Work-Life Balance Won’t Help If You Don’t Also Have Work-Life Boundaries

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Senior Lead Engineer at General Motors, Ida Krist

Photo courtesy of Ida Krist

Fairygodboss
Fairygodboss

What is work-life balance and how can it work for everyone?

As a Senior Lead Engineer at General Motors, Ida Krist has achieved something that works better for her than work-life balance and allowed her  the freedom and flexibility she and her growing family need. Krist blocks out time for work and home, giving herself over to each space when she needs to without a competition for her attention. 


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“I can do both at 100% in turn, instead of trying to split my attention,” she explained. “The days I feel like I’m doing well or have achieved balance are the days that I leave work at work and enjoy my family when I am home.”

It isn’t just work-life balance that Krist has found at GM; it’s work-life boundaries. And working within a culture where those boundaries are encouraged has made a world of difference. She recalled one example where, after her child care plan was disrupted by a delayed flight, she found herself taking conference calls from home with a very vocal toddler chiming in from the background. Her colleagues didn’t want her to apologize for the noise, however.

“My team members’ responses across the board, whether they were women or men, were the same: ‘We have all been in your shoes — no apologies needed!’” Krist, who’s currently pregnant with her second child, said. “Just hearing those words calmed my anxiety and stress. It’s one thing to preach an ideal culture; it’s another thing to see and hear everyone on my team working and living that culture.”

Recently, Krist chatted with Fairygodboss about the impact such a supportive culture has had on her career growth, what a typical day in her life looks like and her advice to women who are striving for balance themselves.

Tell me a bit about your current role. What are your priorities?  

As a Senior Design Release Engineer Lead for Heads Up Display (HUD), I manage developing and releasing HUD designs to upcoming vehicle programs. I also manage multiple suppliers and resident engineers to ensure they’re working to meet GM program milestones — that parts will be manufactured correctly and are available.

Paint a picture of a typical day for me. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up and the last thing you do before you go to sleep?  

Being a mom to an energetic toddler plus being 30+ weeks pregnant means our mornings are challenging. When things do go “smoothly,” our typical morning begins with an alarm going off and my husband and I getting dressed and ready before waking up our son. We’ll get him ready and downstairs for some breakfast before we are rushing out the door.  Every morning feels semi-chaotic, but eventually, we make it out of the house to the babysitter’s and to work. Each evening, we have dinner as a family, clean up, wash up, read stories and spend quality time together before bedtime. 

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

Balance means not feeling overwhelmed from my day-to-day activities. I also remind myself that it’s OK to not get everything done. The stress we put on ourselves to be perfect in every aspect of our lives, both work and personal, is unrealistic. I feel that I’m a work in-progress, and some days are going to be better than others. 

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

The phrase “it takes a village” comes to mind. I am lucky to have a family who supports my career and children. My husband, parents and in-laws all play a major role and I couldn’t do it without them. We are a team, and they help with not only childcare, but pitch in when things are hectic like taking care of dinner, or whatever else is needed. 

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

“Life would be easier if I had work-life balance.” Life is never easy. We just find better means of managing it and prioritizing what is important to us and/or our family.

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?  

Flexibility. They understand that I have a life and family outside of work. When I have other obligations that happen abruptly (i.e. my child being sick), I’ve never felt pressured to stay at work or to ignore my parental duties. I generally handle whatever my personal item is and then complete my tasks during “off” hours. This flexibility that allows me to handle my unforeseen personal obligations and takes away the stress of feeling like I’m either a bad employee or a bad mom.

What’s something you think most people (perhaps even current employees) don’t know about your company that you think they should?   

I think most people do not know how great our work culture is! General Motors continues to evolve their support for working parents.

What’s the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to other women who want to excel professionally and personally?  

I’ll give three: be patient, be vigilant in advocating for yourself and trust your gut.

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