My career story: “I was pregnant at the same time I went up for partnership”

Jannan Crozier is a corporate lawyer at Baker & McKenzie. She was pregnant through the partnership application process, and went on maternity leave one month after being made up in 2015.

Jannan Crozier, Baker & McKenzieWhat’s your background? How did you come to law?

Growing up I wanted to be an astrophysicist with NASA. Unfortunately, maths was not my strong suit and I swiftly realised that you had to be a maths genus to work at NASA. My physics teacher saw me desperately rocking the white coat look trying to be an astrophysicist and took me one side and said, ‘You’re very good at talking and arguing – why don’t you have a career that focuses on that?’ I found a college that did A level law and absolutely loved it.

From there I went to Manchester Uni. I’m from a working class background in Manchester – I had no notion of business, of office etiquette or the deal making culture. It was a time when you didn’t need to read the newspapers and know about commercial pragmatism. The standard expected of people coming through now is so much higher.

But from going to lots of presentations I realised I that really wanted to be at firm with an international view of the world. I enjoyed travelling, I was passionate about different cultures, so I looked at firms with a very international focus to them. I had my interview at Bakers, and it instantly felt like home. I moved down to London, turned up on my first day in my new shoes and my suit from Next, and started out on my career.

What was your early career at the firm like?

I went to corporate in my second seat and discovered that it really suited my personality. At that point I became much more proactive about managing my career. I did my next seat in banking and finance, then spent six months in our Moscow office.

I qualified into the private equity and funds team of the corporate department. For the first two years I spent my time working my butt off and getting those foundation skills you need to be a good lawyer. Then I got given the opportunity to go to our Sydney office for 18 months, working with the global head of private equity.

My first day back in London was the day Lehmans went under. There were no private equity deals being done – it was a weird time for everybody, and what that taught me was the need to diversify your career.

I’d always held myself out as a private equity lawyer and you should definitely have a specialist skill in your toolbox; however, you do need other tools in order to weather the financial environment. So at that point I got involved in a big deal for GM. They were buying a business that was highly integrated into another business. They we trying to carve it out of the seller and make it into a standalone structure. That’s one of the other areas of my practice now. I spent over a year doing that, and it gave me a lot of business involvement.

In your career you have pivotal deal experiences, and that one gave me a huge amount of business experience. I became much more of a business-minded lawyer thanks to that deal.

Can you tell which are going to be the pivotal deals for your career when they come along?

Anyone who says they do either has a crystal ball or is lying. These opportunities will come your way, and a piece of advice is try and take every opportunity you can because you don’t know where it will take you. Often, it’s not until you get to the end that the significance of the lessons you’ve learned become apparent.

Did you always want to be a partner?

Yes. The first two weeks after joining Bakers as a trainee is the induction programme – about fundamentally understanding the nature and culture of the firm. One of those sessions was about how you saw your career developing. My answer was simple: I want to be a partner and help develop the culture of the firm.

That was my second day in the firm and somewhat single-mindedly that’s what I have strived to do.

Did I have a grand master plan? Absolutely not: some of it is luck, some of it is taking advantage of the opportunities you are given and maximising them to the fullest. But there was always in the back of my mind a clear understanding of where I wanted to go.

What were the useful things you did to progress your career?

For me, taking opportunities to go and work in different offices was definitely important, and that the transactions I have worked on have been big global deals. That meant I was working with big teams of people. Within that, I always tried to position myself as being helpful and available.

Don’t underestimate the importance of building networks for yourself the moment you arrive: without that you are not going to progress as easily as you might like.

You were pregnant when you eventually went up for partner – what was that like?

I found out in December 2014 that I was going to be up for the partnership process, roughly around the same time I discovered was pregnant. I was negotiating a deal in Sweden at the time, and trying not to vomit on the other side.

The day I needed to submit my partnership application form was the day of my 12-week scan, so on the day I put in my forms, I went to my head of corporate and told them.

I enjoy my job and for me it was never going to be an option that I would give it up, but in the same way I decided I wanted to be partner on my second day, I decided I wanted to be a good mother, and I didn’t want to have to choose between the two options.

I went to the partners, I told them I was pregnant, we had a conversation about when I would being looking to go off on maternity leave, but there was never a conversation about whether it would have an impact on the partnership process or whether I should defer. Externally, when I told people, they asked if that meant I was going to defer, but my response was, why should I? I’m ready to be a partner, my business case is strong, why should I?

I went through the process and was very honest that I would take maternity leave and then come back and that’s exactly what I did. I was made up with effect from 1 July and went on maternity leave exactly one month later to have Izabella, who’s the apple of my eye.

Was it tough being away from work immediately after being made up?

I thought I would be quite bored at home, but I didn’t find that. I completely switched off for seven months. After that, I decided the time was right to come back. There was no pressure on me, but after seven months I thought I would see what the new world was like in terms of juggling work and a baby.

How do you work it?

I came back three days a week originally, and I’m currently doing four. How it works is that I leave every single night at 5.30pm, go home do bath time and play time with Izabella. Then if I need to, I log on from 7.15pm to finish whatever needs to be finished.

I’ve been very clear with my internal team and very honest with my clients and they thankfully have been great. Today, I’ve got a call later on but I’ll take it at home: for me it’s not acceptable to miss bath time.

Do you still feel like you are in a minority doing this?

I do feel like one of only a few. I see it very positively in that we are the tipping point generation. In 10 years this won’t even be an issue. If you have people like me who do want to have both, that sends a positive message out to the younger associates in the firms so that it become the norm.

I am trying to show that you can come back and work in a client-facing role and be a damn good mum as well. If you want it you can have it. Baker & McKenzie can’t solve all my life problems; what they can give me is the flexibility to help with them.

Employers now need to be really flexible with people around this, it’s about recognising that you will have people working for you who are so much more engaged if you can be flexible about their home life. You can now have a choice, you can choose to do both. I get up at 5.15am to go to the gym to be ready for 7am, when I wake my daughter up and have an hour playing with her.

I’m not saying it’s easy. Some women – and men – will start a family and decide they don’t want to do that juggling act. But if organisations are able to be flexible and give people the choice, they will find people will stay on, and you will lose fewer women in senior leadership roles. One of the reasons I’ve been so vocal internally is because I don’t believe you should have to choose.

Do you have any advice for people who may be in a similar position in future?

Don’t be afraid of proactively managing your career. I can’t stress the importance of taking control of your own destiny. Don’t be afraid about coming forward and asking for things.

I think there’s a real energy across the City for employers to adapt these working styles to give people choices to find balance in their work and life. Women and men shouldn’t feel they have to choose: it isn’t either/or any more.

Don’t be afraid about talking to managers and people in senior roles about how you can make job work for your life.

It’s not about ‘having it all’, it’s about what’s important to you.