‘It’s Imperative That Your Actions Match Your Words’: How I Set an Example as a Manager and Mom

Sponsored by Openly

Shandalier Pen. Photo courtesy of Openly.

Shandalier Pen. Photo courtesy of Openly.

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May 20, 2024 at 1:56AM UTC

When reflecting on her impressive career journey, Shandalier Pen notes that the career move she’s most proud of is also the career move that was the most challenging. “Years ago, I was able to make a move from Property and Casualty (P&C) Insurance agent to a P&C Insurance Supervisor,” she recalls. She knew that managing people and providing guidance about insurance was difficult, but that didn’t stop her!

In the end, “my supervisory role allowed me to really discover myself and my strengths in my career,” Pen tells us. “I truly dedicated my time to becoming an empathic, trustworthy, transparent, and supportive leader. I know I made the right decision all those years ago because it helped pave the path to where I am today."

And where is she today? Pen is currently an Operations Support Team Manager at Openly, where she works cross-functionality with their Business Development Team to ensure a seamless and uncomplicated agency appointment process. And that’s not all. “In my managerial capacity, I also coach, mentor, and train my amazing support team,” Pen tells us.

In the following interview, Pen gives us an inside look into her own leadership journey, what it’s like being a working mother, and how Openly has supported her. Read on for advice on ways to excel as a leader and working parent.

Part 1: Leadership lessons.

What is your No. 1 piece of advice for other women who are moving into or want to move into leadership?

Ask for help when you need it. Being in a leadership role isn’t always easy, and you don’t have to know everything to be successful. Lean into your peers and your team — especially if they do things differently than you normally do! Don't be afraid to take the help, and let it bring you out of your comfort zone because that is where progress and real learning happen.

As a manager, what’s one strategy you’ve used when managing an individual or team that you think has been particularly effective?

I stand behind my leadership style, which is to “lead by example.” I’m a firm believer that managers have been placed in their position to serve others. It’s a privilege to be in a position where you can direct, shape, and focus others’ potential toward a specific result. When given the responsibility to manage, you are given a tremendous opportunity to influence many people’s lives positively, so it’s imperative that your actions match your words.

Part 2: Advice for working parents.

In addition to your day-to-day job, you’re also a working parent. How do you balance your professional career and parenthood?

Navigating the delicate balance of working and mothering is not an easy task, but I am very fortunate to be at a company that values flexible working. What helps me most is taking each day as it comes, preparing the best I can, establishing my priorities for the day/week/month, and relying heavily on my time management practices to get into a daily routine.

What’s your top advice for other working parents?

Perfect your time management skills, and everything else will fall in line. I have three children (two of which leave during work hours for school), so I know that, based on my schedule, my most productive times are when two of my children leave for the day. I tend to schedule my meetings earlier in the day and plan less-intensive tasks for later in the day. Another strong piece of advice is don’t be so hard on yourself! Nine out of ten times, it’s okay that your kid is talking in the background or has a quick question to ask. I used to get stressed and worked up if people at work knew my kids were home or in the background, but it was only an issue to me.

Part 3: The benefits of a supportive company.

How has Openly helped you grow your own career?

Openly creates a space that encourages growth in all areas. My manager finds different projects for me to lead and take part in. She also does an amazing job of empowering me to make decisions and stands behind my choices. 

Openly allows me to seek professional development and continuously offers me feedback to help me grow in my current role while also working toward future goals. I have the autonomy to network with other departments, and the effort that I put into my work never goes unnoticed (from a kudos Slack channel to public praise in the company-wide all-hands meetings).

What do you love about the company values and culture at Openly? And how do these values help women like you excel?

Openly’s values aren’t just written on a website or in a handbook; each employee truly lives the values, and our culture shows it. Openly supports both team and individual efforts and trusts our employees with meaningful projects. I have a strong and supportive leadership team that encourages and supports my career success. 

Our company culture is one that focuses on employees and customers and continuously improves to meet customers' needs while ensuring employees feel valued. Openly’s ability to stay authentic while growing so rapidly and still making employees feel valued and empowered is truly unprecedented. 

How has Openly supported you as a working parent?

Openly is a family. They offer flexibility, support, and plenty of career development opportunities.

Another way that Openly supports me as a working parent is the open culture and conversations, particularly from the top. It’s normal for us (parents) to talk about our kids and personal life. The culture at Openly truly encourages you to bring your whole self to work. At times, my whole self means taking a Zoom call while my daughter sits on my lap in a princess tiara. Openly’s empathy and teamwork values enable me to maintain my work-life balance. Openly is equipped with quality leaders and team members who understand what it’s like to need a hand. They understand that we are all humans who lead lives outside of work and understand and communicate in a way to help everyone be successful.

Looking back at your career, what has kept you at Openly?

It’s easy to stay at a company that values you as an employee and welcomes your opinion. Openly stands on their values and cultivates an environment that’s easy to thrive in. From one-on-one side chats with the CEO to weekly one-on-ones with my senior director, everyone is open and encouraging of input and ideas. Openly also welcomes visibility in all areas of the company, which helps me work to create my career path within the company. And they provide the tools and research to explore what avenues I may want to branch into.

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