E4 S1 - Talk Roleshare Podcast
“Ask for more. Do more.” This was Louise Holden’s strategy when sharing a relationship management role at MasterCard – and in doing that, demonstrated to the business this was a working model that was commercially beneficial to them - while she got the flexibility she sought. Listen to Louise, who today is VP Humanitarian and Development at MasterCard.
Sophie Smallwood: Hey, this is Talk with Roleshare, I'm Sophie Smallwood, co-founder of Roleshare.com. Ask for more, do more. This was Louise Holden's strategy when sharing a relationship management role at MasterCard. And in doing that demonstrated to the business that this was a working model that was commercially beneficial to them. Well, she got the flexibility she seeked. It paid off for MasterCard. Here's Louise, who today is VP Humanitarian and Development at MasterCard.
Louise Holden: The organization has reshaped and evolved and developed and moved into new geographies and new sectors and new verticals, and I've gone with it. I love that opportunity that the organization has given to me. And I said yes much more than I said no. And I said, 'why not?', much more than I've said, 'oh, that's a bit scary'. And I sometimes saw myself in situations where I've thought, 'oh, blimey, why did I say that?'. But I've never regretted the decisions that I've taken. So as with MasterCard, whose activities is fundamentally based on its core DNA, which is technology and technology and payments. My career has been basically reflecting that same kind of DNA about payments and technology. But I think I have started to put a little bit more on the technology over recent years than I have on the payments and the way that that's manifesting itself now and in the work that I'm doing is that we're building tech, accessible, smart, simple tech to improve the livelihoods and prospects of individuals who are living really tough lives and generally living under two dollars a day.
Sophie Smallwood: Wow.
Louise Holden: And you know what? There is just under around four billion of those. So it's a sizable market and a sizeable slice of our global population who have no access to the opportunities and the wealth that is available in some of the developed, Western European and North American markets. But they have the appetite and the enthusiasm and the opportunity. And I'm involved in a team within MasterCard who are trying to help them get there.
Sophie Smallwood: So, Louise, it sounds like you've been very flexible in your career and it's part of what's made you so successful. I understand that you, at a point in your career, prior to the role you're in now, had a need to continue to grow and to fulfill your ambitious side. But at the same time, you had personal needs that you wanted to also nourish. And so you chose to do job share. Can you perhaps tell us a little bit about the journey of how you got to a shared role?
Louise Holden: I was a career lady up until the age of 36. Most of my decisions were based around and through the pivot through the lens of the career and the job opportunity and the geography I was working in and the challenges I was dealing with at the time and I loved it. But then I developed a equal and greater love in that I got married and I had babies. And for my first, I took seven months off and came back after seven months into a part-time role. And I found that really hard. I found maternity leave hard, I mean, let's kind of open the curtains on this one.
Sophie Smallwood: That's an understatement.
Louise Holden: It's tough. I sometimes find my life before children and marriage was yes, it was working quite hard and doing different things and responding to different challenges. But in a way, it was much simpler because you have kind of single challenges to try and tackle and resolve. When you have other personal commitments, and kids, and families, and houses, and stuff, it becomes much more multi-complex. And so I found that quite tough. And also it's difficult leaving your job, difficult leaving an environment where you're known for a certain thing, and you're respected for a certain thing and you know your position and your role and your contribution, and suddenly you're thrown into caring for a gorgeous little bundle of fluff for a period of time and your role is completely blown apart. So I found that quite tough. But then navigating back into work was interesting. So I wanted to be able to have the best of both worlds. I felt part-time job, I can spend three days a week in work, I can get my head down and focus and contribute and kind of build up my profile again and do some good stuff. As well as being an awesome mum and being at home for two days and looking after Finn and making sure that all that side works out OK. But it's difficult because I loved the time with Finn, and that was fantastic spending some time with him as he got a little bit older and basically got a little bit more interesting. But the work side was tricky because you work three days a week, you can do a certain amount of stuff within those three days. But within a large multi-national organization like MasterCard, I think there are challenges in how a employee who turns up for three days a week is viewed. And this is not by everybody, because it's a reasonably subjective view that you respond to, part-time or job sharing roles. But organizationally, there are only certain roles that you can do for three days a week. You can't necessarily and effectively manage a customer, a big, large organization on three days a week if you have to be there to manage delivery of projects or you look at product design or generally the activities that take more than a week, it's difficult to do that in three days a week, and you're not necessarily front of the queue for the extra stuff that you sometimes need to do to build out your profile and extend your awareness within the organization and get involved in some of the really exciting stuff. You're not at the front of the queue, because you can't be at the front of the queue because you're only there for three days a week. So that was interesting. But then I realized I was pregnant with number two, with Tess. So I went back off onto maternity leave, and I thought long and hard about what I would do when I came back from number two, would I try and go back full-time?, would I try and go back part-time?, how was I going to manage it? Because I still absolutely wasn't done with work. So I was considering, considering and I was given an offer to have a job share. To have a job share in joining a relationship management team, looking after some of the smaller, very cool, fintech, pre-paid organizations that MasterCard had the privilege of working with. And the beauty of this job share was that my job share partner was also a returning mum. So we were pretty similar in our life stages. We both had two kids. We were both coming back after being full-term careerists pretty much up until that date. And we both came back and took a job share.
Sophie Smallwood: Were you people managing or were you client managing?
Louise Holden: Client managing. So we were managing around 35 different organizations.
Sophie Smallwood: And how did you split that? Because from what I understand, relationship management roles sometimes can be a bit difficult to split, at least that's the perception.
Louise Holden: We thought long and hard about how do we make this work? Because we're not just in it to tread water. We're not just in this to bide our time, but we really want to make this successful because we haven't had a track record within our organization of having lots of job shares. So not only did we want it to make it work for us, we wanted to make it work for the organization. So we thought, OK, well, we could just split down the middle and we could divide up the customers and just do everything that a relationship management would do with those customers over the period of time which we were going to be in the office for and not just be in the office, but work from home, then a couple of things happened. The first thing was that we decided that our hours into the job were going to be slightly different. So the lovely Emma who I was sharing with worked for two and a half days a week and I decided to work for four days a week. So between the two of us, we were actually working more than five days a week on this role. So we thought, OK, that's interesting. How should we kind of divide and conquer? Shall I just take a little bit more of the customer group and Emma take slightly less of the customer group, or should we think about this in a different way? So we thought about it in a different way and we thought, OK, if I took all of the front-end customer relationships, if I was the lady on point, they would get in contact with me. I would be the one who would upfront in many of the meetings and be that first point of call. Look at the relationship management plans, look at building together the partnership models. Then that would enable Emma to spend her two and a half days doing a fundamentally important role within that overall engagement, which was the complicated business cases and relationship commercial models for some of the deals that we were putting together, pull together some of the knowledge management assets, the marketing suites and the assets to be able to make them available to the customers, run some of the knowledge transfer days. Do some of the stuff which really made a difference and was one of our key differentiators between ourselves and some of the competition on the market. She could do that within the two and a half days that she was working. Whilst I could be a little bit more out there on the four days and be that face of Mastercard in front of the customer. A couple of things that were really important to make it work. And I think one of the first ones was that Emma and I came from different backgrounds, came from different countries. Emma was Australian. I was English.
Sophie Smallwood: Still are.
Louise Holden: Still very proud. But we had this big commonality, which I think was a key asset about how this really worked was that we had the same energy levels.
Sophie Smallwood: What do you mean by same energy levels?
Louise Holden: So we were both pushers. We were both contributors. Neither of us are coasters. We enjoy what we do. We want to find satisfaction in the small things, in the big things. We want to be able to give more than we get. We want to be shown to be contributing rather than just taking. So I think that was really important. Our energy levels were pretty high. We were keen to succeed. We really enjoyed being mums, but we really enjoyed also the interaction that we had within the team, within the customer group. That was really helpful. And I suppose one of the byproducts of that, is that if we needed to do a little bit extra, then we could rely on each other, that both of us were going to go, 'that's fine', we wouldn't go, 'oh, actually, I've done my four days a week. This is the time, X, Y, Z'. So we were both wanting to make this work and both of us put that extra 10, 20 percent in to really make it work. And that was really cool that we realized that we both had that.
Sophie Smallwood: So how would you describe your partnership? In one word.
Louise Holden: So many positive words come out of it. Fun, energizing, productive. I've already given you three.
Sophie Smallwood: You're over your quota.
Louise Holden: Yeah, that's what I say, over-deliver.
Sophie Smallwood: Absolutely. The way I think of shared roles, I like to call them micro-teams. Really, because I think it's more in line with future of work. But ultimately that's what it is. It's a micro-team leveraging the strengths of two individuals and bringing in almost a complimentary recipe for the role. But the way I've seen it work really well is in exactly what you're describing, where two individuals team up and identify a plan that will work for that very unique micro-team. What kind of advice would you give someone who today would love to propose this arrangement because they have the same aspirations that you had, and how to go about presenting this to your line manager and to H.R.?
Louise Holden: Yeah, that's a great question. To encourage organizations to feel more confident about flexibility and more open to different working practices, then organizations need to recognize the value add to them and to their employees. Everybody knows, and the stats play out now and the data demonstrates, that an employee who is satisfied and comfortable and confident is more productive than one that is not. So I think that that reward has to be clear to the organization. So I do think there needs to be a 'what's in it for me?', a value-add for the team. When Emma and I came together, they got two individuals delivering in excess of a week's work and having really thought about how to come together. So this is another thing around working it out and presenting an idea. Not necessarily looking for the organization to solve, but actually presenting an idea for the organization to agree and having we were pilots, guinea pigs for the organization. They had two working mums coming back into the organization. They knew that we were pretty ambitious. They knew that we were keen to do good, but we didn't want to come back to a five day week. So they saw in us an opportunity to prove a working model for them. So for other individuals to come together, I think that understanding how you work together, understanding how you work together on a personality front and working on a operational front is really important. And looking at that as a how to bring that partnership together for the benefit of the organization and for the benefit of you 2. Presenting that as a value-add to the organization is really key. So work out how it's going to work.
Sophie Smallwood: And then present it as a benefit to the company and what's in it for them.
Louise Holden: Exactly, because I am confident to this day that MasterCard made a Value-Add decision, a commercial gain in allowing Emma and I to work together and to come together because we did stuff better together than we would have done on our own. We energized and tackled some challenges and some situations together better than if we'd done that on our own. We didn't do everything together, as I explained before, but we communicated and we updated and we informed each other about what was happening within our overall practice. And there were two heads for the price of one. And it was really fun. It was a fun way of working. You had your buddy at your back and we could help each other out and step up where we needed to be. But it was working really well for us and the organization. So I think packaging that, presenting that. And also, if this is a new idea for your organization, if it's a new proposal present it as a pilot and say, look, this is what we would like to do, this is why we think it would be good for us, this is why we think it would be a net contributor for you. Let's kick the tires. Let's see it run. Would you think about testing this for a period of time, whether it be six months or 12 months? And let's collectively view this as a working model. And if it works, let's invest to move forward. If it doesn't, let's think about an alternative.
Sophie Smallwood: So there's a perception out there that if there are two people in a role, then it costs more money for the company. So if someone brought that up to you, as I am right now, how would you address that? And what would you say?
Louise Holden: We were doing more than one FTE. You can say, OK, Emma and Louise came together, I work for four, she works for two and a half. Hang on a second, that's more than five days a week. Yeah, we did more than five days a week work. I will be confident that though our output was greater than one FTE. And there's a couple of ways of looking at this. So we were looking after 35 customers. The volume of work we were able to embrace was significant. The amount of deals that we signed in our tenure was good. The amounts of output and activities and new stuff that we brought out was very good. We both scored very well at the end of the year. So our output was over and above. But if you're looking at two individuals coming together in and another organization and you're looking at presenting that as a commercial opportunity to an organization, then I would say that you look at suggesting that your working model, your responsibilities, not only embraces what a normal FTE would do, but more so ask for more, do more, get involved in other projects, seek the work to get involved and look at doing some mentoring or some sponsorship, get involved in other stuff. If demonstrating that two individuals coming together, you're going to have a higher fixed cost, operating cost for the two individuals. But you need to be able to demonstrate that that's worth it for the organization. So not only deliver what you are being tasked to deliver within the role, but ask and embrace and do more.
Sophie Smallwood: I think that's great advice. I also feel that individuals who ask for role sharing arrangements would very likely be ambitious individuals. It's not the easiest arrangement if you think about it. Having a full-time role is difficult and a high level of commitment. I think that sharing a full-time role with another person is almost a greater commitment. And so I think most individuals, what you're saying right now, if they're thinking sharing a role could be for them, they're probably thinking, yeah, of course, absolutely. Yes, I can do that. And that's the nature of someone who shares a role. They have to have that desire and that hunger for growth. Otherwise, they wouldn't be asking for that arrangement and they would be very happy doing a part-time role that is perhaps a lesser impact role within an organization.
Louise Holden: I so agree. I mean, the chance of learning from within a role share is quite exciting for any individual involved in that. And the close communication, the partnership, the honesty that that type of role commands is a menace, is fertile ground to learn from your partner as much as you're learning from the customers and from the world itself. So you do have to communicate regularly and pretty extensively, not about everything, but certainly about the way that the partnership is working, how the interface between the two of you is working. If you have handovers, when you do your handovers, how do you do your information transfer? How do you manage your risks? How do you manage your output? You have to communicate. That is better if you are a regular, comfortable, confident communicator, because sometimes you've got to communicate with your partner when things haven't gone so well, when potentially you might have not done so well in a certain area. You need to be able to tell your partner that, because actually, even if you can't solve it, potentially your partner can. And that's the beauty of the partnership. So there's got to be a level of confidence and communication that enables that to happen. And actually, I think that grows within a partnership. As with anything, the more you do it, the easier it becomes, the more rewarding it is and you become more effective at it. You talked about the type of individual who would embrace a job share role. It's such a valuable period of time, I think, for Emma and I, and it suited a particular time in our lives, and off the back of it, having worked in the job share for just over a year, I took up a full-time role back in the organization. Emma continued on a part-time business and then moved back home over to Australia. So we both continue to progress well within the organization. There's something around the type of individual to accept a job share. And just my encouragement to, even if you don't think that's you and even if you are a little bit concerned about how it might work. Actually just sitting down and talking to an individual, listening to podcasts like this, just thinking about whether it's a model that you might want to learn a little bit more about, you might want to understand a little bit more about, go out there and talk to other individuals who have either done it, or have indicated an interest in it because you just never know you never know whether it's going to not only suit a particular time of your life, a challenge. But actually, open up so much more than you would have got if you continue just progressing in a full-time role or a part-time role on your own.
Sophie Smallwood: You mentioned earlier you and Emma were in a similar life stage, were both returning moms. And the thing I wonder is how can we continue to progress the acceptance of flexible careers and arrangements like shared roles and others without the full support of men? I don't think it's possible for me. So I would love to get your point of view on how can we encourage more diversity of gender when it comes to these types of flexible work arrangements?
Louise Holden: It's the broader diversity in a conversation which I'm involved in in a number of different organizations. You have to involve the whole of the workplace if you're looking to effect a sustainable change within the workplace. Now, whether that is in equal pay, or that is in inclusive opportunities, whether that's embracing flexible working patterns, we have to have both sides, both genders, all ages, all backgrounds involved in that conversation. And receiving more of the positive stories about how those working patterns, how those inclusive practices and how those equal pay opportunities actually positively impact the working environment rather than negatively impacting it.
Sophie Smallwood: If you had to pitch the idea of a shared role to someone who's never heard of it today, how would you package that pitch up? And as far as the experience that you had with it personally?
Louise Holden: What a great question. So elevator pitch. So I think you get two individuals for the price of one. You get incrementally more energy, more effort, more enthusiasm, more collaboration and I think more production with two of you working together than one. It's a way of securing flexible working opportunities for individuals who are asking for them into a partnership, which I think is beneficial to the organization.
Sophie Smallwood: If you had to assign a tagline to the concept of shared roles. What would your tagline be?
Louise Holden: Collaboration for success.
Sophie Smallwood: Describe sharing a role in a single word.
Louise Holden: Fun.
Sophie Smallwood: And that was Louise Holden, VP Humanitarian and Development at MasterCard. Speaking to Louise makes me rethink the meaning of flexible working. It's less about the how, whether it's remote working, part-time, or even shared roles. It's more about the what, as in the benefits of flexible working and the who, the people in those arrangements who need to be adaptable, super communicators who think why not? The team players. They are the flexible working force. In that sense, any role can fit a flexible working model with the right mindset. This seems to be in line with companies increasingly looking for agility when hiring talent. Thanks for listening and join us for the next episode of Talk with Roleshare.