The journey to fatherhood is never really just nine months. But for Beyond's Chief Commercial Officer, Sam Smith, it's one that’s been years in the making, marked by a three-and-half-year-long fertility journey alongside his wife, Ruthanna. Each passing year meant a new step in a carefully choreographed dance between work and what life might look like as “Dad.” While still eagerly anticipating the eventual arrival of his daughter, Sam stepped into the role of CCO, and it’s been a balancing act ever since.
“To a large extent, I was balancing the idea of fatherhood with my work early, early on," Sam says. Then, one day: it wasn’t just an idea. Following a successful fertility treatment, Ruthanna and Sam welcomed baby Imogen—Immy, for short—and Sam found his experiences both at home and work intrinsically intertwined. “Having a human develop and grow in front of your eyes every day is kind of astonishing," Sam says, reflecting on his first year of fatherhood. “I want to be there for every moment I can while still doing the best work I know how.”
Fatherhood, for Sam, has opened a new perspective on life, work, and the capacity for growth. That perspective set the stage for a conversation about how the agency he’s helping to run can continue to support its parents and how the ups and downs of parenthood can coexist with the world of work.
A parent-friendly workplace
"As a company, we've always strived to put people first and be as supportive as possible, especially when it comes to parenthood," says Sam. “But until you experience parenthood firsthand, you don't truly understand its challenges. So, having parents on our team who can inform how we can build a workplace that works for families is invaluable.”
Nearly every member of Beyond’s senior leadership team is now a parent, which has helped to take the company from a handful of employees with kids to a family-friendly workspace — one that values flexibility, embraces remote work, and offers family-friendly benefits like gender neutral parental leave and fertility benefits.
“Fertility benefits are such a massive thing,” says Sam, “They were critical for Ruthanna and me, but they’re also critical for people like our LGBTQ+ employees who are looking to start a family.” Remote work and the flexibility it affords dads, moms, and mums has been just as massive. For Sam, that flexibility is essential for Beyond’s success and is now a cornerstone of the company culture, allowing individual teams to align their working styles with people's respective realities.
“Letting people work in a way that works for them makes it easier for us all to have each other’s backs; it eases the adjustment that comes with life-changing events,” Sam shares. “Our projects are as diverse as our people, and if our teams can self-organize around people's realities, be it parenthood or otherwise, it's a powerful advantage we have.”
“You can’t outwork having a kid”
“Before becoming a father, I sort of believed I could work my way through anything. But as it turns out, you can't outwork having a kid," Sam laughs, acknowledging he can no longer guarantee he’ll be able to spend ‘as long as it takes’ to solve tricky work problems. Fatherhood, for Sam, has required a different approach that involves not just hard work, but also hyper effective time management.
One approach he’s been trying is the Pomodoro technique, a time management method that encourages focused work periods followed by short breaks. “You work for an hour, you give yourself five minutes. If you work for two hours, you give yourself a 10 or 20-minute break," Sam explains. These breaks, though primarily intended to boost focus, also provide opportunities for more interactions with Immy throughout the day. "It's pretty special when those breaks let you run upstairs to get some smiles and cuddles. It's magic, and something I wouldn’t have if I was at the office."
“It's pretty special when those breaks let you run upstairs to get some smiles and cuddles. It's magic, and something I wouldn’t have if I was at the office.”
The end of the workday, too, once nebulous in the era of remote work, now has a firm stop. “When does my day end? Well, when I have to feed the baby. That's all the ceremony I need to close the day,” Sam says. This clear end to the workday, alongside his new approach to time management, has prompted Sam to be more efficient during working hours and better identify his non-negotiables.
During the day, Sam has also started to be more intentional about suggesting ‘walk-and-talk’ meetings to mitigate Zoom fatigue and get outside. Sometimes, he even brings Immy along, making the most out of his multitasking. Often, Sam’s workday is determined by Immy’s schedule, which has given the idea of work-life balance a new meaning. Of this, Sam says simply: “The balance is a delicate one.”
Learning as you go
“It probably sounds trite," Sam admits, “but going easy on yourself, being kinder to yourself, and knowing that you might not be your absolute best on any given day — either at home or at work — is okay.” This mindset shows up in how he and Ruthanna parent Immy, as they try not to fret over the small stuff.
“Going easy on yourself, being kinder to yourself, and knowing that you might not be your absolute best on any given day — either at home or at work — is okay.”
“Don't read too many parenting books,” Sam says. “Just learn as you go. There's so much content out there, but parenting is such an individual experience. You might spin yourself in circles trying to apply completely different advice.” Along with this outlook, Sam credits his ‘tribe’ as a vital part of his parenting experience: “It's amazing how much the importance of community comes to the fore when you have a kid. You have people to lean on, with all their knowledge, resources, and experiences.”
The value of community extends into the workplace at Beyond, where Sam is grateful for the honest and unfiltered conversations he’s able to have with his fellow dads. It’s that kind of support that he feels enables the journey of fatherhood to be navigated with grace and understanding. Says Sam:
“Having a supportive environment at work for parents is a blessing.”