In the ExpertsLAB, we interview successful professionals to learn how they got started, managed transitions, and found balance in their life and career.
In this interview, we sit down with Jane Buescher, serial entrepreneur and mom in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I’m a mom of two amazing little girls, ages four and six. I live in the Bay Area with my husband and I’m currently working on a startup called Toucan, a mobile peer support platform that lets people connect one on one with each other on a shared topic or life stage. For example, two parents, two caregivers, or two people going through social isolation or sharing the same chronic illness journey. They can connect, have a mental wellness break, and give each other support.
I started my career in corporate finance at GE Capital for seven years. During my journey there, I moved into one of GE’s leveraged lending groups that partners with big companies to help them with debt financing when they get acquired by private equity firms.
While at GE, I moved from Washington D.C. to the San Francisco Bay Area, where I received an MBA from UC Berkeley. At the time, I reconnected with a close friend of mine from my undergraduate years at Duke University and we decided to start a company together.
RockIT Recruiting, a technical recruiting agency firm, was born. At this point, I knew nothing about recruiting but my cofounder’s background was in recruiting. He was confident he could bring on clients and recruit, and he asked if I could do everything else. That’s pretty much how we separated our roles! I got a crash course in human resources, business operations, and scaling a company from scratch.
We grew our team to about 30 people during a time when startup technology companies and the venture capital firms that funded them were beginning to put a ton of importance on recruiting. They wanted to partner with reliable recruiting agencies that could deliver. And we became that agency.
We ended up selling the company around the time my cofounder and I both became parents. This was a company where we loved hosting happy hours with ping-pong tables and snacks. We never wanted to leave the office and we never wanted our team to leave the office. We spent every waking hour there and both of our spouses would just come meet us at the office to join us. But that was a time when we didn’t have obligations outside of work.
That shifted when we had kids. My cofounder moved outside of San Francisco and all of a sudden, we had to learn to balance things like managing a team when you’re not physically in the office or how to take maternity leave as a business owner.
We didn’t really consider these things when we started the company and we had to figure it out as we went.
It does differ! I don’t remember learning about how career, goals, and success are a continuum, but they are! You have to know your “why” and what you’re working towards. With my last company, success was defined by whether or not we could pull it off. It was the first time either of us ran a company and there was this pride in saying, “We are going to make this work no matter what.” We were young, fearless, and stubborn. Also, we were at a stage in our lives that we could take a risk like that.
I also wanted to make money. I didn’t want to be five to ten years into it and say, “Well that was a fun experiment but now I need a real job.”
Now it’s different. Success is measured by time with my family. The more time I spend with my kids, the more successful I feel. It’s also very important to me that I enjoy the work, enjoy the people I’m working with, and I’m making enough money to make it worth being away from my kids.
Success has definitely shifted for me over time and what keeps me going is working towards a goal.
One of the benefits of working for myself is being able to set my own schedule. I realize that can be really hard for some people but if you’re driven enough and disciplined enough, it can be really beneficial.
If I need to reply to an email or Slack message, I can do that while my kids are around but if I need to take a phone call or be at a meeting, I need concentration. So I will schedule things that require more concentration during the mornings while the kids are at school. When they’re home, I’m present with them. Sometimes, if I need to reply to an urgent message, I will, but otherwise I’ll do it in the evening after the kids are asleep.
It’s really about identifying what is most important at the time and putting focus there, and deciding how much focus you need depending on what you’ve got going on.
We all used to sit at our desks starting at 8 am until 6 pm and it was all about work during that time. It’s no longer like that today and owning my own schedule doesn’t mean I’m less productive. It’s setting priorities, understanding what’s urgent, and asking people for deadlines if you need to.
COVID has changed everyone’s plans and trajectory. The company I was working for shut down at the same time shelter in place happened so all of a sudden, I was home with my two young kids full-time figuring out how to fill my day productively.
I became unapologetic for trying to balance everything. Kids in the background or the dog barking while on a business call became normalized. I became less worried about what other people thought and just focused on my needs or my kids’ needs.
Besides Toucan, a mobile app that offers peer support by giving everyone someone to talk to, my favorite are daily news apps like Apple News, Flipboard, or The New York Times. I’ll listen to that on my walk back after dropping my daughter off at school.
I love to read. I love to get out of life and jump into whatever it is I’m reading. Funny enough, I was into post-apocalyptic stories, but that just became too real!
I usually read whatever I can get my hands on. I usually read about 30 minutes before going to bed just to get my eyes off the screen. I’m mostly into fiction but recently read Ruth Bader Ginsburg biography (which was really inspirational; she’s amazing).
Be honest with yourself. Know what you want to accomplish. Understand your motivation behind it. You have to like what you’re doing and know why you’re doing it.
Starting a company is not that difficult, but having and scaling a successful company is hard. There are upsides and downsides to starting a company. If your top priority is to have a steady paycheck, perhaps it’s better to work for someone else.
You have to be stubborn to keep going no matter what. You have to be a risk taker. It’s wanting control of your own schedule and ideas coming to life. You have to be a fighter to push through.
And more importantly, you have to know the “why” behind it.
Our interview with Jane covered starting a company, balancing parenthood, and so much more. Here are some key takeaways.
Interested in learning more about Jane? Connect with her on LinkedIn.