Going through a recruitment process during pregnancy can sometimes fill a mother-to-be with doubts and insecurities. Today, we welcome Lays who was eager to share her story and show that sometimes pregnancy and job hunting can mix. Being hired by Criteo when she was 6-months pregnant, she tells us all about her experience before and after joining the company.
First, congratulations on your pregnancy. Is it a boy or a girl?
Thank you! It’s a boy. His name is Benjamin, and he is 10 months old now.
Can you tell us a bit more about your background?
Of course! I was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 2013 I started my career in the recruitment field and in 2015 I move to the US to start a life together with my husband, who is American. Then I worked as a HR Generalist for a healthcare company and in 2019 we had my first son, Thomas. Once he was 8 months, I transitioned into a HR manager role for a small division of a global AV communications company.
How did you hear about the job opportunity at Criteo?
I wanted a change of scenery but was not looking actively since I thought no company would give me a chance while I was pregnant. Besides, I was concerned that starting a new job would entail a lot of work and changes. I had to be careful with my pregnancy as we were still in the pandemic. In sum, I was not looking until I got a message on LinkedIn from a recruiter who told me about this job opportunity at Criteo. First, the agency did not disclose the name of the company. They told me they were hiring a People Business Partner for the Americas region and, more specifically, to work with their office in Brazil. They were looking for someone with my professional background; someone who had lived in Brazil, who had HR experience in the US, and who could speak Portuguese. When I saw the message, I was like “Wow, this is perfect” but then I thought “the second I tell the recruiter I’m pregnant they’re going to find someone else.” We talked about my experiences in the US and Brazil, and then I said; “but there is one problem, I’m 6 months pregnant so in 3 months I’m going on maternity leave.” I assume the recruiter must have known it should not be a problem with Criteo as he told me “Okay, no big deal” and passed on my resume to the hiring manager. I thought “seriously, did you hear what I just said?!” I could not believe it.
So how did it go when you spoke with our Head of Talent Acquisition for the first time?
I insisted the recruiter make sure to tell Criteo about my pregnancy. I thought they did so I started the interview, talking as if the Head of Talent Acquisition knew about it. He asked me how I was feeling to start with the interview, and I replied; “I’m fine, a little tired because of the pregnancy” or something like that. Then, I heard from the phone call that he was surprised and at that moment I understood that the recruiter had failed to tell him...
After seeing the manager’ surprise, how did you handle it?
At first, I thought “Oh gosh! That’s it, I am never going to get this job.” But it was not a big deal at all. He started to talk about his own kids and told me he was working from home. He was amazing! I could sometimes hear the kids in the background. Then he asked me about my pregnancy, how long has it been, if it was a boy or a girl, etc. I thought this was so cool, so parent-friendly... He made me feel comfortable and I was surprised he would even consider me while I knew many companies would not, even though it is illegal to discriminate due pregnancy in the US. I had that fear but felt like people at Criteo found it cool that I was pregnant. The first time I talked with my current manager, she told me the same thing happened to her at the beginning of her career. She understood how important motherhood was for me and told me she was thinking of me for the long run, not just the next 6 months. It was honestly the best experience I had when searching for a job. Then I discovered the Criteo communities when researching the company. I remember watching this very cool video of CEO Megan Clarke for Yahoo Finances talking about her dream of becoming an athlete and competing in the Olympic Games. It was so inspiring, and I told myself; this is it! This is the company I want to work for. I felt so well-treated and comfortable already, and I hadn’t even started yet.
So how did you react when you found out you got the job?
At first, I didn’t believe it. I was so happy! I remember telling my family and friends I was leaving my job and starting a new position. They all thought I was crazy, telling me to slow down and focus on my pregnancy but I just couldn’t! I knew this was an opportunity for me to have a fantastic job in a great company. Plus, I was looking forward to working with the people I had met through the interview process.
Did you have second thoughts?
I did not. I just feared I would not be able to focus on my pregnancy as I wanted to. I would need to perform and prove myself at my new job while handling the many things changing in my life and body due to the pregnancy. But I stopped worrying the second I started as everyone was so nice and supportive of me.
How did you feel supported by Criteo?
I worked only three months before I left on parental leave, and they had designed my entire onboarding and work plan accordingly. I felt supported by my managers, my teammates, and other teams too. At Criteo, nobody is afraid to talk about being a parent. The funniest story happened as one of my team leaders, whom I had to work with very closely, was also pregnant at the time. Our due dates were close, and our kids were born weeks apart. This created a very cool bond between us. What I like about Criteo is that we feel encouraged as parents to talk about our personal life because we can be who we want to be. Criteos like to discuss parenting and that is great! Me, I am a mom and love it. Why should I choose between having a child or having a career?
Having the whole interview process remotely, do you think it makes it even more stressful to disclose a pregnancy? Would face-to-face be easier?
I think so, yes. I was a little stressed wondering when the timing would be best. This is crazy when you think about it because being pregnant should not be a problem, but I knew it could be. I wanted to show them I am trustworthy by disclosing it right away. In the end, if it were a reason not to hire me, then this was not the company for me. I mean, I would not want to work for that company if they don’t support my pregnancy. Fortunately, that is not what happened.
In terms of parental leave, how does Criteo compare to the other companies you have come across in the US?
Being a parent at Criteo is great. With my first kid, I did not have paid parental leave. I stayed at home for 4 months and did not have any income, so it was tough. Only my husband was working and if he had wanted to take some time off to be with us, he would not have been paid either. In the US, unfortunately, we do not have good federal and state parental leave policies. It is sad, especially living in a country like the US where you expect you will be supported throughout this journey. Having a child is the most important moment in any parent’s life. I feel blessed to be part of Criteo because they do not let that happen to you. Criteo has a paid parental leave policy and even provides you with your bonus if you are eligible to receive one. We support parents going through fertility issues by providing treatment reimbursement and support for adoption. I, for instance, had to go through IVF but did not have that kind of support from my prior employers. It is a great benefit, and I do not see many other companies doing that.
We encourage our employees to find a healthy work-life balance. Even though it must have been challenging, have you managed to find yours?
I felt supported by my team until the end of the pregnancy. My baby took a little longer to come so every time I would show up for a meeting everybody would be “You’re still here!” My boss called me before coming back to update me, so I was informed of the changes, and would not feel left out. When I came back, people were giving me time to adjust. They understood it was hard for me to catch up after 4 months out of work but also to leave my baby at daycare. Everyone was nice and flexible, and they still are. There is no problem for me to adjust my working schedule if I need it. There is a lot of flexibility, and it helps with finding the right balance. My manager trusts me as long as I’m performing and doing my job right. Flexibility is particularly important when you are a parent because unexpected things will happen all the time. When something happens, I am the primary care for my kids, and it is fundamental to work for a company that understands and respects that. It is a two-way relationship that is working well!
Any advice for future parents looking for a job at Criteo?
I would say come aboard! Be transparent and feel free to tell your manager, to share your doubts and thoughts. At Criteo, we talk about parenthood, and everything related to it. We share our experiences in our communities and create policies that are inclusive to all. The question is how we have come to this point; to feel guilty when talking about parenting or pregnancy. We are people before being workers and I am glad some companies like Criteo understand and even promote that, like you interviewing me right now because of it. I should not have to choose between being pregnant and having a career. I studied and worked hard to get where I am. I love being a mom and love my job, so why should I choose between one or another?