To her friends she’s ‘a fellow mermaid’. To her 14-year-old son she’s ‘mum’. To her clients she’s their ‘Senior Account Manager’. But to her fellow Adaptavist colleagues, Louise Miller is most often known as ‘Aunty Lou’. Like any great Aunty, she’s full of quality life advice, and today she’s sharing some with us.
Louise has been with Adaptavist since the team had just 45 people – today there’s over 440. She’s watched the company grow and transform, all the while helping some of the largest Fortune 500 organizations plan, deliver and manage their applications better. This experience with the company, her fantastic client knowledge, and her inherently cheery and empathetic nature has made her a natural mentor and buddy to many new additions to the Adaptavist team.
“Lou has inspired me from day one, and is someone who instantly took me under her wing, made me feel included, and is someone you can confide in.”
– Milly Poole
So, it came as a surprise to many people when she sat in front of the team at one of their weekly company Show and Tell sessions to share an intimate story of her own struggles with mental health and burnout. It was a story of fragility and emotional pain, but also of remarkable strength, recovery, and most of all hope. She imparts that message of hope again with us by sharing her three steps to self-care at work.
Step 1: Honesty with yourself
Emotions may be positive or negative, but none are either good or bad. We all experience a variety of each, every day. It took a diagnosis of neurasthenia (more commonly known as burnout) for Louise to stop wasting her energy trying to suppress negative emotions, and be honest with herself about what she was feeling.
“The realization that I need to stop avoiding my emotions, but instead weave them into the tapestry which is me, has led me to change my views on just about everything in my life.”
The two years prior to Louise’s burnout had been tumultuous to say the least: The onset of menopause, physical assault by a man during an altercation between their dogs, the associated stress of managing large changes as the company grew (even welcome change doesn’t come without challenges), the loss of a close family member to suicide and loss of the physical support from her husband as he recovered from surgery.
“I finally realized that looking after everyone had taken its toll, and that it was time to look after myself. I realized I didn’t have a very good relationship with myself, I had lost me and the Lou that was left I didn’t like very much, I needed to spend time with myself to face the grief and trauma of the last couple of years.”
Step 2: Honesty with others
Louise recently celebrated her five-year anniversary with Adaptavist and admits that having been part of the team from such an early stage of the company has meant she’s felt quite emotionally invested in its growth. So many team members that have joined the company over the last five years have received a hello and welcome from ‘Aunty Lou’. She’s the exuberant, positive, and inspiring face so many have turned to for support and advice.
“I pride myself on being a great hugger, always active, always ready to listen. I support others, and get things done with a not-afraid-of-a-challenge attitude.”
So, sharing her experiences with burnout didn’t come easily. She felt she had failed in some way, all because she needed to take time away from work without a visible ailment. Now of course she knows, and is helping others to see, that mental wellbeing may not manifest in the same way as a bodily injury – but the effects are no less physically debilitating.
And when she finally reached out about the challenges she was facing, she found a swell of support.
“Adaptavist has seen me through all of this, and I am so very grateful for the time and support. I continue to see a therapist monthly to check in with my progress, all fully funded through our company health insurance. All I needed to do was talk to my doctor and explain my situation. We agreed I needed support, and I got a private referral to Bupa, rang them up and before I knew it, I had all the support I needed.”
Even now, there’s a sense of psychological security to express what’s going on in her life with her team.
“Being 50, I am smack bang in the middle of menopause, and it affects you, it has an impact. It’s a different phase in my life that needs to be managed. We had a team call just today, and I shared that I’d be going to doctors later, describing how menopause has made my bones ache, my skin itch, and how much I needed a nap. And I felt safe to say these things out loud.”
Step 3: Trust your voice
Along with applauding the individual support she’s received from Adaptavist, Louise loves how inclusive the overall culture is. There’s a space for everyone’s voice.
Louise mentors a couple of younger women on the team, not only about the courage of vulnerability, but the courage in trusting your voice. The technology space is notoriously known for its male-dominated environment, and Louise is all about ensuring the next generation of women have the confidence to thrive and be heard.
“Being an account manager, I need to be the voice of the client and of the internal teams. It’s about finding your voice, and how you establish your kind of groove to conduct business.”
Strong interpersonal relationships are critical to health and longevity, and it’s only when we have the support and strength to express our authentic selves that these connections can thrive in the workplace. And it’s that indescribable x-factor everyone brings to the team that Louise has cherished within Adaptavist.
“There’s an energy and emotion about everyone coming together and wanting to achieve the same thing. Everybody is on the same vibe, even over Zoom, our personalities have a connection. When you feel supported and trusted (we get unlimited holidays!), you really feel part of something. You just feel it.”