What happens when you’re a driven 20-something who wants both a family and a big career? But once you decide to have a family, your career falls apart.
Jena Booher had a thriving career in finance, quickly moving up; but after her pregnancy, her career stalled.
As women, we’re always walking that fine line. We talk about what having it all really means, and is it actually possible?
I do believe it’s possible. But I believe it requires us as individuals and as women to be in the driver’s seat, changing the rules and making work work for us.
In this interview, Jena Booher, founder of Babies on the Brain, and I talk about how Jena turned her biggest disappointment into a mission-driven business.
We also cover finding confidence to overcome imposter syndrome, and how to optimize your creativity.
Give us some background. Where are you from, and where did you start out?
I’m from the suburbs of NY and I started my career at the peak of the recession in 2008 at JP Morgan in Sales and Trading
Tell us about your company, Babies on the Brain. What’s the mission?
Babies on the Brain’s mission is to keep women in the workforce, especially in the midst of difficult life transitions, so companies can save millions of dollars by retaining and promoting their TOP female talent.
Not only do companies benefit from gender diversity by keeping women in the workforce, but so does the “family unit.”
Only 14% of women desire to stay home after their baby’s first year of life, but 46% of women for one reason or another do not return to their pre-baby employer.
I’m hoping that by giving companies the tools they need to keep their female talent, more women will stay, the gender pay gap will narrow, and we’ll have happier and healthier families.
What experiences led you to this work?
I was at the peak of my financial career back in 2014 and became pregnant with my first child. In an instant, my career fell apart.
I realized that my situation was not unique and women face these challenges all the time. However after my experience, I quit my job, enrolled in a graduate program, and founded my company.
I wanted to dedicate my life to serving others and helping their transition to motherhood be smoother than mine.
It’s pretty incredible to turn such a big disappointment to a mission-driven business. What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome these challenges?
The first challenge I faced was an identity issue especially while I was in the weeds trying to form my company because I didn’t identify with being an entrepreneur.
At cocktail parties I was really uncomfortable saying I was a founder. I really didn’t believe in myself or take my business seriously when talking about it to other people. Rationally I knew that I was building something special, but emotionally it was hard to buy into that.
Up until this point in my life I always had easy and super visible markers of success: going to a top school, getting a prestigious job, getting a good bonus.
This was a whole new way of legitimizing how I spent my time.
It’s a big transition. How did you get over the emotional hurdle?
This is still a work in progress for me. I definitely struggle with impostor syndrome at times.
However, when I feel it creeping in I lean on a fellow female entrepreneur for support. Many people who start their own businesses feel this, especially women. I know I’m not alone, which is greatly comforting.
At Work Bigger, one of our goals is to build creativity among readers and community members. We know this is a key skill required to thrive in the future of work. Can you share your definition of creativity?
To me, being creative means being you. There is only one of us on this earth and we’ve all been given a special superpower. Being creative is simply using your superpower to it’s fullest extent.
When are you most creative?
So this is kind of vulnerable for me to say, but it’s the truth… I’m most creative with content and idea generation in my post peak luteal phase (post-ovulation). I’m typically less social, more moody, and can really tap in on a deeper level to my emotional and authentic side.
I actually structure to the best of my ability the tasks I need to complete for my work according to what phase I am in my cycle. I’ve always been incredibly sensitive to hormonal fluctuations.
Hormonal imbalances were actually the cause of my horrific pregnancy. Instead of being embarrassed or hindered by these changes, I try to maximize them and use them to my advantage.
This is so powerful, and many of us women don’t think enough about how our cycle impacts our work. (I like to use the Hormone Horoscope to help with this.) Now, what are your favorite go-to resources or experiences to help you build your creativity?
I listen to people’s stories. Working with so many women has been incredibly rewarding and it also fuels my creativity.
Their stories, their life experiences, and their struggles inspire me. In addition their stories are a renewable energy source. Whenever I get stuck or burnt out, I have an incredible conversation with an incredible person. This is my act of self-care.
What advice do you have for 20 to 30-somethings who want to make an impact through their work but are currently feeling stuck?
I think one assumption many people make when thinking about changing how they work or doing something different is that looking for a new job will be another “full time job.”
I encourage people who feel the burden of a second “full time job” to look at it differently.
This second job is not going to suck the life out of you; otherwise you’re looking in the wrong field. The opportunity to do work you’re more passionate about should hopefully re-fuel you.
There are always challenges to switching gears and pursuing a new job, but if it’s mission driven and you love the work, it should be enjoyable.
To learn more about Jena and Babies on the Brain, click here.