Explore Melanie Jackson’s journey as she prepares to transition back to work as a Senior Accountant and Board Secretary after becoming a first-time mum. Melanie shares the complexity of her feelings, balancing the joy of witnessing her daughter’s early months with the anticipation of returning to a professional environment. She highlights the significance of immersing her daughter in their Tokelauan culture and discusses the unique challenges and strengths of being a Pasifika woman in a corporate setting. Her story is one of navigating the dual demands of career and parenthood, underscored by the importance of community support and staying true to oneself.
Melanie offers practical insights on workplace negotiation, managing finances as a new parent, and the critical role of flexibility and community in balancing work and family life. Her advice to Pasifika women considering a career in her field is to pursue what brings happiness, emphasising the value of adaptability and the power of supportive networks. Through Melanie’s reflections, this interview illuminates the resilience of working mothers and the vital support systems that enable them to thrive in both their personal and professional lives.
As a first-time Mum, can you share more about your experience transitioning back to work?
I will be going back to work soon and I’m having mixed emotions about it. Watching my girl grow these past 6months has been an absolute privileged. I’m so proud of her and I wish I could be with her forever! [However], I look forward to being around adults again and earning some money. My girl will be attending a local Tokelau Preschool which I am super excited about. My culture is so important to me, particularly language so for her to be immersed with Tokelau children and Teachers I could not be more happy. I know she will be safe there.
What has your experience been as a Pasifika woman in a corporate environment?
I currently work closely with our CEO who is a Pasifika woman and has many years experience within the health sector particularly in senior positions. What I’ve learnt so far, is that it’s not easy being at the top. It requires dedication, sacrifice and fearlessness.
It can be daunting when your the only Pasifika person in your space, you look around and there’s no one else like you. You can feel out of place and sometimes think that you don’t belong. But in every situation you are placed in, there is something to be learnt, so treat every space you are in as an opportunity to learn, even when it feels scary because that’s when you grow. In my experience it’s important to be yourself and live out your values. People may not always remember who was top sales person for the month, but they will remember your attitude and work ethic, so be yourself. Your uniqueness is your super power!
What inspired you to return to your career, and how do you plan to balance the demands of both work and parenthood?
I’m currently on Maternity Leave [and] I have to go back to pay my mortgage! I’m not really sure how I will be able to balance parenthood and work life to be honest. I’m nervous about that but I’m lucky that my job allows for flexible arrangements. [I] an able to work from home if required [as well as] set up a schedule which is workable for both parties. Before kids, I was able to complete work at home at times however now that I have a baby there is no spare time so I know a strict schedule/routine is required to survive! This was a concern I had while I was pregnant but my female work colleagues who also have young families advised that once you become a Mum, you always find a way to make things work. Wish me luck.
Have you negotiated pay with employers in the past. If so, could you provide insights into your approach/advice for others navigating similar situations?
My annual performance reviews have always resulted in a payrise which I haven’t ever gone back to renegotiate, however I would say that if you do want to negotiate your pay understand your position and where you think you would place yourself and list down reasons. Look at similar jobs in the market to help with current rates if your work doesn’t have a scale. This will help discussions with your employer, it can be daunting but if you don’t ask you don’t know.
You mentioned a mortgage. How have you juggled homeownership alongside the challenges of being a new parent?
My workplace has some great Parental Leave benefits which I have utilised, alongside taking Annual Leave before receiving the IRD payments. This has allowed us to plan ahead especially with taking on a mortgage before our baby came along.
We have also been extremely blessed with our village. Our Baby receive[s] a lot of monetary gifts from families and friends since being born… and is paying for things as needed haha! Our cultural obligations are very important to us and we haven’t been able to contribute to everything as much as we’d like to, but we know that when we are in a position to give back we will and continue to do so. Reciprocity is important and it will always come back to you when you’re in need.
As a Pasifika woman, how important do you believe community support and shared experiences are in navigating challenges such as returning to work and parenting?
Very important. My family, friends & colleagues have been extremely helpful with advice and sharing their experiences with parenting and work. It’s truly amazing how mums have been able to make things happen. Being a parent is the hardest job in the world so to see the closest people around me hustling to make things work for their families is inspiring and gives me hope that I will be ok. Having a loving husband to learn and grow together has also been a wonderful journey to share also.
If you were to offer advice to Pasifika women looking to enter your industry, what key insights or tips would you share to support their career journeys?
Don’t, it’s boring! (laughs). I’m a senior accountant and I’ve realised that I don’t want to be behind the desk preparing the books, I want to be the one reviewing the reports and making the decisions so I have been given the opportunity to sit in the governance space as Board Secretary which has provided some great insights into strategic discussions at that level and how the Board of Directors works.
Becoming a mother has also opened my eyes as to what’s important in life so my advice would be to pursue what makes you happy. It’s never too late to do what you want and there are endless opportunities nowadays to make things work for you and your family. That’s why I think Jobs for Mums is such a great space to share, collaborate and learn!
Melanie Jackson – Senior Accountant & Board Secretary