“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time To Be Great Parents”, with Ayana Champagne and Dr Ely…

“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time To Be Great Parents”, with Ayana Champagne and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

Another really important time to me is when we set aside time to learn together; either by reading a book together or again, me teaching her the colors. It’s important that we set aside time for both of us to take a moment to learn, hear each other and be with each other. No phones, no screens. Just the two of us. And finally, bath time! What a great time for a little fun and a wonderful bonding experience.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ayana Champagne. Ayana is a new mom, who returned from maternity leave earlier this year. She is the Chief Human Resources Officer at Ferring Pharmaceuticals (U.S)., a privately-owned pharmaceutical company in Parsippany, NJ that specializes in reproductive medicine and maternal health, urology, oncology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, and orthopedics. Ayana has nearly 20 years of global human resources experience in multinational, market-leading private and public organizations. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in finance from Bradley University, and dual Master’s degrees in technology and operations management and human resources management from Aurora University.

Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I am the oldest of seven children born to Haitian immigrant parents. We grew up in Chicago, IL and both my own parents and my grandmother adopted and fostered children throughout their adult lives. In fact, my grandma fostered more than 100 children! With my maternal grandmother living next door, I really grew up in two households. One where I was the oldest child and the other where I was often the youngest. Needless to say — throughout my life I was surrounded by people of all ages, all backgrounds, and a wide range of experiences and perspectives. I think this truly unique childhood experience has had a significant role in shaping my personality and my relationships, but also created a strong inner need to lead.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

Believe it or not, I started my career in finance before going back to school to get two master’s degrees — one in technology and operations management and the other in human resources management. Before all of that, my big dream was to trade derivatives on the stock market. But one day, a friend dragged me to an undergraduate career fair for moral support, and I ended up talking to some people at a family-owned company. In the end, they offered me a full-time job working for them, and that’s where I was eventually put to work on some human resources projects and totally fell in love with it. About a year later, I went back to school for dual Master’s degrees — one of which was in human resources management.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

Before I head into work, my day starts with my daughter. She is 10 months old and the love of my life. I head into the office from my home in Brooklyn, which can sometimes take up to 90 minutes, and as soon as I walk through the door its go, go, go. Typically, my work day is a healthy mix of strategic thinking with fellow members of the Ferring executive leadership team, whether that’s talking through attraction and retention priorities or strategic business planning. I also get to connect with employees to understand how they are feeling, what’s going well, and how we can improve things at the company, at all levels. For example, today my day began with “Breakfast with the CEO.” This is a nearly two-hour breakfast meeting with the CEO, Paul Navarre, a member of the executive team, and 10–12 employees where we have an open round-table discussion in a small and intimate setting. Later in the day, I had a separate meeting with the broader executive team about 2020 planning. In addition to it all, I am still nursing my child. So I am constantly working to pump between meetings, which can be very challenging, but I’m thankful to work in a place where that time can be protected, and people are understanding — not everyone is so lucky.

Can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

My mom and grandmother are a huge influence in my parenting style, because of how they treated my siblings and I, and the children they adopted and fostered. They spent a lot of 1:1 time with us and reinforced to me from a young age that it’s critical to be around when children are young; to nurture, teach, show and work with them. It makes all the difference in the long run.

Right now, I am fortunate to be able to have a nanny at home with my daughter, while I’m at work. Lately, when I’m home with her I’ve been teaching her colors (yes, even a ten-month-old can learn to recognize colors!). I think this time together is so important. It’s possible that these learning opportunities may not be received the same way by a caretaker. Or perhaps, I have more time to spend on something like that, have more patience or feel more committed to it. Sometimes we underestimate the power of a parent’s voice, touch and presence.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

To me, there are important moments in the day as a working mom that I make sure to spend with my daughter. The mornings are the perfect time to wake up together and get into our routine. Lately, she’s been loving to scale the perimeter of the crib while holding on in order to practice walking. I’m holding on to these days where she can’t dive into our bed in the morning just yet!

Another really important time to me is when we set aside time to learn together; either by reading a book together or again, me teaching her the colors. It’s important that we set aside time for both of us to take a moment to learn, hear each other and be with each other. No phones, no screens. Just the two of us. And finally, bath time! What a great time for a little fun and a wonderful bonding experience.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives to give our children more quality attention?

  1. Be prepared for anything and plan ahead with flexibility

2. Meditation and mindfulness — take the time to shut everything off!

3. Creating a bedtime schedule and routine that you stick to — my favorite is her nightly bath time

4. Being “OK” with your day not always going in the order you planned

5. Keeping up versus catching up by finding efficiencies in everything that you do

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

I think “good” is in the eye of the beholder, so that definition could really vary based on many things, including even one’s socioeconomic status. But to me, good parenting means being consistent and present, demonstrating what it means to be a good human being, and investing love and time into yourself as well. We must remember that we can’t love others, if we don’t love ourselves. Those are the things my mother was amazing at, and I try to emulate them now as a parent.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

I encourage myself to not just dream big, but “dream bigger,” to really stretch my thinking and stick to my spirituality as often as possible to set a good example for my child. I want to influence my daughter to think it’s good to have an aspiration, but it’s even better to stretch yourself to think bigger than that. I know I need to stretch my thinking beyond my wildest dreams to continue to realize my full potential.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

I define success through becoming healthier and wealthier in many ways, laughing often and loving much, loving who I am and finally life-long learning.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

I’m not a big podcast person, but YouTube videos have been essential for me as a mother. I’ve learned how to pump effectively and efficiently, what essentials are necessary for newborns, and so much more. It’s one of my favorite go-to resources.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Lean into your discomfort.” Whenever I’m in a situation where I can take the easy route or the more difficult route, I say that to myself. I always want to be in a space where I’m learning, becoming a better person, stretching my thinking and having conversations with people of diverse thought. I know that it is in the space of discomfort that the most growth happens.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

A colleague was telling me about the recent attention that’s being paid to black mothers dying in childbirth at astounding rates here in the U.S. The reason is that many women are being ignored or mistreated in hospitals (even Serena Williams, who’s been very outspoken about this topic) which I also experienced during my daughter’s birth. I have been really inspired to be a part of the conversation and the movement to change this situation for all women in the U.S.

Thank you for all of these great insights!


“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time To Be Great Parents”, with Ayana Champagne and Dr Ely… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.