Jessica Parletta admits she sometimes feels “mum guilt” for having a successful career that takes her away from being a full-time parent. But her role at CSL gives her the flexibility to spend time with her daughter, progress her technical career and manage a team of people. Turns out mums really can do it all!
Working as a contractor with an engineering consultancy, Jessica’s first placement was at CSL for two years. CSL is a global leading biotechnology company with a portfolio of life-saving medicines, including those that treat haemophilia and immune deficiencies, as well as vaccines to prevent influenza. CSL delivers life-saving products to more than 100 countries. When a permanent role was advertised, she applied and started working directly for CSL Behring, a CSL biotechnology business focused on the development of plasma-derived therapies.
She initially worked in the Facility Qualification department performing qualification and validation activities. These are technical jobs that help ensure medicines CSL produce will do what they are supposed to.
“I really enjoyed my team, and the leadership team were people who would help me develop in my journey. That was the main pull.”
Jessica had to work hard to learn the technical side of CSL’s processes and protein manufacturing processes because their work is highly specialised and technical.
I was really supported by CSL Behring in that. The manufacturing staff have a wealth of knowledge. I would ask a question and they would give me so much information and always point me in the right direction.
Ready for something different, Jessica moved into the Validation department, mainly focusing on cleaning validation, which is heavily driven by guidelines to make sure that the cleaning processes used leave the equipment in a safe state prior to their next use. She got to work closely with CSL’s team in Bern, Switzerland and loved the projects she worked on. Moving from cleaning validation to process validation, Jessica also became a team leader working mainly on Immunoglobulin and Clotting Factor products. Leading a team brought a new, much less technical challenge to Jessica.
“I was leading a new team with staff mainly from manufacturing and quality control backgrounds. I was able to help them learn what we make here, how we make it, what qualification and validation means, what the goal is and why we do the things we do. I was learning how to manage people, their emotions and workload.”
Jessica took a three-month secondment to Switzerland, and then became pregnant. But her years of technical challenges and progress weren’t about to end.
Unstoppable on parental leave
Having consolidated her highly technical skills and progressed her career, Jessica knew when she went on parental leave that she was ready for a new challenge when she returned. A position in Stability – where you look at product stability throughout its shelf life – came up, and she interviewed for it six months into her parental leave.
I was freaking out a bit about coming back so early, but I spoke to my manager and he said, ‘take your time’. We established a return to work plan and they pushed out my start date to mid-November so I could settle my daughter into child care. Then I returned on a staggered shift basis.
Despite being advertised as a full-time role, CSL encouraged Jessica to return starting with just one day a week, then two, and now she has worked three days a week for almost a year. Jessica is proof there is always a way to find flexibility when you really want to make it work — even when it initially looks impossible.
For someone ambitious who’s on parental leave but doesn’t want their career to stall, Jessica shared a few tips:
- Maintain contact. “I kept in contact with my manager every few months to see how I was going, and the work was going. It’s important to keep those good relationships.”
- Check job boards. “I was always looking up jobs [on the CSL jobs board]. I knew if there was a job I really wanted to apply for I should, because what have I got to lose? If the company says no, they still know I’m interested and looking”
- Be upfront about your plans. “In my cover letter I said I knew it was a full-time position, but I would be applying to work flexibly and part-time. In my interview, I made it known that I expect my days off to be with my daughter.”
Her advice is to take a chance when something comes up, because you never know when it will open up again.
“You owe it to yourself to go for it. If you want to progress, it’s worth it for yourself.”
Loving the mix of family life
Working three days a week gives her two days with her daughter, and at the moment that feels like the right mix. She confesses she does sometimes feel “mum guilt” and conflict about whether she should be working, but knows that struggle is normal.
“It’s not the quantity of time [you’re with your children], it’s the quality. And if it didn’t work out, or I missed her too much then I’d talk with the company.”
She has occasionally put her daughter into an extra day of care to get some work finished, but loves that when she’s home she doesn’t need to think about work, and CSL are really supportive of having a focus on your family.
Now with COVID, her husband is working from home and they get a lot more family time, which Jessica appreciates. CSL has asked everyone who can work from home to work from home, in line with the COVID-19 Government guidelines, since the manufacturing and QC teams need to be onsite to do their work.
You do what you need to do with your schedule to support your family. They’re most important, and work is second. That’s a big communication point from CSL, and they have a level of trust you will just complete your work.
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