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Training and Development

How maternity leave helped make me a better developer

This is a contributed piece by Karoline Klever

There’s a lot of expectation on women, especially in male-dominated industries like technology. We’re expected to go above and beyond to prove we’re as good as our male counterparts; when you’re the only woman in the IT department, there’s a lot to prove. We’re certainly moving towards a state of diversity, but there will always be one thing setting us apart: motherhood.

When I fell pregnant in 2012, I was thrilled: I couldn’t wait to meet my son. But I was also apprehensive about what would happen to my career. My whole life up until then had been spent studying and cultivating this job - it felt like I was about to make a real sacrifice by spending a year away.

I’m lucky to live in Norway, where we get a year’s paid maternity leave. However, with such a long time away from work I was faced with the prospect of returning to my career with an outdated skill set. I work as a programming consultant and EPiServer expert so I feared the pace of the industry would leave me behind. Being there throughout the first year of my son’s life was very important to me, but being a mother isn’t all I want to be: I love my job and am passionate about being successful. How could I juggle both a career and a new child?

My beautiful son Henrik was born one and a half months early, and under doctor’s orders we were asked to stay inside and out of the harsh Norwegian weather. After three months of being confined to my home with only a tiny, constantly sleeping baby to challenge me, I was craving mental stimulation. It was then it occurred to me I didn’t have to sacrifice my career for motherhood – I could have both.

I started by setting myself some goals. Firstly, when I returned to work I wanted to be up to speed on the technologies I would need to use on a day to day basis. Specifically, the EPiServer CMS I worked with, previously only supported Web Forms. While I was away, it began supporting ASP.NET MVC, so I wanted to make sure when I returned to work I wouldn’t have been left behind. But beyond this, I saw an opportunity to return to work better off than before the arrival of Henrik. I set myself the goal of becoming a better developer, one who built cleaner, longer-lasting code.

Through setting these goals, I had to find a way to learn while also looking after Henrik. I needed some form of learning tool that would allow me to learn from home and at my own pace. My fiancé introduced me to an online learning platform called Pluralsight. After watching just one course, I knew it was going to exceed all these needs. Not only did it mean I was taught by the best in the industry, I could spend as much or as little time working towards my goals as I liked (or as Henrik allowed!).

The true impact was apparent when I returned to work; I was able to sit down and carry on like I had never been away. After just six months back in the office, I was promoted to technical supervisor for our e-commerce team.  My new role meant I was managing a whole team of developers, part of which saw me helping them keep up to date with their learning. I was also able to secure certifications in HTML5 with JavaScript and MVC, ASP.NET MVC 4 and EPiServer MVC. And all while caring for my baby. I can wholeheartedly say this new role would not have come about so quickly if I hadn’t had Henrik. Going on maternity leave gave me time to work at my own pace, and motivated me to keep my skills fresh.

So when I became pregnant with my daughter, I didn’t feel afraid. Instead I felt empowered, and ready to set myself some new goals. A few months on and I have a beautiful baby girl and a thriving career to match. Before my children, I was an average developer who loved her job, but today I can compete with anyone, while still having time for my children.

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