For nearly 20 years, Mia built a high-profile career as a television journalist in newsrooms in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. But after the birth of her first child, she was forced to reassess what the job meant to her, then embrace change. What we loved about talking to Mia—who believes there’s no right time to have a baby—was her honesty, positivity and brilliant advice.
Tell us about your career journey.
I completed a commerce and arts degree then a journalism postgraduate. I had been volunteering and working in the media from the Sunshine Coast to the Gold Coast whilst studying, when an opportunity came up to work for the Nine Network in Sydney. After a few years, I moved to Melbourne. I worked for Nine for seven years, before being poached to its competitor Seven News for close to a decade, where I also spent three years in the press gallery at Parliament House, Canberra. I’m now in the corporate communications sector, with experience in real estate and investment trusts, government and the health insurance industry.
Did your career change after becoming a mama? Were you more or less ambitious?
Yes, my career changed for the better, but early on it was hard to see how. I’ve always been ambitious and motherhood has made me far more focused. When I became a mama, I realised that I still wanted to grow and keep learning, and there’s no reason that children should change that. It’s not selfishness—I’ve always strived—but I had to be flexible as to how I would achieve the next career move with little people and a partner to consider. The corporate world provided the perfect balance.
What is your approach to keeping in touch whilst on parental leave?
My first maternity leave experience was one that would make people and culture leaders recoil in horror. The news director had his poor assistant contact me continually, to the point of harassment, about return dates when my baby was a newborn. I provided them with a time-frame, months before I was legally required to after securing near-impossible city childcare. Human resources then continued the news director’s dirty work, by changing my work roster so it wouldn’t match childcare the week before I was due to return.
What are your top three tips for managing your career through parental leave?
- Parental leave can be the catalyst you need to make some major career changes—after the initial shock, embrace it.
- Flexible workplaces are essential for both parents. Modern employers are realising they’ll lose good staff unless there’s some give and take, as well as trust to occasionally work from home.
- Researching and investing in good childcare. There is nothing better than a happy, tired and paint-covered child. If you can’t be there yourself, you want the best alternative available.
If you could go back and change anything about how you managed your career through parental leave, what would it be?
I would be much wiser to the workings of human resources in the media industry. They ultimately are on the side of often-dysfunctional management, not a nervous first-time mama returning to the workforce. My story is not unique. What they did was morally wrong, but perfectly legal. Lesson learned.
What is the best career advice you have ever been given?
- Don’t be mean to the mail boy as he may end up as your boss one day.
- It’s a small world, don’t be an arsehole.
- Criticism isn’t personal.
- Many females climb the ladder and pull up it behind them, so if someone takes you under their wing, cherish it—it’s rare.
- The higher your hair, the skinnier your face.
The best advice you were ever given by another mama?
There’s never a good time to have a baby, so don’t wait. Your employer won’t make you laugh or make you proud in your old age, so if you want a baby or a second one, a good employer will be flexible and understanding. You still have great skills that can be utilised in a different way to before, and now far more efficiently. A baby doesn’t mean a lobotomy.
- Favourite time of the day is … dinner time. I’m very lucky to have a partner who’s an amazing cook, and children who love to eat.
- Instagram sites that inspire you … many of my brave and clever girlfriends have set up small businesses, and I’m blown away by their creativeness and drive to harness social media. I also love a site by Barack Obama’s official presidential photographer, Pete Souza. I’m not into fitspo. At all.
- I’m happiest when … I’m with my friends and family in the sun.
- I’m addicted to … Meredith goat cheese.
- Favourite wardrobe staple for work … Carla Zampatti navy blazer.
- Favourite wardrobe staple for weekend … Converse sneakers.
- My role model is … I don’t have one, but I have great admiration for those who are generous of heart. They’re usually always bakers and over-caterers—like my beautiful and smart godmother Deb, wonderful friend and colleague Kate, amazing and funny neighbour Lizzie, and kind mother-in-law Margaret. If I had to pick someone well known, it would be Julia Gillard. I was fortunate to work in Canberra when she was Prime Minister. I was continually impressed with her professionalism when dealing with the media, who often didn’t deserve it. In my opinion, her grace and dignity is still without peer, regardless of your political persuasion.
- Heels or flats? … heels in my dreams, flats in reality.