Ahead of International Women's Day, our own Jo Coombs spoke to Campaign about how she overcame her biggest challenges.


"We can only do our best"

Many women, in fact many parents struggle with balancing work responsibilities with the real job of raising their children.  For me the struggle was actually becoming a parent in the first place, a struggle that many women face while trying to get on with their day job so that no one notices. As my friends and my sister were all having children around me it became harder and harder to hide the pain of not having my own.  Eventually I realised I needed to do something different, I needed to accept a different path and so I began the process to adopt.  

In response to not having children I had invested my time and energy in my career, and luckily Ogilvy gave me all the opportunities to learn new skills, do great work and push myself to the limit and rewarded me by promotion through the ranks.  It was just as I was promoted to managing director that my adoption journey began.

I had confided in a few close clients and colleagues about the adoption process and they had been very supportive, even introducing me to others who had taken this path.  However once approved it can be a matter of weeks between having no children and suddenly being called "mum".  No nine month expanding bump, while you and others get ready.  No six months for my employer to make plans for my cover.  We had to be on standby for me to go within weeks.  Unfortunately, the time between being approved and finally being matched with my two wonderful children ended up being 18 months.  So for 18 months we were never more than two months away from me being gone.  Tricky when you are planning client leadership, pitching, divvying up initiatives that might last six months, or trying to hire a maternity leave cover.  But Ogilvy was constantly supportive and ready with "plan B" should the amazing finally happen.  After months of disappointment and one adoption that fell through at the very last minute, I was finally matched, and within two weeks I went from an amazing but rather surreal baby shower at work to meeting my son and daughter for the first time (both the best and worst day of my life, but that’s another story).  

Now three years later, I’m the CEO of OgilvyOne and I’m a single mum of two.  The challenges of doing both are real every day, but so are the rewards. I’m a big supporter of Mother Pukka and her FlexAppeal initiative – for everyone not just parents.  I try to set a good example; we can only do our best, no one is perfect.  But my number one piece of advice for building and keeping your resilience is sleep.  Without it I lose perspective, with it I have become an expert juggler.

Read the full article in Campaign here.