Busy executives understand how it feels when they need to be in several places at the same time, and that it’s a challenge to balance work responsibilities with daily life activities. But Trimble Inc.’s Buildings Franchise Director of Strategy, Michelle Frye, manages both effectively.
Michelle has served in a number of functions at Trimble Inc. over the years. In her current strategic role, she leads the development of strategies and projects to both accelerate business results and better serve customers. These projects include long-range planning, and quarterly reviews for the division, providing technology solutions for each phase of a building’s lifecycle, using data from complex projects to help customers improve productivity.
Michelle is mother to two daughters, ages six and nine, which means she’s busy not only with work, but she’s helping with school activities, driving them from place to place, and maintaining constant communication while being fully present.
“I do a lot of multi-tasking and am constantly prioritizing so that I can be efficient,” said Michelle. “If this means evaluating whether I can make dinner while on a conference call or not, that’s what I’ll do. I think busy parents need to be highly self-aware and mindful of their situation, and in my case, that means being transparent, flexible, and managing expectations for everyone, at work with my colleagues and at home with my family.”
Michelle has a 15-minute commute to and from work and she says that matters. She believes commuting is probably the biggest issue for working moms because that time is so valuable. In addition, when she does have to travel, she knows it’s for a reason, and she makes that time intentional.
“There’s been a paradigm shift with all the technology now available, and when possible, I try to accomplish my work through online meetings, alleviating the need for me to constantly travel,” she said.
While Michelle prides herself on being a mama bear, she didn’t grow up thinking she’d have a gaggle of children. Both her mother and grandmother worked outside the home, so their having careers seemed normal; she grew up following their examples to be independent, strong, and intellectually curious.
“I really think that balancing work with family is about being pragmatic in decision making,” added Michelle. “I didn’t want to give up on my career, but I understand it’s a very personal decision and there are many factors to consider, such as the outrageous cost of childcare, and assessing the cost-benefit of being with the kids and still enjoying the intellectual stimulation you get with an exciting career.”
In Michelle’s case, her children know that her career matters. They also know that they matter. They understand the value and importance of her ambition because she‘s equally devoted to their lives.
“When I had my first daughter, I was able to work from home but with the second, I went to the office and naturally there were more challenges which required a lot of flexibility,” she said. “Because I had worked out a way to establish a strong infrastructure, I made it work, and now it’s a little easier because my kids are school-age.”
Managing Stress at Home and at Work
Michelle makes time to do things that reduce the daily stresses of parenting and working. She exercises regularly and believes it’s important to be active in other ways.
“I maintain the commitment to doing health-related activities on an ongoing basis,” she said. “It’s important because it gives me the time and space to think through problems.”
In addition, Michelle and her daughters try to get outside regularly, whether that’s to ski or hike. And they enjoy each other’s company baking together at home, reading, and playing games.
“Trimble is a global company where people are generally personally passionate about what we do and care about each other,” said Michelle. “We each make a positive commitment to our jobs. Being global means that it’s really not possible do the job only between 9-5. That downside brings an upside though, in that there is flexibility. While I may have to take a call at 6:30am with colleagues in Europe, I can then get ready, take the kids to school, meet with a teacher and head into the office. That’s another reason I can manage stressful events. I have the flexibility in my schedule, since every day is different.”
When asked what advice she’d give to other parents weighing the decision of whether to work outside the home, she says to trust your gut.
“If you really feel one way or another, that’s a voice you need to listen to,” she added. “If you’re on the fence about it, try and do both, even if it’s part-time. Don’t give up without trying. I think a lot of the decisions come down to corporate culture. I’d rather try working and prove to myself I can do it, and be a strong and present mother with my girls.”
In the grand scheme of things, Michelle acknowledges that while it’s hard, it’s only that way for a short amount of time.
“Life changes, and you have to be mindful and understand that you are in control, and you do have a say,” she said. “Be realistic, but set yourself up for success in all areas of life.”