August 11, 2021

Manager or Mother? How one mum balances being both at DHL

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When Sandra Miles was 17, she asked her parents “what would make you happy and proud of me?”. They replied, “anything that makes you happy”. So that’s what she did. Sandra found a job she loves at DHL Express, she spends weekends camping and she’s raising a beautiful daughter. Her only wish is that her daughter has the same opportunities to live a life that makes her happy.

Finding ways to balance a career and motherhood is never easy. And for many women it can feel like it’s got to be one or the other – management or motherhood?

Not for Sandra.

With DHL at her side every step of the way, she’s not just a working mum, she’s the Area Operations Manager for North Queensland who’s planning a trip to Disneyland with her daughter, Ella.

Work & Pregnancy

Sandra and her husband spent a few years trying for a baby after they were married. There were many medical appointments and treatments involved before Ella finally graced them with her presence 3.5 years ago.

The pregnancy wasn’t an easy journey either. As many other mothers can attest, being pregnant can already feel like a full-time job, but add in an actual full-time job, and gestational diabetes on top of that! Talk about overwhelming.

But Sandra credits her amazing managers at DHL for helping her through this time. She had been travelling from Cairns to Darwin regularly to help with training at another site, and they were supportive of her need to scale these trips down, and her necessary antenatal appointments.

“Having that open and supportive relationship with my manager was such a relief. The last 10 weeks of the pregnancy I was seeing three different doctors a week, and it was never a problem to work around them. HR were so amazing when I had to leave on parental leave a week early. Everything was so smooth.”


Returning to work & breastfeeding

Breastfeeding for the first six to twelve months after birth has an array of health benefits for both the mother and the baby. But parenting forums are full of stories where mothers are bullied, shamed, or outright denied the opportunity to continue pumping when they head back into the office. Reading these horror stories had Sandra physically sick at the thought.

She needn’t have worried though.

Not only did the Head of HR call to congratulate her when Ella was born, after seven months parental leave when Sandra was considering returning, the HR team put her completely at ease. Every question she had was answered, and her desire to pump at work was fully supported.

“I’m led to believe I was the first woman to ask for this, but they saw how truly important it was for me. They found me a comfortable place I could pump privately, complete with fridge and power points. The support I received from everyone made coming back to work so much easier.”

Career progression & motherly instincts

When a manager from the Cairns site took a new role down in Brisbane, Sandra was vocal about wanting to progress and fill the role. She was put in as acting manager while they ran the recruitment for the role. Then COVID hit, and that threw everyone into a tailspin. But it also meant that Sandra was now taking on a new role in unknown conditions.

But when she started to feel overwhelmed, a call from the old manger now in Brisbane put her at ease. He said, “you’ve done all this stuff plenty of times, let your motherly instinct play out”.


Sandra loves to bake, and during Zoom calls with management when they asked how everyone was going, and what was keeping everyone calm and supported, she remembers replying “my muffins are amazing!”.

When it got to the point to finally recruit for the position there was an outpouring of support from all the team members she’d worked with around the country to make sure Sandra was in the running.

“When I got the job, I remember ugly crying on the phone. It took me a good month to realize it was all real.”

A big family & looking forward

The support is still rolling in. In the same week we spoke to Sandra, she had received a call from her childcare that Ella was unwell.

“I messaged the office that I couldn’t come in, and when I logged in from home, everyone kept telling me to turn off my laptop and go be with my family. They even checked in on me the next morning to make sure Ella was ok. They’re like my brothers and sisters. Everyone is like your family, always looking out for each other.”

When we asked what career for Ella would make Sandra happy and proud, she told us:


“Ella is the reason I get up in the morning. She changed my life for the better and made me want more out of life. She can be anything she wants to be. I just want her to grow up in a world that doesn’t have boundaries; that the world we live in by then is just everyone getting along. No gender issues. Just people following their dreams and not have any boundaries or rules against it.”

We wholeheartedly hope so too!

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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.