Double the Impact in Half the Time
In today’s busy world, there is no longer a typical work day or job arrangement. Alongside the transforming workforce, we challenge ourselves to restlessly reinvent by listening and responding to how our top talent thrive at work. More than ever, companies are now exploring flexible work arrangements, including opportunities for job sharing.
Helen Whitehead was sitting at a campsite when she designed the job share solution to a full-time opportunity presented to her by IBM. Working with Rebekah (Bex) Taka, the duo successfully reverse-pitched this arrangement to IBM. They are now the most senior leaders to job share in IBM Australia and New Zealand as Associate Partners and Practice Leads in GBS.
We sat down with the Helen and Bex (who have since created their own engaging joint name: Rebellen or Hex!) to learn more about the key elements in their partnership which help themselves, the business, and the future of job sharing thrive.
More than Just Job Sharing
There is no shortage of evidence that gender-diverse leadership is good for business. However, when combined with the benefits of job sharing, Helen and Bex are epitomising the change. They are showing future leaders what the possibilities can look like. In their job share arrangement, they each work three days a week, including a cross-over of 1.5 days. For these two trailblazers, job sharing was not just a way to achieve work-life balance, but a means to ‘having it all’.
In a matter of months, the old saying that “two is better than one” has never been proven truer than as we see Helen and Bex at the forefront of change. Uniquely whole as individuals, their ability to work together and double the impact in half the time propagates the inspiring message: job sharing is an option for all, at any level, for any gender and any role.
For Helen, “Job sharing is building on two complementary skill sets and having that exponential growth. It’s about aligning values, and sharing visions, or fighting it out until you do!” Bex approaches things top-down and I approach things bottom-up. That’s where they find the middle ground. “It’s not about dividing and conquering as that leans more towards part-time work.”
Making it Work
When asked about how the idea of job share came about, we learned that they have worked in the same companies for the past 8 years, but IBM was their first job sharing role. Deciding to partner together presented a new set of challenges that the pair wield to their advantage.
Helen sees Bex as the leader who has challenged her the most and helped her grow. “She always brought a very different perspective, and taught me to be a better leader,” says Helen. “She told me to bring my daughter to work and leave the constraints at the door.”
Talking about their working relationship, Helen shares, “Everything is accelerated. Talking out loud to each other helps the process move so much more quickly. It helps navigate the opportunities that the other doesn’t see.”
“If you say something to one of us, know that you can’t pit Mum against Dad. You will have both of us!’ Bex shares, “We will work out who can genuinely deliver the best outcome.” Often, this enables the dynamic duo to carry big things more lightly and accelerate the process of tough situations and conversations.
Fearlessly loyal, they are united when it comes to making tough decisions and setting joint goals, especially when it comes to work that impacts their personal lives. Both Helen and Bex are married with families. Their ‘non-divorce policy’ at work and at home keep them strong and focused on the right outcome.
Setting intentions deliberately is key to allowing them to do what is needed. They have unparalleled confidence when it comes to communicating and navigating through managing life and work. An open and shared approach with the partners to parenting is essential.
Breaking Barriers and Designing Flexibility for the Future
In their roles at IBM, they lead the practice of Customer Engagement and Design within iX. This includes designing IBM as an organization. “We’re the people who change things, not the people who make powerpoints pretty.”
Passionate and headstrong, they are not afraid to hold a mirror up to the organisation and reflect on the systems which need to change. Systems are designed based on what they know at the given moment. But they go on to explain that, “As we evolve over time, we find limitations and through these arise opportunities to grow.” By breaking barriers from the ground up and actively examining unintentional biases in the system, Helen and Bex are paving the path for agile and flexible work for IBMers.
Their One Advice for a Successful Job Share Arrangement
Asked for their one advice on job sharing effectively, they both agree, “You need to do the work on understanding yourself. Job share can be successful for those who are deeply invested in self-awareness. One has to know their strengths and weaknesses deeply. You have to make space for any emotion to be okay. That’s how you get to the nugget! It’s part of what we do, and we don’t just tick boxes.”
Bex and Helen continue to challenge boundaries and in the true spirit of IBM, unite to get it done.
Opportunities for flexible work arrangments are available for select countries and job roles.