Case

Jennifer Craddock Folsom
balanced careers. successful lives.

Introduction

"Two? What do you mean 'two'?" Jennifer asked the radiologist.

 

Less than 24 hours before, Jennifer, a 2nd year MBA student at Georgetown University, evacuated downtown Washington, D.C. Covering her ears to block incessant alarms, viewing the pillars of smoke and smelling burning jet fuel, she knew for certain that her life was never going to be the same.

 

BackgroundThe first (on her mother's side) in her family to go to college, Jennifer was an all-star undergraduate; Phi Beta Kappa and Magna cum Laude from Randolph-Macon College, a small liberal arts college in central Virginia. Believing that corporate finance was the most lucrative, as well as difficult to obtain, career option, she interned and made her way to the private client group at Legg Mason Wood Walker. There she traded equities, managed portfolios and learned more about client management than she would ever care to imagine. But when her innovative business strategy idea was awarded, then handed over to a more senior associate with an MBA, to run, she knew it was time for business school.

 

Her boss, then managing nearly $3 billion in assets, was incredulous. "You are going to make six figures next year, as a 25 year old, why on earth would you do that? We can teach you everything you need to know here!"

 

But Jennifer knew this was the right step. She looked around; not a female associate among her team, and knew that if she wanted to have a family, she'd have to go a different route. Her team and management, though supportive, were all men who spent all day, every day in front of a desktop computer with trading capabilities, glued to the phones in rotating client conversations.

 

Jennifer then headed to the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown, then one of 52 women in her class of 210. Returning to her belief that corporate finance was the "best," Jennifer accepted a prestigious internship with a local boutique investment banking firm, and promptly hated it. Not only was the work relatively banal, the team was anything but supportive and the hours were brutal. In three months she pulled two all nighters. Again, Jennifer realized that a culture of face time and the omnipresence of a travel suitcase in your cubical to be at Reagan National Airport, 2 miles away, on a moment's notice, was not going to jive with the family she had planned for the future.

 

In September, 2001, she returned to campus, pregnant very quickly after making the decision to start a family, very frustrated about her career options post-graduation. Then, the world changed forever.

 

Professional Issue

 

After the terrorist attacks of 2001, corporate recruiting came to an abrupt halt in Washington, D.C. After learning on September 12, 2001 that she was pregnant with twins, Jennifer struggled with how to proceed. Her 5 ft 0" frame nearing an astounding 65 lb weight gain, she reluctantly withdrew from what was left of the MBA recruiting process and focused instead on graduating on time. The twins, arriving 6 weeks early and in the middle of the 4th quarter, required Jennifer to get creative with her class scheduling and rely heavily on her teammates, skills that would prove to be absolutely essential to managing motherhood in the workplace.

 

After a scant six months "off" with the twins, Jennifer headed back to work in a horrific hiring environment with a Big 5 Management Consulting Firm in the Federal sector, then ramping up big to support major military endeavors. Taking a relatively significant pay cut, Jennifer took the role because it promised a schedule with a maximum of 40 billable hours per week and minimal travel. Although the firm promoted a fair amount of flexibility, Jennifer found herself repeatedly "mommy tracked," and after being recommended for and then denied promotion the third time, she quit.

 

"For the first time in my life, I didn't have a plan. The twins were four and I knew I was losing them to school the next year; we took a wonderful summer off, my first summer off since I was 14. We went to a different museum every morning and the pool every afternoon, took a half-dozen road trips and had a wonderful time. But my head was moving faster than my body and I knew I needed to work, but how?"

 

Jennifer took two successive freelance consulting roles and added to her family with another little boy. (Note 1) Again, Jennifer took six months "off" and knew she wanted to work, but on her terms and for a role that not only mattered, but worked with her family.

 

Personal Issue

 

Around the time her third son was born, she was approached by a college friend and her business partner about a company they were starting in Richmond, Momentum Resources, that would help working mothers find part-time and flexible full-time jobs. With a mission that was very close to her heart and the ability to own her own destiny, and more importantly, schedule, Jennifer opened the Washington, DC area operation.(See Note 2)

 

The idea quickly took off. Soon Jennifer was placing not only working mothers in a variety of fields, from project managers to attorneys, but she found that the concept was working with a broader population. From graduate students looking for extra income to baby boomers returning to work after an early retirement due to the Great Recession, Jennifer was inundated. With more than 100% year-over-year growth, three young boys and a husband with a very demanding career, Jennifer was not living the balance she preached daily.

 

Jennifer found it ironic that though she was speaking to womens groups every week about the importance of balance, she was up working at 5 am, answering emails on her iPhone at the playground and not giving 100% to either her business or her family.(See Note 3)

 

Then one day a new client, the first in the male-dominated finance industry, called during the dinner hour. With the kids wrapping up their meal and seemingly content, Jennifer took the call. (See Note 4) Setting the high chair tray on the stove as her husband walked in the door, Jennifer retreated to her home office to discuss an upcoming Chief Financial Officer role. The call was cut short when she heard the smoke alarm, saw billowing smoke and smelled the unmistakable stench of burning plastic. Returning to the kitchen, she saw her husband taking a flaming high chair tray through the house and out the front door. Horrified, Jennifer realized that she had neglected to turn off the burner on the stove when she set down the high chair tray. Stunned, she asked herself, "is this the balance I was looking for?"