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Mar 31, 2004
Career Climber

How to Be a Manager-level Marketer When You Only Want to Work Part-time: Consider Job-sharing

SUMMARY: No summary available.
Part-time marketing jobs are hard to come by, especially beyond entry-level. If your company needs a marketing director or VP, you can bet they'll require (at the least) a 40-hour work week.

But if you're interested in part-time, consider job-sharing.

For the past eight years - and for three different employers - marketers Terry Braga and Jean Wnuk have worked part-time on different days of the week to fulfill a single job. We talked with them on how they manage job sharing -- and whether it's worth it.

How job-sharing works for Jean and Terry

Currently Jean and Terry share a single Web/e-Marketing Programs Manager position for Learning Express, a franchiser of specialty toy stores.

"It's our job to be so in tune with what's going on that if you tell Terry something on Monday it's not your job to tell me on Wednesday," Jean says. If other employees or bosses need to repeat themselves, the job share isn't working.

o Logistics

Terry works Monday through Wednesday; Jean, Wednesday through Friday. They share an office and a single phone line, though they each have their own desk and computer.

They also each have their own email address, along with a joint email address. And they copy each other on every email they send, even it it's only to confirm a meeting that will take place on a day the other partner isn't scheduled to be there.

Strategic meetings are generally scheduled on Wednesdays. For anything else, "We just schedule it for when it's convenient, because the whole point is we're supposed to work like one person," says Terry.

They take turns taking the lead on different projects. "One month, I'll do all the email [campaigns], one month Jean does all the emails," Terry says. "There'll be cases where we're looking for outside solutions, an email provider or Web developer, so one of us will take the lead, do all the research and make recommendations."

Other jobs are divided between the two in a consistent way. For example, getting new products up on the Web site: Jean handles the products that are currently stocked in stores, while Terry handles the large-item products that are drop-shipped from vendors.

Because their employer is getting essentially six days of work, Jean and Terry are each paid three-fifths of a full-time salary for a single Web/e-Marketing Programs Manager. They each get three-fifths comp time. They don't get benefits.

Reviews are done separately, but raises have been "pretty much consistent," says Terry.


o Staying in touch

When they leave the office at the end of their week, they send extensive emails that outline what they completed during the week and what the other one needs to complete.

In addition to those running to-do lists, Jean and Terry are almost obsessive about maintaining contact so that nothing falls through the cracks:

--Sunday phone calls
For about an hour every Sunday night, they go over Jean's week (Wed-Fri) and she fills Terry in on everything she needs to know.

--Daily phone calls
Throughout the week, they often speak on the phone. "If something's going on that's big enough, [Jean] will call me and bounce it off me," Terry says.

--Wednesday brainstorming
On Wednesdays, the two overlap, so they have the opportunity to work together in person. That's Terry's chance to fill Jean in on everything from her week.

"We talk about open issues, strategize on things that are going on, go back and forth on how different things should be done, then talk it out to see how to proceed on different projects," Jean says.

How they got started

Jean and Terry each had backgrounds in the high-tech industry doing product management before they both landed at a computer retailer, PCs Complete, at the same time.

"We both worked there full-time doing product management and marketing," Jean recalls. "When I got pregnant with my first child, Terry asked me if I'd be interested in coming back part-time and sharing the job."

They put together a proposal describing the benefits from an employer's point of view (two heads are better than one, no benefits to pay, complementary strengths) and pitched it to management.

Their boss liked the idea, and that first gig together lasted until the company was acquired by Comp USA, when everyone was relocated to Dallas.

"We went out each with our own resumes and job hunted," Jean recalls. "At the point we got an interview, we would talk about the fact that one of the reasons we've been so successful was that it was a collaborative team."

The second job-share they landed was doing marketing initiatives for a small, executive search firm. At that job, they had only one desk, one computer. And they alternated Wednesdays, so they never actually worked together.

When the market went south and the company laid off Jean and Terry along with most of its recruiters, Jean decided to target Learning Express.

"I targeted the company because it's close to my home," she explains. "I live in a boonie section of Massachusetts, far from cities." Jean had also read about the woman who owned the company. "It was really intriguing to me," she says.

She didn't have any contacts at the company, but wrote a compelling enough letter of interest (in which she did *not* mention the job-share) that she got an interview.

"I mentioned as soon as I met them that one of the reasons I've been able to accomplish what I had was because I have a partner. The president at the time was so into it," Jean says. "He was like, 'By the time you come on Wednesdays, you're raring to go, you come into the office fresh and ready to be there.'"

Four challenges of job-sharing

#1. Hours are longer than you might think

Both employees end up working more than 24 hours. "I read my email from home daily," says Terry. If she did that Monday morning, "It's redundant, it's a loss for the company."

There's also the hour they spend talking on Sunday nights, and extra phone calls throughout the week, when necessary.

"When I leave on Friday night, I need to have everything in place for Terry to pick up Monday morning," says Jean. "So if there's a project hanging halfway, I'll finish it [Friday night] or over the weekend. When you do a pass, things have to be in the right format, so you do end up putting in more hours."

#2. Inevitably you'll disagree on something

Occasionally, says Jean, "We'll get into a competitive situation where one of us happens to be the person who's handed a special project that's cool. Because [Terry] is the one there, she gets to take the lead."

"There have been a few instances where Jean will decide to do something one particular way and I don't necessarily agree, after the fact," Terry says. "In general she supports what I decide and vice versa, but there have been a few cases where I haven't agreed with what she's done."

#3. Shared ownership

Because every task is shared, "You can never really pat yourself on the back," Jean says. "You have to have a good ego."

#4. Things slip through the cracks
This happens less often than you might think. Still, on rare occasions, "someone comes up to me on Monday or Tuesday and something has slipped through the cracks and I don't know about it," Terry says. "That doesn't look good for us, so I call Jean and we try to find out what happened and make sure it doesn't happen again."


3 job-sharing joys

#1. Flexible hours

Although Jean and Terry work on their days off, they both agree that it's worth it. "The luxury is, they're my own hours," Jean says. "When the kids are asleep, I can log onto the network."

#2. Friendly competition

"We drive each other on because we keep up this running to-do list," says Terry. "When we pass it off to each other, we want to feel that we've accomplished something. You see the other person doing a great job and you want to do a great job."

#3. Complementing strengths

"Terry is a very organized thinker, almost more operationally," says Jean. "I'm more creative. Sometimes I go too far out and she reigns me back in. Her organizational skills help me, and my creative skills help her think outside the box."


Will they keep doing it?

Absolutely.

"It really is a great situation," Terry says. "The key is you have to have someone you can work well with, who has the same work ethic as you do. Otherwise it wouldn't work."

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