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August 6, 2021

Mariam & Zhenzhen: Motherhood as a consultant

Mariam is a Senior Consultant in the Roland Berger Middle East office, based out of Bahrain. Since joining the company in January 2018, she has primarily worked on Public Sector and Financial Services projects. Mariam welcomed her first daughter, Yasmin, in August of 2019.

Zhenzhen is a Consultant in the Roland Berger Dubai office. She joined in February 2020 and worked on several projects related to the TMT sector. Her daughter is 8 months old and it has been 4 months since she returned from her maternity leave.

1. What does your average day look like as a consultant and mother?

Mariam: On a typical working day, I wake up at 6 a.m. (if my daughter doesn't wake me up earlier!), exercise, feed my daughter, and get her ready for the day. I then log on to work at 8 a.m. In the evenings, I spend time with my daughter, feed her, put her to bed, and will connect with the team to make sure everything is ready for the next day. The amount of work will depend on the project needs.

Zhenzhen: My daughter is very regular in waking me up at 6:30 am. I play with her before getting ready to align with my Project Manager at 9am. After spending the morning focused on my tasks, I try to make it a point to have lunch together as a family, although sometimes my laptop ends up joining us. Then I go back to my tasks with the same cadence, periodically taking breaks away from my chair to stretch and spend time with my daughter. 7 pm to 8:30 pm is a Hodge podge of dinner time, shower time, play time, and bedtime story time. Replenished with enough energy, the workday continues, uninterrupted. Well, usually, uninterrupted.

Zhenzhen with her family
Zhenzhen with her family

2. How has remote working affected parents working full time?

Mariam: Juggling parenting and work from home can seem impossible, especially with a baby that requires full-time attention. I am grateful that my family was able to support while daycares weren't an option. On occasion, they couldn't, and I am equally grateful that my teammates did not mind nursery rhymes and a few babbles in the background of our calls!

Zhenzhen: Fun, lots of fun! Being able to work remotely allows me to see my bundle of joy every day and whenever I can. My baby's smile melts away all the stress and anxiety. On the other hand, we had to rearrange our space and ensure that I have a quiet working environment to be able to give my full attention.

3. What advice do you have for parents returning to work after having a child?

Mariam: Two things that helped were establishing a routine with my daughter, and discussing expectations with the Partners, Project Manager, and team. By having a clear schedule, I could anticipate when my daughter would need me and arrange with my team. Babies are quite unpredictable, so there was always some degree of flexibility, but having a set schedule helped me ensure to deliver on both project and personal commitments.

Zhenzhen: Always seek the understanding of your teammates and Project managers and make sure that they are aware of your maternal duties, reminding them of your routine, whether it is that you prefer to finish early and get up early to continue your tasks, or you want to take an hour break to be able to put your baby to sleep. We cannot expect that a non-parent consultant will know if no one tells them: sleep patterns differ and are dictated by sheer biological forces. Fortunately, all my colleagues are not only very understanding, but also very caring.

Mariam with her daughter Yasmin
Mariam with her daughter Yasmin

4. What resources exist at Roland Berger for parents?

Mariam: It was important that I discussed my needs with Partners, my Mentor, and Project Manager. It was heartening that everybody appreciated the responsibilities of being a new parent, and I felt understood and empowered as a new mother. If you are worried about reaching out – don't be! It helps everyone, including your colleagues, to communicate openly.

Zhenzhen: Naturally, I am not the first parent at Roland Berger, nor will I be the last, meaning that I can always ask another colleague for advice, notably Mariam. Roland Berger is flexible in terms of maternity leave. Our Middle East office provides more than double the official maternity leave set by the local law and allows us to extend it as unpaid leave until we are ready to return to work. In addition, we can ask not to travel and work remotely so that we can be physically with the baby.

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