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The 2020 Working Dads of the Year’s Best Advice for Work-Life Balance

Ameer Ali Family

Here’s how these exemplary employees and busy fathers juggle it all.

These fathers at the Best Companies for Dads are experts at balancing filled plates.

Climbing the career ladder while managing a family is no easy task. Who better to ask for advice than the fathers below? In their own words, they share the tips and tricks that help them balance their busy lives.

Our Working Dads of the Year were nominated by their employers, which have been named a Working Mother Best Company for Dads. Read more from our Working Dads of the Year on their inspiring stories and the best advice they ever received.

Ameer Ali, Senior Manager, Accenture

Ameer lives in Vienna, Virginia, and is dad to Aafreen, 16, and Fareed, 13.

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Early in my career, I struggled with overwork and the associated guilt of neglecting my family. I finally understood a few years ago that work-life balance is a desert mirage. Every one of us plays multiple roles during each day in our lives. We are parents, children, spouses, siblings, friends, neighbors, employees, managers and citizens. There’s no way all the competing demands on our time can be equitably met every single day, or even every single week, and we fail when we try to ‘have it all’. Learning from some of my mentors and coaches, I’ve adapted my perspectives and recalibrated expectations for myself, my work team and my family. I’ve learned to say ‘no’ (or ‘yes, but’), be open with my clients and managers about personal commitments, and set mental boundaries to ‘turn off’ work.

Joshua Levine, Director, Business Manager Credit Trading, Barclays

Joshua lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, and is dad to Wesley 12, and Lila 8.

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The key to work-life balance for me is prioritizing work and budgeting time. I have benefited from firm-sponsored seminars about work efficiency. I learned to write better emails and prioritize work based on my calendar. I also learned the value of picking up the phone to solve issues. Phone calls foster relationships and saves time going back and forth on emails.

Mike lives in Glenview, Illinois, and is dad to Elie, 16, Anthony, 13, and Pamela, 11.

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When my daughter was 8 years old, she told me, in the innocent way children do, “You know, Dad, you always seem upset and busy, what is your job?” That question stopped me in my tracks. Determined to do better, I asked a few mentors what worked for them. I realized that there is no one answer, but the advice that resonated the best with me was the following: There is no such thing as work-life balance. Trying to achieve that is a fool’s errand. There’s just life. You must decide how to spend your waking hours and most importantly the quality of those hours. When at work, be present 100 percent at work; when home, be 100 percent present with your family. The greatest gift you can give your family is your time, because it’s a perishable resource.

John LaFramboise, Audit Director, BDO USA, LLP

John lives in Greenville, Michigan, and is dad to Catherine, 20, Maria, 18, Monica, 17, Joseph, 15, Bridget, 13, Clare, 11, Anthony, 9, Dominic, 6, Philip, 3, and Lily, an infant.

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My wife and I have been married for 21 years and are proud parents to 10 children between a few months and 20 years old. Over the years, I learned that prioritizing the most important events of the week is the best approach, and then I fill everything else in around those events, whether it’s audit work paper reviews or family activities. To further support my work-life fit, about five years ago, I decided to reduce my work hours, so my weekly schedule was more consistent, even during busier times. This flexibility has helped ensure that I’m home emotionally and mentally, not just physically. Putting these measures in place has provided me the opportunity to not only spend time with my entire family hiking or camping, but also enjoy special one-on-one time with each of them throughout the year. It is not uncommon for me to bring one of my children into work for a few hours in the morning and then head out to spend time with them at an amusement park, kayaking or at a ballgame.

Austin Murphy, Vice President, Managed Services, CrowdStrike

Austin lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and is dad to Molly, 7, Emily, 6, Hannah, 3, and Kayla, an infant.

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Earlier in my career a mentor once advised me not to try and find a work-life balance, but rather focus on achieving work-life integration. The concept of a work-life balance can mean compartmentalizing time spent at work and time spent with family, which often leads to burnout and frustration. Instead, I try to consider what it takes to be a good dad and what it takes to be a good leader and blend them together when possible. Sometimes that means talking with my kids about the types of projects I’m working on and using these conversations as opportunities to reinforce the value of hard work and responsibility. Other times that means spotting a 20-minute window on my calendar and using that time to go outside and kick the soccer ball around with my girls.

Vincent H. Cohen, Jr., Litigation Partner, Firm Management Committee Member; Chair of Black Lawyers Alliance, Dechert LLP

Vincent lives in Washington, DC, and is dad to Vincent, III, 12, and Laila, 10.

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Communication is at the heart of what makes our family work. The “Control Center,” a super-sized calendar that sits on the wall between the kitchen and the family room, keeps us organized at home. Even the kids record their upcoming sports events and play dates because if it isn’t up on the board, it may not happen. My wife is a surgeon and I have a demanding legal practice, and with both careers often requiring attention to time sensitive matters, we try to make sure to communicate about the important family events. Having them centrally located makes the day-to-day feel more manageable.

Carlos lives in Plainsboro, New Jersey, and is dad to Gabriella 14, Preston 5, and Harper 3.

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Planning, prioritizing, and distribution of duties are essential to balancing work and family life. My wife and I sit down weekly to figure out how we will divide the week’s responsibilities. Although there’s rarely a perfectly planned week, by doing this, we are better prepared for the unexpected.

Jamal Greene, Senior Director of Sales, Midwest Area, Eli Lilly and Company

Jamal lives in Zionsville, Indiana and is dad to Eliam, 7.

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I put my family’s schedule on my work calendar. One of mentors told me that if you don’t plan to succeed, you plan to fail. Prioritize your duties at work and home. I use one to-do list and one calendar. My simple theory: If I’m with family, I can’t be doing work and vice versa. Be intentional. Add family events to your calendar and mark them as the special days that they are.

Kevin lives in Alexandria, Virginia and is dad to Keaton and Parker, 9.

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How can you fit preparing 21 meals, attending 31 conference calls, reviewing six documents, homeschooling for 16 hours, being responsive to clients, supporting projects teams, sanitizing grocery items, completing chores and entertaining active 9-year-olds into one week? Answer: be flexible and be structured. Using these seemingly dichotomous approaches helps us make our weeks work. We only schedule activities that have externally dictated times. We start with a Sunday meeting to identify the week’s firm deadlines. Then, we then list all the other to-dos and set target dates to complete them during the week. We use fast fives and focused fifteens to attack our to-do list over the week. A fast five is mainly room based. We put five minutes on the clock, pick a specific room and make it tidy. Focused fifteens are theme-based and can involve completing a shopping list, scheduling appointments or folding laundry. We call the fives and fifteens randomly when we need to take a break during the day, pick an item from the list and go. The time on the clock and the goal to get the task done on time turns the otherwise mundane tasks into a high energy exercise that gets our chores done quickly, encourages teamwork and leaves time for school, work and fun.

Sean Burress, Global Senior Director, Consumer Insight & Analytics, Kimberly-Clark Corporation

Sean lives in Chicago and is dad to Patricia, 13, and Mary, 5.

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Make extended work activities work for your family. If I must work late hours or stay away from home for a long period, I attempt to incorporate the whole family. It’s not unusual for me to invite my family to attend events with overnight stays and spend some time enjoying the area where the event was planned.

Michael lives in New York City and is dad to Sophie 8, Alex, 6, and Claire 4.

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Dads who are senior in their organizations have a unique role to play in setting the tone. It is OK to have family commitments. Yet, so often we act as if family is a forbidden topic at work. We cannot put the task of changing attitudes about work and family on working mothers alone; dads have to be full partners. I share my family life with my colleagues without apologizing. One day, I shared that it was my turn to cook mac and cheese for lunch and hence needed to drop early from my noon call. A few months ago, my 4-year-old daughter put on her superhero outfit, broke through the lock to my office door and Zoom bombed a meeting with other partners. She then regaled everyone on the call with stories for five minutes. It is a fantastic memory.

Jeff lives in San Diego and is dad to Emma, 15, Nate, 13, and Will, 10.

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No homework on Saturdays! I came up with this rule early in college. It helped me balance my courseload with the other important things in my life. No matter what, even if it meant starting early and working late on other days and forcing myself to be more efficient with my time compared to my classmates, I didn’t touch a book on Saturdays. Instead, that time was set aside so I could relax, hang with friends, have fun with non-school hobbies and recharge. Thankfully, I keep the principle behind no-homework Saturdays working at Pillsbury. They count on me to produce quality work by whatever deadline applies. They don’t stress about the time of day or the location where the work gets done. As a husband and a dad, this flexible work policy has allowed me to set aside time for date nights with my wife, have great conversations with my daughter when we drive to and from her dance classes, and coach baseball and basketball teams for my boys, all as a lawyer at a large firm. As it has since college, sometimes the work starts early and ends late, and requires focus on efficiency with my time. But having the flexibility to coach a little league game under the lights on a summer weekday evening, talk to my daughter about how geometry class is going or settling in to eat takeout Thai food with my wife, can’t be beat! Find that time to set aside however you can. Put the phone away, relax, hang with family and friends, have fun with non-work hobbies and recharge.

Wilton Williamson, Director, Veterans Initiatives, Prudential Financial

Wilton lives in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, and is dad to Maya-Rachel, 10.

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I have learned through the guidance of my father, mentors, fellow Marines and friends about the importance of fatherhood. This unique experience, is the most rewarding journey to teach, develop and guide the most impressionable mind you’ll ever encounter during your human experience. As a father, it’s important for me to provide for my 10-year-old daughter in all aspects of her development. This requires balancing my passion for my career, as well as being present in all aspects of my daughter’s life. The love that I have for Maya makes being a father a beautiful experience because there is always an opportunity to teach. Prudential has excellent programs that offer alternate working arrangements which promote a healthy work-life balance for their employees. These programs support employees’ individual, unique experiences. Through this process, I have learned to have courageous conversations with my supervisor about my career. As a result, I have work-life balance which has positively impacted my professional and personal responsibilities.

Jason Weir, Sr. Manager, Business Planning, Sony Electronics Inc.

Jason lives in San Diego and is dad to Marshall, 13, Adam, 11, and Davis, 7.

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As a parent, and a manager of other working parents, flexibility is a key component to achieving success at work and with family. I recall a few years back, there was a need on one of my son’s basketball teams for a coach. There was a designated practice time every week, Mondays at 4:30 p.m. To accommodate, I knew I would need to leave the office by 4 p.m. I was confident that I could manage the workload, but a bit apprehensive about requesting a schedule modification from a boss I had only been reporting to for less than six months. But I went for it, and she agreed. The coaching opportunity ended up being a great bonding experience for me and my son. In fact, he talked me into doing it again the following year. I often keep this moment in mind when considering requests made to me from my own direct reports, in particular the parents. Of course, with these flexible arrangements, there needs to be trust and accountability. But if you can get to that point, offering and taking advantage of flexibility is a great tool to maximize those precious moments with your children.

Damon Grimes, Head of F&R Shopper & Full Funnel Marketing Transformation, Unilever

Damon lives in New York City and is dad to Avery, 5, and Quinn, 2.

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With my daughter in kindergarten and my son turning 3, my working wife and I knew there would be challenges without access to childcare during COVID-19. My wife was relatively new to her job, and I had just started a new role at Unilever days before shutdown. We thought it would be impossible to navigate our jobs, homeschooling and a toddler who required attention. As a couple, we rearranged our schedules to split the day. My wife taught kindergarten/daycare in the morning and I took over in the afternoon, blocking our calendars through the end of the school year. If my son napped during my shift, I would work so that I wouldn’t fall behind. After discussing our new schedules with my team, I set up an auto-reply to every email communicating my work schedule that re-enforced it every single day until the school year ended. Obviously, many others faced similar challenges at Unilever, but our willingness to talk about it made it feel like we could overcome it.

Vijay Vasu, Senior Product Manager, Security Services, Verizon

Vijay lives in Allen, Texas and is dad to Vyas, 6, and Vyom, 3.

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In addition to having a full-time job program-managing a growing security product portfolio, I have also been able to earn my Master of Science degree with a 4.0 GPA, get industry certification on cloud computing, organize a COVID special virtual reunion event with my undergraduate class, serve as the director of my Home Owners Association board, leading my community through this crisis, volunteer as a fundraiser for the AOL Foundation and be a Cub Scouts Den Leader for my 6-year-old and his friends. All this has been possible without compromising the time I spend with my beautiful and supportive family. I have even managed to lose 20 pounds this year. How? By meditating 20 minutes a day, twice a day. It’s helped me reduce stress, control anxiety, enhance self-awareness and improve my health and energy levels. My wife and I are avid meditation practitioners, and regular meditation has changed the way we look at life.

Blake lives in Atlanta and is dad to Kensley, 3, and Ella, 1.

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After our first daughter was born, I realized that the schedule and demands of inpatient pulmonology would not allow me to be a fully present father. Fortunately, my practice had an outpatient position available, and I was able to take advantage of this opportunity, providing me with a more-consistent schedule. What I had originally thought was a sacrifice, leaving the hospital world that I loved, turned into a blessing for my family and me. My wife, Erin, is also a physician assistant within Wellstar Medical Group, and having a similar schedule allows us to truly split parenting roles 50-50.

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Here’s how these exemplary employees and busy fathers juggle it all.

These fathers at the Best Companies for Dads are experts at balancing filled plates.

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