IBM’s Inhi Cho Suh has a dream job. She jets across the world working on M&A deals for IBM’s all-important big data/analytics business unit.
“I could be in three parts of the US all in one week or two countries in one week and back,” she says. One recent weeklong trip included a day in Mexico City to give a speech, the next day in Europe to meet with potential acquisitions, and back in the US to finish a deal in progress.
But, like many women, she worried she was going to have to choose between her fabulous career and her family. A heavy travel schedule and parenthood are hard to mix together.
Or so she thought.
“You are portable”
“After our first was born, Jacob, when he was about 18 months old, I went on a long international trip. I was gone 9 days. When I returned, he had huge grin on his face but he ran away and wouldn’t let me hug him. It was his way of saying, ‘I’m so excited to see you and I’m mad you were gone so long,'” Suh told Business Insider.
“It was one of those key moments from a work/life perspective. This is where past women have said, ‘Well, do I need to give up [my job]?”
But she didn’t want to give up her role as vice president and general manager of Big Data, Integration, & Governance for IBM, a job she “loves,” she says.
Then it struck her. “Wait a minute. Jacob, you are portable,” she realised. She could take him with her on her business trips.
Then it struck her. “Wait a minute, Jacob you are portable,” she realised. She could take him with her on her business trips.
She asked her mum to travel with them and watch Jacob while she was in meetings.
And that’s what she’s been doing, even after the birth of her second son.
Her kids are now 8 and 4 and she’s been doing family business trips for nearly 7 years, she says.
She’s come up with a whole system to make it work:
- The boys come with her on 4 to 6 trips a year.
- Her oldest is in school now, so she schedules her trips around his school schedule. Much of her business travel can be planned in advance.
- She creates a travel planning calendar based on the school calendar, noting vacation days off, teacher workdays, holidays or religious days off. Her son can’t miss more than 10 days of school in the year, so she plans and tracks his missed days carefully.
- “I’ve mastered proactive travelling, investigating hotels, and a schedule where they can get an activity in when I’m in client meetings or working late one night. If I work late one night, I start later the next morning,” she says. Because the whole point of this is to spend time with them.
- Naturally, she tries to include a weekend of sightseeing or fun family activities.
While her kids don’t go with her on absolutely every trip she takes, they do go on all the longer or pre-scheduled ones.
And that means over the last six years, they have seen much of the world. “They have become global citizens learning that the world is really just made up of lots of different people.”
While travelling with kids for business may seem unaffordable for many working parents, Suh says that with careful planning any working parent can do it — at least some of the time.
“Other people budget for their hobbies. We budget for our kids travelling,” she says.