While it’s been a year since the stay at home order has been implemented, I am grateful to be employed by a company that took the necessary steps to keep their employees safe. At SYSTRA USA, a team of 156 employees was told to stay home four days before the directive was issued by New York state in 2020.
Months passed and uncertainty lingered in the air, however, we maintained the status quo. Field and home staff took all the safety precautions and a robust COVID-19 safety plan took effect. Being in marketing, you learn to adapt to sudden changes. The marketing team was still able to work in tandem with procurement, submit proposals on time and maintain the same level of professionalism as if we were in the office.
Fast forward a few months and I find out that I am pregnant with baby number two (due 2/1/21). I informed Human Resources first, then our interim CEO (in NJ) and immediate supervisor (in CA). I shared the news by video call mid-afternoon and had my maternity picture as the background. It made for a pleasant conversation, and my colleagues were just as supportive with this second pregnancy, as they were the first. Thankfully, the support from upper management and colleagues did not waver. The only difference was that no one saw my growing belly. The pandemic prevented any in-person celebrations that we were accustomed to having. I had to get creative for my full-blown announcement. As such, I informed the rest of SYSTRA by wearing a shirt that said “Tis the Season to be Pregnant” during our virtual holiday celebration in December.
At SYSTRA, I am responsible for proposal oversight, management and production. This is a role that I take seriously and have excelled at since 2016. The next thing to blow my mind was a promotion. Being promoted and recognized for my achievements within SYSTRA was profound, all while knowing that I would have to take leave in a few months.
Of course, the safety of my unborn child was the top priority. I would double up on masks and wore a face shield every time that I stepped outside. Working from home allowed the flexibility to carve out early doctor’s appointments at the crack of dawn. Even a few sporadic mid-afternoon appointments were manageable, as long as my laptop was fully charged, and my hot spot worked. As I got closer to my due date, I would get a ride to midtown for my doctor’s appointments. This allowed me to be accessible for calls without the distraction of blaring train announcements, as well as reducing the fear of going into labor on a subway train. There were some calls that I purposely scheduled 30 minutes before my actual appointment. I was able to take them while I was in the waiting area, and no one on the receiving end noticed.
Entering the last year of my 30s this year and having been working since the age of 14, I take pride in my work ethic, so the urge to stay connected to my coworkers is inevitable. All of this experience proves that having a contingency plan within your department for unexpected staff changes, like maternity leave, is crucial to the continued success of your team.
Here is my advice to aid during any type of transition:
- Set hard deadlines for all communications that will occur (technical leads, department heads, colleagues and IT)
- Develop an outline of current proposals and who the supporting back up person will be
- Remind all technical/sector leads of time away and return date, as well as who their new marketing lead will be
- Email agency procurement contacts of your back up
- Test any email forward system with your backup to ensure that all lines of email communications are working properly
- Check back in with marketing colleagues two weeks before your return date on any current proposals
- Trust your back up and be confident that the world will not fall apart
Having coworkers that you can trust, and a support system helps individuals like myself, who are considered a workaholic, breathe a little easy. Although I am unplugged and on maternity leave, being in professional organizations such as SMPS-NY and others, I am still able to access valuable content, attend zoom panel discussions when the time allows and stay in the know for marketing related events. From what I’ve heard and noticed, I am proud that we are still winning work and the marketing department is still thriving.
About Ivoire Lloyd – Ivoire is a marketing professional with 17 years of marketing, corporate communications and proposal coordination experience. She is currently the Senior Marketing Proposal Manager for SYSTRA USA, where she focuses on proposal oversight, management and production, implementing and facilitating proposal guidelines, and technical writing assignments.
Follow-up note: CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Ivoire and Courtney welcomed a beautiful baby girl, Blair Monroe Gamble, on February 2, 2021. And big sister Jamison is so excited she now has a playmate!! 🙂