What Navigating Your Career As a Woman With Lupus Really Looks Like — And How Companies Can Help

Sponsored by Cloudreach

Sydnee Greenberg

Photo courtesy of Sydnee Greenberg

May 19, 2024 at 5:31AM UTC

Feeling supported by our colleagues can make a major difference in how satisfied we ultimately are with our jobs. But for some of us, receiving this kind of support extends far beyond a work-week nicety — it can actually be the safety net we come to rely on most when hard news comes knocking. 

That was the case for Sydnee Greenberg. After battling a chronic illness for nearly a decade without knowing it, she finally received a diagnosis of Lupus last year. With that news came a lot of major life adjustments, including a cross-country move to be closer to family. Thankfully, her work family at Cloudreach, where Greenberg is Employer Brand Creative Lead, has been behind her every step of the way — sometimes literally. 

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Greenberg recalls the group of colleagues who banded around her in support at a Walk to End Lupus as just one example of the ways she’s been supported at Cloudreach, an international tech consultancy, throughout this journey.

“A group of 15 Cloudreachers showed up that day to walk with me; this was the moment I realized that Cloudreachers were more than coworkers, they were like family,” Greenberg recalled. “This year, I participated in the Chicago walk. The Cloudreach Cares matching program donated to my fundraiser, helping me exceed my goal and raise almost $12,000.”

While displays of solidarity like this are undoubtedly touching, they’re matched with plenty of day-to-day support at Cloudreach, too. Between schedule flexibility, an unlimited PTO policy, and understanding leadership, Greenberg says she has the freedom to make her health a priority without sacrificing her ambition. Recently, she spoke with Fairygodboss about what managing Lupus alongside her career has looked like, as well as all the ways Cloudreach empowers her to do the work she loves most.

Tell us a bit about your job. What are your main responsibilities in your current role, and what were you doing previously?

As Employer Brand Creative Lead at Cloudreach, I’m responsible for leading creative projects that position Cloudreach as the best place to work in tech. This involves the hands-on production of video, graphics, and editorial content that showcase life and culture at Cloudreach, as well as managing brand strategy and activation across web channels and events.

I actually joined Cloudreach as a Talent Acquisition Specialist, where I focused on recruiting technical talent. I knew I loved the Cloudreach culture and the tech space, but I was eager to apply my background in art and my interest in marketing/design. I found mentorship under my current manager and soon began designing a lot of Cloudreach assets and collateral before officially moving into a branding role. 

What do you love most about your job?

I love how dynamic my role is and how every day can be different. I get to be hands-on in creating content, but I also get to flex my management and directing skills when leading projects remotely. I’m also always learning, which is something that’s very important to me in a job. My role requires me to be agile and often learn new skills to solve creative challenges. My role is also unique in that it is global. I get to work with intelligent and interesting people across all regions. I love learning about the diverse cultural nuances that make each of our locations unique.

While at your company, you went through a significant life change after receiving an unexpected diagnosis. Can you tell us a bit about what that was like?

In February 2018, I was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, commonly known as Lupus. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that strikes without warning, affects each person differently, and has no known cure. Symptoms can be severe, highly unpredictable, and can damage any organ or tissue, from the skin or joints to the heart or kidneys. Ninety percent of people living with Lupus are women. Women of color are at especially high-risk. 

I’d been struggling with the disease for nearly a decade without knowing what was really wrong. When doctor after doctor told me I was fine, I’d learned to just dismiss my symptoms and seek distractions which in hindsight were probably making me worse. Emotional stress had sent my body into a flare and the war my body was raging against itself had come to a tipping point. I brought myself to urgent care, and several exams and many blood tests later, I received a diagnosis.  

Sydnee Greenberg, Employer Brand Creative Lead at Cloudreach
Sydnee Greenberg, Employer Brand Creative Lead at Cloudreach

My long road to diagnosis is unfortunately not uncommon — on average, it takes six years for people with Lupus to be diagnosed from the first time they notice symptoms. The diagnosis was a huge relief, but also a major wake-up call. It was a relief to be taken seriously and to know my symptoms were not just in my head. But this meant I had to start making some significant life changes if I wanted to feel better. Feeling better would be a full-time job.

I’ve always been a Type-A worker. I care a lot about my job and my performance, and continuing to prioritize both with a chronic illness presents a unique set of challenges. Lupus is considered an “invisible illness,” meaning symptoms are not immediately apparent and sufferers can look completely healthy. Millions of women who look perfectly healthy on the outside are grappling with chronic conditions, and it can be a really isolating place. Thankfully, working at Cloudreach has meant navigating these changes within an exceptionally supportive environment.

How did you approach your manager to discuss what was going on? What was that conversation like? 

At the time of my diagnosis, I had been with Cloudreach for a bit over two years. I was fortunate to have a supportive manager who knew me well, was familiar with my ways of working, and had witnessed my performance firsthand. The two of us make up a small but mighty team, and though she is based in Amsterdam and me in Chicago (formerly NYC), we are in constant communication. We have a close relationship, so the news of my diagnosis did not come as a major surprise. She knew I had been struggling and always encouraged me to rest when I needed it. She reminded me that while work is important, health always comes first. She had to do some reading on the disease and what it meant; I directed her to some resources which helped her understand. Having a manager that trusted me to get my work done when and how it worked for me was invaluable when everything else in my life at the time seemed out of my control. 

In what ways did you feel well-supported by your company as you navigated this personal change alongside your career?

Cloudreach supported me in many ways as I navigated through the scary time following my diagnosis. I was still given challenging work and was not treated differently because of my condition. I was also given the time and space I needed, and the understanding that this is a chronic condition that will persist over time. Needless to say, I could not have made it through this time without the medical benefits provided by Cloudreach. Without health insurance, my medical bills after rheumatologist appointments, immunosuppressive infusions, and other drug treatments would have been astronomical.

I’m also thankful for the flexible hours and work environment provided by Cloudreach. I do not take for granted the ability to attend doctor appointments and work from home as needed. I’m treated like an adult. If I feel like I need to rest so that I can do my best work, I’m given that freedom. I feel in control over my day-to-day, as well as my career path and development. I have the ability to work when and how I work best, and I’m responsible for my own success. When I need time to recharge my batteries, I can take advantage of our unlimited PTO policy.

Last but certainly not least, my friends at Cloudreach have shown support by simply showing up. Determined to do something productive after my diagnosis, I participated in the Lupus Foundation of America’s Walk to End Lupus in NYC. A group of 15 Cloudreachers showed up that day to walk with me. This was the moment I realized that Cloudreachers were more than coworkers, they were like family. This year, I participated in the Chicago walk. The Cloudreach Cares matching program donated to my fundraiser, helping me exceed my goal and raise almost $12,000 for Lupus research.

How do you feel like this experience has been reflective of your overall experience at your company? (In what other ways do you feel valued/well supported at your company?)

In addition to my health journey, my team was very supportive when I pursued my passion for music after receiving an exciting opportunity with a major record label. After eight months, my health struggles continued and I made the decision to leave my stressful New York life behind to return to calmer Chicago, where I could be closer to family and focus on my health. This meant leaving my job in music. I wasn’t sure how Cloudreach would react when I asked if they were still searching for my replacement, but in true Cloudreach fashion, the Chicago team welcomed me with open arms. Before I knew it, I was back up and running in the Cloud. As I still search for a new sense of normalcy after so many changes, life at Cloudreach remains a comforting constant.


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