Natalie Ayoub is a perfect example of how flexible working and business-critical roles go together. Natalie has been with Ericsson for eight years as a Commercial Manager. She has the important role of leading large and complex contract negotiations with leading telecommunication service providers across Australia and New Zealand. Her thriving career has been made a reality due to the culture, leadership and balance at Ericsson during different phases of her career — including starting a family. Natalie is living proof that flexibility and taking time out for family benefits any career, including getting a promotion.
Natalie started at Ericsson as a contractor legal counsel. Two years later, she moved across to the commercial team permanently. She is responsible for managing and drafting commercial contracts and engaging with customers, forming business relationships, and agreements.
Support for working parents
Going on parental leave is usually a mix of nervous excitement, but Natalie recounts that Ericsson makes it easy for working parents, from well before commencing leave right up to your return to work.
“From the moment I started parental leave, my manager was always keeping in touch and allowed me to join team meetings, at my discretion. It was completely up to me, and there was no pressure to join, but he wanted me to feel included and in turn, it helped me remain in touch with developments in my business area. On one occasion, I even brought my newborn to a meeting!”
Ericsson recognizes that flexibility means different things to different people, so they offer a variety of flexible working options. This includes permanent and regular remote working, flexible start and finish times, and part-time and job share work arrangements.
Natalie returned to work part-time, in a senior business-critical role following her maternity leave.
“I returned, working two days a week remotely. There wasn’t a need to be there face to face all the time. I had a similar experience the second time I went on parental leave. I returned after six months of parental leave into a part-time role again. The great thing is you can manage your time and role the way you want to. When we have big projects , the balance is always there to increase hours or shift days. Returning to work wasn’t daunting at all because my manager regularly kept in touch and showed genuine care, allowing me to ease back in at a pace I felt comfortable with.”
Parenting during a pandemic
Natalie worked remotely from home regularly even well before the pandemic hit. The major challenge for her was juggling work and home schooling with everyone under the same roof, but she took comfort in knowing she wasn’t the only one.
“Since the pandemic, everyone who can work remotely at Ericsson, is working from home. My husband was working from home as well. My kids are now two and four [Natalie has another one on the way], and they were making a lot of noise as kids do. There was one time I apologized for the noise. My manager told me to never apologize for that. It put my mind at ease, knowing Ericsson genuinely supports working parents.”
Natalie shared how much she enjoys spending time with her kids and is vocal at work about taking time out to attend extracurricular activities.
“My outlet is my kids. I have the flexibility when needed for important occasions, like taking a morning off to attend my son’s last soccer game of the year. Our team is a real family with honest dialogue and communication, and our manager is always encouraging us to find a balance between work and family life.”
But the paradox in parenting is sometimes we need a little time for ourselves. Natalie is grateful to work with many fun, and driven colleagues — which she admits is her social activity.
“I’m in a very happy place with my role, team and manager. We spend so much time with our team; it would be sad to be unhappy in a job. When balancing work and life, sometimes going to work is like a holiday and a social event. It’s very enjoyable.”
As with many roles, it does have peak periods with competing priorities. Natalie and her managers are mindful of speaking out if anyone feels overwhelmed.
“We do have to manage stakeholder expectations, and there are times when negotiating deals, I have to dedicate more time to meet deadlines. But it’s never the norm. Busy periods are acknowledged, and we are given time to re-energize and relax. I do feel there is a strong push across-the-board for people to feel comfortable with being heard and maintaining work-life balance.”
Opportunities to thrive
Before Natalie started at Ericsson, she led a successful career as a private practice lawyer specializing in litigation.
Since joining Ericsson, Natalie has seen her career soar. She’s been invited to join high potential programs, including a young professional’s program. This is a prestigious leadership program where only one representative is selected from every country Ericsson operates in. She got to fly to Singapore to present in front of senior stakeholders at Ericsson. The brief was to present on a matter that would be important to Ericsson. Her presentation was about how to streamline commercial engagements and empower people to make decisions, which was well received.
Natalie’s hard work and reputation are also recognized by leadership teams overseas. She was also invited to go to Sweden for a global senior commercial forum where Natalie was able to meet with various senior leaders from Ericsson and spend a week in Stockholm attending workshops which discussed the future direction of the company.
Natalie feels no limits, especially as a working parent in a senior position. The flexibility, leadership and safe environment to speak up at Ericsson has enabled her career to thrive.
“As a woman, I honestly never feel like I cannot speak up. The executive team here appreciate you having a different view. They don’t want ‘yes’ — they want to be challenged. There is so much senior leadership support here. It’s such a great place for everyone.”