The Day That Changed my Life

by Natascha Zeljko (transcription)

Cindy Scharlock started a new consulting job – six months pregnant. How she experienced the application phase, why her boss Marcus Kruizinga from ServiceNow hired her anyway, and why he hopes that such stories will soon no longer have any news value

It was a Friday in the spring. That day three big things happened: I quit my job, I accepted a new one, and I knew I was pregnant. One could say that on that day the normal laws of the world of work were annulled, however one could also say that a bit of the future began. But one after the other.

I was a manager at a large consulting firm, led a team, led various transformation projects, and increasingly toyed with the idea of moving more towards technology in order to get closer to tech. Along the way I had come across a company again and again: ServiceNow. And then a headhunter called. It was about a job – at ServiceNow. Could I imagine switching? That was at the beginning of this year. At that time I was already pregnant but didn’t yet know it. 

Everything started extremely well. I had a few first conversations with ServiceNow, I phoned my future boss from the European headquarters in Amsterdam and spoke to a few colleagues from the team here at the Munich location. I knew pretty quickly that it was my dream job; that’s where I wanted to go. Finally, I met my boss for a personal interview in Munich. Between our first phone call and this meeting, a crucial thing changed: I found out I was pregnant. 

There is a saying that says, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” This is not a bad motto for life and was especially true for this situation, which is why I wanted to wait for the interview first. What should I say? It went great. A few days later, the job offer ended up in my email inbox. I had two reasons to be happy: I was pregnant and I had the promise of my dream job. The only problem was that both happened at the same time. 

I thought about what to do – with the job, the pregnancy was a fact. I was in my third month. I decided to wait for the doctor’s appointment and confirm the diagnosis. I went to my doctor and finally had certainty: I was pregnant, everything was fine. That was on a Friday morning. I went home and called my future boss or, almost boss, that was not clear at that time. 

He said he absolutely wanted me. His spontaneous reaction blew me away! It was great, he had two children of his own. And ServiceNow offers 20 weeks fully paid parental leave. The unexpected, the improbable had happened. I had the job despite my pregnancy. I went to my old office and quit. 

In the run-up there were discussions in my circle of friends. Opinions differed. Some said, “You can’t do that. You can’t start a new job pregnant!” And there were others who said they thought it was really awesome. One friend said, “Don’t worry. That should be taken for granted these days.” It was clear to me the whole time that I definitely wanted to try. You can’t have it all? I take that casually. I’m someone who fights for what’s important. What’s more, a classic consulting job – Monday morning to the airport, Thursday evening back home – is almost impossible as a young mother. And working part-time in the back office, which is what’s usually offered to women in this company, wasn’t an option for me. For me that would have been a step backwards, back to the beginning after ten years of job expertise.

I started the new job at the beginning of the sixth month. Of course, you think about how your new colleagues will react beforehand. I was very well received by the team. There has never been a weird situation or a weird look. In the meantime, word has gotten around about my story, and the fact that I didn’t hide the pregnancy and played with an open hand brings sympathy points. Also for the company. The colleagues are thrilled that their company has indeed consciously hired a mother-to-be. 

I have now been at ServiceNow six weeks – half time for this first season. When I go on maternity leave, if everything goes well, I will have worked three full months. I used the time to prepare myself optimally, to get to know the structures, to create a network for myself, to get to know the people who are decisive for me and to complete the technical training. When you move to an IT organization, that’s of course an important prerequisite for getting back to full speed after parental leave. For the time in between, I intend to go into the calls regularly in order to stay up to date. I’m in the EMEA team, my colleagues are scattered all over the world anyway. And there are so many technical trainings that you could fill more than one parental leave.

My plan is to take leave for six to a maximum of nine months after birth. I’m lucky to have a great boyfriend who will definitely take part of the parental leave. I know that many women and men say that once the child is born, everything is different. I nevertheless feel that I will really look forward to working again. This may also have something to do with the fact that I grew up in Saxony, where it was not unusual for mothers to work full-time relatively quickly. I also have the advantage that I am very flexible in this job and can work from anywhere. That makes it easier with a small child. 

I believe that the technology industry in particular can set standards in terms of a family-friendly work environment. And it should also be a pioneer. We can do that.

When She Told Me That She’s Pregnant, I Still Thought She Was the Right Person for the Job”

An interview with Marcus Kruizinga, Cindy’s boss and senior manager solution consulting EMEA at ServiceNow

Marcus Kruizinga, Senior Manager, Solution Consulting EMEA, ServiceNow, hired a pregnant woman
Marcus Kruizinga

For a company it’s rather uncommon to hire a pregnant woman – at least in Germany. What was your motivation behind doing this?

I think – and this is me personally speaking – it’s striking that we are not hiring pregnant women. There are so many reasons in life why someone could be unavailable for a certain period, just normal things. And pregnancy is a very normal thing in life. I’m not looking for someone to hire for the short term, but I want to hire for long term. Obviously, I’ve now hired Cindy, she will work for a couple of months and then she will be out for a longer period. Sure, some people might take pregnancy into consideration when making a hiring decision, but with Cindy it was very clear – she’s got talent, she is the right person for the job, and when she told me that she’s pregnant, I still thought she was the right person for the job. 

What is the benefit for the company?

The company policy is our belief in diversity, inclusion, and belonging; it’s our belief to be open for everybody. Speaking for myself, as I said, I’m still amazed that we have this old-fashioned thinking, we treat women differently because they’re pregnant or might get pregnant – and that is seen as a risk. And therefore, someone might say, “I’m not hiring young women.” We need to change that in our society as a whole, and I think this is something we cannot only rely on governments to do that for us. We all have individual responsibility and we as a company also have responsibility. We are lucky to be a highly successful company – we are not in a very challenged industry or economy. I can imagine if you are running a small business and your labor cost has a big impact, it’s a difficult decision. But for us, it’s different. I really think that we should take this responsibility, and if there is a company or an institute that can take responsibility in changing the mindset, we should. We also have different examples at ServiceNow of people who have to be out for a longer period. People who go into surgery or have parents they have to take care of. And speaking from a management perspective: if you are there for these people in those moments in life – around birth, around death, around illness – you will get this in return very quickly. You will create very committed people. 

But there is no such thing as a free lunch. It also means additional costs. 

Yes, that’s right. In Germany, for instance, we have a quota. We need to generate a certain revenue in Germany and compared to this, I get a certain headcount. Now, obviously, in hiring Cindy I have a challenge, I have a higher headcount, but I still need to generate this revenue. And this is the same thing for every business you are in. So we made a decision: we hired somebody to replace Cindy during her maternity leave. And this was a reflection for me, that we as a company have the right mindset and have the right tools in place as well to make this kind of decision. If we hadn’t done this, it would have had the opposite effect of what we are trying to achieve. 

What were the typical reactions?

I think we are just a representation of the society, so every reaction you get outside of ServiceNow, you also get inside of ServiceNow. Some people are very positive, some people are even very proud that we’re doing this, and some people say, “You’re a risk taker.” We still see that we are in between changing the mindset, and we need to change our mindset eternally. In all honesty, I find all reactions eye opening. You have, on the one hand, what people think and believe, and on the other, how they act. And often people think and believe actually better than they act. If that affected their own wife, sister, or daughter, they would say, “Yes, of course you have to hire her.” But if they were confronted with the choice in a business context, they would make a different decision. I’m convinced that this is the right thing to do, and we need to make it happen. And we have to change this mindset as a whole as a society.

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