On her first day back at work after maternity leave, Hillary Davis, Senior Vice President for eDiscovery & Data Forensics at AlixPartners, had an 8:30 am meeting with senior leadership. It wasn’t the typical standup, though.
“I show up and they're all wearing masks and hats and funny things,” she recalls. “The whole point of the meeting was to get over that initial ‘welcome back’ anxiety.” It worked.
The meeting was set up by her parenting-support mentor Alexa Angotti Dineen, Director of Strategy and Operations for Risk at AlixPartners. It was something Alexa thought might have eased her own transition back to work after her first child, and something she was able to put into practice through AlixPartners’ New Parent Buddy Program that matches new parents with someone further along in their parenting journey.
Both based in Chicago, Hillary and Alexa were paired during Hillary’s pregnancy, when Alexa was still out on maternity leave. They have since bounced tips and ideas back and forth, and even wound up sharing a nanny. “[The nanny] would literally be at Hillary's house at night and then be at my house in the morning,” says Alexa, whose children are now one-and-a-half and three-and-a-half years old. Hillary has since relocated to AlixPartners’ D.C. office, with her one-year-old daughter, and jokes about trying to take their nanny with her.
The initiative to formalize peer support for new parents complements a host of other family-friendly policies that saw AlixPartners recognized by Seramount as one of the Best Companies for Working Parents in 2022. Generous family leave policies, child-care assistance, a Working Parents employee resource group, and other measures aim to support colleagues with young families.
Alexa previously worked with a small team of fellow working moms to expand a milk program that equipped AlixPartners’ offices with breast pumps and items for transporting breastmilk. “The in-office pumps helped eliminate the need to commute with another bag. The weeks I was on the road, the firm gave me prepacked kits to ship my milk home that included a marker and tape and ice packs and a prepaid shipping label—that really was huge for me,” says Hillary of the initiative.
The Buddy Program is now in its second year. In the UK, AlixPartners Senior Vice President Tanvir Miah was paired with Senior Vice President Filippo Manca, who had a nine-month head start on parenthood—his daughter is now one-and-a-half, while Tanvir’s son is 10 months old. Initial introductory conversations online grew into a lasting friendship, with Tanvir and Filippo regularly catching up over coffee and dinner.
The first question Tanvir asked his in-house mentor was, “Have you managed to sleep?” The answer to that came down to resourcing.
Filippo’s night nanny was crucial in the early days, he explained, for giving “a lot of instruction on how to deal with our daughter. She gave us a good routine.” As buddies, the two have also discussed managing their careers and how best to support their partners. Ultimately, the program benefited their wider families, they agree.
Having a baby “can significantly impact the career of new parents, especially in cities like London or New York where it's very difficult to have families [living] close to you,” says Filippo, who is from Italy.
“It does change the way you see things and how you have to manage your life,” Tanvir says, “and one thing I would say about my colleagues and the firm is that everyone is very understanding of that. I've never felt in a position where I've had to choose between my family and work.”
Alexa has seen the wider culture around working parents shift due to the pandemic. In the early days of lockdowns, her eldest child was sometimes visible in his bouncer on video calls, and people would months later remark on how big he was getting. Her work life and home life were ”100% blended” at that time, she says, and the normalization of care work has continued following the return to office. “It's very good to be able to just openly talk about my children or any challenges I'm facing with anyone I'm talking to at the firm,” she says.
It’s also been encouraging to see men on her team with children take advantage of leave policies, Alexa says. “Setting that tone from the top is really important and it makes me happy to see the firm supporting parents all around.”
Whether it’s a staggered return to work, a new role within the firm, or just an encouraging conversation, those in the Buddy Program have a wealth of knowledge that can benefit new parents. They also say that their identities as parents can be an asset on the job.
“There's a big human element to services we offer to our clients what we do and being able to connect with them—especially the clients that have children—and being able to relate to that perspective, adds a layer of quality to our service offerings,” Tanvir says.
At base, it’s an enduring source of connection.
“We catch up once in a while,” Filippo says, “it’s already 10 months! It's going very fast.”