Pioneering a peer support program for new parents
“At a happy hour, my ‘non-traditional’ story tends to stick,” says Jen Quinlan, a Vice President in our Risk practice.
Throughout most of her life and career, Jen has been a champion of change. She transitioned from a childhood on a dairy farm to living in major cities with stints in Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. She went from working in the White House to private equity investing and then joined AlixPartners in 2019 to support corporate turnarounds, bankruptcies, and M&A transactions.
“I knew how to dynamically and strategically pivot—or so I thought. Becoming a mother was a whole different pivot.”
After her first maternity leave at AlixPartners, Jen returned to work, excited to get back to her career and use her non-mom skillset again.
“I was trying to go ‘back to being me’. And it was rough. Really rough.”
A few months later, she was pregnant with her second child and had a few scares in a short amount of time. “That’s when the freight train of reality officially hit,” she recalled. “I was never going back to being the old me. And it was terrifying.”
Jen turned to her network—parents and non-parents, alike—for informal feedback and guidance during this time of change.
“Some advice was fantastic. Some of it felt unachievable. Some felt like it came from the 1980s,” Jen noted. “I’m grateful to everyone who took my call. That outreach led to me not feeling alone. I found sounding boards and advocates. And that’s my hope for everyone.”
Jen’s experience inspired her to help set up and advocate for the AlixPartners New Parent Buddy Program, a peer support program for new parents.
Led by the AlixPartners’ Caregiver and Parent Employee Resource Group (CAPE), the program pairs employees welcoming new children into their lives with a “buddy” who serves as an advocate, a teammate, and a shoulder to lean on during the transition.
“When someone, or their partner, is expecting or just had a child—and it doesn’t have to be their first child—they have their own story and unique needs for support. It is important that new parents, especially new mothers, aren’t left behind,” Jen said.
“Not all new parents will or can reach out to a big informal network like I did, and they should not have to.”
While some of the buddies are themselves recently new parents, the program encourages all parents, including those with older children to join and support their teammates.
With the help of her peers, Jen has successfully transitioned from maternity leave back to work - twice. She works in valuations and disputes, is a CFA Level III candidate and the “breadwinner” in the family supporting the educational advancement of her husband’s second career in nursing. All while chasing after her two little girls ages 2 and under.
“I’m not just ‘back to being me’. My life is richer now, and definitely more complex. I’m a whole new me.”
Jen’s advice for new parents:
- Asking for flexibility is not admitting failure. It is strategic management.
- Except for two-year-olds, saying “no” is hard – for a reason. It means you found your backbone – and the most powerful version of “no” includes counter-offering a strategic redirection.
- We work in teams to support each other. A team should be there for you, and you are there for them. If it’s not the right fit, then find a different team.
- Reboot your computer the day BEFORE returning from an extended period of leave. The number of software updates will cripple it for hours.