Entrepreneurs

Starting a New Job While Pregnant Isn’t Easy, But This Leader Did It

Following a two-year stint teaching English in South Korea, Stacy Justino discovered her passion for management at a Seattle-based video game company. “I quickly realized that it combined the most rewarding aspects of teaching with the opportunity to regularly tackle new, interesting problems,” she says.

Then in 2018, after almost 10 years rising the ranks in customer support at her company, Justino launched a job search as she and her husband planned a move Northeast. Enter Wistia, which makes video marketing software. “I didn’t think my search would result in moving cross-country while five months pregnant to start a new job, but the opportunity seemed like the right step for both my career and for my family,” she says.

As Wistia’s Director of Customer Happiness, Justino quickly established herself as a respected and trusted leader—even as she was months away from starting maternity leave. Since returning, she has continued to help her team find fulfillment in their work.

Here, Justino talks about her leadership style, what she likes most about the culture at Wistia, and her secret to balancing work and family.

What attracted you to work at Wistia?

One of the biggest factors was the culture. When I started at Big Fish Games in 2018, the company had around 130 employees and was at a stage where I knew everyone and was able to build really solid professional and, more importantly, personal relationships with my coworkers. Through my interview process at Wistia, I got the distinct sense that working there would be similar to my early days at Big Fish Games. I was also impressed by the company’s benefits and parental leave policy, which was especially important to me. The other key thing was the positioning of their customer support team: The one thing I’d known about Wistia before applying was that their support was well known for being really good!

What are you responsible for in your role?

I lead the Customer Happiness team, a team of just under 20 people who provide support for our customers through email, chat, social channels, and by maintaining our help center. Our two managers and three senior support specialists report directly to me. I’m also part of the senior management team and the talent and culture senior functional team so I am able to represent customer happiness at the senior leadership level, as well as be a key driver on initiatives like hiring practices, career growth, and connectedness through the talent and culture team.

What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you?

In March, we moved to a new support platform and launched a live chat function for our advanced plan customers. I am excited to continue this momentum as we dive deeper into leveraging the new platform and explore ways we can better support our customers.

I am also very inspired to be working on shaping Wistia’s hybrid work model as part of the talent and culture team. Establishing a hybrid model that is inclusive and functional is a challenge, but getting it right is super critical and the kind of impactful cross-functional work I really enjoy.

How would you describe your leadership style? And how has it helped you maintain a team that has seen no attrition in more than two years?

My leadership style centers around transparency, empowerment, and building relationships. There were company and team changes throughout the two-year period so I had expected some turnover, but I think people have stayed along for the ride because I have been as transparent as possible and have built strong relationships. The people on my team trust the decisions that are being made, even if they don’t fully agree with them sometimes.

I also think empowering individuals to bring up and follow through on ideas, share feedback, and work on projects outside of answering customers has helped maintain fulfillment in the work they’re doing, while also allowing them to build experience in ways that will translate to other roles they choose to pursue in the future.

What was it like taking on a new role just three months before going on maternity leave?

Honestly, it helped me ruthlessly prioritize the immediate problems I needed to address so that I could leave the team in a sustainable place for the two months I would be out on parental leave. [Wistia’s policy allows for employees to take 16 weeks off within the first year of a birth or adoption with full pay and benefits.]

My team was super supportive, and I felt I was able to build a rapport with them before going on parental leave, which eased a lot of the stress of starting somewhere new.

How did Wistia support you as you navigated this change, and in general how does the company support working parents?

There was a lot of trust, which enabled me to make decisions and move quickly with little back and forth. That allowed me to achieve the majority of the things I wanted to tackle before going on parental leave. 

My manager, Ben, who has been at Wistia since 2008, was an incredible source of support. Coming into a situation where I had zero institutional knowledge, reporting to one of the folks at Wistia with the most historical context was invaluable. He also is a parent of young kids, which helped me navigate the changes from a career perspective but also the major life change I was going through.

Wistia’s flexible vacation and sick leave policy made the weekly doctor appointments in the third trimester a non-issue, and I was able to work from home when needed during the last few weeks. The flexible leave policy and flexible work hours are some of the major ways that Wistia supports working parents. Another thing that seems small but I think is super impactful is that our people ops team and talent and culture leadership teams consider the constraints of working parents when developing or updating policies to ensure they are inclusive. We also have an ERG called Parental Advisory, which has been really helpful as a sounding board and place to seek advice.

What advice do you have for current or future parents who worry they’ll need to put their career on pause because of having children?

There are more and more companies out there that do a good job of supporting parents and are working to improve their policies to support parents, so you don’t need to put your career on pause. Since everyone’s parenting situation comes with different challenges, you need to identify what you (and your family) require from an employer. For me, having 100% of medical, dental, and vision benefits covered for both my husband and dependents, as well as being eligible for parental leave benefits as a new hire, were two key factors that enabled me to take the role at Wistia at a time when moving into a new role at a new company seemed impossible.

What do you like best about Wistia’s company culture?

I really appreciate that Wistia fosters creativity and curiosity. I think those two things influence much of what makes Wistia’s culture special to me. When you are genuinely curious about your coworkers, you really get to know them. From day one, I knew that my new coworkers truly wanted to learn more about me. In almost any role, being curious and creative is also how the best, most innovative ideas are born—like some of the work that has come out of our hackathons.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

When you start a new role, nobody is expecting you to get completely up to speed or achieve results overnight, so be patient with yourself. You’re likely going from knowing the ins and outs of a business to a situation where you will need to build context.

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