Three months after taking on her first management role at SMEC, Sarah Board fell pregnant. Six months after returning from maternity leave she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Alongside the turbulence of motherhood and cancer, Sarah has also had a life changing past three years at work.
She took on a challenging business in December 2016 and completed a major team restructure within 12 months. She regrets not talking about her pregnancy at work for months because when she did it unlocked an abundance of support. “In the final weeks before baby, I secured a game changing project for the business, waddling around the office to collect signatures on the contract. Sarah knows that returning to full time work as soon as she did after pregnancy is not a good fit for everyone, but with an amazing partner and family support, it worked for her. The breast cancer diagnosis came the week of Billy’s first birthday. After surgery in late 2018, Sarah returned to work in January facing a program of chemotherapy and radiation. She offered to step down, but with encouragement from her colleagues, arranged a safety net and worked flexibly. “I worked from home when my immune system was low. I had the odd day off.”
At a recent industry awards night, Sarah encountered a former boss who told Sarah that she had never had a female manager. Having spent most of her career surrounded by female leaders, Sarah had not considered her experience unusual. “Taking on leadership roles has felt normal to me. Hopefully I am making it feel more normal to others too.” With Billy nearly two and cancer treatment done, Sarah is starting new adventures; training for an ocean swim and raising money for cancer research. “I have achieved the most at work at times when I’ve been busy kicking goals outside the office too.”
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