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CEO Mikki Silverman on balancing work and motherhood

by Phoebe Vertigan on December 14, 2015

As women, we wear many hats. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that as you are reading this you are on the train to work, juggling your lunch, or also thinking about the long list of things that you have to do. When we balance our career pressure with looking after a family, and staying in touch with our friends, it can be easy to be overwhelmed.

With this in mind, it’s really no surprise that studies have shown that Australia is one of seven countries where the average age of women giving birth to their first child is above 30.

For our final interview of the year, we chatted toMikki Silverman, CEO of DiffuzeHR, on how she balances her successful career with the demands of a young family, with another baby on the way!

Mikki, tell us a bit about you. What’s your background?  

Before joining DiffuzeHR, I worked in the UK, Europe and Australia with leading Management Consulting firm, Bain & Company, did a 14-month secondment as the GM Strategy at GoodStart Early Learning ($700m turnover and 14,000 staff), and two years as Head of Strategy at Liquorland (a division of Coles).

Before starting work, I completed a Bachelor of Engineering at Monash University and a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Melbourne.

I come from a large family with 3 younger brothers. I have a 16 month old son and another baby due in December. 

Earlier this year, you left the corporate world and became the CEO of a cloud-based HR company. What was the motivation behind this change? 

I was presented with an opportunity to take a business that had real potential to the next level. Having a son and being pregnant, I decided that I had to really enjoy the hours I was spending at work and feel as though I was progressing my career. To me, running a small growing business was something I had always wanted to do, but hadn’t had the chance to do yet. I also knew it would provide me with a lot more flexibility than I’d had in previous roles. I didn’t actually actively go out seeking to move, but when I came across it I realised that it was too good to turn down.

What’s the biggest change that you have noticed in your professional and personal life since leaving the corporate world?

There are a lot of people counting on me – our Founder, our Board, our investors, our Team. I love this challenge but it also comes with deep responsibility and a feeling of not wanting to let others down.

How do you balance taking care of your son with the demands of being a CEO? What does a typical day look like for you?

I really couldn’t do it without my support network. I have a hands on husband who understands how important my career is to me. My mum is a saviour – Raph is her first grandson and they live around the corner. I do outsource – I have a nanny and sometimes a cleaner. A lot of women don’t like to “ask for help,” but luckily for me, I don’t mind. I also live about a 5 min drive from the office, which means I have the flexibility to come and go when I need.

Raph has been waking up early lately – so I spend:

6.30-7.30am playing with Raph – having breakfast and watching the wiggles in our PJs

7.30 – 8.00 I get ready while Raph’s dad looks after him. I’m at work around 8.30/9am

9 – 5.30 Raph is either at home with the Nanny, or at my mum’s house while I’m at work. If I need to leave to take Raph to a friend’s birthday party or another appointment, I can.

5.30 – 7.30 dinner and bath time with Raph. Sometimes Gid and I fit in a walk with him and the dog (usually Gid has done the food shopping or I go by my mums to pick up takeaway).

8-10 back online doing emails etc.

It’s fair to say that women wear a lot of hats! What are your tips for prioritising and also ensuring maximum efficiency when you are at work?

I’ve thought about this a lot – I write down the one thing I need to achieve in the day, and try do it really well. I picture myself in the monthly board meeting and what I will tell them I achieved for the month. They don’t want to know about all the small things, just the one or two things I did that month that moved the dial, or made an impact. This keeps me focused.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for working mothers is their working environment. How have you created a culture that encourages flexibility and family commitments?  

I’ve really tried not to set the expectation that my team need to be at work at certain hours. If I leave during the day – I am honest about where I am and what I’ve doing. I often turn up at 10am or leave early and this is very visible to the team.

The problem is that I have tendency to send emails at night and on weekends. I often try not to send until Monday morning, but I need to get better at doing this. Though, I do make it clear to the team that they don’t need to respond on the weekend.

What is the best part of your job?

At the moment I am really enjoying the marketing and sales side of things. We have some really great and experienced people in this area and I am enjoying learning from them and really trying to understand what our customers want and how we can make life a little easier for them.

How do you relax and recharge? Do you have a particular wellness routine that you work into your schedule? 

I haven’t been as good this pregnancy – but with the first I swam early morning 3 times a week with a really encouraging group of people. There was no way I’d be getting in the water at 6am if it weren’t for them! I also can’t live without my Pilates. This pregnancy I’ve become completely addicted to The Good Wife – I have watched all 6 seasons from start to end (you don’t want to count how many hours that is).

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

I’d love to be running a successful midsize company that is helping and inspiring others.

Welcome to Leaders in Heels

Phoebe Vertigan
Phoebe is Melbourne-based writer who is passionate about young women excelling in their careers from day one. Phoebe’s insights come her own career change journey, from a busy life in the corporate world as an Intellectual Property lawyer, to a digital marketer and content creator. A social butterfly, Phoebe loves learning from thought leaders and connecting with young professionals alike. Phoebe also shares her thoughts on her personal blog, In her spare time, Phoebe loves trying new restaurants, having dinner parties, trying to stay healthy, travelling, reading and indulging in her social media obsession.
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