October 15, 2020

Motherhood as a senior leader

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.

Helen Delmenico is the Head of Finance for the Staffing Division at Programmed. She’s been with them for 15 years and recently returned from parental leave. Helen is adamant that parental leave and having a family shouldn’t impact your career!

She shares her experience of becoming a mother and how she balances the juggle. Helen also shares her career journey at Programmed and desire to continue being challenged.

Pursuing challenges to grow your career

Helen has worked across multiple roles, business units and locations at Programmed — in Melbourne, Sydney, Corporate Accounting, working as Company Secretary when they were listed and managing the Finance Department in Staffing.

“I never thought I’d be at any workplace that long! But it’s testament to what a fantastic organization it is. It’s dynamic, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed this long. I’ve been afforded a lot of opportunities. They’ve been very supportive of me and my personal circumstances.”

She currently lives in Perth but Programmed supported her spending time living in Sydney with her husband, travelling back and forth to work in Melbourne and working remotely.

Programmed have been continually supportive of Helen taking on new challenges. The Company Secretary role was a parental leave cover, and she shares,

“I’d done my graduate diploma in Applied Corporate Governance but didn’t have much practical experience. It was a real learning curve and Programmed showed great faith in letting me take the reins in that role.”

As she finished up the year as Company Secretary, Programmed acquired Skilled, and Helen moved back to the staffing side of the business to manage Finance. She managed the relocation of the entire Skilled back office to Perth. From there, she added motherhood to her list of life experiences!


Taking parental leave as a senior leader

A couple of years into her role as Head of Finance for Staffing, Helen took 7 months of parental leave with her first child. She was back for 12 months, then went off on another 7 months of parental leave for her second child. She returned to work five months ago, right in the middle of COVID.

When Helen took her first parental leave, her 2IC took parental leave at the same time. Programmed took the challenge in stride, hiring 12 months cover for each position. They also allowed flexibility around her return date.

“I planned to take 7 months each time, but you don’t know until you’re in it. We see a lot of people intending to return after 6 or 7 months but pushing it out to 12 months. I knew that if I needed an extra couple of months, it wouldn’t be a drama.”

Helen, quite rightly, isn’t concerned that taking parental leave so close together and having small children would affect her career opportunities at Programmed.

“One of the benefits of being around for so long is I’ve proven myself. Everybody knows I get things done. What has changed is how that looks — I’m not sitting behind a desk from 8-6 like I once did.”


Taking parental leave and returning to the office are big transitions. Helen’s tips for managing the changes are:

  • Stay connected. “It’s important to stay connected to the business {when on parental leave}.”
  • Find your balance. “It will be different for everybody, so find the right balance for you.”
  • Communicate. “Work out your needs and communicate those with your company and manager. Communication needs to be open and clear.”
  • Allow time for adjustment. “Coming back to work there’s a wait and see phase. Your attention is split. I came back full time, knowing there was the flexibility to easily change what that looked like.”

Of course, parental leave and the time immediately after returning to work are one small part of the timeline juggling career and family!

Managing the Juggle

Mothers don’t lose their desire for exciting careers. Women want to be able to do challenging work AND spend time with their families. But there are definitely some adjustments.

“A lot of it is managing your internal expectations. We put pressure on ourselves to be continually building towards our aspirations. There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back or maintaining what you’re doing for a period of time.”

Helen’s suggestions for maintaining your career in balance with a focus on family are:

  • Be kind to yourself. “This is a huge change. You can still maintain your career, but you have a huge thing to get across outside work.”
  • Allow some time. “You can still have your career and do all the things you want to do, but find some balance. You might have a couple of years where you’re happy staying in the same role and not looking for that big leap forward.”
  • Be organized. “I think I would have done a course on how to be organized had I known! The level of planning required is honestly the biggest thing.”
  • Build a village. “Get your village in order beforehand.”
  • Ask for help. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You will need help, whether you realize it or not.”

“Some days I get out of bed and think how hard it is, but for the most part, I know I work hard on all fronts. I do what I need to do, and my day just looks a little different to everyone else’s.”

Programmed are fully supportive of Helen working in ways that allow her to meet her personal obligations.

“I might come in at 7, leave at 5 and log on later.” Her second child was born with mild hearing loss, requiring multiple medical appointments. “I have the full support of the company to fit my workday around attending those appointments with him.”

That flexibility has increased across the board post-COVID.

“People’s mindsets have changed. I can’t speak highly enough of their flexibility.”

Helen finishes by laughing, “I often pick up my bag at the end of the day and say, I’m off to my other job now!”


Want more articles like this sent to your inbox every month?

Just let us know what kind of support you’re looking for so we can sign you up to receive the right newsletter for you.

Stay in touch with our ‘Women at work’ newsletter

Enter your details to sign up to our newsletter for the women in our community. Every month you’ll be sent our latest news, advice, inspiration and resources for supporting your career.

Looking for HR and DEI updates?

Check out our monthly newsletter for HR professionals.

About the Author
WORK180 promotes organizational standards that raise the bar for women in the workplace. We only endorse employers that are committed to making real progress so that all women can expect better.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.