All of a sudden, Marissa Mayer and I are about to have something very significant in common. At the age of 37, she is both the CEO of Yahoo and pregnant with her first child. I’m a year older, and the CEO of Pixability, a video marketing software company. Eighteen months ago, I gave birth to my daughter, Louisa. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Don’t Believe What They Say I’ve had investors, family and the general public wonder aloud whether I was being reckless to attempt both a baby and a post as CEO at the same time. But thanks to brain chemistry, having a baby is likely to improve your performance as CEO. Childbirth strengthens the area in your frontal cortex that governs executive function-;important stuff such as planning, problem solving, verbal reasoning, and multi-tasking. Hugely helpful.
Babies Are Simpler To Manage Than Tech Companies. As an analytical person, I like to sink my teeth into hard problems. A tech company is a pretty complex equation. Solving an equation for multiple variables while they change dynamically is what I do for a living. As it turns out, healthy babies have precious few variables: food, sleep, diaper, boredom, and that’s about it. You’ll figure it out pretty quickly.
Don’t Take Less Than Six Weeks Off I’m a hardcore workaholic. I was convinced that I’d be back in the office a few days after Louisa’s birth. I simply couldn’t do it. There’s a reason why most European countries have a legal ban on women working for six weeks after childbirth. Your brain may be ready to get back to work, but your body needs time to shrink your uterus and get back into fighting form. It just takes time. That said, I did give my first public speech three weeks after Louisa was born.
Take the Baby to the Office After six weeks at home I felt like I was in baby prison. I was really anxious to get back to my team, so I started taking Louisa to work. This was a really positive experience. For the first year of her life, Louisa came to the office every day at lunch so I could nurse her. I started telling people: It takes not a village, but a tech company, to raise a child.
Keep Your Priorities Straight This is the hardest part. As CEO, you have to keep your focus on what’s important. Society tells you to prioritize your baby above all. People are depending on you for their livelihoods. So who wins?. Some days I’ve left the house in tears because Louisa holds out her little arms, reaches for me and screams like I’m never coming back. But I had to make a meeting. On other days I’ve canceled an important investor or customer meeting because I had been up all night with her. My advice is to step back regularly and see if in the grander scheme of things, you are being true to both roles. If you’re able to do this, the math will work out for both sides in the long run.
BETTINA HEIN is the founder and CEO of Pixability a video marketing company that helps businesses increase sales by getting the right videos in front of the right audience so they take the right action. Prior to Pixability Bettina co-founded the Swiss-based speech software specialist SVOX AG, which sold to Nuance Communications for $125 million.