When it comes to successfully balancing a career with family life, the key factor is flexibility. This is true for two executives with the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. I sat down with Vice President of Development and Marketing, Serena Bruzgo, and Vice President of Exhibits and Programs, Nancy Walsh, to find out how they make dedicated and quality time for both their careers and families.
Serena Bruzgo has an exciting job of telling the story of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science to the community, and inspiring people to share their stories, which can be captured and retold. She’s in charge of engaging the public in the Museum’s mission, which includes everything from ticket sales and membership to engaging with leaders in philanthropic activities that advance the Museum’s vision.
Inspired by her parents’ work ethic as she was growing up, Serena witnessed their belief that work is empowering and instills confidence. She believes she can carry those values forward to empower others in a positive way. As a mother of a five-year old girl and three-year old boy, and wife to a husband who is an engineer and a business owner, her career allows her to amplify her family’s love for nature and science.
“I’m living my calling,” said Serena. “I see such thoughtfulness and curiosity in the people who connect with the Museum – from children to young adults to retired life-long learners. Our community is curious about the natural and scientific world and I get to see this in my inquisitive and playful children. As a result, I try to make sure I’m intentional with my words and how I position the way I talk about my job. I really want my kids to see and understand that what I do has a positive impact on others who love, understand and protect our natural world. I’m lucky to be able to do things that help others engage with their natural love for science and make nature a part of everyone’s lives.”
With a one-hour commute to work, Serena uses that time to decompress, makes good use of podcasts and her Audible membership, and occasionally uses Lyft in order to get work done while in the car.
“I enjoy the intellectual stimulation my work gives me, both as a career woman and as a mother,” she added. “The things I worry about are more at the macro level rather than the micro one. I can be both present at work and engaged with my family when I’m home.”
“It’s such a great time to be alive as there are so many exciting opportunities at our fingertips,” said Serena. “I love looking for possible streams of revenue and believe that women and men can do rewarding work that is aligned with their values. From consulting to contract work, to building an online business, there are more ways than ever for people to create a life they love.”
When it comes to relaxation and rejuvenation, Serena enjoys yoga, listening to podcasts, and spending time with her friends. Sometimes, her children get to take part in events at the Museum, such as summer camp or opening events for new exhibitions. She also loves skiing and snowshoeing and hopes to do more of that in the near future as the kids get older. Certainly, their house is filled with dance parties, gardening, and helping around the house. She and her husband make it a priority to have a date night once a month.
Serena is learning to let go of the mommy guilt that can be present when juggling work with family life. She does this by focusing on the present moment, and trying to remain grateful for all she has.
“I am so happy with my life right now, and very lucky to have a supportive husband, curious children and a meaningful career,” she added. “I think that ultimately, having flexibility is key to making the most of my time with my family and the exciting work I do.”
Nancy Walsh is responsible for connecting a diverse group of people to nature and science in ways that are meaningful to them. She and her team develop and facilitate programs and exhibits that resonate with museum visitors. They are also designing a mobile museum that will travel to schools and across Colorado to engage students and families around nature and science. All of these activities result from feedback the Museum received from community members (both visitors and non-visitors) about their wants and needs.
Nancy is the mother of a 21-year old man, an 18-year old woman, and a 15-year old boy. Her husband works as a professor and associate dean. She always knew she wanted to be a mom and loves kids, having come from a large family. But she’s also wanted to do other things and has always worked. When she was growing up, her mother worked and served as a positive role model. Nancy understands that all parents have the challenge of juggling and being flexible. This is true in her case, where she spends time on many evenings and weekends orchestrating cultural events that can cut into family life.
“I’m lucky in that I have a husband who joyfully embraces what I do, and I’m just a 10-minute walk from work, so that gives me more time to be with my family,” said Nancy. “The museum makes it easier for working parents, with benefits that support adoptive and biological parents and those in other care-giving roles, including a robust employee assistance program, paid parental leave, flexible scheduling options for new parents returning to work, and opportunities to work from home. Our audience consists of families, so this makes perfect sense.”
Nancy realizes that when it comes to balancing work life with home life, there is a certain flow. There are busy moments with tight deadlines, children who get sick, and it’s important to realize that each of these things is simply a moment in time, and not a catastrophe.
“When I keep bumping up against the same challenge, I recognize it as a sign that I need a new plan of attack, which helps me feel more balance — whether it’s at work, with family, or in the community,’ she added. “I try to remember I’m not perfect and there’s really no point in beating myself up when unexpected things happen.”
For Nancy, one reward of working outside the home is fulfillment. She loves the challenges and what she does with the museum.
“Life is about living the whole spectrum,” she said. “It’s also about prioritizing and modifying our behavior to suit the needs of different people. It’s not an either-or situation if we’re integrating the different parts of our lives in powerful ways.”
Periodically, Nancy’s work requires her to travel so she always thinks about when she leaves and when she returns, cognizant of travel times and making the most out of her time on airplanes. If she can get work done on the road, it helps her in both work and home life.
“I also think making time for getaways is key, as well as listening to yourself and understanding your own needs.”
Outside of work, Nancy enjoys hiking outdoors with the kids, walking, watching movies with her teens, and eating out at restaurants as well as cooking at home. She also makes time for date nights, weekend excursions, and has prioritized spending to outsource what she can so she has more time to do the things that are important to her. Her advice to other working parents is to be kind and supportive of each other, and to make time for friends and other professionals.
“I learn the most from these people,” she said. “Everything I know is stolen from the insights of brilliant leaders and friends. Life is all about relationships, whether those at work, with family, or in the community. I enjoy building resilient teams that expose people to new opportunities to build skills. I think by doing these things, I’m also a better wife, mom, and daughter.”
When parents are considering whether they want to work outside the home, Nancy believes it’s perfectly okay to do what they need to do to have a beautiful life. She sees keeping a finger in something engaging and intellectual, whether that’s through volunteering, consulting or something else as especially effective.
“I think we’ve progressed a great deal in the past decade when it comes to prioritizing a healthy balance. I admire those parents who thrive on the benefits of staying at home, and I think it’s a highly personal choice based on what people want their lives to look like.”
For information on how to get more involved with all that the Denver Museum of Nature & Science has to offer, visit: The Denver Museum of Nature & Science.