Kathy Hassett is Senior Manager, Brand Management Development in the Health Care Division of an international food services company. Her responsibilities include developing new programs, development and fulfillment of promotional materials and conducting field management training. Although she currently has no direct reports, in the past, when she worked in operations positions, she had as many as 350 employees and 40 managers reporting to her. She has been in her current job for three years, reporting to the VP of Development for Health Care. She works 80% of the time from a home office.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Kathy Hassett from her home office in Nevada.
AMA: You telecommute 80% of the time. Is that a big part of why you love your job?
Hassett: Yes, it is. Previous to my current position with the company, I traveled almost constantly for 10 years. I would go out on Monday and come back on Friday, unpack, do the laundry and then pack my bag again. If I wanted to socialize with friends over the weekend, I would have to reach out to them by e-mail during the week. Even a simple thing like taking out the trash posed a problem—trash pickup was only once a week and I was never home to deal with it. Sometimes I took my garbage to a friend’s house to get rid of it!
When the opportunity for my current position came up, the prospect of limited travel was appealing, especially since I had recently gotten married. When I was traveling I found that after working in the unit all day I often spent the evening working from my hotel room. I felt that I was ready for a change after so many years away from home and I actually agreed to go down one grade level to take the job.
Now I travel to my company’s home office in Gaithersburg, Maryland, around every three months or so. To avoid becoming too isolated I have become involved in activities within the community, so that I can meet new people and have some social interaction.
Because I work from home, I have some autonomy as far as managing my time and prioritizing my work. Another plus for me is that I help create initiatives that have lasting benefits for our operators in the field.
AMA: Before you assumed your current position, would you have said you loved your job?
Hassett: I would have said that I really liked it, but I probably wouldn’t have said that I loved it. Being able to be home at night has just made a huge difference.
AMA: Do you feel that you’ve achieved a good work/life balance? If yes, what tips can you share with others who want to achieve a better balance between work and personal life?
Hassett: Yes, I have achieved a good balance. First of all, I do guard my time. When I walk into my home office I am at work and when I go across the hall I am on break, or “off.” I also make sure I take vacations and time owed. I used to impose pressure on myself—I don’t do that anymore if I can help it.
Also, sometimes you just have to tell a boss that it’s not possible to achieve what he or she wants under the given time constraints. You need to sit down and work out a mutual agreement about what is and is not possible. For example, just recently, I was involved in two projects that were rolling out at the same time. One of them involved extensive training out in the field. I had to explain to my boss that since I would be out traveling, I wouldn’t be around to deal with the second project. The outcome was that we were able to push back the deadline for the nontraveling project.
AMA: What do you do to make work more enjoyable?
Hassett: We have a GREAT team! We’re always there for each other. If one of us needs to vent, we can. Even though we don’t see each other a lot, we trust and understand each other. Three or four of us are always laughing. And there’s no gossiping, just fun.
AMA: What about your job gives you the greatest satisfaction?
Hassett: Knowing that what I do has a direct impact on our managers in the field. We are involved in training them and in making their lives easier.
AMA: What advice do you have for young people just entering the work force?
Hassett: Do your homework, be willing to work more than an eight-hour day and don’t expect to be president of the company tomorrow—make it a longer-term goal. Respect and learn from those more seasoned, about both what to do and what NOT to do. Have fun. Life is short, so enjoy your job or change to a job you love! If you need to speak up about managing the work load, make sure you can present the facts. You have to say, look, I’m doing this, this and this. Can you help me prioritize everything so we can meet our deadlines? If you just say, “I can’t do this,” it will be a black eye for you.
AMA: To sum up, if I asked you to fill in the sentence: “I love my job because…” what would you say?
Hassett: I love my job because I’m respected, it’s flexible and I work with great people.
Editor’s Note: My inspiration for the Moving Ahead “Why I Love My Job” series is National Public Radio’s “Car Talk” guys, Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Tom and Ray laugh (mostly at themselves) throughout their entire radio show. Yet they are extremely knowledgeable and excel at their jobs. I can’t imagine anyone having more fun at work. They are my heroes and have inspired me to search for other people who truly love their jobs.
I’m working on snagging an interview with the masters themselves, but NPR representatives tell me that “Tom and Ray are just too busy to do interviews.” I suspect they’re just too busy having a great time.
If you love your job, write to Shari at firstname.lastname@example.org.