How Working From Home Helps Me Balance Motherhood and My Career

Rachael Harnish is director of operations at Shogun. She graduated college with dual degrees in Spanish and liberal arts, with a chemistry concentration. After considering law school, Rachael decided to join the working world first.

In this Q&A interview, she walks us through her career, her path to remote work and intentionally slowing down when life moves too quickly.

Rachael joined the team in November 2019. 

Question: What was your career path like after college?

Answer: I was fortunate to get a job at Rosetta Stone, a large education technology company, straight out of school. It was headquartered in Washington, D.C., but had a large presence in Harrisonburg, VA — where I lived — because it was founded there. I started in a customer success role, but quickly transitioned into working as an executive assistant, and then operations manager. 

I left after a little over three years to go work at a local hospital. I call those two years my “gap time.” It was a great job from a stability perspective, and I had my first child while working there, but I was very bored and there was little room for upward mobility. 

I quickly realized if I was going to leave my daughter every day to work somewhere, it needed to be for a role that was more stimulating and with greater growth potential. 

Q: Absolutely. Where did your career take you next?

A: I spent a significant amount of time searching for the right fit. I found another job in education technology at a startup with some former colleagues. Once again, HQ was in D.C., but there was a presence in Harrisonburg.  

I spent almost five years working there semi-remotely, first in content operations and then as director of operations for the whole business.

Q: What made you take the plunge and look for a fully remote job? 

A: For about ¾ of my career, I worked in a different office than my supervisor or most members of my team. That said, I’d been keeping an eye on fully remote roles for years. 

My favorite kind of role is working in business operations in tech companies. But I’m in a small city where those kinds of jobs aren’t exactly plentiful — it was clear to me early on that I would need to look for remote positions if I wanted to continue to advance my career in the tech space.

Q: Enter Shogun, which is 100% globally distributed. What made you apply for and then accept a job here?

A: I was looking exclusively for positions at startups — I’m hooked! — and came across Shogun on AngelList. I sent in an application for the director of operations position but didn’t expect a reply because I know how many people apply for these remote roles, and I was coming from a completely different industry. Much to my surprise, I received a response within 10 minutes! 

After doing my research, talking with the cofounders, and learning about the culture and business philosophy at Shogun, I was thrilled to receive an offer to join. I accepted the job because it was clear that my personal and business values were closely aligned with those of the cofounders, and I was really excited to work with them to help Shogun scale sustainably. 

Q: Speaking of your small city, you live on a farm outside D.C. Talk more about that — and share all the photos, please.

A: My husband and I made a conscious choice early in our careers to stay put in Harrisonburg. There was a lot of pressure in my first job to move to D.C. in order to advance, but I realized early on that I had a tendency to work too much. We knew that moving to a big city where the pressures to work long hours would be even stronger wouldn’t be a healthy choice for our family. 

Fast forward six years: We live on a farm about 20 minutes outside of town.

sycamore hollow farm in Virginia
Image credit: Rachael Harnish | Sycamore Hollow Farm
A cow on sycamore hollow farm in Virginia
Image credit: Rachael Harnish | Sycamore Hollow Farm
fresh eggs at sycamore hollow farm in Virginia
Image credit: Rachael Harnish | Sycamore Hollow Farm
little girl playing in the field at sycamore hollow farm in Virginia
Image credit: Rachael Harnish | Sycamore Hollow Farm

Surrounding ourselves with nature and having big gardens and livestock has been an intentional way of slowing things down when life threatens to move too quickly. I have never regretted the decision to stay in a place where the pace of life is naturally slower, particularly as I’ve been so fortunate to find a remote position that feels fulfilling.

Q: Jumping off that point, what do you enjoy about working at Shogun?

A: First and foremost, the people are fantastic. It’s been clear to me from day one that this is a team that supports each other and cares about the success of one another and the business.  

As someone responsible for both business operations and people operations, knowing that the CEO and COO (our cofounders) share my values around creating sustainable and ethical business practices, as well as treating team members as primary stakeholders is incredibly meaningful. I also love having the autonomy to figure out how to do my best work, while also having a supportive leadership team to work with and bounce ideas off.

To have found a role where I feel fulfilled and challenged every day in my work while still working fully remotely (and with a fantastic team!) is something that I only could have dreamed of doing when I was in my early career. 

I could go on and on — I love it here!

Q: What does a typical workday look like for you? 

A: The lack of a commute is definitely a huge help. It’s amazing what you can get done with an extra hour in the day. 

I like to start my day after the kids go to school or the sitter by taking care of things around the house that would otherwise bug me, which helps me get into a productive headspace before I go into my home office to work. 

home office with a computer and two screens
Image credit: Rachael Harnish

That said, working fully remotely is tricky. You’ll hear from most people who work from home that setting boundaries between work and life can be really difficult when your office is in your house. I do a few things to help with that:

  • I have a dedicated workspace with a door that I can close. I intentionally shut my computer and turn off my second monitor at the end of every day and turn off all my office lights as a symbolic way of unplugging each night. 
  • I try to always protect the hours between 5 and 7 p.m. so I can have dinner and put my kids to bed without the interruptions of work. A couple nights a week, I’ll log back on to catch up after the kids are in bed, but carving out dedicated family time is helpful for me.

It can also be pretty isolating to work from home. So, I try to work from a coffee shop a morning or two a week, and I make sure to get out of the house to exercise in the middle of the day most days. 

Q: How does working remotely affect your day-to-day as a mom?

A: Overall, working fully remotely has been a huge positive as far as work/life balance. 

I know that if my kids get sick and have to stay home, it doesn’t have to be a crisis. I also have the privilege of being able to get my daughter off the bus every day, which has become a really special routine for us. 

two young children looking through a book
Image credit: Rachael Harnish

As a parent, knowing that I have an added layer of flexibility is a huge win. 

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Kathleen Garvin

Kathleen Garvin is managing editor at Shogun. She’s worked for back-to-back (to-back) startups and lives in St. Petersburg, FL, via Philadelphia. You can reach her on Twitter.