Mothers of Silicon Valley


Mothers crave that elusive balance between building their professional practice and being present in their personal lives. But unfortunately, many industries, don’t offer the flexibility that’s needed to find it.

So, what’s a gal to do?

Sacrifice time with kids?
Turn down challenging opportunities at the office?
Give up on the career path?

Absolutely not.

Here some stories from Women of Silicon Valley that are killing it!

By Clarissa Bukhan

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I was 8 months pregnant with my first child when I got the call from a recruiter, asking if I’d be interested in a dream job at Google.

I decided to be upfront about my upcoming maternity leave and to my surprise, I was still invited to proceed with the interviews. I waddled into Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, sporting a loose-fitting black blouse, because if I couldn’t hide the fact that I was pregnant, at least I could avoid drawing attention to it. To make a long-ish story short, I got the offer with a delayed start date for after my maternity leave, and I was thrilled. What I couldn’t anticipate was how drastically life would change over the next few months and what it really meant to sign up for a new job immediately after becoming a new mom.

The baby arrived, and she was a screamer. She cried constantly and when she did sleep, she would only do so in our arms. My husband and I slept in 3 hour shifts for the first few weeks, taking turns holding her as she slept.

Accompanying the severe sleep deprivation was the steep learning curve of new parenthood — figuring out how best to keep the baby fed, developing bedtime routines, strategizing nap and feeding schedules, changing diapers, sterilizing bottles, the work was relentless — around the clock, day in and day out.

Four months later, when my maternity leave came to an end, the work didn’t stop, it just shifted. Suddenly I was navigating my way around a new company, learning new products, building trust with new colleagues, while having to stop to pump every 3 hours during the day and waking up twice during the night to feed the baby.

What I learned is this — the paradox of motherhood is that it is at once the most rewarding work of your life and the most thankless.

There is simply nothing more rewarding or fulfilling to your sense of purpose than seeing your child laugh, run to you for comfort, and gain independence as they develop into their own person. And yet, there’s no gratification for managing complex school drop offs, wrestling a tantrum-ing toddler into a carseat, dragging yourself out of bed to pump in the middle of the night, scheduling doctor’s appointments, haircuts, and visits to grandma, washing bottles, bibs, and paint off of pants, and all of the other minutiae that make up the real day-to-day work of motherhood.

Those of us who choose to do this work in the context of Silicon Valley, while working “day” jobs in the male-dominated industries of technology and entrepreneurship, face an even more unique set of challenges. We combat the relentless stereotype that mothers don’t prioritize their careers. We confront the guilt of not devoting the majority of our time to our children. We constantly strive to find a balance that allows us to feel fulfillment in both our tech work and our mom work.

On finding your own balance

“One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a mom is being a primary breadwinner and balancing my career growth with my desire to “be there” for my kids.

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I stayed at home with my oldest daughter for the first year and it broke me down mentally. Spending 16 hours a day alone with my daughter in a tiny apartment took me to a mentally dark place. I loved her so much and wanted to be there for her, but I felt so isolated.

My husband and I talked through everything and we decided that I needed to go back to work to get that mentally-stimulating adult conversation that I craved. Ever since then, we’ve made my career a priority because my success results in the family’s success. We get a lot of commentary from friends and family about our “non-traditional” dynamic, and sometimes the words sting… but I’ve learned to protect the peace of my family and tune out the rest.”

Lissa Jonsson, Staffing Channels Specialist, Google


“I am from a small town where a woman’s role in life is to get married and do housework. I had to set myself apart from other kids in my town to ensure that I wouldn’t be diverted away from my goal, which was to make a difference in society. I studied hard, so I didn’t do much housework and I wasn’t very good at it. My parents did all the work so that I could stay focused, and I can never repay that debt to them.

My relatives would taunt me saying, ‘Oh, our daughter does so much work at home, she cooks, cleans, etc. you don’t know how to do any of that?’ I would just nod. My parents and I had to hear a lot of this talk until I finally proved myself, by getting into the best college in our state. After that, people started asking us for advice on how to get what I had achieved. Now, I’m glad that I was able to prove what women are capable of accomplishing, this has changed the mentality of many in my town.”

Shruti Mahajan, Software Engineer, Google

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“I was 5 months pregnant and living in NYC when Google reached out to me to see if I would be interested in a new role on their Policy team — in San Francisco.

“I was 5 months pregnant and living in NYC when Google reached out to me to see if I would be interested in a new role on their Policy team — in San Francisco.

My first thought was, “If only this could have happened when I wasn’t pregnant!” but I decided not to hold myself back.

I took a chance and Google took a chance on me. I joined the team right before going on maternity leave and as my leave came to an end, my family and I (with our newborn) moved across the country.

Starting a new job, in a new place, with a new baby, was a huge challenge — but I did it and I’m so glad that I pushed myself to go for it.”

Maryam Mujica, Counsel, Public Policy & Government Relations, Google


On finding career fulfillment

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Two years after I started dating my husband, Jorge, we found out that he had testicular cancer. He went through an operation and chemotherapy, and after his treatment, his doctor said that it would be hard, if not impossible, for him to have kids due to this condition and his low sperm count.

A year later, I decided that it was time to pursue my dream of doing an MBA in the US. However, a couple of days before the application deadline, I found out that I was pregnant. It was a tough moment in my life. I was just 24 years old, starting out my professional career, and had dreams that I thought would have never been possible if I had a child. However, we decided to keep Emma because we believed it might have been our only chance to have our own child.

Emma was born in July 2014 and the first few months were exhausting. The responsibility of looking out for another human being while working was overwhelming, and I told my husband that I wanted to quit to take care of our child. Jorge reminded me that I had dreams before choosing to have a family, and those dreams didn’t have to change.

I decided to re-apply to business school, with a completely different mindset, which I’m sure changed the outcome. I worked during the day, came home at night to breastfeed every couple of hours, and wrote my essays while breastfeeding. I got accepted to 5 of the 6 schools that I applied to and a couple of months later, we moved as a family to start a new life in Chicago, so I could pursue my MBA. The following three years have been an amazing adventure, where I’ve grown intellectually, professionally, and personally. I’ve been able to balance all these changes while raising a child who has grown to be an amazing and loving 4 year old. The moment I decided that I wouldn’t give up ended up being the most important decision I’ve made in my life.”

Valerie Angelkos, Product Marketing Manager, Google

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“In 2014, I was expecting my first baby and feeling very restless in my role as a Software Engineer, a job I had loved for almost 7 years. I realized that I really wanted to try a new career path and product management was what my heart was really after.

A few months after I came back to work from maternity leave, I spoke to my manager about pursuing a product management position. I started off by signing up for any and all small tasks that the Lead PM on my team was willing to assign to me, while juggling my regular engineering responsibilities, and nursing a new baby.

After 7 months of hard work, I got the Product Manager role that I had been longing for. Though I had been a Lead Engineer with 8 years of experience, I took a Product Manager role meant for someone with 2 years of experience. The title did not matter to me; I was finally a Product Manager and I was thrilled to have that opportunity.

Today, I am almost 2 years into my PM role and love it. It’s never too late to go after a new career path, all it takes is passion and perseverance.”

Shalini Rathnavel, Senior Product Manager, Oracle