IWD2021 – Mikki Teodoro-Manabat: The Work-Life Balance Is an Elusive Concept – the Ultimate Unicorn

The theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) 2021 is: “A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.” A big challenge for many of us in 2020 and 2021 has been mental health, and maintaining a work/life balance.

Mikki Teodoro-Manabat, Global Lead for HSE Performance at SGS, is challenging the idea that showing emotion is mistaken as weakness. “I feel so powerful and intelligent when I am able to work with empathy and mindfulness,” she says. “I want to take control of this narrative. One can be professional, reliable, and efficient and still be – above all – hu(wo)man. [I want] For my children to continue seeing that there is strength in being true to oneself.”

At Intelex, we celebrate the accomplishments of womxn every day, and during the month of March, we are profiling employees, partners and customers as a way to celebrate IWD2021.

What is your name, title and company?

My name is Mikki Teodoro-Manabat, I am the Global Lead for HSE Performance, Analytics and IT Programs at SGS since 2012.

I’m a mother of two and proud Asian expat living in the UAE for the last 14 years. I am outgoing and social, and I keep up with contemporary/pop culture the best I can. I will always prefer staying in on weekends and watching reality shows over going out but on certain occasions, I also enjoy outdoor activities, especially during good weather. I am a loyal friend and I treasure my little family that I have proudly made with my amazing husband, Jeff.

How did you become in involved with EHSQ and/or technology?

I started my career in EHS back in 2009. The company I worked for at the time was building their EHS management system from the ground up. A seasoned EHS professional took a chance on me as an assistant, a newbie with zero EHS experience but who has an all-around action-girl can-do attitude to offer.

A few years later, I was hired by my current company to do what I did in my previous job, but this time on a larger scale. Building an EHS management system in a 100 FTE (full-time employee) company and moving to a 95,000 FTE company is quite a big leap, to say the least. I was involved in the end-to-end implementation of the tool, starting as an advisor and lately, involved more on the analytics, performance, and technical IT management.

In your career, what have you decided to #ChooseToChallenge?

I choose to challenge myself. I was brought up in a household where it is deemed disrespectful to speak up too much, that one must always wait for their turn to talk and that being too assertive gets you in trouble, etc. It is not easy to break out of this cultural construct, only recently I came to realize that I am my own success preventor, if that is a word, because of this tough upbringing.

Working in a male-dominated industry does not make this challenge any easier. I am thankful to belong in a professional community where my voice is valued and heard but there are times when the shadow of my own making regresses my capacities. It’s still an everyday struggle and a challenge I have yet to fully conquer. But so long as I keep choosing to challenge myself, I know I will be in the right direction.

What were your greatest challenges – personally or professionally – in 2020?

Professionally, surviving a dual-role capacity working for two high-demand/high-performing teams (Analytics/Performance Management and IT). It is quite a unique role to fill. In a perfect world, it is a 50-50 split of time, but that has never been the case as most days it feels like 100-100, which is very tricky to maintain. The hours are long and the deliverables are complex, but the professional development is undoubtedly worth it.

Personally, all that and home-schooling two children ages 6 and 8 [has been a challenge]. In many ways, I’m practically running a mad house 24/7. All morning, it’s teacher Mommy and afternoon to late hours, it’s working Mommy. In between, I try to inhale food and a ridiculous amount of coffee, and if lucky – have a few minutes to detangle my hair.

What was the primary learning(s) from 2020 that you brought with you into 2021?

I got to questioning the work/life balance theory. For me, it has always been an elusive concept. It’s the ultimate unicorn of all.

The year 2020 taught me to aim for work-life rhythm. My personal and professional lives have always fought each other for territory in the last 10 years of my life. I have been working from home since 2011, which I believe makes me a tad qualified to say that under these circumstances, balancing is unrealistic. It will never be balanced because work will never be as equally important to me as spending time with family and friends – no way. Instead, I aim for a healthy rhythm, a constant pattern of prioritization and boundaries of which I intend to continue in 2021.

What are you focusing on in 2021?

I am focusing on accepting that I cannot do it all and be at multiple places at the same time (figuratively because… pandemic), and that I and everyone should be okay with that.

I am focusing on recognizing that my mental health must come first before anything else, and to continue with coaching sessions that have been so monumentally helpful for me in understanding myself more.

Being able to communicate and vocalize my wants as importantly as my needs and be prepared to receive.

How are you rising to the challenges found in the new year and what do you hope to accomplish?

I feel like it’s too early to say how I am rising to the challenges this year, but here’s how I plan to rise to any potential tribulations: 5 by 5 rule + disconnection.

5+5 Rule: I ask myself: Is this thing I’m worried about going to matter in the next 5 years? If yes, then I must do whatever I can within my reach to address it and make it better. But if not, why bother?

Disconnection in many ways helps the mind to reboot by meditation or prayer, I find that I am more able to rationalize when I have had some moments of silence and stillness. Disconnection must not be mistaken for deferment or retreat. It’s simply a moment to prepare for takeoff.

Finally, on the more specific side of accomplishments, I want to stop accepting meeting invitations past my working hours, especially on Fridays. This I think will be the toughest accomplishment to check off.

Other IWD2021 Blogs:

This entry was posted in EHSQ, Health & Safety Management and tagged , by Sandy Smith. Bookmark the permalink.

About Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the Global EHSQ Content Lead for Intelex Technologies. Formerly the Content Director for EHS Today, she has been writing about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990. Her work as a journalist and editor has been recognized with national and international awards. She has been interviewed about occupational safety and health for national business publications, documentaries and television programs; has served as a panelist on roundtables; and has provided the keynote address for occupational safety and health conferences.

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