Jessica Aungst Weitzel, M.P.H.

Jessica Aungst Weitzel, M.P.H.

What Does our Core Value Personal and Professional Fulfillment Actually Mean?

How much do I love evaluation? Well, enough to leave two children each day so that I can continue to work in the field. Fortunately, I spend my days in a very family-friendly office that values personal and professional fulfillment so much that it is one of our company’s five core values. This post focuses on the work-life “balance” aspect of this core value.

I am a regular subscriber to Working Mother magazine, which annually publishes a list of the 100 best companies for working mothers. I review the list each year, and keep thinking how happy I am to work for an organization that meets high standards for working moms. We have never applied to be on the list, but maybe we should.

Ciurczak & Co., Inc. offers employees 13 of the 21 benefits selected by the magazine as important to working mothers. The listed benefits include things that range from professional development opportunities (have it) to prepared take-home meals (don’t have it). Many of the top 100 best companies for working mothers do not offer all of these benefits. Nationally, only 16% of companies offer paid maternity, paternity, or adoption leave (have them); 45% telecommuting (have it); 37% paid sick leave (have it); and 17% child-care resource and referral service (have it). Maybe we should work on getting those prepared take-home meals (3% of companies have them).

What benefits do we offer for working parents, in particular, that are not on the list? Well, there’s the “baby in the office” policy (we can bring babies in up to a year of age as long as we are able to complete our work), the “dog in the office” policy (we can bring in a dog with permission of our coworkers), quarterly celebrations that include family members, and an environment in which talk of pregnancy, babies, raising kids, and related topics are regular lunch hour topics.

A good reason for work-life balance

In the past year and a half, our office has welcomed 3 babies, 1 of which is my youngest daughter. We have added options to our parental and medical leave policy. We have established methods to support breastfeeding moms. We have expanded telecommuting capabilities. Guess what? All 3 of the women who had those babies are still working here. The experience of these working moms didn’t go out the door when we had kids. We weren’t forced to choose between work and life (there are times when we do have to make those choices, but on the whole, we are managing). And, we are happier, more productive, more loyal employees and evaluators because of these policies. If you work with any of these women, you are probably quite happy that you did not lose “your evaluator,” that person with whom you have built a relationship, the person who understands your program, the one who provides critical insight that helps you improve your program or activities.

The experience of being a working parent also has informed how I think about evaluation, particularly of programs serving youth or their parents. I now understand the chaos of having a couple kids (mine are ages 3 and 1) and trying to attend school/daycare events, hold down a job, and still be a member of my larger family and community. This experience connects me to clients who have similar struggles and still do amazing work, gives me a greater depth of understanding about child psychology and behavior (and the many, many non-parent influences on little ones), and reminds me to step away from the work sometimes to gain big-picture perspective.

I look forward to many more years of expanding my knowledge and experience of evaluation, working with clients who impact their communities through their work, and working with and supporting my coworkers while raising my girls, enjoying life with my husband, and, well, having a life. I also look forward to showing my daughters that it is possible for women (and men) to do fulfilling work outside the home while maintaining full, wonderful lives with their families.

Now, if I could only figure out a simple way to explain to a 3-year-old what an evaluator does…

To learn more about Jessica Aungst Weitzel, view her bio here.