Today, we’re excited to share the working mama story of Cha-Jung (Maria) Chen, one of our Mindful Return alums! If you’ve been following along on the Mindful Return blog, you know that earlier this year, we announced our 7 specific ongoing diversity and inclusion commitments (Mindful Return’s Diversity Commitments: Reporting Out from My Work with a Diversity Consultant). One of these commitments was to use the power of storytelling, to weave the perspectives of a wide range of working parent experiences into our weekly blog posts and newsletters. This interview with Cha-Jung (Maria) Chen is the fifth in our “Amplifying Stories” series.
Maria is a member of the Asian community, is a mama of a little boy, and is a PhD engineer at Intel Corporation. Tune in below for her important perspectives on the importance of prioritizing ourselves (even when prior generations may not have modeled that), being an ally to members of the Asian community, and taking time off to care for our kids when they’re sick.
Mindful Return: Maria! Welcome to the Mindful Return blog. First, we’d love to hear a bit about your working parent story. Where do you live? How old is your baby? And what type of work do you do?
Maria: I live in Portland, Oregon. I have a 14 month old son, and I’m a Quality & Reliability Engineer for electronic products. My work involves mainly working in front of the computer. It also requires some hands-on work such as reviewing samples, failure analysis, etc.
Mindful Return: What inspired you to do the type of engineering work you’re doing?
Maria: I love problem solving. I love applying my engineering background and my analytical thinking to solve problems creatively.
Mindful Return: What was your biggest challenge heading back to work after having a baby?
Maria: The biggest challenge was having complete and uninterrupted time to work. When I first headed back to work, my time was divided into pieces by my pumping schedule. Before my son started daycare, I also had to juggle between work and childcare.
Mindful Return: How has being a member of the Asian community shaped your working parent experience?
Maria: I saw mothers of my mom’s generation giving themselves all out to the family, before taking care or prioritizing themselves. I’m conscious of my tendency to do that. But I constantly remind myself that I need to take good care of myself first.
Mindful Return: What’s the top thing you wish individual Allies of Asian mamas would do or know?
Maria: The top thing I wish individual Allies of Asian would know is that we speak our mother tongue at home! 🙂
Mindful Return: What’s the top thing you wish employers would know about moms in the Asian community?
Maria: If moms in the Asian community are shy and don’t feel comfortable reaching out to other moms in the company, try to help them connect with some other moms who are willing to help.
Mindful Return: What’s your biggest hope or dream for your own career?
Maria: My biggest hope is that I have a positive influence on as many people as possible.
Mindful Return: What’s your biggest hope or dream for your son?
Maria: My hope for him is that he is healthy, content, and happy.
Mindful Return: Name one of each of the following that inspires you *or* that you find incredibly entertaining: (1) a podcast; (2) a book; (3) a show; and (4) an Instagram account.
Maria: 1) Podcast: Keeping Track, a Women in Sport Podcast
2) Book: The Science of Living, by Alfred Adler
3) Show: Human Condition series by Greenray Theatre Company, from Taiwan
4) Instagram Account: Gwen Jorgensen, 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist in Triathalon
Mindful Return: Tell us one story of you as a working parent that convinces us you’re human (and not a superwoman with a cape).
Maria: When my son was sick and had a fever, he had to stay at home and couldn’t go to daycare. He became very clingy to me. He didn’t fuss crazily, but he needed me to be by his side to stay calm and content during this time. Although I worked from home, it became super hard to work and take care of an almost one year old at the same time. I tried to work half-days in this mode, but I felt my brain was going to explode, because my time and attention were being so segmented! Eventually I gave up and took time off from work. My manager was understanding.
Mindful Return: And finally, what’s one question I didn’t ask here, but that you’d like to answer? (And then please answer it!)
Maria: Question: What do you enjoy doing in your “free” time?
I try to find time to do what I love. I love running, and I’m training for my first marathon in early October. Also, I co-founded an Instagram account (@fuelrightfitlife) sharing recipes and some exercise tips on the internet. My husband and I are interested in real estate investing (REI), too. We document our REI journey in our Instagram account (@reiwithphdcouple).
Maria Chen obtained her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering in 2016. She is a Quality and Reliability Engineer at Intel. She is passionate about connecting technology to products that customers appreciate. In her free time, she exercises and makes healthy and delicious food. She also loves bringing her problem solving skills to real estate investing.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave