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Balancing work and family: Emilie Paillous, Senior Engineer, at Pennylane

Emilie Paillous, Senior Engineer, at Pennylane,

ARTICLE SUMMARY

At SheCanCode we recently spoke with Emilie Paillous, Senior Engineer, at Pennylane, about maternity leave and life as a working parent.

HOW DID YOU LAND YOUR CURRENT ROLE? WAS IT PLANNED?

I arrived at Pennylane in September 2021. Before Pennylane, I was working at Fabernovel, a web / mobile agency that I joined just after engineering school. In the beginning, I did an internship at Applidium, a mobile start-up that would be a subsidiary of Fabernovel’s in the future. I was developing iOS apps. I was very lucky because the team was great. I learned a lot about coding, architecture patterns, and clean code. I think this was the “logic suite” of the engineering school.

Then the years passed, and I became a Senior Developer, I started managing people, then I managed a team of 5 people as a lead developer. I worked on many different subjects for many different companies: Canal+, Grands Moulins de Paris, Blablacar, etc.

And finally, when I left Fabernovel, 8 years after that, I was a Technical Director, managing the R&D section.

Then, Covid happened, and I began questioning myself about my next steps. I was in Paris, and as a director, I was not coding anymore and I was missing it. I had the feeling that I was not learning anything anymore. So I thought about joining a product company. At this point, I was contacted on LinkedIn, and I met Quentin, Thierry, Tancrède, and Guillaume from Pennylane. I had a great talk with all of them, and it made me very enthusiastic about the company. And that’s how I joined the adventure!

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR CAREER, SO FAR?

I think my time at Applidium, really helped to build myself up. The company was involved in teaching newcomers “good coding practices”.  Being clean code addicts, meant that we had a very opinionated way of coding, and I think that having these strong foundations really helps me today to teach and mentor other developers.

Today at Pennylane I am rigorous about these practices, I spend a lot of time reviewing people’s work and writing long comments to help them, but I think it works and I’m convinced it is how I am impacting the company.

Before going on maternity leave, a developer joined my team. I had a call with him to hand over and he told me he was very happy to join the team when he knew I was a member because I had previously reviewed one of his pull requests and he said that my comments helped him to become a better coder. I was really proud of this.

HOW WAS MATERNITY LEAVE FOR YOU? HOW DID PENNYLANE STAY IN TOUCH AND SUPPORT YOU?

I am one of those lucky people who have a job that they love, so it was really hard for me to stop working. My work makes me happy and I was scared of going on maternity leave and starting a new “mum life”. I even postponed my maternity leave to stay for two more weeks. But in the end, pregnancy was tiring, and I wasn’t getting enough sleep, so it was the right time for me to take some rest. I watched Netflix, a lot. I read books, I cooked (I hate cooking, but I learned that it’s actually super common to nest during pregnancy, so I cleaned a lot too).

I remained in contact with my colleagues on slack for a while, but eventually, I needed to rest.

When my baby arrived the first weeks were pretty intense of course. My husband was off work, so the three of us were at home, switching between sleeping, changing diapers, and covering her in kisses. I took two more months after my “legal maternity leave” and I really enjoyed this time.

I was told that it would be difficult for me to be alone at home with my baby, but it was not. It was a very sweet period where I had time to see her grow. I would go for walks with the stroller, listen to music and podcasts and try to show her the beautiful things in the world. This time made me appreciate the simple things: being in the sun a little bit and reading books in the park during her naps. I enjoyed this time so much that it was hard for me to go back to work. I was in this ambivalence that a lot of mothers know: happy to go back to work, to go back to the life we had before this extraordinary event, but also deeply saddened to leave my baby.

The first week was hard and I was wondering if I had made the right choice – and of course, I was not sleeping well. But I was very supported by the Pennylane team. I work remotely, so I’ve been told that I can take some rest during the day if needed.

I am still breastfeeding and I have a nanny at home, so I have been able to schedule my time to be able to feed my baby during the day. I was also able to choose my squad and everyone was very supportive when I came back.

It has been two months now, and I am really enjoying the working mum life. Also, since I am breastfeeding, I started to take good care of what I am eating. I try to follow a healthy diet (which is actually something very new for me, I used to be a fast food addict). I also started sports and I’ve built a fragile but efficient balance between work / sport / food / family to ensure that even if I do not sleep well, everything is still okay.

AS A WORKING MUM, WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE WORKDAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU? HOW IS PENNYLANE SUPPORTING YOU AS A NEW PARENT?

So, as mentioned I work remotely and so does my husband. I have a nanny at home which allows me to continue breastfeeding without having to pump my milk. I am very lucky to be in this situation, as I know it’s not common and to maintain this situation I need to be very organized.

So here is an example of how my day works. My baby usually wakes up at 8am and my husband and I wake up at the same time. I feed her, and my husband takes care of her until 9:30am, which is when the nanny arrives. I start working around 9am. When the nanny arrives we take some time to organize the day, so she knows my schedule and meetings. Around 10:30am – 11am, my baby is usually hungry and I’ve scheduled an appointment in my Google calendar to try to avoid having two meetings following each other around this time. I feed my baby in my room and it takes around 10 minutes. Then she usually takes a nap. She wakes up around 12pm, I feed her during my lunch break and the nanny takes care of her during this time too. Or sometimes when I go for lunch outside I take my baby with me, so I can spend some time with her. At 1:30pm – 2pm she’s usually hungry again, so I feed her before she falls asleep for a second nap, until 3pm or 3:30pm. I feed her when she wakes up, and the nanny takes care of her until 6:30m which is when my husband finishes work. I usually finish around 7 – 7:30pm.

Sometimes I have a meeting when my baby is very hungry and she cannot wait. Luckily, as a developer, I do not have many meetings so these moments are rare but it happens. In this case, I apologize during the meeting that I have to leave, and I try to follow up on the meeting later that day.

I am a strong fan of multitasking. I have GitHub on my mobile so that I can review PRs while breastfeeding.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS WORKING PARENTS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WORKING AT PENNYLANE?

When you become a parent, you discover that you are surrounded by other parents. You are literally discovering this secret world of parenting. For you it’s a new life, but for your colleagues it’s not and they know what you’re going through.

Being surrounded by a team of colleagues, managers, and HR managers, some of whom are also parents made me feel really comfortable sharing my difficulties and my doubts because I knew they would understand. And I was also super happy to share with my colleagues this new thing: before being a parent you don’t realize how much joy it is to have a baby in your life, but once I became a mother I also had a movement of kindness about all my parent colleagues / friends / family, thinking of this joy they also know with their own kids. And that might be cheesy, but kindness towards others makes work a really good place to be.

A good working-life balance is very important at Pennylane and I think this is very smart. Pennylane understands that being happy in your life makes you better at work and I am convinced of that also.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOURSELF JUST STARTING OUT?

To trust life, to be confident in myself, and to take in the opportunity I have. In my daily work, I sometimes put too much pressure on myself and I feel that I am not doing a great job (hello imposter syndrome). I need to be more confident and I need to believe that it’s all going to be ok.

I’d also say that it’s important to ask questions and don’t be afraid of not knowing things. Try to learn as much as possible from the best, and always try to go outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes this can be hard, but it’s like a sport – in the end, it pays off.

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