Becoming a Tech Entrepreneur and Having your First Kid: You Can Do It! by Emilie Joly

Automatic Summary

Balancing Parenthood and Entrepreneurship: A Personal Tale

In this blog post, I'll be sharing my personal experience of how I manoeuvred the challenging path of becoming a first time mom while concurrently helming helm of my start-up. I hope my words will inspire, assist, and reassure anyone considering embarking on this adventure. But first, allow me to introduce myself. I am the CEO of W Immersive, a startup specializing in virtual reality gaming focused on education.

Challenges and stereotypes I faced as a young female entrepreneur

When I started my first startup at age 21, the idea of starting a family was far in my mind. Success in the tech world, particularly the gaming and virtual reality industry, which is dominated by men, required relentless focus and work. Common pieces of advice I received were all discouraging, ranging from "Wait as long as possible", "Hide your pregnancy" to bluntly, "Just don't do it".

Boldly facing these challenges, I embarked on the journey of entrepreneurship and parenthood.

Navigating the transition to motherhood while leading a startup

My initial reaction to the news of my pregnancy was filled with excitement and trepidation. Acknowledging that a start-up and a baby both demand your time and energy, I knew the journey wouldn't be an easy ride. But I was determined, and before I knew it, my beautiful baby arrived in this world, marking the start of a new chapter in my life. The following are a few tips that immensely supported me during this period:

  • Tell your team early: As daunting as it may seem, this step is vital. It allowed them to learn to organize themselves without my constant presence and built trust within our company.
  • Make a plan: Develop a strategy for before and after you give birth and your first year as a parent. Make sure to share this plan with your everyone involved.
  • Align with your partner: Ensure that your partner is on the same page as you. Their support in times of work emergencies can be invaluable.

Maintaining the balance after the baby arrives

Fast forward, my daughter is now 13 months old, and it’s been an incredible year filled with challenges, joy and growth. I had to further adapt to my new role by learning to prioritize, rushing childcare plans, and leaning even more on my partner’s support.

However, I would end this with one piece of important advice - Embrace the chaos and enjoy the ride! Parenthood is a beautiful journey that makes you grow both personally and professionally. And rest assured, you’ve got this!

Normalizing the conversation around Parenthood and Entrepreneurship

Finally, it's essential we start normalizing conversations around parenthood and entrepreneurship. The tech industry can often make it seem like no one balances the two, but that's not the case. By sharing my story, I hope to inspire others to do the same and thus create a more accepting and understanding environment for young female entrepreneurs.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, being a first-time mom and leading a startup is indeed hectic but totally doable. With the right mindset, adequate planning and a reliable support network, you can successfully navigate this path. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey, and your harrowing but fulfilling experience might just inspire someone else. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn if you’d like to learn more about my journey or my work in virtual reality and education.

Embrace the chaos and enjoy the ride; you are doing great! Until next time, have a great day everyone.

Video Transcription

All right, I'll get started. Uh leaving another, another minute. Um Feel free also to let me know if any of you have kids or thinking about having kids or not.And um my session is going to be um mostly me chatting about my experience as a young entrepreneur um being a first time mom. Um And I hope um I'll be able to give you some useful tips for those who are considering this adventure. And uh my kid is currently napping, which is good. She might make an appearance which will be totally relevant to to this session. Um So I am going to get started now and yeah, feel free to ask questions in the chat. Um And also give me a sum up if you see my screen, I think you do, but just in case there you go. Thank you. All right. So becoming a tech entrepreneur and having kids, you can do it. Um Kinda, so I'm saying kinda because um quick intro about me. Um I am a CEO of a start up called W Immersive. Uh My company is a virtual reality gaming company focusing on the education space. Um I started my, my first start up when I was 21. I am now 38. Um and uh this is basically me um before having a kid. So always at conferences, always in front of a computer working, uh always having some kind of weird gadget on, on my head.

And um basically, I, you know, I, I co-founded my tech company with another woman and um she doesn't have kids yet and I basically had a kid as late as literally possible. And I want to give you a little bit of, you know, the top three things that I heard, you know, as a young female entrepreneur when I was just starting. So, you know, I was about 2221 and we wanted to build this company fresh out of university and thinking about, all right, you know, we're totally focused on work, totally focused on building this company. And then thinking about family or kids was, you know, at least for me, way, way, way far in my mind. And um you know, the things that I would hear and that probably incentivized me to wait so long is that you should really wait as long as possible. Like I literally heard that 100,000 of times whether it be um meeting with other co-founders, meeting with other start ups being at conferences and um in the, you know, in the world that I'm in, which is kind of gaming, virtual reality. It's it's 90 you know, 90% men uh around as well. So, uh, it doesn't help for, for some of those conversations, but basically we would really hear nothing about it.

Um, there was no one talking about their family, no one talking about, you know, even the possibility of that. Um, I also heard a lot from investors, um, and board members to hide it, you know, hide it as long as you can Once you get pregnant, try to hide it if you can. Um Just because, you know, uh you're fundraising, you're being a CEO and then as soon as they see you as being a potential mom, um then this is where kind of things break loose. And, well, the last thing I heard and I did hear that, uh actually quite a bit of time is just don't do it, you know, just don't do it, don't do it, now, don't do it ever. And you keep on, you know, kind of delaying things in your mind and it kind of stays in the back of your head. Um But also there's not a lot of references, right? When, when I go to, I went to, um, see my peers, I didn't see anyone talking about their families, I didn't see anyone talking about having kids, um especially as a, as a young, young woman, right?

So it's really something that I was thinking about in the back of my mind, but not really delving into it. So this is my face when it actually happened. So here uh it's me and my uh my husband who is also my co one of my co-founders. Um And so this is when we um found out that um you know, we were having a kid. So as you can probably see, these are kind of, let's say, stressed out faces of two young entrepreneurs, excited but stressed out and that was uh you know, a year ago. Uh So we finally did it and yes, giving birth is totally exhausting. So this is me um just a little later. So of course, running a company is exhausting, giving birth is also exhausting. And so, you know, when I think about that, I wasn't prepared at all and I don't know about you in the audience. Um but when you're a young, you know, young girl and you don't think about this and you're being told not to do it right away and just focus on your company, then you don't really know what to expect as much. Um Also, I personally live away from my family. My family is in Europe. I'm based in California where uh you know, where we build start ups basically. And so, yeah, the reality, um you know, in the fiction is that break giving birth is really exhausting.

And so you need to prepare and I wasn't really prepared. Um And so during this, you know, this, this talk, I I want to give you a bit of the tips of what I ended up doing, um, during this period. Um, and basically I also had to get, you know, get the team ready, but to, you know, bring some light women have been doing this for thousands of years. Right. And we hear that all the time, um, doesn't make it less hard, but it's true. Everyone has been doing it. So there's no reason that you can not run your company and also, you know, have a kid or kids. Um So one of the first thing that um I was advised to do and I kind of did, but not early enough is, you know, tell your team early. I would recommend that because your team is gonna run the show, your team is gonna help you and it is sometimes it depends how your company is structured. You know, you might have some board members who and investors who appreciate it and they tell you, hey, congratulations.

But in the back of their mind, they're just worried that you're gonna disappear and leave and never come back. Um So recommendation number one is that and we'll, we'll, we'll dig into those um a little bit deeper. Uh make a plan, uh make a plan for um, before you're gonna give birth after, you know, even the first year and share that plan with everybody. And then the last one I can talk about briefly is align with your partner because I couldn't do anything without my partner personally. Um, whether you're in, like whoever your partner is, um, this is gonna be very important, especially if you're, you know, the CEO and the leader in the, in the company. So the benefits of telling your team early is that while they learn to organize themselves without you. And if you're like me being the CEO of start up, I, I'm always everywhere. I always try to follow all the conversations. I try to make sure everyone's happy and I was really, really scared to kind of let go and having them, you know, learn to organize themselves alone was amazing because now even a year later, they still do it and it's awesome and I can focus on other things.

So um definitely do that. Delegating is key. Um Despite all the things I thought I would be able to do and it was probably because I was going to be a first time mom, I thought, yeah, you know, I can still send an email. I can still follow conversations. I'll be there, blah, blah, blah. No way. I mean, you're just tired, you haven't slept, you have this tiny baby you have to take care of. Um you know, there's this period where you, you have hormones, your brain, you just can't do something, right? So, delegating is important and it also builds trust within um your company. And then the last one that I would, uh, you know, greatly recommend is finding, um, one or several temporary replacements. Uh It could be a co founder, a board member, a trusted employee. And on my side, it was a board member or board member who, um, strongly suggested to take over, uh, some of my workload a couple of months prior to giving birth. And at the beginning I was a little stingy about it. I didn't want him to do it, but it ended up, you know, without, without my co-founders and this member, I, I wouldn't have, you know, the company would have been able to run as well.

And so we really prepared, we prepared everything for um for them to take over. Um And if you have no one and you're all alone, I'm sure that's not the case, find someone, you know, find someone within the team who can kind of be your shadow. Um So including key dates in the plan, we did that, we literally did like a calendar for everyone to understand what was going to happen. Um And how long, you know, what, how long I was planning to take a leave for, I only took six weeks. Uh retrospectively I should have taken more and I was still working during those six weeks, like trying to work, you know, from my bed, I even did like a um investor pitch um from my bed is really bad. But uh you know, it worked out, I guess a little bit. Um I'd recommend also start ceasing your replacement on emails two months beforehand. So seeing someone it can be one person or several, depending on what you're handling. But if it's client relations or if it's, you know, investors or, um you know, this whatever it is, um try to get a person that you can trust to take over those conversations. So it doesn't have to be one, as I said, it can be, you know, some people are better than others at, at different things.

Uh, from my side, I, uh, completely delegated the product design and the product roadmap to, um, uh, my co-founder in Switzerland and she, she did an amazing job just, you know, keeping it going and, you know, I also realized things I really wasn't needed for. So that's great.

And two months is the minimum because it helps them get the history also of the conversations. Uh So they know, you know, what has been going on before and then show the team, you know, what you're doing. So you can kind of fake it, I guess if you don't, uh, like I did. But, um, you know, some might be a little scared that you might not be there. Uh, if they're used to having you around all the time and taking care of things. I mean, this is all just good management, right? Um, but when you're a young female CEO, sometimes you, you kind of don't see all these things. So, you know, if, if they see that, you know what you're doing and it's pretty clear uh how things are gonna be handled, they're usually, they, they get pretty comfortable and the actual, they, they cheer you on and it feels very empowering thinking that things are not gonna fall apart.

Um because of that align with your partner. So, I mean, that always makes sense just for having kids, right? But when you're in a leadership role like I am and you're the CEO there's a lot of times where, you know, I have to do a conference where I have to leave where I'm meeting somewhere and things like that and I don't really couldn't do it if my partner wasn't totally 300% aligned with that.

Meaning that sometimes I just, just today we were going on a walk with my kid and then I had a meeting that I forgot about. So I ran back into um my apartment and, and had the meeting and he didn't even flinch or, you know, anything. He was like, yeah, OK, just go. So it was my bad because I, I didn't check my calendar well enough, but still it happens. Um Mom GS is a real thing. So I don't know. People always say, yeah, you'll miss your kids and things like that. But i it's really true like my, my daughter is uh only a year old and um, I just came back from a conference and it was four days and you kind of feel really bad. Right? You feel bad that you're not there. Sometimes other people make you feel bad like family, you know, little things, ah, you're always working or you shouldn't be working. Oh, now that you've been to a conference for three days you have to make up for it and take care of your, your kid for three months in a row or, you know, things like that. But, uh, you know, mom guilt from both sides is, is a real thing, but your, your little baby will be fine when you come back. Um And yeah, you know, if you can count on your partner to take over when you need to travel, no questions asked.

It, it will definitely help. So I guess this is a more relationship advice than anything. But, uh, it, it really, you know, if you're, if you're working through parenthood and leadership and you're, you know, you're the woman in the, who's going to carry the baby and, and be praying and all of that, this really, really helps. These are two pictures of tired parents.

Um, as you can see, we try to do 5050. So I'm carrying the baby kind of working at the same time. He's carrying the baby. We're having meetings, you know, we're trying to, um, to do the best, uh, the best that we can. Um, and then this is actually yesterday. So I had to, we were in Europe to see my, my, uh, my family and, um, our daughter's family and, um, I had a big conference, come up, a very important conference and an important business meeting. So I had to leave a week before everyone. And so my husband had to do a 15 hour flight alone with a baby. So that's him. Um, trying completely exhausted coming back with, you know, a 15 hour flight with a little kid in on, on his laps. Um, and so this is like another good example. I felt really bad during that whole week that I was missing them and her for, for the whole trip. But, um, you know, it, it having that kind of support is, is super, super important because you're, you're gonna need it when you, when you just run around. So if you can do things 5050 you'll be better off for it. Um, and then, you know, after you have the kids, then, um, it's more about thinking priorities for the first year. So my experience is only about, she's 13 months old, so it's about only a year, but obviously it doesn't stop when you give birth, right?

There's a whole lot of adjustment during the first year and they, they take your time. So, um, filter out, you know, what's more important, um, for your business. Um, think about it in advance. I, I'm, I just started making a list a long time ago of the things I would attend, the things I would not attend, the things someone else could attend for me. Um, and really think about that because you won't have the time. Um, think early about childcare. Um I didn't think early about childcare enough, but um it can be anything can be, you know, if you're thinking of having a nanny or if you're thinking of daycare, it all depends on your budget. And, you know, in my case, I, I don't have a gigantic budget. So having a nanny 100% of the time was not even, we just can't do it right. So we had to find other arrangements. Um and now she, she goes to childcare and she's really, she's really happy about, about going there. She gets to see new friends and everything. But um think about it early because it, the spots out quickly as you probably all know. Um I had another male uh founder the other day. Tell me, oh yeah, we're gonna have our first kid with, with my wife and, well, he's the leader of, of the company, right?

He's the CEO and he was doing so he was like, oh, it's gonna be hard for me, but I'll try and keep up and, you know, we'll get a night nanny and a day nanny and he was like, oh, wow, cool. Well, I didn't get a night nan, even though but not everyone can. Right. So if you can, that's awesome, but not always good for everyone. And then the last thing I would say is embrace the chaos and enjoy the ride. Um It's more than fulfilling. Um And if you're good at, you know, running a company, you'll be really good at taking care of the kid. And we're also pretty good at multitasking usually. So, you know, it's kind of a organiz organization challenge. Uh I would say, um and they, they grew and they do grow up quickly. Um I'm not kidding, especially in the first year. Uh I've been gone for a week and she managed to learn how to clap her hands. She has two teeth that came out and, you know, she's able to do little things that I missed, right? Just because I went out for a week. So it is true. Everyone says that of course, but it's really, it really is true. Um And then one thing I wanna end up because I'm almost uh at time now is that, uh you know, it's normalized parenthood and entrepreneurship by talking about it a bit more.

And I mean, you know, all of you here are probably in, in the, in the tech industry you may have or may not have kids. But I think, you know, the more you talk about it, especially to uh younger generations who are coming into this, um It'll feel more normal to them. It'll feel less of a stress, it'll feel less of something they can't do. Um You know, there's a lot of taboos around uh all of this and why is that? So II I wasn't talking about it either and then I started talking more about it. Hence this, this conference, but also publicly, you know, just on, on social a little bit. Or if I go to um a conference and I meet other people, I, I may slight in, you know, some things about it just to make it a bit more, a bit more normal. And I, and I think that that will help because so many people have kids. It's just in those tech conferences. Sometimes it's like no one has they disappeared somewhere somehow. Um So yeah, that's, that's it for my talk. Uh I hope this was interesting and um I guess I have like two minutes if you have questions or anything you want to chat about. Um And I'm going to exit the screen share in a minute. There you go.

Um So I don't know if you have, you know, a quick, quick questions for me. Please let me know otherwise, uh you can also find me on linkedin if you're interested about virtual reality and education. That's always interesting. Um And um I hope this was, you know, an interesting um conversation about being a first time mom and being a CEO of a company. Thank you all for um joining me today and I will see you in um the other sessions because there are a few that I think are really interesting. I'll check out. Thank you. You are all, everyone's doing great. Have a great day, everyone.