Last week was my three-month anniversary with my new company, GrantBook. This is significant since 6 months ago I wasn’t even sure if I’d be returning to the workforce. I was in a limbo land, trying to decide between life as a stay-at-home mom (aka SAHM) and that as a working mom.
For a while in the fall of 2014 I entertained the plan of going into the field of mediation. An information session I attended quickly gave me a dose of reality that it would likely take me 5 years and more schooling for it to become a viable career. Without a background in law, counselling or social services, I would be facing a credibility gap once I finished the mandated mediation training and internship hours. Unless you are able to secure a position with a mediation firm, mediators are essentially self-employed entrepreneurs. I recognize that having a credibility gap would make it difficult to recruit business.
And so that plan faded away.
Wallowing in my disappointment, I had lunch with my good friend Aneil. He’s the kind of guy who has just naturally established through his attention, engaging personality and generous spirit, a huge network of people. I shared with him my thoughts of looking into how I could apply my past skills and experiences with Accenture to the non-profit or philanthropic sector. He immediately offered to connect me with someone he’s known for years who thrives in that intersection between digital technologies and the non-profit sector.
That was my introduction to Anil, one of the cofounders of GrantBook. GrantBook is a for-profit company providing digital strategy and implementation services to philanthropic foundations. In essence, to help grantmakers and their networks thrive in the digital era. It is also a certified B-Corporation, committing itself to meet a level of social and environmental performance factors. In one of those serendipitous turn of events, GrantBook was also looking to hire to grow their team. The day before our informational coffee date, Anil forwards me the job posting.
It was easy to excited about it. The role is a hybrid of client manager, project manager, and business analyst rolled into one. It was the opportunity to do much of the type of work I enjoyed at Accenture: the business analysis, working with clients to understand their challenges and working out solutions…but with some key differences.
The main one was the flexibility in both the work location and the work schedule. Though the position was advertised as a permanent full-time role, they were willing to offer me a permanent part-time position where I’d work 75% of the standard 37.5 hour work week. Anyone who has young children will know what this enables in terms of being able to manage our family’s schedule. Not only that, I have the flexibility to determine when my work day starts and ends, and when to work remotely from home, so long as it doesn’t impact our commitments to our clients or each other. Treating everyone as adults, what a concept. 🙂
Another difference is the type of clients they serve. After nearly 13 years serving large corporate clients, I was getting tired of having so much of my efforts go towards corporate profit interests, working “for the man”. It feels good that the end result of our work means that grant money makes it to those non-profit and charity organizations more effectively so they can continue making positive impacts in our community.
I admit that one large difference is the amount of pay I’m now getting is significantly less than before. It’s understandable since GrantBook is a small start-up company (I’m employee number 8). I had to consciously reconcile with myself that my value and contributions to my family are more than just the financial income I bring in. I still struggle with it at times; it’s been long engrained into me that society will deem me more successful the more money I make. Thankfully T is very supportive partner, and reminds me of all the other facets of my life and our family’s life that are much improved over the situation of a year and a half ago when I was earning more. Financially we are now still able to manage with our combined incomes, especially since we just stopped E2’s fulltime daycare costs this summer. (It’s like a mortgage we don’t have to pay anymore!) Adapting is still a work in progress.
For a company of this age and size, I’m also very impressed with the level of sophistication GrantBook has in its delivery, internal procedures, having a consistent brand in the materials we generate and the quality of everyone on the team. I give Peter and Anil, the cofounders, full credit for being very thoughtful and deliberate about many things, and seeking help from experienced advisors where needed. The team also takes seriously the continuous drive to improve, both through organic discussions in our group as well as more structured formats.
Case in point, in June we had a full-day company retreat at a lovely cottage on the Toronto Islands. Yes, reviewing the past year’s goals and achievements was on the agenda as expected, but it was done in a much more interactive format than I’ve ever experienced. (pens and post-it notes were involved) We also participated in one of the activities we usually guide our clients through, the results of which help illuminated what our group’s priorities are and identified action items to move toward them. It was productive, engaging, inclusive, and very motivating – everything you could hope for in a company retreat!
That hard work being done, we then settled into the agenda item of afternoon drinks and the Tellestrations board game. That mix of seriousness, results, and fun really exemplifies the GrantBook team, and I’m really thrilled to be a part of it.
The last bit of interest is where our office is located. The GrantBook office is located within the Centre for Social Innovation, which is quite a refreshing environment coming from the rigid corporate world I’m used to. There is an optimism about the ability to enact social and environmental change that continually challenges my jaded outlook that I built up in the last 13 years. There is exposed brick and wood floors, and windows that open up. The washrooms are unisex. There’s a weekly salad club advertised with signs “You *do* win friends with salad!” (love the Simpsons throwback). Dogs in the office are welcome and a frequent sight. I learned there is such a job as a “Community Animator”, and they are constantly working to generate ways for people to meet and exchange ideas or to get help to propel them forward. I haven’t participated in many of the networking events yet since I usually need to jam in as much work as I can in my reduced-hour workday, but I look forward to joining in more the future. Here’s a video CSI put out last month that gives a good explanation.
So that’s my first three months. Here’s looking forward to the next six!