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March 25, 2021

Zhenzhen: Having a baby while working as a Consultant

Once upon a time, following an assessment at my doctor’s office, a small white speck that was three months old had appeared pulsing on my belly’s scan. Turns out, I had entered a synergistic strategic alliance with my husband where one plus one equal three: I was pregnant!

My name is Zhenzhen, Consultant and new mom in the Dubai office. I started working at Roland Berger after getting my MBA in February 2020, and I delivered my baby in September of that year.

In my first month of consulting, our office organized a "Women@RB" forum, a global company initiative to enhance the diversity in all Roland Berger offices, during which we had discussed how to empower women in the firm.

I clearly remember one of the concerns by a colleague: “I don’t know if I can manage life and work balance if I decide to have a baby while working as a consultant.”

Indeed, I couldn’t agree more with her. Little did I know I was actually in that very predicament, or let’s call it consultant’s dilemma!

Not until now till I got the answer: Yes. We can! And here is how I made it…

Pregnant at work
Pregnant at work

1. Ask for and accept help

Me being Chinese, that revelation was sweet and sour: my anxiousness given the relatively short period I had spent at the firm prior to the start of my pregnancy yet, happy for expecting an angel in my life. I immediately informed Julia our, HR manager.

Julia sure made the experience sweeter than sour: offering me comfort and assured me that the firm will provide adequate support. She emphasized that I should not hesitate to ask for any help if I have any difficulties, all while keeping privacy under my control and discretion.

Almost all pregnancies have their complications, and mine was no exception. Sourabh, my mentor at Roland Berger also requested that I put my physical condition as the first priority. I was doubly blessed, expecting a child and having the support of my company. This gave me even more courage to ask for help whenever my physical condition dictated it, which in turn improved my morale.

2. Find your cohort

In one of the virtual Women@RB coffee chats, our Principal from the Paris office, Claire, shared her experience of going through pregnancy and motherhood. She gave us a very straightforward and genuine sharing. Her words, "Learn to say no when appropriate" are what I remember fondly. She was right, it is important to set clear boundaries.

With the help of the HR team, I also got connected with other Roland Berger Moms and received lots of useful advice.

Mariam, one of the consultants from the Bahrain office, also shared her motherhood experience with me. She's given great suggestions on how to plan for the maternity leave and my return.

Burcak, my Dubai office colleague, shared all the useful tips from finding the OBGYN to how to manage my newborn's arrival and insurance.

At the beach with my baby
At the beach with my baby

3. Appreciate the culture

As an expecting mom, I naturally worried a lot about my pregnancy. The pandemic further amplified my anxiety while the global economy was hit hard, and a lot of uncertainty appeared to loom over our industry, where rumors of layoffs in peer firms were swirling around.

Direct help from my colleagues and my cohort of support, which formed in a grassroots fashion from within the company, were great stress relievers. Paired with the gender diversity and equality initiatives officially sponsored and encouraged by company leadership, what may be grassroots phenomena will undoubtedly be institutionalized in company culture.

Parents of consulting, unite!

I'm nearing the end of my maternity leave now and preparing to return to work. Julia has already reached out offering customized solutions to smoothen my transition.

I am looking forward to sharing this new chapter of my life soon!

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