For working parents, it can be tricky to figure out a work-life balance that works for them and their families. And now, many parents are working from home alongside their children, making it even more challenging to navigate through work and family life.
We caught up with one of the many working dads at Dunkin’ Brands, Gagan, Vice President of IT Store Systems, to learn more about his experiences as a working parent and father of two.
Q: Thanks for joining us, Gagan! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Dunkin' Brands?
I’ve been with Dunkin’ Brands for almost five years. I joined the company in May 2016 as Director of IT Store Systems. After a year-and-a-half, I became a Senior Director, and now, two years later, I am Vice President of IT Store Systems. My team and I are responsible for all aspects of in-store technology for both Dunkin' and Baskin-Robbins. This includes the continued rollout of Dunkin' Brands' Retail Systems Vendor Program (RSVP) and other technology enhancements in Dunkin's next-generation design restaurants, such as digital drive-thru menu boards, order confirmation boards, kiosks and other new and emerging technologies to be implemented in the coming years.
I have two kids, a 6-year-old, Riya, and a 2-year-old, Tanya. Riya is starting first grade this fall and Tanya is going to continue running around the house.
Q: What did you do prior to working at Dunkin’ Brands? What made you want to join Dunkin’ Brands?
Prior to Dunkin’ Brands, I worked for a retail management consulting company where I was leading the technology department. I was doing a lot of travel, and I knew I wanted to stay closer to my kids, especially while they were young. I made a personal decision to take on a new role at a different company where my travel is more manageable.
Besides wanting a role that traveled less, there were a few reasons why I wanted to join Dunkin’ Brands.
First, the brands are so recognizable. When you say Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins, everyone knows who you work for. Also, there is so much growth opportunity for the brands.
Another reason is the amount of opportunity at Dunkin’ Brands. I’ve had good career progression over the past few years with the company, and I’ve noticed that at Dunkin’ Brands it’s important to recognize employee contributions and to make sure work is recognized and rewarded. It’s awesome!
Last but not least, the half-day Fridays offer the work-life balance that not many companies can provide. Some companies have half-day Fridays during the summers but having it year-round gives me that extra undivided attention with my kids, and I look forward to it every Friday afternoon.
From what I’ve experienced and learned about the Dunkin’ Brands culture, it’s one of the best places to work. We have been named one of the Best Places to Work for LGBTQ equality by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Dunkin’ Brands is open to, and embraces, diversity and fosters a culture where people can grow.
Q: As a working parent, how have you managed the summer and the upcoming school year?
I’m working from my basement, but my basement has no door! We like to pretend there’s an imaginary line that appears when daddy’s in the basement so the kids don’t come running in. We’ve established these imaginary lines, but, as many working parents know, they don’t always work. I’m sure at some point Tanya will come running to see what’s going on and join me on a virtual meeting!
For the fall, we’ve enrolled Riya into hybrid schooling where her class splits time between being in the classroom and being remote at home.
Because of the pandemic, everyone has had to become innovative and creative in all aspects – whether it’s businesses or families. Riya has become more technology-dependent as a result.
As parents, we didn’t have an option but to teach her how to use video conferencing tools and teach her how to use the features of video calls, like how to mute and unmute herself. It’s gotten to the point where she’s learned how to login to my email to find the link to join virtual calls and sessions.
There are times as a parent where you need to pay attention to what’s happening in the class to see if your child is paying attention. Lucky for me, my wife is working remotely as well, and we work together to make sure Riya is as engaged in her remote schooling as she would be in-person.
Q: How would you say Dunkin’ Brands has supported you as a working parent?
This is an unprecedented situation; moving to a completely remote, work-from-home schedule was new to a lot of people. I’m grateful to work for an organization that has been, and continues to be, incredibly supportive. We are trusted to make the decisions necessary to balance work and home. The well-being of our employees and their families have been front and center during these challenging times. I really appreciate that.
From a technology and culture standpoint, Dunkin’ Brands understands and knows that most working parents are trying to juggle multiple things at once – some have children at home, some at childcare, some are without childcare. And with that, there is no expectation that you should be on your laptop 24/7. As long as the work is being done and you’re able to have a good work-life balance, there is no expectation that you have to work like that.
Q: What advice would you give someone, who is a working parent trying to grow their career?
As we all move through the pandemic, what I found personally is that the lines between work and personal life are kind of blurred. I see it with myself, my wife, a lot of people I speak with, and also with my team. It’s important to establish a line, otherwise you get burnt out. It’s okay to sometimes let work bleed into personal life, but it shouldn’t be every day.
Prior to the pandemic, most folks would leave the office between 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. The lines have become more blurred because people are working all sorts of hours now. It’s important to find some balance.
It’s also important that the hallway conversations we had in the office are replaced with casual virtual conversations. We can use the technology to help us find time to have coffee talks. This helps us find some sort of normalcy in this new working environment.
From a career growth stand point, it’s important to outline and know what your long-term career path is. Think about where you want to be three or four years from now, then outline the path you need to take in order to get there. What are the things you need to accomplish or what are the things you want to learn in order to broaden your experience?
Try to map out opportunities leading up to the next four years, and ask yourself: “can it get you where you want to go?” Work with your manager on it and have those conversations. Once you have that, think how can you add value to the business and try to prioritize your work based on that.
Lastly, take calculated risks. Sometimes you fail and that’s okay. That’s how you learn. It’s a stepping stone to success.