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The Santiago family pictures

Life as a Working Parent

During a video call with Santiago Borda, I heard the excited voice of his 3-year-old son Mateus as he returned home from kindergarten to greet his father.

As a father of two sons, Santiago, Managing Director of GM Financial Colombia, is accustomed to working in the new hybrid model, a balance between working at home and going in to the office, because he understands the work environment has changed. His personal experience motivated him to become Executive Sponsor of the International Operations (IO) chapter of Working Parents Employee Resource Group (ERG).

An ERG is an employee-led group which aims to foster inclusivity and build community. GM Financial offers ERGs to be supportive of our team members, who represent a broad and diverse group. Not only do our ERGs aim to connect and support within the scope of the group, they also promote personal and professional growth and development and help to make larger connections throughout the company.

The Working Parents ERG promotes strategies for team members for balancing work and home responsibilities. Another purpose is to raise awareness, resources, support and a voice for new and experienced parents, guardians and caregivers. The new IO chapter has individual groups in Colombia, Brazil, Mexico and Chile.

Team members in Latin America are embracing the new chapter. It launched in March and almost 70 team members have signed up.

Experience as a working parent

As the leader of a team of around 170 people, a husband and a father, Santiago alternates between roles throughout the day.

He’s very familiar with the habits of a large family. He shared his childhood with three brothers while his parents worked full time. The things he learned then remained with him, and he applies them to the dynamics of the present day and his own growing family.

Santiago’s day starts early at 5:15 a.m., and his first task is to help Tomás, his 10-year-old son, get to the school bus by 6 a.m. Then he usually exercises while his wife, Susanne, gets Mateus ready for school. Around 7:30 a.m., Santiago takes Mateus to the school bus to give his wife time to exercise as well; then begins his workday at the GM Financial office in Bogotá or remotely.

“With my wife, we have always dedicated ourselves to taking care of the children. It’s a responsibility that we handle directly, and we achieve it by being very organized,” said Santiago. “There are days when we have to adjust our routines due to work commitments, but being flexible and knowing how to prioritize helps us quite well.”

Take it easy

During his 15 years with GM Financial, Santiago has lived in Mexico and Brazil with his family; in fact, Mateus was born in Brazil. They have made friends in both countries, thanks to their children’s routines, and their support network at work has been very important.

In both countries, Santiago and his family felt at home. His colleagues at work constantly asked him how the family was doing, and he welcomed their parenting advice. He still remembers a co-worker telling him when they arrived in Brazil: “Take it easy. It’s a complex change for the family, including new job, culture, language, customs. It’s not going to be perfect, and building balance takes time.” He’s been following that advice ever since.

Living and working in different countries and raising children for a decade have taught Santiago much about life. He shares some of his own advice about how to have a better work-life balance:

  • Organize your schedule in advance.
    • Define priorities and add placeholders to make sure you have time with your family. Be open and flexible when unforeseen things happen, and you can find a way to manage them.
  • Be fearless when communicating with your leader, but be open to compromise.
    • Rely on facts and don’t make assumptions about what others may think or say about your situation.
  • Build trust with your leader and your team.
    • Sometimes, an alternative way of working is required to achieve company results as well as the balance you need in your personal life. Have the confidence to speak in an environment of understanding.
  • Prioritize to avoid a constant sense of urgency.
    • Balance is achieved when we avoid going to the extremes.
  • Life balance equals sustainable results.

Talking, listening and compromise solve problems

Santiago said that if things are good at home, it has a positive effect on everything else in your life. “We have challenges at work, but we know that we’ll be able to solve them together with the excellent team that we have,” he said. “Achieving peace of mind at home allows you to focus better on work.”

The vast majority of problems can be solved by listening, talking and trying to reach an agreement. There is no substitute for good communication, whether at home or work. “For both contexts, dialogue makes a difference,” he advises.

As our conversation ended, I heard Mateus’ voice again in the background. “This call was a great example of what happens in a day of a working parent,” shared Santiago with a bit of humor.

Want to learn more about GM Financial’s culture? Check it out here.

Maria Clavijo
By Maria Clavijo, GM Financial, Colombia

Maria enjoys creating content inspired by people, cultures and travel. She loves the vast landscapes of her country, Colombia, and the towering mountains of her city, Bogotá. In her free time, Maria seeks out ways to delight all of her senses through exquisite cuisine and gastronomic experiences.

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