Welcome to THE BALANCE PROJECT: a series of relevant and refreshingly candid interviews featuring inspiring and accomplished women talking about balance. I’ve always been curious—and maybe a little obsessed—about how women I admire manage the tragically glorified “doing it all” craze. So I asked them. As I suspected, no one really does “it all.” Everyone’s making sacrifices somewhere. And that should make us all feel a little better. I hope the conversation will be steered toward that reality rather than toward the flawed and dangerous assumption that we should try—or even want to try—to perfectly do “it all.”


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  • The Balance Project interview series recently celebrated its first birthday!
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  • Want to be a part of The Balance Project? Complete the interview.

No. 72: Michelle Hodges: Software Executive and See Girl Be Founder

Age: 44
Where I live:
 Portland, OR
Job: Software Executive and See Girl Be Founder
Kids: A daughter, Maya, 6

IMG_20141019_231138Have you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
As the sole breadwinner in our home, I have felt for years that I CANNOT change my career to have more balance. My job has typically involved long hours and lots of international and domestic travel. About three years ago, I had a very senior role at large top-tier software company, and I just burned out. In response, I quit my job, got a job closer to home in a less dynamic part of the industry, and hired an executive coach. Since that time, I have been redefining my professional goals based on balance, family, and my desire to be true to myself.

To that end, I have recently founded See Girl Be. See Girl Be believes that for girls of today to achieve their fullest potential, they require positive role models, examples of realistic futures, and opportunities to see their dreams manifested in everyday life. See Girl Be also believes that working mamas struggle to share their fulfilled professional success with their daughters and, rarely, if ever, exist in the same moment in time as their mom self and work self. In response to these needs, we have kicked off the initiative by curating empowering content, blogs, interviews, and images designed to share with our girls; all inspired by the thought “You can’t be what you can’t see.” As we grow, we will host a speaking event series filled with the stories of amazing women and girls, and offer fun and educational trips for mothers and daughters to enjoy together. See Girl Be is allowing me to focus on what I love, making an impact in a meaningful way, learning about ways others are impacting the world, and supporting working mamas and their daughters.

Is the job you have now the same one you had before kids? If not, how and why did you change directions?
Same job but the trajectory has significantly changed. I am less concerned about climbing the ladder and more concerned about staying healthy and being able to be present for both work and home life while fulfilling my individual personal development.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
I think having it all should be a personal definition that originates within your marriage and family. Having it all as defined by Sheryl Sandberg or other pundits is not at all how I now define it. There is no real having it all—there is living life on your terms.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
Planning weekends—I think we have work/life/school pretty well figured out and most things get done. However, when we wake up on Saturday morning, if it’s not a pre-planned kid’s activity, it doesn’t happen, i.e. hikes or skiing or museum visits.

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
Defining it. For me, there is no such thing as balance but the active act of balancing. The waking up every day and actively balancing all your work and personal big rocks against each other to understand what must get done versus what should get done.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance…
From a mentor/co-worker?
“Focus on your best next action to reach your objectives.” It’s all fine and well to have a plan, but navigating through the plan in dynamic, fast-moving environments is challenging. Constantly ask yourself, “What is my next best action to accomplish my goal?” I find it a very effective way to stay motivated and get your most critical work done.  
From your mother? “
Become the resident expert to get the job done—no more no less.” There are a lot of things in life you don’t want or like to do but need to do in order to succeed. Figure out how to be the best at it and get it done. As a result, you generally come out on top. Works every time.
From your spouse? 
Meeting and marrying my husband taught me to look for what I need not what I want. Had I married what I wanted, I would be a far less happy wife and mom—marrying what I needed taught me to understand what I need for long-term success versus what I want for near-term gratification.
From your daughter? “No phones at the table!”

If you had one extra hour in each day and you couldn’t work or be with your family, how would you spend that hour?
I would get outside: hiking, walking, beach walks, kayaking, biking, skiing.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
To follow my heart in my career choices—do what you love and everything else will follow.

What do you hope to know by the time you’re 60?
How to bake. Everything I ever bake is a total mess. Somewhere in my psyche, my definition of motherhood is wrapped up in the idea; if only I could bake well.

What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Meal Planning and grocery shopping. No matter how hard we try we never have the right foods for every meal. Healthy snacks, weekday lunches, and impromptu dinners are absolutely beyond our control.

Whose job do you wish you had?
Secretary of State—especially how Madeline Albright rocked it!

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
Traveling as much I as do, I feel for airline front-line customer service staff. The traveling public can be rude, impatient, and downright mean to people who are just doing their jobs. I try always to approach them with a grateful smile. And I always try to pay attention during the safety briefing—imagine how awful it is to have all those eyes ignoring you!

Favorite books?
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

What are you reading right now?
Leaving Before The Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller.

Biggest vices…
Starting books and not finishing them. It’s a classic sign of when I am over-extended in life and work. Definite sign to slow down.
 Pizza. I love great pizza and a glass of red wine.
Website? Tweetdeck: It’s a masterful tool to capture the attention of the multi-tasker. Insanity making.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
7 to 8. I cannot function on anything less, and I fiercely protect my sleep.

What do you read every morning?
The New York Times headlines.

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: will spend one year of my life living in Paris.
I wish I: had not listened to my father when he told me to get my MBA. I wanted to get and should have gotten an MFA in French Literature and Art History.
My daughter: does not believe me when I tell her I am actually Wonder Woman and that when I go to the airport it’s to pick up my invisible glass airplane. I tell her, “One day you’ll learn that I am Wonder Woman.” 🙂

Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
“Don’t let the dirty bastards get you down!” AND “Determination and persistence alone are omnipotent.” AND “Place yourself in the path of beauty.” —Cheryl Strayed

PastedGraphic-2PastedGraphic-2SGB-Logo-Horizontal-100x333pxAbout Michelle:
For 20+ years, Michelle Hodges has been assisting leading IT software companies in designing, building, and managing partner sales teams and programs around the world. Her global background was gained with Microsoft while living in Europe and India, her time with Business Objects and SAP while living in Singapore, and with VMware leading the global route-to-market for system integration & 0utsourcing. Mom to 6-year-old Maya, Michelle is building See Girl Be as a place where she and her peers can celebrate their professional success with their daughters and friends. Michelle will leverage her experience building relationships and networks via fantastic events and global travel experiences.

Michelle complements her professional passions with memberships in the Associated Strategic Alliances Professionals & Women in Channels organizations, among others. Having spent most of her adult life abroad in France, the UK, India, and Singapore, Michelle and her family now reside in Portland, Oregon, enjoying the coastline, mountains, and wineries of the Northwest.

Find more about Michelle here:
Twitter: @SeeGirlBe
Facebook: SeeGirlBe
Instagram: @SeeGirlBe

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