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Mini Walia

Mini Walia

Director, National Retail Sales West

The Coca-Cola Company

It’s been a rocky couple of years. My husband and I have two boys — age 2 and 5 — and we both work full time. We both have aging parents with serious medical conditions, and they’ve been in and out of the hospital. My in-laws live 10 minutes away and my parents an hour flight. Caring for them, getting them to doctor appointments and dealing with the financial aspects have been a family effort.

My husband is a chiropractor and he can flex his schedule, which helps. Sometimes he adjusts his; sometimes I adjust mine. At times I start my day at 6 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. — other days are longer. Emergencies are emergencies and we’ve learned to take them as they come.

There was a point when I thought, “Things will slow down.” Now it’s about how we manage day to day and what our priorities are. It’s also about making time to connect with our kids, even if it’s just running around with them outside for 20 minutes. Not waiting for life to slow down, but having a carpe diem mentality has been amazing.

I’ve worked in consumer goods for 15 years, with four companies that all had very different cultures. I’ve worked in an extremely stressful environment, where you were evaluated by the hours in the office versus your output.

This culture took a toll on me emotionally and physically. I finally said to myself, “This is not working for me — I need to be in a company that knows I will deliver, but gives me autonomy to manage my schedule.”

Working for Coca-Cola has been a blessing. I’m not questioned about my need for work flexibility. Working for a boss who trusts my judgment, challenges my thinking and focuses on my results makes me feel empowered and energized. The conversation is about growing the business. The culture reduces stress and delivers creative ideas and better business results.

Why do women have to jump off the career track to handle family responsibilities? Why do we have to be stuck in one or two positions until our kids are older?

Caring for your children and your parents doesn’t have to mean taking a step back or slowing your career, but making the right choices with the right companies and positions that give you the opportunity to grow professionally and personally.

My advice to other members of The Sandwich Generation is: Get a calendar and live by it, but don’t forget to live.

I would tell any woman to let your passion drive your growth and not let anyone tell you or make you feel you can’t achieve professional growth because you prioritize your family.