We Are Family: Parenting at Pollen

Freedom and Ownership allows everyone, parents or not, to have control over their own lives and work in a way that works for them. We do this because we know that if everyone is happy and friction free in all parts of their life they are much more likely to be able to do their best work. We want everyone to be able to think about themselves holistically and treat themselves like athletes; nobody works at their best when they’re tired, stressed, anxious or burnt out.

Being able to balance both the needs of your team and the needs of your personal life can eradicate the friction and guilt that can chip away at a parent who may often feel under pressure to choose between the job they love and the people. However, we don’t believe anyone should have to make this choice, in fact we think that people produce better work when they actually get to have it all.

Here are a few stories from parents at Pollen and how they’re using our culture of Freedom and Ownership to balance their personal and professional lives.

Vivienne Sung, Chief Product Officer

Until you have a child, no-one can really express how tough it is to juggle parenthood and professional life. Debates rage around the concept of “Having it all” but normally come down on the side of “it’s just impossible”. But here I am, CPO and mother of two. So what gives?

When I took the decision to have my first child Sienna just over four years ago, I had NO idea the pressure it would put on me, trying to be both a good mother and still succeed at work. In any normal workplace, I would have had to resign myself to just “good enough” on all sides, and undoubtedly live in a state of perpetual guilt. But I got lucky, I joined Pollen and discovered a workplace where the culture allows me to simultaneously push myself at work and be there for my children whenever they need me. Here is a company that lets me blend together my two roles: being both a parent and an executive, in a seamless way that doesn’t let arbitrary rules around the hours I work or the locations I work from get in the way of me performing on the job.

I recently had my second child, Theo. Practically speaking our culture had huge benefits: as a pregnant woman, the ability to figure out when and where you need to work is huge. Don’t fancy squeezing yourself onto a tube in sweltering summer heat… don’t! Got an appointment at the hospital in the middle of the day? No problem! And I imagine that if you’re a father, having that flexibility so that you can attend appointments with your partner is amazing.

For me, the flexibility to do my job in the way that works for me meant I stayed working far longer than is typical. And I started to re-engage with work around six weeks after Theo was born, also much sooner than most (in the UK). To be 100% clear, this was about my personal choices as an individual and not something Pollen ever demanded of me. Parenting is a personal experience, and some mums (or dads) will relish a year of uninterrupted time with their babies. Others, like me, want to get back into something that’s not baby-related as quickly as possible. Pollen supports both. My husband took over from me as full-time parent at home four months in, but because of F&O, whenever I wanted to have a half day off with him and Theo, I didn’t have to think “I only have 20 annual leave days and if I use a half day we won’t be able to have a family holiday this year”.

We also offer equal paid maternity and paternity leave – yet another way in which Pollen is cutting-edge, recognising that committing time to children is part of successful “work-life integration”. I’ve seen first hand the sadness of a new father that misses all the “firsts” of their child – and if you’re feeling rubbish about not being with your child, it definitely impacts your ability to do a good job and make a difference at work.

What does this add up to? Balancing work and home life is never easy, BUT, if there was ever a place where the two sides could get close to balanced this is it. I feel truly privileged to be working at Pollen, and to be helping to create a forward-looking workplace where everyone can succeed. And if you believe we could do something better – reach out to me about it because we’re committed to being the best place in the world to work!

Alex Tzukerman, VP of Marketplace

I was offered three months of paid paternity leave, at the time of my choice. I decided to take two weeks when Joel was born earlier this year, and then I’ll be taking the other two and a half months from May.

It has definitely been a learning curve coming back to work as a parent, and adapting to the new world of parenthood. I realised pretty quickly that my evening work will need to be moved after 9pm, so that 6-9pm is blocked for family time. But the thing that has really made a difference though has been Freedom and Ownership. Both before and after becoming a parent, the combination of Freedom and Ownership allowed me to stay focused on results rather than things like attending meetings where I don’t add value, as well as encouraging this kind of thinking within my team. Being a parent puts even more emphasis on making the right choices to focus on things where to take full ownership over taking more of an advisory or supportive role with my team.

Overall, I’ve had a really positive experience becoming a parent at Pollen. Very few of my friends got the privilege to spend proper quality time with their kids when they were born. So I feel very lucky to have been given so much paid paternity leave, and that Freedom and Ownership will allow me to be a parent but no lose focus on my professional life.


Peteris Bikis, Lead UX Engineer

I’m about to go on leave – I’m hoping to go on leave just before my wife’s due date, but we’re moving house at the same time so it’s all been quite hectic!

At Pollen in the UK, we’re offered three months paid paternity leave, which is super generous compared to other people I’ve spoken to and makes you feel really supported and valued. A lot of my friends have ended up just having the statutory two weeks but then going back to work straight afterwards, or adding on holiday. But the difference is that you’re still accountable for the work you’re assigned, whereas when you’re on leave, you’re not at all.

Obviously we’ve got to see what happens when the baby arrives, but my plan is to stagger my leave so I take four weeks at the start, then come back and take two more months later in the summer. This’ll mean I’m not so disconnected from work, but equally it’ll be amazing to be around for those first few crucial weeks – and then maybe we’ll get to do some travelling with the baby in the summer (or just continue surviving!).

The way we work has also already made a massive difference and will continue to after I come back. I feel like the balance is really unjust at this point as my wife has had to do everything so far! But even before the baby arrives, I’ve been able to work from home and be there more to support her. And then when I come back from leave, it won’t feel like a looming deadline of suddenly being back in strict working hours. Unlike most people, I’ll be able to choose when I work and not have to worry about missing bathtime, which is huge.

The main thing is that I’ve felt really supported by everyone at Pollen – my team have been so flexible and understanding. I have no idea what’s going to happen as a first-time parent, so I feel really lucky that I have that buffer, and I’m able to work in the way that works for me, my wife and my baby.