For many entrepreneurs, your business is your baby. For Shadiah Sigala, co-founder of HoneyBook, the collaborative platform that helps event professionals organize jobs in one place, being pregnant meant having two babies to manage. Her pregnancy experience brought about a number of changes not only to her own life but to the life of the company. In a candid conversation, she shared her key struggles when growing a business as well as a tiny life.
Socializing pregnancy and maternity talk.
Sigala’s biggest hurdle was simply being pregnant in an industry where being pregnant is rarely seen or talked about. While much of the talk of creating company culture in the tech industry centers around ping-pong tables in the employee lounge and teambuilding events, maternity talk isn’t considered sexy. Especially since most women in the industry are talking about “leaning in.” Being pregnant forced Sigala to bring maternity talk to the table. “I’ve had to introduce the topic and socialize being pregnant and not being physically or mentally there a hundred percent of the time,” says Sigala.
Consider maternity and paternity policies.
With a baby on the way, Sigala and her co-founders were forced to discuss maternity and paternity policies. HoneyBook began to look at what other companies in the industry were doing. “I wanted to offer a more competitive paternal policy so we could continue to attract the best talent,” says Sigala. “We want to be on the progressive end of the spectrum because we think it’s important to change the conversation within the industry and to treat our employee well.” The company is now in the process of putting together a formal parenting policy that not only matches the six weeks that the state of California (where HoneyBook is located) allows, but to add another term to make it a full three months paid maternity leave.
Sigala has also thought about how she will transition back to work and is working on a policy to provide employees with another three months of flex time that will allow returning employees to work from home and figure out their childcare routine before being expected to fully return to work. Also under consideration is a daycare allowance of up to $1,000 a month for the first three months to alleviate the heavy burden childcare costs place on employees returning to work after baby.
Admit you’re not a superhero.
Although pregnancy can be a joyful time, it often requires an adjustment in expectations and in work routine. During the first trimester, Sigala struggled with having to pretend she was feeling normal even when she was nauseous and functioning at less than a hundred percent of her normal capacity. “All I wanted to do was crawl under the desk and go to sleep,” she says. “You’re supposed to be this inspiring force of nature and you’re supposed to be working 12 hours a day and that was so difficult for me to pull off in the first few months.”
Once she reached her second trimester, Sigala opened up to her team about her situation and had to adjust her work to what her body was telling her it needed in order to build a baby. “Once I was able to talk about it, I would say, ‘Ok, I’m going to go home at 7 pm tonight instead of 9 because I’m really tired,’” she says. This often meant being flexible about when and where she got her work done.
Sigala likens having a baby to holding a ticking time bomb in your tummy. With her baby due at the end of July, Sigala was forced to look at her calendar and decide what items she was going to prioritize in the months and weeks leading up to the baby’s birth. “I became really good about prioritizing and moving stuff off [my plate] that didn’t matter,” she says.
Cancelling meetings that didn’t make it to the priority list and delegating tasks was key to Sigala getting everything done on her slimmed down to-do list.