Forget MBA, MOM's the word
Forget the MBA, MOM’S the word. By Alison van Diggelen You can't keep a good Siliconian down. Many pink-slip locals are turning back to school to get better qualified. But wait! Here's an alternative to the ubiquitous MBA, something worth thinking about, especially if you're a new mom, or just thinking about it. A friend of mine who is taking some time away from the career track to stay home with her kids recently got a call from an ex-colleague. He had a technical question and wondered if she could help. She replied with a snort of laughter, “How would I know? I’ve been watching Sesame Street for the last nine months.” This self-deprecating quip is funny indeed, but part of me rebels against the notion that this smart woman who once made a six-figure salary is selling herself short, now that she wears sweatpants to work. Many would have you believe that being home closes the door to the business world faster than you can say “Elmo’s world” By contrast, the Wall Street Journal featured a story about the attributes of working mothers. A dentist wrote in response to say that his staff of working mothers runs circles round his single staff. He enthused about their loyalty, efficiency, and incredible ability to multi-task. This fresh perspective on mothering inspired me to take a closer look at the skills that being a mother can bring to your resume. Motherhood can teach you to be an expert negotiator, strong public speaker, skilled crisis manager, and encourages your creative abilities. Properly marketed and suitably recognized, the skills learned from your kids can benefit you when you choose to go back into paid employment. Suspend your disbelief! Some even say a pair of rambunctious kids at home may improve your personal skills better than an MBA teacher can. Negotiation skills are key in any job and parenthood prepares you for almost any eventuality. Kids can be the cleverest and most intuitive negotiators you may ever encounter. If little Jimmy doesn’t want to do something, he can offer a complex series of reasons why not, and if the straight talk doesn’t work, he knows how to wheedle, cajole and whine. He’ll even recruit back up from siblings or friends. This training in multi-faceted oral warfare maybe what teaches you to stand your ground and become a strong leader. Take your new skills to the boardroom and make people listen up. Whether you take three or thirty months at home with kids, staying cool in adversity will be a cinch back at the office. Tirades from disgruntled clients, and ugly bosses will hardly ruffle your feathers. Nothing at the office can come near the humiliation and provocation of two preschoolers having a meltdown in the store, demanding candy before they get up from their splayed octopus position (legs and arms waving frantically) on the floor. Episodes like this do wonders to establish your composure skills and sense of humor. Voice projection goes through rigorous training during parenthood. The ability to make yourself heard over your kids’ and their friends’ ballyhoo is constantly tested. Parenthood also teaches you to speak with authority and conviction even though it may be feigned. Both excellent personal skills in the office. We all know that kids are strong on creativity. Just watching them stick gobs of construction paper on a box or listening to their burning questions on life can have profound consequences on your own creativity. Kids’ stimulus may open vaults of imagination that have been locked for decades. The ability to think “out of the box”, “push the envelope” etc. is (or at least was) heavily rewarded in Silicon Valley. Finally, the intensity of the MOM course should be recognized. There’s nothing slow paced about it. The Silicon Valley term 24/7 has new meaning for MOM. Being “on call” 24 hours a day, seven days a week can make even a grueling 80-hour workweek seem light. Motherhood in the business world is all in the marketing. I’m recommending that my friend tell her ex-colleagues that she may have been raising her kids with Sesame Street for a few months, but she’s also been on an intensive course of study, sharpening her skills for the business world. We both know of course that it will probably be a long road to full accreditation for her travails. As the economy cools and golden egg opportunities become distant memory, enrolling now for the MOM course might just be perfect timing. And unlike getting into MBA studies, the entry qualifications for MOM can be a whole lot more fun! © Alison van Diggelen is the editor of www.siliconmom.com. She welcomes your comments.