I always wanted to be a mom, but I didn’t choose the timing of when to become a mom. It chose me. Once chosen, I had a decision to make. Was I going to go back to work after my maternity leave? Well that’s a trick question. I never stopped working, you see. Having a baby is work and caring for a newborn is non-stop work. The question was, did I want to go back to my well paid career of high tech sales for five days a week?
I was at a fork in the road.
I loved my career. I loved my colleagues. I was ambitious, educated and driven. And the clock on my maternity leave was wrapping up. I’ll never forget driving over the Bay Bridge to our Pleasanton Sales office to meet with our VP of Sales, Bill Ribera. He was a super nice guy and a solid sales manager. He was also a dad with several children and his wife, as I recalled, stayed at home. We had our meeting and I told him how much I loved working at VERITAS in his department, and was it possible for me to work part time? I just couldn’t see working full time. I looked down at those big brown eyes and pudgy cheeks of my son while nursing, and I wasn’t ready to be apart from him all week. Working part time seemed like a happy medium. But I was told, “We love you Francesca, but there are no part time jobs in sales. You could move part time to marketing, however.”
In Silicon Valley, marketing was the more female department and engineering and sales were dominated by men. It was that way in the 90s, the 00s and still today. I remember my interviews after business school in the mid 90s. Sales managers were looking for aggressive closers. Many of my peers had played football, rugby, soccer…you get the idea—team sports. They had a proven track record of physical aggressiveness that many sales managers found would correlate well in the real world. Tech sales is not for the faint of heart. For me, I had stamina. I was a runner and my claim to fame back then was that I had run the Marine Corps Marathon in college, then the Napa Marathon and the St. Louis Marathon in my 20s. In the early 90s, running was still a quirky sport, and marathons weren’t as popular as they are today and dominated by men. Now, that’s changed and there are more female runners than men who finish road races. But for my ex-jock sales managers who were now trying to jog on the weekends to work off the Happy Hours, they respected anyone who could run that far. People always noticed the “marathon running” as one of my interests at the bottom of my resume—I swear it helped me close job interviews.
Moving to marketing meant commuting 30 miles south to Mountain View each day, and I lived in San Francisco. Marketing also meant an income with no commission, no upside. I was used to my base commission and then the sky’s-the-limit compensation plan. It seemed to me when I knocked the salary in half to accommodate part time, I was barely netting enough after I paid the nanny. This really didn’t feel worth it. I figured, if I ever jumped back into the job market, that’s why I got my MBA. That was my security blanket. I could walk away from the job market and jump back in when I was ready.
My maternity leave turned into an eternity leave.