All Articles Tagged "work life balance"

Marian Croak Went From Soft-Spoken Employee To SVP At AT&T With 156 Patents

April 1st, 2014 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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Marian Croak1Know how American Idol fans can vote for their favorite singers via text message? Marian Croak made that happen! Do you remember how people donated to Hurricane Katrina and Haiti Earthquake victims by simply pressing five digits, like “90999″? Marian Croak made that happen, too! Croak, currently the Senior Vice President of Architecture and Advanced Services Development at AT&T, made a lot happen.

Croak was once a soft-spoken employee who’s been working for AT&T since 1982. The 30-year-veteran proves that you don’t need to have the loudest bark, per se, to rise up to the top. A mom of three, she manages 2,000 engineers, program managers, and developers. How did she do it? Croak took time out of her busy schedule to talk with MadameNoire about how she moved to the top of the mobile giant!

MadameNoireYou’ve said that you were very soft-spoken. How do you get your voice heard at AT&T? 

Marian Croak: I think I’m in the position now where I can make my voice heard just by virtue of the role I’m in. But it wasn’t always that way. About 20 years ago, when I was still fairly new to the company and AT&T was looking at what would replace its legacy wireline phone network, I thought we were about to make a mistake by not moving to Internet protocol. I realized I had to advocate – loudly! – for that technology if AT&T was going to maintain its leadership position. The key was finding a few coworkers who shared my conviction… Our voices together were ultimately able to win over others to our point of view

MN: You started working with AT&T in the 1980s. Was it difficult to prove to your superiors that “anything a man can do, you can do better?”

MC: Actually, when I started at AT&T, while there weren’t a lot of women engineers, I always felt welcomed and encouraged. My managers and coworkers helped me to do great things, and encouraged me to pursue patents on my work. Today, I’m at 156 patents and counting.

MN: Have you seen a significant change in the number of women who pursue technology as a career? 

MC: Over the years, the number of women engineers and developers has risen and fallen, and I think we’re on the verge of another upswing. We’re starting to see some numbers suggesting an increasing number of women who are enrolling in computer science classes, which is great news. We need all the smart, qualified folks we can get.

MNIn your HuffPo article “Dear Women in Technology,” you talked about juggling three kids and work. Do you think it’s possible for high-ranking professional women to “have it all”?

MC: Early in my career, I had a great boss and mentor who made it clear that sometimes he wouldn’t be able to attend a meeting or a call because he needed to go to his kid’s baseball game or school activity. He always made sure that the work got done. But the point he was making is that balance is possible if you have the courage to occasionally say “no” to things, or at least find a way to delegate appropriately. Likewise, if I or a colleague needed to step out for our kids, he encouraged that. Our jobs are hard and time-consuming, no question about it. We work long hours. But it’s important to take that personal time. Use your vacation time. Spend time with your kids

MN: You pioneered the technology of texting a truncated number for viewers to vote for their favorite TV show contenders like on American Idol. How?

MC: Actually, the technology I worked on was related to that application, but went a bit further. Back in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina hit, I thought there might be a way to extend the “text your vote” technology to charitable giving. So the patent I developed enabled the “text to donate” technology that has since been widely used when disasters strike. AT&T made that patent freely available for anyone to use without licensing fees. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, for example, the American Red Cross raised more than $32 million with help from donations via text.

MN: Describe a typical day in your shoes as SVP of Domain 2.0 Architecture and Advanced Services.

MC: In a typical day I’ll be meeting with engineers, reviewing business plans, and presenting proposals to the most senior leadership at our company. I have a great job. I manage a team of more than 2,000 engineers, developers, designers and other innovation experts [that work on] various next-generation products and services. These folks work in some of our most cutting-edge facilities, such as the AT&T Foundry innovation centers, which look and function like a Silicon Valley-style startup.

MN: Are you working on any projects now for AT&T that you can clue us in on?

MC:  My work on the User-Defined Network Cloud is my main focus right now. While it will take a few years before the technology is finalized and widely deployed, I think it’s going to be a huge upgrade.

MN: What advice would you give to young black women who wish to follow in your footsteps?

MC:  Go for it. The world is waiting for you.

Major League Baseball Exec Wendy Lewis Has Tips To Help With Your Job Search!

March 11th, 2014 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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Wendy LewisIf you play your cards right, you could potentially score a position with one of Major League Baseball’s 30 organizations! And don’t worry, you don’t need to be a baseball fan to do so. Wendy Lewis, MLB’s SVP of Diversity and Strategic Alliances, gives us the scoop on how to woo the hiring managers and key decision-makers at MLB’s 2014 Diversity Business Summit  – a job fair for minority employment seekers, vendors, and entrepreneurs.

The two-day event, taking place on April 14 and 15 in New York City, gives women and men of color a unique opportunity for networking and forming strategic relationships for the betterment of one’s career and goal aspirations. Attendees have landed positions as recruitment interns, sales consultants, membership services coordinators, and more. And Lewis’ says if you want to optimize your experience at the trade fair, you’ll have to be ready for anything.

One tip? “Do your homework,” Lewis pleads. Don’t walk up in the Summit without reading a few news clips on what’s going on in the MLB. Plus, it’ll make conversation flow a lot easier. Here, Lewis reveals the recipe for success at the Summit and even discusses how she — a single mom with three kids — nabbed a coveted high-ranking position at the MLB.

Madame Noire (MN): What’s the ultimate goal of the 2014 Diversity Summit?

Wendy Lewis (WL): The ultimate goal of the Diversity Summit is for people to see that this is the ultimate engagement model. The Summit produces new employment and new procurement [for people of color]… at a much faster and impactful rate than ever before. We want everybody on [the day after the Business Summit] to feel like it was one of the best experiences they’ve ever had.

MN: How should attendees present themselves to create an optimal experience at the 2014 Diversity Summit?

WL:  Be prepared to run into anybody! There’ll be folks who might be there that you might not expect! [We might have] other Major League sports teams as our guests. We have a number of Fortune 500 companies who will be there, some will be our sponsors, others not. You just might be sitting next to someone who has a business opportunity for you — and you don’t even know it. Some of the people who have been hired as a result of the Summit ended up were offered a position they never saw coming.

MN: Got any tips and tricks for those who are interested in attending?

WL: Since the Yankees are co-hosting the event, do a little reading to find out how the Yankees are doing, how they’re going through with training, and find out about their new player Mashiro Tanaka. So if you do have the opportunity to meet the Yankees face-to-face, you have a little bit more to talk about other than “I want a job” or “I want a contract.” It’s all about being prepared!

MN: How has MLB’s Diversity Committee evolved over the years?

WL: I know for a fact we have made a difference. I know we have more people of color and women who are our suppliers, vendors, and they provide business services throughout baseball. I know for a fact that more [minorities] are working here, at all levels of baseball, as a result of our advocacy.

MN: Do you need to have an interest in baseball to attend?

WL: It’s really for anyone. I strongly encourage people who aren’t sure about sports — or maybe never thought about it — to attend. Anyone who attends will learn so much more; they’ll know, indefinitely, whether or not [working with the MLB] is a good fit. I haven’t met anyone who’s regretted going.

MN: So tell us how you moved up the ranks to your position as Senior Vice President.

WL: It’s always about moving up the ladder. I’ve taken advantage of opportunities; I had to be open to making big moves. Life doesn’t go quite as neat or as convenient as we’d like it to be, so in some cases, I had to take risks. I was always taught to work as hard at the job that you’re in as the next one you want.

I was working with kids as a camp counselor until I finally got into professional ranks and that [mindset] got me working in baseball. My baseball opportunity came about because I had a background in human resources and sales. It wasn’t because I knew a lot about baseball or because I played or liked sports. Employers look for individuals who have a tenacity to grow and show results…You need to be willing to be innovative, take risks, and work hard; that’s what has been a catalyst for [my] movement forward.

MN: You’re a single mom with three daughters. How do you achieve work-life balance?

WL: When you get into management and professional positions, you’re working all the time – even when your body is not physically in the workplace. That really does become a balancing act whether you’re married with children or single with children.

People might not agree with me on this but I don’t believe in thinking that you can “have it all.” I remember making some very hard decisions – making sure that at a certain time, in the workplace, I had to go [home to my family]. And other times, my children had to deal with the hardship of knowing that mom won’t be able to make a tennis match or mom is going to miss something because I have to work. I can’t make everyone happy all the time. My kids have had to sometimes hold their own and [sometimes] my workplace has to respect that family comes first.

The 3rd annual 2014 Diversity Summit will be held on April 14-15th at the Manhattan Hotel and The New Yorker. Click here to register and attend!

Maybe You’ll Need A Stay-At-Home Husband? Female Executives Forego Kids, Marriage To Stay On Top!

March 6th, 2014 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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Let’s lay down the facts: 60 percent of male CEOs have a stay-at-home spouse while only 10 percent of female CEOs have the same luxury, ThinkProgress reports. The result? Women in executive positions find themselves in hair-pulling dilemmas when it comes to work/life balance.  And men? Not so much.

Due to harrowing thoughts of balancing a shrieking baby and an iPad, many female executives decide to forgo children. According to a study compiled by the Harvard Business School, male CEOs have an average of 2.22 children — high-ranking women have an average of 1.68 children. “Because I’m not a mother, I haven’t experienced the major driver of inequality: having children,” one of the surveyed women said.

Marriage, as you might expect, is another daunting thought for female CEOs. The high-ranking men in the survey didn’t seem fazed by the “I Do’s” at all. In fact, 90 percent of the men surveyed were married. By contrast, only 70 percent of women walked down the aisle.

“Women interviewed were more likely to say that they avoided marriage and children entirely because they don’t want to deal with the potential conflict,” Jessica Grose, a Slate contributor, wrote.

Men are put at ease when it comes to marriage and children — the stats show that help at home, which often satisfies the work/life balance, is more readily available for them. As these male CEOs see themselves the providers, they feel little remorse when they spend time away from their families.“Male executives admit they don’t prioritize their families enough, and they don’t seem too bothered by it,” Grose writes.

Also, consider this account from a divorced male CEO in the survey:

“Looking back, I would have still made a similar decision to focus on work, as I was able to provide for my family and become a leader in my area, and these things were important to me,” he said.

Women, on the other hand, are much more apprehensive about taking on such taxing duties.  One woman explained that she didn’t want to be put in a position where she felt ashamed for being more present at work:

“What is the most difficult thing…what I see my woman friends leave their careers for — is the real emotional guilt of not spending enough time with their children. The guilt of missing out,” she said.

For women in executive positions, lumbering up to the tippy top is already quite a climb. So it’s understandable that they might not want to jeopardize their standing in corporate America. “Nearly 30 percent of mothers have had to quit their job to care for someone, compared to 10 percent of fathers,” ThinkProgress adds.

But it can be done. Check out Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox, with a 21- and 17-year-old!

Would you want a stay-at-home husband as you reign as CEO of a company?

MN Business Tip Of The Day: Go Home

February 21st, 2014 - By Tonya Garcia
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We usually post our tips at the beginning of the day, but with things being a little hectic here today, it kept getting pushed back. The next thing we knew, it was 3:30. Then it was 5pm. How many times has this happened to you? The whole day gets away from you, and before you know it, it’s just about time to knock off.

Your first instinct is to huff and puff. You want to leave! The kids are waiting! Hubby’s hungry! You should get to the gym! You’re going to be late for the drink with the friend you haven’t seen in ages! But you continue to toil away.

Guess what. It’s Friday. If you have a project that simply must get done, yes. Duty calls and you have to fulfill your responsibilities.

But if you’re stressing about something that can wait, then you’re stressing for no reason. Wrap up the necessities and go home. That’s right… calmly stack your papers, shut off your computer, put on your jacket, and step away from the desk. At a certain point (usually around wine-thirty, when your brain signs off and you start thinking about the Netflix that’s waiting to be watched), all productivity goes out the window and you’re just spinning your wheels.

So go ahead. Walk out the door. Have a good weekend. We’ll see you back here bright and early Monday morning.

MN Business Tip Of The Day: On Balancing Work & Life

February 18th, 2014 - By Michelle Alerte
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Whether you own a business, work freelance, or are simply a work-a-holic, it’s important to learn how to manage a work-life balance. While it may be the American way to live to work, you’ll be much happier — and infinitely healthier — if you can begin working to live. The irony is that being a work-a-holic actually backfires by making you less efficient and ultimately getting less done, rather than more. Keep these tips in mind to keep you from functioning at anything less than your best:

Make time for exercise. Exercise improves your immune system. Outside of your physical health, keeping fit also improves your mental health (mood and cognitive functions, like memory and concentration). To keep it from being torture, set aside just 20 minutes at a time and make it something you enjoy. That 20 minutes will go by so fast, you won’t think twice about continuing your workout.

Quality time with friends and family. Everybody needs social support. Allocate time every now and again for outings with friends or relaxing with family. When it’s time to unwind and have fun, do it. Don’t hang with friends or family with one eye on your cell phone waiting for emails or other work updates.

Learn something new. Working hard without giving yourself time to explore something out of the ordinary makes life monotonous. It’s hard to stay creative when you’re exposed to the same thing day after day. As you become good at other things besides work, you’ll be surprised at how much fuller your life becomes. Free your mind from work alone.

Daily reflection. Take time away from everyone, even if only 15 minutes a day. This time is meant for you to be conscious of your goals, your dreams and your life purpose. Time alone also allows you to temporarily distance yourself from stressors. Warning: Don’t use this time to worry about work. Simple meditation techniques can be a great help in bringing your stress levels down.

9 Things About Being A Business Owner You Ought To Know Now

November 29th, 2013 - By Lauryn Stallings
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Hindsight is 20/20. Too often that optometry-inspired axiom holds true. But if wisdom comes in a moment of reflection, it’s probably too late. Minimize your coulda-shoulda-wouldas. Here are nine things you should know before you go all in and start your business.

“The College Path Just Wasn’t Right for Me:” Mona Scott-Young Talks Gaining Success Without A Degree

November 11th, 2013 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Mona Scott-Young

Love & Hip Hop executive producer Mona Scott-Young is always on the move, constantly developing new shows and projects. She’s so busy, it’s pretty easy to forget that she has children and a husband at home. In a recent interview with Everything Girls Love, the media maven opened up about struggling to balance it all.

On her biggest accomplishment:

“Having my children, raising my family and being in a committed relationship.”

On balancing family and work:

“The balance of it is a juggling act everyday. It is something I’ve yet to master. I think there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything that I aspire to do in my career and spend every moment that I was love to spend with my family, so it definitely is a constant juggling act.”

On skipping college:

“I was living on my own at a very early age and needed to work to pay rent and found that the college path just wasn’t right for me. You can go out there, work hard and accomplish and achieve your dreams. I was able to strike out and find my success and find my way through life on my own.”

On separating work and personal feelings:

“It’s a very fine line to walk. It’s very easily blurred at times. I always try to maintain a certain level of professionalism in my dealings with clients, but it’s very hard to not get personally involved with them. You grow to care for these people. They become part of your family. They do become extended family to you. It is a very, very fine line to walk.”

On being perceived as “mean:”

“The people who really know me know that’s not the case. I can’t concern myself with what people who don’t know me have to say about me; because they’re coming to their conclusions from a very narrow perspective. Maybe I am mean in the pursuit of what it is that needs to be done. I try to maintain a reputation of doing good business and of being a good person to be in business with. So I hope that’s what people who are in business with me have to say. “

On young women looking to make it in media:

“I just encourage people to never give up on those dreams; to never think that they can’t do or be something. We are all born on an equal playing field. I just think that we all need to recognize that the sky is the limit. Everyday that you get up, whatever it is that you aspire to do, go for it with everything you’ve got. Really, there is nothing to stop you but yourself.”

Time To Exhale: Why Downtime Is Important For Your Career

October 15th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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With Americans working up to 72 hours a week, there is a need for downtime. And while smartphones and laptops make it difficult to disconnect from work, not taking time off can have a negative affect on various areas of your life, from personal relationships to your wallet.

On the other hand, taking time to unwind can actually help your career. Creating the space for downtime increases productivity, reports Harvard Business Review. BCG conducted an experiment that found forcing employees to take days, nights, or extended periods of time off actually increased productivity. “Taking the time to get out of the details and view the larger picture can also help us better understand the purpose and priority of our tasks,” reports Harvard Business Review.

Look at other countries for proof that downtime boosts productivity. Industrial powerhouses Germany and France have 35-hour workweeks, but their productivity levels are among the highest in the world, reports The Huffington Post.  And while, on average, workers in these countries may have lower incomes, their standard of living and quality of life are in many ways above the U.S. Another study found that employees who unplugged and took time off such reduced serious health issues as coronary heart disease.

“I consider the value of getting enough downtime as the difference between life and death,” Dr. Bisa Batten Lewis, known as Dr. Bisa, tells us in an email interview. “Longevity requires rest. As a busy-body mompreneur, my mom often reminds me, ‘Even God rested on the Sabbath day.’ I take heed and listen, at least one day per week, or when my body tells me to rest. Now that I am over 40, I’ve learned to listen now, more than ever.” Dr. Bisa is the founder and managing partner of an educational consulting firm and a curriculum company and founder of the Dr. Bisa Foundation.

So here’s how to make room for “me” time:

Schedule time for yourself: Make a date to spend time for yourself. “Just as you would schedule a work meeting and stick to it, schedule evenings off, one to two days a week free of work, and weeklong chunks of vacation every year,” reports Harvard Business Review. Adds Dr. Bisa, “As an entrepreneur, I take advantage of being able to determine my own schedule. There are some contractual dates I don’t have control over, so I focus on those that I do.”

Learn your body’s signals: Your body will tell you when it’s time for a break.  “When I am overdoing it, my neck and back tighten and I am less creative and productive. As an author and curriculum developer, creativity is crucial to my wallet. It’s my bread and butter,” says Dr. Bisa.

Turn off your smartphone: If you aren’t connected you won’t be tempted to work.

Start downtime rituals and routines: According to most research, developing routines help you sleep more soundly. “I try to only work away from home three days per week max and save a day for clerical work—that’s four days working during a five-day work week,” explains Dr. Bisa.

Make time for family and friends: Maintaining personal relationships is key to having a healthy outlet from work.  “I get pretty irritable when I don’t get downtime. So my relationships, especially with my sons, can be strained. I fail to implement appropriate parenting techniques, during those times,” admits Dr. Bisa. “Funny thing is, my sons know and seem to tread carefully. That’s another sign that I need to slow down or take some downtime and makes me feel pretty bad. Being in a long-distance relationship makes life easier for me—just being honest.”

Do something for yourself: Even if it is just reading a new book, do something that you enjoy. “My personal downtime requirement is one day per week doing absolutely nothing—at least for the majority of the day. Being that I work/write in my home makes compartmentalizing tough, but I make a concerted effort to follow through with downtime by balancing my calendar,” says Dr. Bisa. “In addition to the one rest day per week, I get one day/evening of unquestionable ‘adult time’  or ‘me time’, during which I go have fun with friends or just do something alone. I also take one full spa day each month, usually on a Sunday after church. I stay all day and indulge in authentic Korean saunas and spa services!”

Small Business-Friendly Cities: Where To Move Your Startup For Success

October 11th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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According to the U.S. Small Business Administration more than 50 percent of small businesses fail in the first five years. The stats aren’t too encouraging, but there may be something you can do to give your new firm a fighting chance.

Want to give your small business a better chance of thriving? Move. Some cities are more small business-friendly according to a new report from credit card comparison website CardHub.

CardHub’s study examined the 30 largest metropolitan areas around the country and ranked each city’s small business work environment based on 10 criteria, including small business job growth, salaries for new hires, cost of living and stress index, reports The Huffington Post.

The list is surprising. Minneapolis and San Antonio, for example, beat out Los Angeles and Chicago to make the top 10. And bankrupt Detroit came in last out of all 30 cities.

Phoenix and Riverside, Calif.,  were among the cities with the fastest growing small business communities, but they ranked among the bottom 10 for work environment. Here are the top three:

1. Denver: Number of businesses with 20 employees or less–51,938
2. Boston: Number of businesses with 20 employees or less–84,781
3. Minneapolis: Number of businesses with 20 employees or less–61,523
In the top 10, Kansas City landed in the last slot. It has 32,875 businesses with 20 employees or less.

Good Eats, Good Mood: Personal Choice Makes A Lunch Break Great

October 9th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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Can lunch change your mood? It sure can, according to a new study shows that how you spend your midday break matters less than whether or not you have the choice to lunch on your own terms, reports The Huffington Post.

In other words, the best lunch break is one in which you decide how to spend it. Don’t let your job dictate that you lunch at your desk when you really want to take a break outdoors, for example. “Need for autonomy is a fundamental psychological need, and past research shows that a feeling of autonomy is energizing on its own,” study co-author Dr. Ivona Hideg, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Wilfrid Laurier University’s School of Business in Canada, explained The Huffington Post. “More specifically to lunch breaks, having autonomy over our lunch break activities gives us an opportunity to utilize our time in a way that suits us the best.”

The study surveyed 103 administrative workers at a large university, asking them how they spent their lunch breaks over a 10-day period, The Atlantic reported. Then, the researchers asked each person’s co-workers how tired that person seemed to be by the end of each work day.

“We found that a critical element was having the freedom to choose whether to [work through lunch] or not,” study co-author Dr. John Trugakos, associate professor in the department of management at the University of Toronto, wrote. “The autonomy aspect helps to offset what we had traditionally thought was not a good way to spend break time.”

There were some common links between lunchtime activities and levels of fatigue. If you participate in relaxing activities during lunch that you personally choose, it may lead to the least amount of reported fatigue at the end of the day. Doing work during lunch may result in appearing more tired. This is reduced when the choice to work was your own personal decision. Surprisingly, socializing during lunch may actually lead to higher levels of fatigue if you’re with people you can’t necessarily be yourself with, such as certain co-workers or your boss.

This study will be published in the October issue of the Academy of Management Journal.

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