Developing a supportive culture, coping with work from home adjustments, and embracing flexibility with Lisa Harris
From Work to Home is a special collaboration series with Stripe, the financial infrastructure platform for businesses. I speak with Lisa Harris about how Stripe’s policies and activities actively support working parents like her. Lisa is from Stripe’s People Partner team at APAC. She is a mother of 2 beautiful children, Mikayla, age 10, and Parker, age 8.
Lisa shares how Stripe cultivates the value of support and patience, proving how conducive their workplace is to building a successful career while maintaining quality time with their children and spouses.
To get in touch with Lisa Harris, find her on LinkedIn:
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Thanks for listening to the Parents in Tech podcast with me, your host, Qin En. We hope you were inspired on how to raise kids and build companies. To catch up on earlier episodes or stay updated with upcoming ones, head over to www. to join our community of parents in tech. There, you can also drop me a question, idea, feedback or suggestion. See you next time!
[00:33] Introduction of Guest, Lisa Harris
[1:49] Explaining the value of Stripe’s Kids at work day
[3:02] Considerations to make kids at work day effective
[7:00] Defining culture
[8:04] The inclusive culture at Stripe
[10:07] The type of people you work with at Stripe
[11:46] Challenges of the work-from-home setup
[13:39] Lisa on her personal struggles with adjustments
[18:58] Stripe recognizes the need for in-person interactions
[20:51] How exactly does Stripe support parents?
[25:17] Embracing Flexibility
[26:32] Connect with Lisa
[00:00:00] Qin En: Hi, I am Qin En and this is the Parents in Tech podcast. In this special collaboration series with Stripe, the financial infrastructure platform for businesses, I speak with parents at Stripe on how they create work-life integration and balance their career ambitions with family aspirations.
[00:00:33] In this episode, I speak with Lisa from Stripe's people team. Lisa is a mother to two children, Mikayla, age10, and Parker age eight.
[00:00:45] Hey, Lisa! Welcome to the Parents in Tech show. To begin with, could you tell us a bit more about your family?
[00:00:51] Lisa: Sure. Well, thanks so much for having me. My family consists of four of us, my husband, Matt, and I have two children: Mikayla, who's 10 and Parker, who's eight.
[00:01:01] Qin En: Beautiful. Now I'm curious. How do you explain your job to your children?
[00:01:07] Lisa: So my kids have had the chance to come in to various different kids at work days over the time that I've been employed at several different employers. And so my children are pretty sure that all I do at work is paint faces and play in ball pits and then get cake and some pizza at lunchtime.
[00:01:27] But what I try to explain is that actually in human resources, my job is to help people and do that in a number of different ways. I think they prefer the ball pits honestly.
[00:01:37] Qin En: So, I'm going to jump straight in to ask about those days where you bring your family to work. Help me to understand what's the thinking that goes on behind it and how effective have those been?
[00:01:49] Lisa: Take your kids to work day is in my mind are just a really great way for people to bring their entire selves to work.
[00:01:56] Oftentimes, those of us who are parents, a big part of our lives and our identities is in our families. I don't think our whole life and identity is involved in our family responsibilities, but that is a big part of us. And being able to share with your children where you're spending so much of your time and why it might be important for you to be gone on a business trip or miss something is important for them to have context and understand.
[00:02:22] But I also think it's just really cool to be able to connect with other parents in the workplace. And for those who we work with who might not have kids, maybe who are interested in having kids, or not at all interested. I think the chance to meet other parts of our families is really important to them as well.
[00:02:39] Qin En: I definitely agree. So I think there's a sense of seeing people that you work with, their work selves, their professional selves, that this one site that we're all familiar with. But I think seeing people with their families definitely brings a different level of connection and understanding to the people whom you work with.
[00:02:56] So I guess in your experiences of having seen, participated, and probably chat multiple of these. What makes a good bring your family to work day based on your experience so far, this could be in terms of programming, the frequency, the setup. Yeah. What are some of the learnings and insights that you think are gonna win?
[00:03:15] Lisa: Oh gosh. Well, I think that there's so many things that go into it. Um, it depends on how big the company is. It depends on how many parents and maybe even what the general type of ages of the children. I've definitely been at companies where the average age of children tends to be a little bit older or a little bit younger, and that might change how you think about it.
[00:03:35] I also think that it's a little bit about the type of culture that you have at the company that you work for already, and you want to be authentic to the company culture that you have. And so I don't think there's any one size fits all "this is the right way to do at kids at Workday". It really does depend on what's important to the individuals, what's important to the kids and what's important to the company.
[00:03:59] That being said, uh, thinking about it from the children's perspective, like what are they going to get out of it? I have heard stories about bring your kids to work days where someone comes in and does educational sessions for kids, which might or might not be interesting, but usually there's more engagement if there's arts and crafts and balloons and ball pits and things like that.
[00:04:20] If your office culture is really centered around food. As many times here in Singapore, our office cultures are making sure that you're thinking about what type of a menu would be impactful or exciting for children is also really important. And then from a timing perspective too, you don't want it to be too long.
[00:04:38] You also don't want it to be too short. So something that's a couple of hours, again, with a few things for people to do. But then I don't know. I'm a big fan of when you're planning events always leave people wanting a little bit more. It's probably better for them to be a little too short.
[00:04:53] Qin En: Golden advice.
[00:04:55] Lisa: So I guess those are the things that I think about.
[00:04:58] And then also, how can everyone else at the company get involved? So a really good kids at Workday is not really about just the kids and the employees. In my mind, it's about bringing the whole company together to celebrate a portion of your workforce. And so are there opportunities for other people to be involved?
[00:05:16] I've been involved with one particular activity where an employee who didn't have a family didn't have children came and did this really cool Lego robotics demonstration and had all of the kids learn some very basic coding. It was a really cool opportunity for them to get involved and to share something they were passionate about with a lot of kids who were really excited to think again, how my parents have really cool jobs.
[00:05:41] Qin En: Wow. And I really liked the inclusiveness bit. Right. Bring your kids to work suggests and implies that the targeted audience is for parents, which of course forms an important part of the workforce, but also making it such that those who are not parents have an opportunity and a platform to get engaged.
[00:05:59] That's so important. And really, it embodies the idea of being inclusive.
[00:06:03] Lisa: Absolutely. We want to stay away from things as much as we can with respect to people making assumptions about this person might want to be involved, or this person might not want to be involved. In fact I'll be very open, like something that surprised me is one of the best volunteers that I had for kids at work day was actually an intern who was not anywhere near being a parent, but just really felt so excited about being able to pass on their love for this particular technology and this stuff that we were doing and being able to make it bite size for the children. That made me kind of rethink how I was approaching those things.
[00:06:40] Qin En: Wow. That's really, really powerful. Thanks for sharing that. Lisa. Now I know I jumped right into probably one of the most granular things. So I used to want to take the opportunity to take a step back and really talk about what culture is. I think that means very different things. It's probably one of the things that's overused, but I also think it's also important to understand. So I'm curious from your point of view, Lisa, how would you describe culture in a company culture kind of context?
[00:07:06] Lisa: Oh my gosh. I feel like this might be a dissertation level topic, but I'll try and share with you kind of my thoughts and opinions. So in my mind, culture is really about how you feel and how you interact with others.
[00:07:18] It's the how around how work gets done, how people behave. So all of those how questions in my mind that really contributes to the culture of a company. So what are the expectations around how people show up to work? How they're interacting with each other? How do you communicate? All of those things kind of add up to create this sense and this identity for your company.
[00:07:41] We've spent a lot of time as companies, I'm in a number of different HR forums with other HR leaders. And we talk a lot about how do we create the right culture, the best culture. At the end of the day, I think about culture as being the identity of your company. So what is it that is most important to you? What is it that really defines what it's like to work at this company versus another company
[00:08:04] Qin En: And how do you think about setting and defining the culture at Stripe because it's also almost this living organism where it's almost hard to describe. It's ever evolving and it's also hard to totally and accurately encapsulate, right? So I'm curious as how do you guys think about defining and setting culture?
[00:08:23] Lisa: I would say setting culture anywhere while my role is in HR and on our people team culture should never be left to us alone. It can't be left to us. We can't tell other people how to act or how to show up. But I do think that potentially those in HR roles or on people teams spend more time thinking about this than other people do.
[00:08:44] As professionals in people type roles, what we're really trying to do is make sure that we're intentional about how we're onboarding people, who we're onboarding, and making sure that we create the space for people to bring their true and authentic selves to work.
[00:08:58] If we do that, then again, by nature of the fact that we thought about. These are the types of people we're bringing on. These are the types of values that they have. Every company has different values, corporate values. In Stripe, we call them our operating principles by nature of kind of being very upfront and very clear about what those expectations are.
[00:09:17] You have people self-select in that helps reinforce your culture. But certainly as you talked about right? When your company is growing quickly, things can change. Just making sure that everyone has agreed that culture is important and that we keep talking about it, frankly. That's the most important part.
[00:09:35] Qin En: Wonderful. The idea of continuity, those conversations so that people always understand what it means to be at Stripe. What each of those operating principles look like. I think that is crucial as you think about how do you build and foster that culture. So I guess looking on that, how do you put operating principles and culture into action, into initiatives, because they always say you don't want your culture or your values to be stuff that you write on the wall and then that's about it. So I'm curious, what does living and practicing those operating principles look like?
[00:10:07] Lisa: Stripe tends to attract people who are very mission-driven and very values driven.
[00:10:13] And so by nature of that, our operating principles and they are available online, tend to be very high level. So they are relatable and they are part of generally, again, the identities that individuals who join Stripe already possess. And so, living them every day is less of a checklist of, I've got to remember that today.
[00:10:33] I need to be humble. It's more of thinking about gosh, if there's this big, really tricky thing that's going on or this problem, maybe if I like, think about this a little bit differently, or maybe if I go gather some inspiration from these operating principles, but what I've really appreciated is that at Stripe, people actually use them day to day in our conversations.
[00:10:54] And so I have been in other companies where it might feel slightly forced or I've talked to peers where they're like, oh yeah, I have to make sure that any document I write has these things written into it, or this is how I make this argument about something. It actually feels very native to me at Stripe for people to have the operating principles in the way that they speak every day. That keeps things front of mind and it keeps it part of the conversation. And I think it just makes it much more natural to live and kind of breathe those expectations.
[00:11:24] Qin En: Got it. And Lisa, you joined Stripe at a interesting point in time, right? I believe it was in mid 2019 when the world was all great and wonderful at that time. And then of course we know what happened in 2020, when COVID struck.
[00:11:37] So from your perspective, were there particular groups within Stripe that found that whole work from home setup, particularly challenging?
[00:11:46] Lisa: I always struggle with a question like that because I think that absolutely there were individuals who found it and I could try to generalize about what groups some of those individuals fell into, but it becomes really challenging, right?
[00:11:59] It ended up being very, very individualized. The folks who had challenges and what I can tell you, and it will surprise no one who listens to your podcast here in Singapore, there's always so much construction. So honestly, the biggest group that I found that I had to spend a lot of time with were people who had massive construction projects outside of their home, this MRT line that's going in, there was no shortage of construction.
[00:12:24] So that was a huge one. It's not necessarily a group that people have an identity or like affiliate with, but survivors of construction next to your condo, but like, it was a big problem. I do think that there were some challenges absolutely for parents. And especially when we were looking at being remote and doing home learning at the same time, I don't think any of us as parents want to go back to the circuit breaker.
[00:12:50] I mean, it was necessary at the time for sure, for a lot of health reasons, but, oh my gosh. As a parent, as a working parent, that was uncomfortable at best. There are people who were in multi-generational households where you might have had multiple people in the house working or multiple generations of people in a house trying to work, which is really, really challenging or people who were used to traveling exclusively for their jobs.
[00:13:15] So again, I guess it's hard to pick one specific group, but I would say many of us had different impacts individually, for sure. But, gosh, I'm certainly glad we're at least at this point, not as I see it on the other side of that, for sure.
[00:13:30] Qin En: Now I have to dig into that Lisa, it sounds like you personally felt a fair bit of challenges. Talk to me about what were some of those challenges and how you overcame it.
[00:13:39] Lisa: So when we started this, my children were six and eight years old. And that thankfully is old enough to be able to kind of independently use a laptop kind of because the six year old was touching, go there at times. But I certainly recognize that I had it much easier than parents whose children were maybe a year or two younger than mine, and we're trying to balance it.
[00:14:04] But that being said, trying to figure out how you have someone who's in primary two and they actually need to be making some progress academically, in this remote environment that none of us have any experience in, that was tricky. Yeah, that, that one was, that was challenging. I also think as I mentioned at the beginning, being in a people role, one of my key jobs is to help others, right?
[00:14:29] Like that's how I describe it to my children. And there's just so many things that came up. I mean, again, in the early days of COVID, when people got sick in Singapore going into quarantine facilities, making sure that people had what they need and in some cases, again, we just didn't know much about the system and things were being figured out as we were doing it.
[00:14:49] And so, how do we make sure as Stripe to show up, to support the employee correctly? How do we make sure that the employee as an individual has what they need to be successful both personally and professionally? How do we balance the needs of the business and covering work in an uncertain world? And then to add that again, on the HR side, we had this tricky bit about people being able to enter and exit Singapore.
[00:15:12] So certainly for our employees who needed entry or exit permits that, but got a little bit challenging.
[00:15:19] Qin En: Oh, there are so many things to juggle. I can imagine was such a hectic and also uncertain times. Right? Cause like I say, no one and probably no business plan ever took that into consideration as we thought about it.
[00:15:29] Now I'm glad that we are sort of emerging out of it. And I'm curious also. What is Stripe's policy around your hybrid work, work from home, work from office? I feel like recently in the news, there's been quite a fair bit of good and bad and positive and less, not so positive, kind of talk around certain companies and how to go about the practices.
[00:15:49] I'm curious as to what's Stripe position on that and also the thinking behind it.
[00:15:55] Lisa: Yeah. I would say that in general, Stripe, like many companies is really trying to understand what is the best situation for folks currently. So right now we are still in a hybrid work environment and employees make the decision what days, or if they want to go into the office. We're calling this a year of experimentation.
[00:16:16] And so we don't yet have any hard and fast policies. We're going to see how people use the spaces that we have this year, and really try to understand again, how to best empower our employees and our business through, again, what might be a hybrid work environment, what might be an office. I think we're really trying to understand the business needs and the wants and desires of our employees and what allows them to be the most impactful.
[00:16:42] One of the things that we have seen though, or that I've seen and certainly like, this is not specific to Stripe. When I talk to my peers or when I talked to friends out in other industries, now that we're allowed to travel a little bit more and the world is opening up, there is this huge desire for connection.
[00:16:59] And so I am certainly noticing not only at Stripe, but most of my peers and colleagues external to Stripe are traveling a lot more than we did during that COVID. But there's just this need to see people. I heard it said the other day, I can't believe I get to see you in 3d. And it made me laugh because I was like, oh yeah, I guess that's true.
[00:17:20] Like I've only ever seen you on a screen. It's a very different way. Thankfully, we have Zoom. Gosh, if this pandemic had happened five or 10 years earlier, it would have been really difficult to do two years on conference calls, but I'm very thankful for video, but it is very different to be in a room with someone where you can kind of feel the energy and you get a chance to understand with a little bit richer context, what someone is trying to get across.
[00:17:44] So, like I said, I think we're just going to see people really trying to figure it out. It's been across the industry and see what makes the most sense for them.
[00:17:53] Qin En: That makes a lot of sense that I like the experimentation approach instead of just deterministically deciding we're going to do a, we're going to do B you really using the time to figure out what works best to observe and to work it out very collaboratively.
[00:18:06] I guess, Lisa, on this same note, what do you think are some of the challenges that parents in particular might face in transitioning back from a fully work from home into something that's a bit more in real life, hybrid, and even with travels?
[00:18:20] Lisa: Well, let me start with travel. I've been on one work trip to Europe already this year, and I head out to Southeast Asia next week and already my children again, who are a little bit older and remember when I was traveling, you know, before COVID already, they're kind of like, I don't want you to go mom. And I think that there is a little bit of that parental guilt for some of us, maybe not all of us, but for some of us, certainly that desire to make sure we're here. And, and it has been wonderful to be here for every single parent teacher conference and every single gymnastics meet and all of the things, every single Lego creation and art painting.
[00:18:58] But from a professional perspective, at least in my role, it is really helpful to see people in three dimensions and so, getting out there is an important part of my job. And so make sure that I'm having really great conversations with my kids about why I need to travel and what I'm getting out of that and why it's important has been useful.
[00:19:18] Depending on your children, that could be really tricky. And having those conversations again in an age appropriate way can be really tough. I also think that for those of us who have long commutes, my commute in Singapore is about 45 minutes door to door.
[00:19:33] Being able to have that hour and a half back in my house has been so nice. I am many days able to meet my kids' school bus when they come home and see them as they get off the bus. Now I might have to go back to a meeting after that, but I still like, I am physically there, even if my door's closed and I'm not accessible.
[00:19:50] And so some kids are more resilient than others and don't mind this, and some kids I remember talking to a parent that I worked with, who was explaining to me that during circuit breaker, they actually walked out of their house so that their child bought that they were leaving to go to work. And then they snuck back in the back door.
[00:20:11] And went into their room, into their office and like closed and locked the door and then couldn't come out until the end of the day. So they'd take their lunch and everything in with them so that their child wouldn't know that they were working at home. If you're going into the office, it's a slightly different experience than being at home.
[00:20:28] And it can be tricky any time we deal with change like that. We have to deal with the change with our children. We have to deal with the change with ourselves. We have to kind of rebalance our priorities.
[00:20:37] Qin En: Yeah, I think that's so true. And thanks for sharing. That's such an interesting story, right? I think that just shows the lengths that we as parents because of our very different circumstances do have to create and figure out what's best for our family, for our children.
[00:20:51] So building on top of that, Lisa, could you share a bit more of a, how Stripe fosters and helps, supports parents to go about this. I know we started today's conversation with a very particular example of that, which is bringing your kids to office, but I'm sure there's a lot more to it. We'd love to hear what are some of those.
[00:21:07] Lisa: So just to be clear, how we support parents, like just support parents in general is that-
[00:21:13] Qin En: Yes, it could be for the entire staff or the entire team, but perhaps things that parents especially appreciate.
[00:21:22] Lisa: Well, so at Stripe, we really want people to bring their whole and true selves to work. And so like many companies, we have employee resource groups and we have a parents group who is actually quite active.
[00:21:34] I found out about the summer camps that my kids are absolutely bananas about. And so having that community of people that you can ask questions, and there's a lot of kind of conversation there about different tools or different services, again, like creating that community for folks I think has been helpful. In the pre COVID times, we did have a pretty awesome kids at work day. I look forward to kind of figuring out how we do that again in the future, but it was definitely something that has been really important and produced central.
[00:22:06] But I think kind of on a broader perspective, when I think about what employers can do, besides creating flexibility for people, making sure that employees know that if you need to take time off to go, or if you need to take part of your day and block your schedule so that you can go and attend a parent teacher conference, you absolutely should do that.
[00:22:25] Yeah. And those things, which I think are kind of table stakes in my mind, I think there's also making sure that we're supporting our employees through benefits. So my son actually was diagnosed with celiac disease and there's a whole host of things that you have to do when that happens. And we've been able to get a ton of really incredible support through Stripe for that for him, which has been great.
[00:22:48] And I think that again, making sure that we're supporting not only kids' physical health, but their mental health and also making sure that we're able to support parents. We have kind of wellness money that parents are able to use. I actually just this morning paid for my kids' summer camp with some of that wellness money.
[00:23:05] And so making sure that we're thinking about the whole family unit and their entire wellness, because I think for those of us, for many of us as parents, it's not just ourselves that's important. We think about the family as kind of a complete unit. And so thinking about that, if I had to pick one thing that employers really should be doing, it's making sure that we provide that flexibility and making sure that parents know that they have the ability to attend the doctor's appointments, you know, in the middle of the day, if they need to that, if their child is sick, that you have the ability to take the day off and stay with your child and make sure that they're well, that those types of things can and should come first.
[00:23:41] Qin En: Absolutely. And I think normalizing the sort process, making it, such that these practices, this initiative, this benefits. But more importantly, it is okay and in fact, encourage the parents and not just parents, but the entire Stripe team should use it. I think that it's really quite important and valuable.
[00:23:59] So looking back at this journey as both a parent and a people leader, what would you say it's one lesson that you have learned as a parent in tech?
[00:24:09] Lisa: Oh my gosh. It's actually been a recent one that I'll share with you. And I'm sure there's a million lessons that I've learned. And if I haven't learned a million things then I'm probably not paying close enough attention. A really recent one that I've learned is actually I have recently started riding horses again, which is not necessarily related to me being a parent although hopefully my children will get into that too.
[00:24:30] But I recently started riding horses again and in order to do that, the lesson time that was available was Friday mornings and it's pretty early because it gets hot here in Singapore and the horses don't like to sweat too much, which is fair.
[00:24:43] I wouldn't want to either, so it's pretty early, but in order for me to go and ride and then kind of clean up and be back in the office or back in my home to work, it takes a little bit of time. And so I have a hard do not schedule block on Friday mornings. And I was really worried when I talked to my manager.
[00:24:59] I mean, besides being in the people team and telling everybody that they needed to be flexible and that was okay. It was still hard to ask for that. However, my manager was really encouraging. She was terrific about it and I put the schedule block on and I said, you know, it's Stripe. We would say DNS, or do not schedule.
[00:25:17] And it's actually been really, really impressive to me. The support that I've gotten from other Stripe, who've been impressed that. A, I have felt empowered to kind of have a block that I won't move meetings for. And then I'm taking that time, and also then people who are just really curious and want to find out about this, like, oh my gosh, there's horses in Singapore.
[00:25:36] I had no idea. Tell me about that. And just that intellectual curiosity and engagement from others inside the company to me at least has shown how normalizing it is. But that lesson that I've taken away has really been that being smart about drawing those lines and creating those boundaries for yourself and making sure that you have them and explain them to people.
[00:25:59] If I had just put like a big, do not schedule on my calendar and like not told anyone and just not been there for half a day, Friday, like that, probably people would have been asked some questions. But being open and honest about that, I think actually folks have been really appreciative of seeing someone draw that line.
[00:26:15] I would just say embrace the flexibility is the lesson I've learned.
[00:26:19] Qin En: Absolutely embrace it and communicate openly. Right? I think that was what really worked for you. Lisa, thank you so much for taking time off to join us on the show today. If some of the audience would like to connect with you, how can we best do so?
[00:26:32] Lisa: Best to find me is on LinkedIn so Lisa Harris at Stripe, there are a lot of Lisa Harris's, but I'm the only one at Stripe right now. So look forward.
[00:26:40] Qin En: Wonderful. We might include your LinkedIn profile in. Well, thank you so much. Once again, Lisa, for joining us on the show, such a joy to speak with you.
[00:26:48] Lisa: Thank you so much.
[00:26:54] Qin En: Thanks for listening to the Parents in Tech podcast with me, your host Qin En. We hope you were inspired on how to raise kids and build companies. To catch up on earlier episodes or stay updated with upcoming ones. Head over to www.parents.fm to join our community of parents in tech. There, you can also drop me a question, idea, feedback or suggestion. Once again, the website it's www.parents.fm. That's all for this episode, folks.
[00:27:29] See you next time.