Being a Working Parent
In today’s post, Xenia Tovchykh, Team Lead Accounting, shares her experience balancing her career development at GetYourGuide with raising her young family.
How long have you been working at GetYourGuide and what is your role?
I work as a Team Lead Accounting in the Finance department and have been at GetYourGuide for around two years. I lead a group of 8 on the German Accounting Team, and we plan to grow by up to 10 next year. On a daily basis, we manage the daily operations of the GetYourGuide main entities: GetYourGuide Deutschland and GetYourGuide Tours & Tickets, recognizing an annual three-digit million turnover. Our team mission is to provide high-quality financial statements. We aim to accurately account and report financial information in a timely manner in accordance with corporate policies and German GAAP to internal and external stakeholders.
As a Team Lead, I also support my team members’ development, recruit new team members, aid with goal setting (OKRs), and take care of team engagement. I also take the lead in various projects establishing and optimizing processes and policies across departments in anticipation of the continued growth of the company. For example, recently my team on-boarded a tool that helped in our company’s transition to paperless travel expenses.
How long have you been living in Berlin?
I moved to Berlin two and a half years ago when my daughter, Leonie, was one year old. We moved from Barcelona, so it was not a big cultural change. Berlin was very much what we expected, but we were pleasantly surprised by all of the different benefits offered to parents living and working here. Combining career and family is definitely easier in Berlin.
What was your experience getting set up as a young family in Berlin?
It was difficult at first to find an apartment, a KiTa, and to find out how the childcare or benefits system works, but once I started working on it, it became much easier. After about a month, we had signed up for everything and were settled in.
What sort of childcare benefits do you receive in Berlin?
In Berlin, you apply for and receive a child allowance that is paid out monthly on top of your net salary. At the moment I receive 194 EUR a month net for my first child on top of my normal monthly salary. I am currently pregnant with my second child, and after I give birth, we will receive an additional 194 EUR. I will receive this monthly payment until my children are 18. This is quite helpful and not something that was available to us in Spain.
All children are also guaranteed a spot in a KiTa , or a German daycare, with most of the costs covered by the government. In fact, most KiTas only cost 23 EUR per month. This cost reduction is available in Berlin only, in other German cities daycare costs can be much higher. In some KiTas you have to pay a supplement if they teach using a special method or the KiTa is bilingual, but it’s up to you where you send your child. Leonie goes to a bilingual KiTa, so we pay 100 EUR extra.
Another benefit to KiTas are the hours. At most KiTas you can drop your child off as early as 8 am, or some KiTas even at 7 am, and you can pick them up at 5 pm. You can even ask for a KiTa allowance of 9+ hours, which means your child can stay even longer in KiTa. With allowances likes these, it’s quite easy to balance parenting with working life, even if your role requires long hours.
Being a mom of a young infant, did you have any concerns about how you would combine working in a startup environment like GetYourGuide’s with motherhood?
In my case, I cleared up all of my concerns during the interview process. During my interviews, I spoke with my future boss and colleagues and learned they all had children of the same age. I joined knowing they fully understood what it was like balancing home and work life.
I’m now five and a half months pregnant and my manager and team are very understanding. I’m able to work from home when I need and can work flexibly, coming earlier some days and leaving earlier other days. Of course, this is specific to my department and can change based on the role.
You mentioned you will soon be welcoming another little girl into your family. How long will you be on maternity leave and what sort of benefits are offered to those on parental leave in Germany?
My maternity leave will start six weeks before my due date and I will be gone for one year. Once I’m on maternity leave, I am paid my full salary until 8 weeks after the baby is born. After that, I will receive 65% of my salary (or a max of 1800 EUR net) per month during my leave. I will receive this Eltern Geld (Parent Money) for 12 months from the day your child is born. I can also choose to take a longer parental leave, in which case my Eltern Geld will be divided accordingly. My husband and I can reshuffle the total amount of time (3 years) between the two of us if he wants more time and I want less.
We can take our parental leave up until our child is 8 years old.
A whole year away from the office. How do you feel about that?
The most important thing for me was to have clarity around what will happen when I get back. By law, companies are required to guarantee a position of equal stature and salary-level to those returning from parental leave, but I still wondered if I would have the same team and the same responsibilities. As an ambitious woman in management, I didn’t want to halt my growth.
I talked to my manager and he confirmed that once I return, I will still be a Team Lead in Finance, but I might have a different team and work with a different part of GYG’s financial business. This answer absolutely took care of my concerns.
How has GetYourGuide supported you as a working parent?
I have a great manager (Nikos Kalitta) who has been supportive from day one. One example that really stands out to me occurred just two weeks into my time at GetYourGuide. My daughter was sick and, while my husband was at home with her, she began to have what we now know were febrile seizures (fever convulsions). At the time, we didn’t know what was going on and my husband called telling me to meet him at the hospital.
Even though it was just the second week of work, my manager was incredibly understanding. He told me to drop everything and go. Following this episode, I had to stay in the hospital for over a week. Then, when she had another episode a few months later, I had to stay in the hospital with her once more. All of this happened during my probation period. At other companies, the attitude could have been different, less compassionate, but here I only experienced the utmost care and understanding of my situation. In fact, I was promoted to Team Lead in this time, so it didn’t inhibit my trajectory at GetYourGuide in any way.
How has GetYourGuide fostered a community of working parents?
GetYourGuide has absolutely fostered a community of working parents. We have a GetYourGuide parent group on Facebook and on Slack where we share thoughts or pass along toys and clothes. In my department, many of my colleagues have children, so I feel completely included. Sometimes someone will bring their child to the Friday update for pizza which is really sweet, and the HR Department is even planning to start a family day next year.
What does your work schedule look like balanced with your home life? When are you waking up, getting to work etc.?
It depends on the day. Of course, my husband helps me take care of my little one, so we trade off who is dropping her off and who is picking her up. She goes to KiTa from 8am-5pm. If I have to take her to KiTa, I wake her up, try to brush her hair, (which is a challenge:)), and then I walk with her the 15 minutes to KiTa before hopping on the train to work. On these days, I arrive a bit later in the morning and work later into the evening. If she has an appointment in the morning, I will come late and stay late or spend the morning working from home. If I have to pick her up, I’ll start my day at the office at 8 am and leave just after 4 pm. I manage to organize all of my meetings within these time slots.
As a woman, as a manager, and as a mom, I feel absolutely supported at GetYourGuide and secure in my place here. I feel I can combine my working life and my home life. I’m excited to soon be a mom of two beautiful girls and am happy that I am able to have a family and pursue my career goals here.