AppNexian Interviews: Demystifying Flexible Work
Flexible work schedules are woven into the cultural fabric of AppNexus. No matter the personal reason, we encourage employees to define their work-life balance based on their individual needs.
Flexible work can mean different things for different people, such as customizing the hours of a five-day work week, fitting one’s workload into three days rather than five, or working from home sometimes rather than commuting into the office every day. What matters to us is that AppNexians adopt the work style most conducive to their goals – both in their career and their personal life. That’s the key ingredient to making an organization productive and successful.
To illustrate those benefits, we sat down with five senior AppNexians in our London office who have taken advantage of our flexible work policy to learn how it’s helped them sculpt their day-to-day lives.
Tell us a bit about your current role and background at AppNexus
Katie Blair: I’m a Director of Account Management heading up the team in charge of our relationships with publishers across Northern Europe. I have been at AppNexus for five and a half years.
Jas Ahluwalia: I'm a Senior Account Director on the buy-side based in London, and I've been at AppNexus for just under two years.
Kathryn Schlieben: My current role is VP, EMEA Commercial Development, after having been Senior Director of the Account Management team for publishers in Northern Europe. I've held a number of roles in nearly six years at AppNexus including sales and account management leadership, enablement, and direct client engagement.
Liz Nguyen-Huy: I’m a Program Manager in our Services organization and have been with AppNexus out of London for almost four years. I was previously an Account Director on the publisher side of the house.
Erica Jalli: I joined AppNexus five years ago as a Program Manager in the Services organisation. Since then, I have led Enablement for our Publisher business, and I am currently a Director running Field Enablement initiatives for our global Education & Enablement team. I returned full time after my first maternity leave but opted for a 50% schedule (two days in the office and the rest from home as required) after returning from my second maternity leave. I am currently on leave with my third child.
Why were flexible work hours especially important for you?
KB: After my maternity leave, I was able to ease back into the office rhythm working two days a week for three months, and then three days a week for four months. These stepping stones allowed me to return to work organically, ensuring my son was happy and settled in nursery whilst I gradually resumed by job. Now, I work four days a week so that I can spend one with my son, which I love. The flexibility really helped me get used to juggling my job with being a first-time Mum!
JA: I have two children, an eight-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son, and my wife also works. Having flexible hours is incredibly important for us to function as a family but, more importantly, it allows me to spend time with the children during their most formative years. It allows me to have a work-life balance that would otherwise make it difficult to manage the school run (which I do 4 days a week), parents’ evenings, children's performances, or sports days.
KS: I asked for flexible work arrangements so that I could spend more time with my young children. I work three days a week, most of which is from home. Since I have a lengthy commute, this means I get to spend much more time with my children. I’m home for bedtime nearly every night and generally have more time with my family throughout the week. I previously worked at Microsoft, where flexible work options were also supported. I think it helped their ability to recruit and retain talent, and also provided a good blueprint for me when I requested flexible working at AppNexus. At Microsoft, I saw people make use of the flexible work policy for lots of different reasons - parenthood, study outside of work, and other personal commitments.
LNH: Flexible arrangements became really important to me upon my return from maternity leave. Having the opportunity to manage my hours more flexibly allowed me to better juggle my responsibilities at work along with the new ones I have at home. I’m full-time, but work from home on Wednesdays; this allows me to put the hours I’d otherwise have spent commuting towards checking a few more things off my to-do list, as well as avoid the rush of public transit for one day. It also forces me to be more thoughtful about how I organise my time, such as prioritising the hours in the office towards meeting with colleagues and spending the day at home immersed in work that requires more planning, thinking, and strategizing. My work schedule is also different now in that I now get to the office around 8 from dropping my son off at school, so I’m among the first ones here. Overall, I find that I’m more productive because I have to think more carefully about how to maximise my time spent working.
EJ: I returned to AppNexus full-time from my first maternity leave, but after having my second child, I knew I wanted to spend more time with my young family given our unique dynamic. I have a partner who travels a great deal and as we don’t have any local family, it became a priority to have one of us around more for the children. However, I still wanted to be impactful at work, so I moved into internal roles that were more project-based and allowed for flexibility. This meant I could be more available during the day in the UK and could then log on in the evenings while the kids were asleep and work in real-time with my US colleagues.
Were flexible work hours something you knew you would need coming into AppNexus?
JA: Yes, and they were even something I discussed prior to accepting the role. I should add that the flexibility works both ways. While I’ve built a schedule that works for me, I’m also able to accommodate my teammates’ needs, be it logging in from home or taking calls late in the day when needed.
KS: Working flexibly was not on my mind when I joined AppNexus. I had worked here for over three years when I requested the arrangement. I am in favour of the discussion of flexible working becoming a normal part of the hiring process or of the return process from parental leave – it’s simply too valuable not to be woven into how things are done. It takes some of the pressure off the employees, particularly those who are new or just joining the company, if their manager simply asks as a matter of course, "What is your ideal work pattern?" rather than counting on the employee to broach the topic.
I also think there’s this idea that flexible work is only for mothers. While we do have a few women who are mothers working flexibly in London, there are men and women around the business that have worked flexibly for other reasons – some for a finite period, some indefinitely.
EJ: I came to AppNexus from the world of private equity and banking, where I didn’t see a lot of flexibility (or at least many successful examples of part-time/flexible work patterns) among my cohort. By contrast, I viewed the tech sector as more progressive and balanced for women and families – however, when I first joined, I didn’t have a family, so flexible work wasn’t on my radar. But I think we have really broken barriers in the past few years in the London office, as employees (especially Mums) now have a variety of customised schedules.
Do you have any recommendations for others who need, want, or have flexible work hours?
KB: It has to work for both employees and employers. Employees need to think about how they can get what they need while still providing what their team needs. For instance, I need to take my son to nursery each day and get home before bed. So, I start slightly later in the day, leave on time, and log on again in the evenings. I’m also open with clients that I work four days a week – however, I’m available on my mobile for emergency situations on my day off.
JA: My recommendations depend on the person’s circumstances and needs. For me, the partnership with my wife means having a shared calendar that lets me know where I stand if there are meetings or events I need to attend. Similarly, it's about planning and managing your diary. Things will always come up on the fly, so you need to react quickly, and knowing where you stand with your personal flexibility helps.
We are also fortunate that we have family nearby we can call on to support us. I would say it's important to be open with your colleagues and manager, making sure your calendar is up to date and sending out calendar holds so they don't try booking meetings at times you’re with the family.
KS: At any stage of thinking about working flexibly, it’s important to set and articulate the boundaries of your work pattern. This helps set expectations with your colleagues, manager, and clients. It also helps having allies like your manager and teammates help enforce those boundaries. It’s a simple thing, but having questions like, “Can we move this meeting time so all of us may join?” come from a manager or peer rather than the individual working flexibly goes a long way toward normalizing flexible work.
EJ: I’ve spoken to a lot of my peer group (MBA-type Mums with young children) who really want to remain intellectually engaged but also want to be present Mums, and it feels like an all or nothing situation at times. I’ve used my own very positive experience at AppNexus to assure them that flexible opportunities do exist and can be beneficial for all parties involved. I believe it’s a matter of starting and publicising the conversation so that more women can see the path forward. We’ve made huge strides at AppNexus London with a very talented group of women who contribute to the business not only in their day-to-day roles, but also as mentors to others. They impact both our strategy and culture in positive ways and it’s been really inspiring to witness. So, I would encourage women to have the confidence to start the conversation with their managers and teams, and to call upon the experiences of their peer groups for direction and inspiration.
I believe that if you are self-motivated and engaged, and have confidence and support in your role, you can make a real impact regardless of your work cadence. My team has been incredibly supportive and respectful of my current work pattern, which has allowed the arrangement to be successful. That said, I’ve also made myself available whenever possible to ensure things move along as required and that I’m not holding up anything important. It’s an ever-evolving model built on mutual respect and collaboration.
My last piece of advice is that whatever your situation, it is critical to develop strong relationships across your organization so that if and when things do change, you have support from global colleagues and can be effective no matter how your role evolves.
To learn more about flexible work schedules at AppNexus or any other aspects of our company culture, visit https://www.appnexus.com/en/company/about-us.