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The Wixii™ Project: Kyoko Takahashi Lin

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Kyoko Takahashi LinName:  Kyoko Takahashi Lin

Location:  New York, NY

Professional Industry:  Law

Company:  Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

Job Title:  Partner

WIXII-ISM™ FROM KYOKO: “I very much believe in the Sheryl Sandberg notion of “leaning in,” whether it is to lean in toward your career or something else that you view to be your calling (e.g., motherhood), recognizing that your calling is a very personal thing and also that it can change depending on the phase in life that you are going through. But the point is – throw yourself into whatever you are doing, don’t lean away or otherwise hedge your bets, because it is better to fail trying your hardest than to fail because you haven’t tried sufficiently.”

PERSONAL INFORMATION:

Meet our inaugural Wixii™, Kyoko Takahashi Lin. We are honoring Kyoko as our inaugural Wixii™ – she first introduced us to the concept of “work-life mix,” and we believe that her experiences and wisdom will inspire and empower our fellow Wixiis™ to thrive and flourish. Enjoy!

Kyoko is in her early 40s and mother to a daughter (2) and son (1). She and her husband, John, were married almost 5 years before they welcomed their first child. Prior to earning her J.D., Kyoko received an A.B. degree in Government. She currently practices law and is a Partner in the Executive Compensation & Employee Benefits Group of the Corporate Department of a big law firm

Kyoko devotes 60-80 hours per week (on average) to her career and would rate her work-life satisfaction level as a 7 on a scale of 1-10 (10 being highest). She describes the policies of her workplace as quite work-life friendly, especially for a big law firm; however she faces challenges inherent in a client-service oriented culture where clients are not able to plan their problems, much less their crises, to accommodate a 9-5, Monday-Friday work week. In the division of labor for household responsibilities, she spends the majority of her time caregiving (60%) and focusing on her children’s extracurricular activities (25%). Less than 15% of her time is spent on cooking, cleaning, laundry, and shopping.

To maintain her own well-being, on a daily basis, she strives to connect with loved ones and pray/meditate. On a weekly basis, she aims to eat well and catch-up on sleep. She makes time monthly to pursue her hobbies and spend time with friends; and she tries to sneak-in some pampering on an annual basis. She also volunteers with her church, Redeemer Presbyterian Church (where her husband serves as a lead pastor), and is a board member for the International Arts Movement.

WORK-LIFE MIX:
My current work-life mix is possible (manageable) because of…

My current work-life mix is only possible because I have an extremely supportive husband who believes in the work that I do and also helps with child care, all cooking and many household tasks (for example, when the children cry in the middle of the night or early in the morning, he is the one who is willing to get up to tend to them). In addition, we have excellent child care. Finally, although my parents live outside of the country, my mother spends approx. 4-5 months of the year in the States and, when she is in the States, she tries to drop by at least 3-4 times a week, often bringing dinner with her and just lavishing our children with the attention that only a grandparent can give.

In what ways did your work-life mix change after having children?

After we had children, I found that time to myself dropped to almost zero. In addition, my husband and I need to work hard to have meaningful adult time for each other.
As for work adjustments, I am generally only able to be in the office from 9:30 am-6:00 pm so my daytime is very meeting-intensive. Thankfully, I have an excellent administrative assistant who helps keep me organized, and I give her all the credit. My best writing and thinking time happens after hours when I am on-line from home (I know I sound old when I say this, but thank goodness for technology!). I should note that I would never be able to do the work I do, much less at the level at which I aspire, without the collaboration of my remarkable colleagues – the daily support of my three fellow partners and the humbling dedication of the counsel and associates in my group.

What has surprised you most about juggling work and family?

It is difficult, but it’s completely worth it. I love our children, and I love my job.

Describe a current “day in your life” from waketime to bedtime:

7 am – my children wake me up (my husband will have already been awake); get them ready for the day and then get myself ready;
9 am – out of the house;
9:30 am – at my desk; work until 6 pm;
6 pm – try to leave the office;
6:30 pm – at home and relieve our nanny;
until approx. 7:45 pm – dinner, bath, etc. with children;
8:15 pm – children in bed (but, right now, daughter is having a tough time going to sleep, so she insists that I stand outside of her door, so I do that with paperwork that I’ve pre-printed and also am armed with my blackberry);
9 pm – daughter is asleep, so I go into our home office and start working again;
1 am – in bed

On a daily basis, I am energized/motivated/inspired by:

At home, my family; at the office, the opportunity to do good work.

On a daily basis, I am drained/frustrated by:

At home, sleeplessness; at the office, inefficiency.

What do you wish you could change about your current work-life mix?

Greater predictability.

What does “having it all” mean to you?

Taking joy from what you view to be your calling, whether it is being a good wife, being a good mother, doing good work, being a good friend, serving the community or some combination of all of the above.

Do you think that you “have it all”?

At any given moment, my feeling about this changes significantly. Sometimes I honestly believe that I do. At other times, I feel like I am barely running on fumes. But, more often than not, I feel extraordinarily lucky to have the family that I have (an amazing husband, two adorable children – OK, I am clearly biased – and supportive extended family), as well as a job that I very much enjoy and which allows me to help others in their time of need.

WIXII™ WISDOM:
Share your key(s) to maintaining order (“managing it all”):

Every Sunday afternoon while the children are napping, I spend about an hour reviewing the family’s combined schedule for the week, so that we can figure out whether my husband or I have plans early in the morning or in the evening, our child care situation, who is responsible for organizing dinner, our children’s doctor’s appointments and extracurricular activities, any special items that our daughter needs for her preschool and whether we need any items for our children (e.g., diapers, goldfish crackers, etc.) and groceries. That is the uber-planner in me. On the other hand, I try very hard to remember that, between our children and the nature of my work, nothing can be planned and that I need to remain flexible and not become upset when things change, even at the last minute.

What advice would you give a pre-child version of yourself?

I very much believe in the Sheryl Sandberg notion of “leaning in,” whether it is to lean in toward your career or something else that you view to be your calling (e.g., motherhood), recognizing that your calling is a very personal thing and also that it can change depending on the phase in life that you are going through. But the point is – throw yourself into whatever you are doing, don’t lean away or otherwise hedge your bets, because it is better to fail trying your hardest than to fail because you haven’t tried sufficiently. Also, identify family and/or friends who know you and who will help keep you sane and not become self-absorbed – it does not have to be many people. I have only eight people – my husband, my sister, my parents, my best friend, two other close friends from law school and my career mentor – but they are people with whom I can be completely honest and who intuitively know when to check in. I also have five women from my church community group who are in different stages of their lives and careers, and the unadulterated support and wisdom that they represent is simply immeasurable. Cherish these people – they are worth their weight in more than gold. Remember that life is not a sprint, but a long footrace with many detours and circle-backs. The point is not to “succeed” or to achieve “work-life balance” at age 45 (or whatever age you decide is the right inflection point), but rather to be able to do the most that you can, honoring the gifts and blessings which you’ve been granted, and looking back (hopefully, when you are very, very old) and to be able to say that you went all in.

WIXII’S™ LAST STAND:
Is there anything else you would like to share regarding your work-life mix?

I think the notion of “work-life mix” is wonderful. I first heard the phrase used by Ruth Porat, the current CFO of Morgan Stanley, at an event at which she spoke to our firm’s women clients, and it has stuck with me since. “Balance” is too difficult (and, as a result, fraught with the potential for failure, which is discouraging); however, “mix” recognizes that the key is not to look from moment to moment to judge if things are in equilibrium, but to be able to measure that over a longer term.

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