The Inspiring Tales of How the 2021 Working Dads of the 12 months Give Again
Jonathan Ebbers, Consulting Services Manager, athenahealth
athenaMoms started in 2011 as an informal email chain for new moms as athenahealth was a fast-moving, growing company. Over the years it grew into a formalized ERG evolving into athenaParents and then athenaFamilies as the group continued to strive for inclusion. Despite the name changes, the ERG leaders struggled to expand programming and support beyond a preschool parent focus. The leaders had young kids, and newborns and babies were top of mind for many employees. In 2018, athenahealth was purchased and merged with a spinoff of GE Healthcare. With this merger, athenahealth added 1,250 employees, many with 10, 20, 30 years of tenure at GE. This almost 25 percent increase in the employee base brought with them new parenting values and challenges. As one of the athenaFamilies co-chairs, I went to one of the old GE offices in Burlington, Vermont on a beautiful fall day in 2019. I was there with other ERG leaders to pitch ERG involvement to the newly integrated employees. We all received a warm reception, but as few employees in that office had children at home, athenaFamilies wasn’t quite in demand. But shortly after I returned home, a dad named Jonathan Ebbers reached out to me directly and said that he couldn’t stop thinking about our presentation. He had three daughters under 6 at home and mentioned that our event on screentime for teenagers had resonated with him as he watched technology becoming a bigger part of their lives. He would love additional guidance on that for his girls. From that moment on, Jonathan has been an amazing addition to the athenaFamilies leadership team. Jonathan has done a great service at representing the needs of caregivers of older children, providing a varied perspective on caregiver issues and advocating from a different lens than the many mothers on the team. He has also almost single-handedly represented an entire office location and advocated for their needs. In 2020, along with many, many others, Jonathan transitioned to working from home while homeschooling. While athenaFamilies immediately reacted with scheduling and childcare advice, Jonathan found a women-owned consulting firm to deliver webinars focused on the real needs of parents, not just another 100 tips and tricks. The first webinar that athenahealth hosted, “The Science of Motivation‚” focused on maintaining the parent-child relationship while motivating kids for virtual learning. This immediately became the highest-attended athenaFamilies meeting of all time and earned rave reviews! Jonathan quickly parlayed this into a webinar series with each installment seeing record attendance. Most recently, athenaFamilies jointly hosted intersectional webinars with other ERGs: athenaDiversity hosted one for talking to kids about race, and the Women’s Leadership Forum hosted a webinar around disrupting gender bias in children, all of which Jonathan took lead in coordinating. None of these great events would’ve happened without Jonathan’s tenacity and leadership. He works so hard to help other parents and caregivers at athenahealth, most notably in a year when everyone and everything has been in flux. Jonathan was able to look beyond helping his family unit thrive to find ways to make other working families successful as well. As a leadership group, we are incredibly thankful to have him on our team.
Brian Wagner, Team Leader – Creative Strategy and Digital Experience, Blue Cross NC
Brian is a single father of three teenage boys. Last year, he sent his oldest off to college, only to bring him back home when the COVID pandemic hit. During the pandemic, Brian upped his home’s bandwidth and had all three sons studying and taking online classes, while he worked from home as well. Through the pandemic, I watched Brian juggle work, manage the household, parent his kids, help them with their homework, and do family projects together—like building a 100-foot homemade slip n’ slide in their front yard on a hot summer day! A few years ago, with his sons in mind, he wrote and illustrated a children’s book, Sharkfest, available on Amazon & Audible. And finally, another thing that Brian does with his oldest son is give blood. Brian is one of the top donors in the state—he hasn’t missed an opportunity in almost 10 years. He has O-negative blood, the universal donor type. This allows him to do “Power Red donations” (i.e., spending a little more time each donation so he can donate two units of red cells per appointment), allowing him to have twice the impact of a regular blood donor.
Randy Wills, Provider Solutions & Operations Director of Operating Effectiveness, Cigna Corp.
Being a parent at Cigna means a lot of things, but overall it means that I have a network of resources available to me. I am a father of two daughters, 12 and 10. My oldest was adopted from Russia when my wife was pregnant with our youngest at the same time. I joined Cigna seven years ago and found that Cigna has a wealth of information and resources available for people of all walks of life, including being a working father like myself. I had heard of Cigna’s Enterprise Resource Groups (ERGs), but didn’t really pay them much attention. Half a year or so ago, I attended a meeting and learned about the Generations ERG, which had a focus on family and parenting, and decided to apply to be the co-lead of that pillar within the ERG. I was interviewed and accepted the co-lead position and it has been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun and very rewarding. I have personally created dozens of blogs and helped organize webinars to bring pertinent information such as managing finances, juggling family life during the pandemic, and recently coordinated with our Pride ERG to host a panel discussing parenting transgender children. One of my favorite things is writing my recurring “Working Dad” blog post where I provide thoughts on what it means to be a working dad and solicit advice and feedback from our employee community. A recent blog post was sharing and soliciting corny dad jokes. These blogs are read by hundreds of employees, and the comments and engagement are encouraging to know that I can help other working parents with resources, suggestions, and a bit of humor. I love that Cigna supports and encourages employees to join these ERGs which provide a wealth of education, support and resources for all employees.
Edgar Rosillo, Senior Manager, Deloitte Tax LLP, Deloitte LLP
My name is Edgar Rosillo, a Mexican-American, CPA, husband, proud father of a 2-year-old boy and a 13-month-old girl, Tax Senior Manager at Deloitte Tax, LLP, President of the Dallas chapter for the Association of Latino Professionals for America, and a Sunday school teacher. As a parent, I take pride in admitting to availing myself of my full, allowed paternity leave for both of my toddlers. It wasn’t an easy road mentally, and it took courage and coaching be in such a spot. The negative self-talk making me question the need to be off from work, the remorse of leaving the team I lead empty-handed, and the perception of my work ethic among my colleagues and supervisors made me feel they were all stacked against me. I began researching if I was alone in these thoughts and realized other parents were plagued by these same doubts. As with many soon-to-be dads, at first, I didn’t even know who to tell or how to tell my teams that my wife and I were pregnant, much less have the conversation with my boss that I’d be out 12-plus weeks. Luckily, I work for an amazing organization that helped me navigate the situation. I received coaching from leaders at Deloitte who all delivered the same calming message: “Paid Family Leave is a benefit for a reason and we fully support it.” They fostered the courage I needed to squash all my negativity and work toward prioritizing my family first. I learned to communicate and engage my teams to present the growth opportunity that my leave would mean for them. I appreciate my engagement team leaders for their support and how they worked to strengthen our relationship during the time leading up to my leave. I realized my high-performing brand wouldn’t be tarnished and my goal of progressing through the organization wouldn’t be diminished; quite frankly, I’ve come to realize the opposite! Ultimately, the weeks spent watching my little ones grow up were simply invaluable (though they may drive me completely insane at times!). Today, as a leader in my organization and community, I unabashedly share my story and encourage parents to properly avail themselves of their organization’s resources.
Colin Spector, Business Operations Manager, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
It’s impossible for me to discuss my journey as a parent without emphasizing the outsized impact that raising a child with special needs has had on me. This experience has taught me the enormous amount of variety that parenting and family responsibilities in general can introduce into people’s lives, and that there truly is no one-size-fits-all approach to work or parenting that suits everyone. As a leader, my goal is to offer that flexibility for my team, and more broadly, to destigmatize the impact caregiving has on our careers, and be an advocate for cultural change. I try to reflect this experience by empowering other caregivers, modeling this flexibility with and for my team, and sharing my experience more broadly with other leaders so they can best understand how caregiving impacts individuals, and how we can create a culture of understanding and support. As a board member of FRoG, our family resource group, I started the ABLE Families Community Circle, a group dedicated to sharing experiences and resources for parents and caregivers of people with special needs. We share articles and information and support each other in becoming advocates for ourselves and our colleagues, and by celebrating everything that our families are capable of. As a team leader, I am intimately familiar with how unpredictable life can be, and so I strive to provide my team the time and support they need to attend to their family obligations while trusting they can continue to meet milestones and deadlines. At an organizational level, I strive to enact cultural change through transparency in my own story. By sharing my own experiences, I seek to teach other leaders how best to support others experiencing similar life circumstances. I believe that through understanding and flexibility, we as an organization can not only honor the diversity of our individual experiences, but also provide one another the tools for individual and group success.
Adam Biehl, Senior Vice President & General Manager Global Brands, Hasbro, Inc.
I work with superheroes every day as I lead Hasbro’s Action Brands division. But as we’re often reminded, real-life superheroes don’t wear capes, yet it’s these heroes who’ve impacted me the most as a working dad. My heroes are my wife, Andrea, and daughters Grace, 7, and Juliette, 3, who lift me up in so many ways, and Hasbro employees who’ve remained supportive as I’ve navigated life’s challenges. At just 16 months-old, my son Finley gained his angel wings, passing away from complications related to an extremely rare genetic disorder called Bohring-Opitz Syndrome. His spirit lives on in all of us, especially in his sisters. Grace is amazing, playing games with her is one of my greatest joys. And Juliette, who despite living with Bohring-Opitz Syndrome and the complex care she receives, is part of everything we do as a family. My family’s story has shaped me as a person and as a leader. I’ve been shown great empathy from my executives and my teammates as I’ve taken multiple leaves of absence and required flexibility to manage a complicated home life. I try to lead with these same values, offering flexibility, showing understanding, and setting realistic expectations. We support our employees without judgement and encourage parents to be present, especially during the most difficult times. Support, both inside and outside of work, has been critical to our family as we’ve navigated healthcare and hospitals. But I’ve realized through these experiences that not everyone has that same support, and through Hasbro’s volunteer opportunities, recognized that this is critically needed in the foster care system as well. As a member of Foster Forward’s Board of Directors, I work to empower those impacted by foster care and help to build those necessary support systems. Like most working dads, I do my best to balance career, philanthropy, and family, but I couldn’t do it alone—it truly takes a band of superheroes! Hasbro employees live by their values, and I’m proud to represent an organization that has enabled me to grow my career doing what I enjoy while living life with the family I love.
Andrew C Lewis, Partner, Audit, KPMG LLP
To help KPMG’s foster and adoptive parents connect, I launched the national Foster Care and Adoptive Parent Network with the sponsorship of KPMG’s Network of Women. I was motivated to help connect together prospective and current foster and adoptive parents to share their experiences, ask questions about foster care and adoption, and connect while we’re physically separated. There are so many children in this country and around the world who need care, and over the past year, COVID has forced many of them out of schools and back into unsafe or neglectful homes. All children need love, safety and stability, and they deserve the best of us. If they’re not experiencing those things in their current situation, they need us to provide it for them, so I hope that other families, couples and single adults will consider foster care and adoption as a way to support these children. Before becoming a parent, I didn’t appreciate the impact the first few years a child’s life has on their long-term well-being, but I’ve witnessed first-hand that providing a safe, loving home to a child in their most formative years has a tremendous lifelong impact on them. Being a foster family has also given my children a greater appreciation for situations outside of their own experiences; they have a broader view of what it means to be a family and build a lifetime of service to others. And with a toddler in our home, my wife and I are a little less spontaneous with travel and schedules, but there are no words to describe the joy we feel knowing that we’re helping a child who has come out of a difficult situation and is now in our home.
Eric Portlock, Managing Director, Protiviti
When my wife, Michele, and I began dating 10 years ago, Brielle was 9, Sawyer was 7, and Drew was 4. She lived in the Bay Area while I lived in Denver, so as I made the weekly flights to visit her on the weekends, I would read books on step-parenting and blended families. Michele would laugh at me as she picked me up from the airport and I would nervously explain the daunting challenges and scary future these books portrayed regarding the challenges of blended families. Fortunately, it hasn’t felt nearly as difficult as those books portrayed. A couple years into our marriage, first Brielle and then Drew were diagnosed with autism. Our youngest, Grace, also demonstrates certain attributes of special needs. As parents, we did our best to educate ourselves on autism—the challenges, parenting techniques and available resources. We already knew our children and the diagnosis didn’t change them, but it helped explain what they were experiencing and helped us find tools to make their lives easier. Michele went back to school to pursue a Master’s degree in special education and I tried to learn as much as I could from her. The experiences of our own family, of friends we made along the way and all we have learned have developed into a life passion to increase opportunities for those with special needs and provide support to their caregivers. Children with special needs have so much to offer society and the workforce if their unique talents and gifts can be encouraged. I’m fortunate to work for Protiviti which shares this commitment to inclusion and, together with other Protiviti leaders, I’m actively engaged in building internal programs that focus on supporting coworkers who may themselves have different abilities or be caregivers to those who do. As I want a future for my children where they have professional opportunities to maximize their talents and skills, it’s extremely rewarding to see firms like Protiviti help shape that future.
Scott J Diep, Partner-Channel Management, Verizon
In this world of people divided, I want to help us have more empathy for one another and lift up those in need. I am constantly looking for ways to spread love throughout the community and beyond, whether it’s self-love or spreading love through charitable givebacks. Anything I can do, no matter how big or small, can help to bring the world together. My efforts began by simply wearing a tee-shirt. I wore a shirt that said “All Love” that made people smile or spark a conversation with me. People started asking about the shirt and where they could purchase one. I began printing a few here and there, and as the demand increased, I decided to start a small company called All Love Mission. I partnered with a few friends to continue growing the business, which led to a few charitable givebacks. These givebacks included providing free Zoom workouts during the COVID pandemic, donating over 300 sandwiches to McKenna’s Wagon (a daily food truck that serves the homeless and hungry), and collecting close to 1,000 pieces of clothing during a coat drive in December to Martha’s Table (provides educational programs, food and clothing to the disadvantaged) in D.C. These grassroots efforts to give back helped my team and I get to know more about one another, understand each other’s own stories, and develop a strong bond. My oldest child Kyrie’s first sight words were “All Love‚” and he joined me during giveback prep work and local shirt drop-offs. He has learned the importance of spreading love and how it can impact people in all walks of life. I am proud and grateful that my children can experience first-hand with their family the joy of giving back and sharing their love with those in need.
Sunny Singh, Executive Director, Strategic Planning & Operations, Office of CEO, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
When the pandemic hit and we were suddenly stuck at home without childcare for our 3 year-old and 8 month-old daughters, my wife Manleen and I were suddenly scrambling to tag team home daycare with two demanding jobs. As a business attorney at a local law firm, Manleen’s work was project-based with occasional meetings and, of course, the pressure of meeting her billable hours. Conversely, my job, managing a team of six and serving on the leadership team for a patient services team of 120, largely revolved around meetings. Both of us are passionate about our kids and careers, so we sought a creative solution to ensure we could both continue to be productive under the circumstances. We shared a weekly calendar, which varied week to week, where I marked off the approximately three to five one-hour blocks each day where I wasn’t in meetings. That’s when I was on Daddy duty so Mommy could get her work done. Not surprisingly, we both ended up working a few more hours each evening once the kids were asleep. Somehow, we managed to preserve our professional passion, our passion for our amazingly resilient daughters, and grew even closer to each other because of the understanding and care we showed one another. We look back on it fondly because we got invaluable time with our kids and miraculously managed to continue delivering for our respective work teams. It also set two important examples: 1.) for my team, that it was OK to prioritize family and get work done around your own schedule; 2.) for our daughters, that they saw both parents working and both parents bonding with them.
J Norris, MD, Hospitalist, Wellstar Health System
Giving back, working hard and loving family: J Norris’ nominators, wife and children say these things make him a model working dad. “J loves our family,” said his wife, Mary Beth. “He works hard to make connections to each of our boys (Jackson, 19, Thomas, 16, and Cooper, 13) and keep up with their current interests. He is dependable, thoughtful and always puts others first.” Putting others first is what led J to medicine. He was a high school social studies teacher, then a private wealth manager. While serving as missions chair at his church, he volunteered with Medical Mission Unlimited, traveling to small villages in the mountains of southern Mexico. He then felt a calling to pursue medicine. “Luckily I have a great, supportive wife and forgiving children as we started the process of going to medical school,” J said. He served as a resident at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital for three years and just completed his first year as a hospitalist. During this first year, he volunteered for the COVID team of inpatient physicians. “I had great experiences and sad ones,” said J. “I could tell my boys were proud of what I was doing and they gave me the energy to work the long hours and days.” J’s nominators say he’s known for treating Kennestone’s residents to ice cream and for his dad jokes. He’s also known for aiming to never miss one of his children’s games. “Kennestone has been supportive of me taking time for my family and has allowed me to attend a couple of state championships, with co-workers covering for me. I’ve also taken naps at practices and worked long days and late nights. You find a way to make time because you’re a dad and that’s what you do. This award shows Wellstar’s commitment to work-family balance.” J commutes to Kennestone from his family’s Rome home and volunteers with them at a local food pantry, all while maintaining a sunny disposition, even during tough times, according to his nominators. “I know we all have problems, but I try to leave those at the door when I walk into the hospital,” J said. “Sure, I have struggles, but when compared to those of some patients, mine seem small. I owe it to my patients to give them my best every day.”