to leave her job. Fortunately, she decided to follow her manager’s suggestion to take a 12-month career break instead.
It turned out to be her best option.
“Thank goodness for the career break – it allowed me to take time off and come back to a role and team I never wanted to leave.”
An evolving career and family
During her career break, Sally fell pregnant again.
Her thrilled boss later confirmed that she was still entitled to 12-months parental leave immediately after her career break – an option she gladly took.
After her career break and second stint of parental leave, Sally was welcomed back into her Space Planning role, which she continues to do remotely from Adelaide.
“I still have the flexibility to drop-off and pick-up the kids and do a lot of other parental duties. My performance is measured on output and achievements as opposed to hours at the desk, which enables me to deliver what’s required with the flexibility I need.”
For Sally and Ben, things couldn’t have gone any better. And they couldn’t have asked for a more supportive company throughout their journey.
“CommBank has been extremely supportive in helping us fulfill what was most important to us: growing our family.”