The Balancing Act: Featuring Julie Holunga

DispatchMom: Julie Holunga, MBA, PCC – Leadership Trainer and Executive Coach

I am a Leadership Trainer and Executive Coach developing professionals to lead with influence and authority, with two teenage kids who keep me on my toes and remind me I’m not that cool. I love seeing people go after what they want, and realize how they’re getting in their way. I have been working with women to advance in their careers for the last 15 years, starting at Harvard Business School, which coincided with the birth of our daughter. This reinforced my passion for women to feel in control of their careers, with the hope that she will take the reins on her career one day.

Where did you begin your career?

I started my career in Boston, working at Harvard University in the Capital Gifts office. I met some fascinating people, including Madeleine Albright, Quincy Jones, and Al Gore. This experience shaped who I am as a professional, including my attention to detail (which bugs some of my colleagues!)

How did you grow into your current position?

I grew up in Paris, New Delhi, and Hong Kong. Those experiences shaped the way I think, and my curiosity in people. After school, I moved to Boston for 13 years before we moved to Calgary, Canada. My last job in Boston was one of my favorites, working at Harvard Business School on an initiative examining women in the workforce, and what infrastructures were in place (really not in place) to advance women into leadership roles. I loved working with our alumnae, advising them in their careers. It was this experience that made me want to focus on developing leaders.

When is it most difficult to balance “being a mom” as well as your career?

I want to do everything! I want to be there for the little moments, and take advantage of the big moments with work too. Just today, I was asked to speak on a podcast, which I’ve been pursuing for months. It coincides with my daughter’s high school orientation. I know the complications with scheduling…It is always a compromise. And then remembering that high school students don’t want their mom at orientation anyway! One of the best pieces of advice my husband gave me was to consider my hourly rate vs what I would pay someone else to do a task. I may not be able to do it all, but I find a way to do some of it. So I will pick up my daughter from her orientation; better than nothing!

What do you do to manage your time?

I know my best deep thinking time is from about 720 – 10am. I try not to book any meetings during that time, so I can get stuff done. I also know my energy takes a dip around 3pm. That is when I do admin tasks. I organize my day the night before using the 1-3-5 model. 1 BIG thing that is weighing on me, which I do that first thing in the morning. 3 tasks that need to get done so they don’t become a last minute task causing stress. And 5 tasks which tend to be quick and need to get done today, which I am tempted to do first but hold off until the other tasks are done. First things first! I find this allows me not only to prioritize but also feel good about accomplishing what I need to accomplish in the day.

What challenges have you faced in regard to gender imbalances in society, workforce, etc?

I am petite and have always looked younger than I am, which I appreciate now much more than I did in my 20s. When I started my career, people didn’t take me seriously. I once wore glasses to an interview (even though I only needed them to read) thinking it would improve my chances of securing a second interview. I have also found people talking to my male colleagues, rather than me, even though I was leading the project.

How have you dealt with these challenges?
I have mostly worked with strong supportive women in my career who paved the way for opportunities and increased visibility. I was raised by a forward-thinking strong grandmother, aunt, and mother who advised me to stand strong and hold my ground. I pay attention to my tone and vocabulary so I’m not labeled too assertive, while balancing not undermining myself. Now, I am always looking for opportunities to pay it back.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t listen to others on what you can’t do. Listen to your gut on what you can do.
Lastly, if you were given 10 extra hours a week to spend however you wish, what would you do?
Workout, read, hike, ride my new mountain bike, be with my friends, and walk my dog. And try to do nothing and just be.

Julie Holunga Website

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