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Alia Hall is an Account Manager at Continental, where she is responsible for the regional sales and project management of build-to-print electronics for Tier 1 customers. Hall says that her favorite part of this position is “working with a great team, located all around the world,” as well as the opportunity to “expand my background more into the commercial side of business.”

But, of course, this position is only one part of who Hall is. She is also a Co-Lead of the Continental Detroit Campus Women’s Network, Executive Committee member of the Continental Toastmasters club, ambassador for an annual international engineering design competition for students (called  Formula Student Germany) and a mother.

Thanks to conversations with her open and caring colleagues, as well as her own experiences, Hall has collected a wealth of knowledge for working parents, including:

  • Sleep as much as you can before the baby arrives, because sleeping will never be the same again.

  • Mom guilt is a real thing — but don’t let it consume your decisions.

  • If you want to go back to work full time, trust in your decisions that you will be leaving your kids in good hands. 

  • You will miss your baby more than they will miss you. 

In this article, Hall shares more of her journey as a woman in STEM and how to reach balance as a working mom.

Tell us a little bit about your career journey.

I have a postgraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany. My background prior to joining Continental was heavily focused in fiber composites (i.e., carbon fiber), predominantly for automotive applications. 

I joined Continental as a Project Manager in 2015. I had just moved back to the UK after completing a big project setting up a new manufacturing facility in Ohio with a different company and was looking for a new direction.

Continental was my first experience into the automotive electronics industry. I remained in the UK for two years, before my personal circumstances changed, and it made sense to move back to the U.S. This time, I was able to transfer through Continental and ended up in a new Project Manager role in Auburn Hills, Michigan. In this new role, the focus was to build up a new area of business within my business unit. Following that role, I moved on to my current role.

As a female engineering grad yourself, do you have any words of wisdom for women entering careers in male-dominated industries? What career advice would you have liked to have received after graduating? 

Be prepared to be in situations where you are the only woman in the conference room and learn to not be intimidated by this — speak up! Be conscious that not all your co-workers will treat you as equal (maybe unintentionally). Take as many opportunities as possible that are presented at the start of your career, when you are more likely to have more flexibility. These opportunities are the stories of your experiences for when you are further in your career and are ready to grow and push. Especially if you decide to have children, the chances are you will want to change your priorities (even if it’s just for a short period of time). 

What does “balance” mean to you, and in what ways do you feel like you’ve achieved it? 

Balance to me is knowing what your priorities in life are and accomplishing them. For me, personally, I always knew I would be a full-time working Mom. My balance was ensuring that my children are well looked after, they feel loved and the full presence of their parents and that my husband and I can continue to have fulfilling careers. 

What’s one misconception you think exists around work-life balance today?

Work-life balance sounds ideal on paper, but in reality it is not black and white and should not be thought of in that way. Some days work will take priority and some days your personal life will be dominant. The true goal is to keep a state of equilibrium at a macro-level. 

Attaining work-life balance can’t be done solo. What people, resources and tools do you rely on to get it all done?

My husband and I both work full time. When our first child was born, we created a split down the middle of chores and parenting responsibilities, and we currently use a shared Google Calendar to keep us on schedule. The pandemic has been great for the setup of ‘pick-up’ and improved delivery services — we rely heavily on these as they are helpful for saving time with having to unload/load kids in and out of cars to go into shops.

Being provided with tools from our employers (e.g., cellphones with all the apps that we would use on our computers) is also very helpful. In particular, when you get ‘the call’ from daycare to come and have to drop whatever you are doing to pick up your child because they are sick, or the classroom has to be shut down unexpectedly.  

Hall and family. Photo courtesy of Continental.

Let’s talk about your company’s culture. What’s your favorite aspect of it, and how does your employer aid you in achieving balance?

Continental is excellent at accommodating the flexibility that life requires in order to remain in control. I take advantage of the additional PTO days that are offered annually – which are great for when you are in a situation where you can’t work and mean that you still get a vacation. 

We have held ‘Shelter-in-Place’ Coffee Chats through our Women’s Network, and it was very helpful hearing from other parents, learning how they were doing with the change in lifestyle and helping each other out during unknown times by sharing tips and tricks. My favorite aspect of my company’s culture is working with really brilliant people as part of highly motivated, international teams and the trust that we have each other’s backs.    

How long were you on maternity leave and what was it like to return to work? 

With both my children, I was on maternity leave for 12 weeks.

The return to work was difficult in both cases. The initial separation from my small babies after a year of them being with me (through pregnancy and maternity leave) took a bit of getting used to. Physically, my body was still healing and I was experiencing ‘Mom brain’. Figuring out a daily routine with a baby is an adjustment and then yet another adjustment when going back to work. 

With my second child, it was trying to fit another baby schedule into our work/toddler schedule. 

With my daughter (who was born in 2021), it was more of an ease back to work as we were still working from home 80% of the time. We also had their grandparents staying with us for a majority of the first six months of each child’s life, the extra hands at home really helped. Staying consistent helped to get a good routine flowing. 

In general, there is a very strong unconscious bias against new Moms that we can’t do as much or don’t want to do as much. In some sense it is true at the start, you do feel like a delicate flower. Then one day, you do wake up and feel healed and feel energized and ready to push full speed ahead. Speaking up and communicating is really important. I have been lucky with my managers listening and adjusting to my needs.

What are you especially good at as a mom? What about at work?

My kids always come to me for food and soothing and go to their Dad for naps. At work, my strengths are communication and organizing chaos to create growth. 

What’s your #1 tip for new moms who are navigating the delicate balance of working and mothering? 

Prioritize and do only what is most important each day, and don’t fret about the rest because there will be many days you won’t be able to do it all. 

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