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Insights When maternity leave ends, and work starts...

19 February 2020

#InsideAtkins recently met up with Elaine, Senior Business Transformation Consultant at Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group. We were curious about how she manages a rising career and a growing family. Here's what she had to say:
                       image of Elaine smiling

Congrats on the birth of your baby and on your new role! Please tell us what it is you do and why you love it:

I've recently joined the Business Transformation team as a senior consultant. The team is part of the Transport Consultancy and Advisory business unit, and we help our clients solve their most difficult challenges around strategic direction, delivery, culture and change. 

My background is in communications, marketing and engagement. I worked in the communications and marketing team at Atkins for four years, leading the marketing for our water business. Before that, I worked for Welsh Water and London 2012.

I'm looking forward to using my skills in a client-focused environment, helping the teams and people I work with to achieve their goals. 

How did you manage to progress your career so soon after maternity leave?

In 2018, I completed the Skills4UK/Atkins Women's Development Programme. It focuses on helping women at Atkins achieve their career goals. On the course, a TED talk by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, resonated with me. She spoke about the barriers to women in the workplace. She said, "Put your foot on that gas pedal and keep it there until the day you go [on maternity leave]." 

I heard about my current role before I left on maternity. I'd been interested in business consultancy and having spoken to colleagues in that area, I could see that I had many of the skills. I applied for the role and was offered it shortly after I got back from having my baby!

What is the most amazing thing Atkins has made you realize about yourself?

        image of elaine talking to a colleague

That I can contribute to the business and am part of its success. I feel that no matter what our role is or how senior or junior we are, we're all pulling together to move things forward. I reverse-mentor one of our managing directors, and he's genuinely interested to hear my views on the company, particularly around what the company can do to support women's careers. The sessions have made me realize that my perspective is valued, and I can offer something different to the conversation.  

Tell us about your maternity experience at Atkins?

My colleagues made my maternity leave go very smoothly. I felt part of the team, working on exciting projects until the day I left. While I was away, I was kept up to date with team news – as much as I wanted to! And when my baby was born, I was very touched to receive flowers from the company. My team also made sure I joined them for lunch and social events.

My 'Keeping in Touch' days were worthwhile and included a reverse-mentoring session. And Atkins also offers those returning from maternity leave a maternity allowance, which is a fantastic incentive. 

Tell us what you enjoyed about the Online Returners Programme.

It was a great way to use my Keeping in Touch days. It meant that I could ease myself back into work while doing something meaningful. 

The coaching sessions were with Michelle Lewis from Skills4UK. She’s an excellent coach who got me into the right frame of mind for returning to work. Michelle has children herself and is incredibly successful, so she was able to share some tips on how she managed to balance her home life and progress her career. 

We talked through a range of topics, including how to balance returning to work and a young baby, how to approach my first day, how to plan my first few weeks, and how to set myself some new career goals. 

From a busy parent's point of view, how does Atkins stack up?

I don't think that the family-friendly policies that Atkins offers can be beaten. Maternity leave is just one part of your child's life. My employer needs to support me through all the different stages of my family's life. For example, I currently work from home every Friday so that I can drop off and pick up my older children from school.

One of our policies is that employees can apply to change their working patterns throughout the year to balance their work and home life. And this is not just for parents but for everyone. Even if you just want more leisure time. For a working mum like me, this means that I could work shorter hours during the school holidays. 

You can also buy additional leave, which has meant that I've been able to take more time off during the summer break – meaning I don't need to worry about finding childcare for six or seven weeks! 

Which policies at Atkins have been most helpful to you?
     image of elaine with her family

Flexible Working! While I work full-time hours now, I worked part-time hours when my two older children were young. There was absolutely no issue increasing to full-time hours when I felt it was the right time. 

I have the flexibility to work my hours around things that are important to both my children and me. I haven't missed a school play yet, unlike many of my mum friends who often struggle to get time off for these sorts of activities. 

By being so supportive, Atkins allows me to get the most out of life at work and at home. I never feel pressure to sacrifice my family life to fulfil my role in the business. 

How did you feel valued as an Atkineer?

Atkins embraces a very positive culture, and I have felt that personally so many times. I've been rewarded with awards via our recognition scheme, which is a real bonus, but sometimes it's the small things that matter most. I felt really valued when a senior director took the time to handwrite a note and post it to me, thanking me for my work on a particular project. And when our CEO emailed my team to congratulate us on a client event we'd organized. 

Our new recognition platform, #WOW, makes it easy to thank and celebrate others for a job well done, both socially and financially. We can all now give our colleagues a pat on the back at the touch of a button. 

How do your colleagues and managers at Atkins support you and your priorities?

        image of elaine on a boat

Many of my colleagues have young families, so we all fully appreciate the importance of flexibility. When I started my new role, I spoke to my manager about my working arrangements, and she was completely supportive. She has been at Atkins for 20 years and said part of the reason she has worked here so long was that she could bring up her children, using the flexibility when she needed it. And that never stopped her progressing her career and working on some great projects – she is now a Director. 

It's all well and good having the policies in place, but you need managers to embrace them. From my perspective, every manager I've had has been an advocate for flexible working. 

Tell us about some of Atkins' new inclusive spaces?

Our welfare rooms have facilities  including fridges to store milk and high-backed chairs, so we are able to express while at work. I love the calming decor, which adds to the comfort.

What would you say to candidates, ready for their next career step?

Firstly, Atkins offers a vast range of opportunities beyond engineering. So if you're not an engineer, you'd be surprised at the many different opportunities we offer. We work on some amazing projects all over the world, with an array of talented people. 

Secondly, if flexibility is important to you, whether you want more time to spend on your hobbies, with your family or volunteering, then Atkins is a great option. Our company believes that when you're excelling in your personal life, you bring that energy and passion to work. How can you beat that?  

Well, the good news is we're hiring. Check out these live vacancies to see where you'll fit in.