Meet Virginia Herlihy, Founder of How Do You Do It, on what led her to develop coaching programmes to support working parents.
Tell us a little about your career to date
I started in HR straight from University at KPMG. It was here I discovered my love of group facilitation and training when I was involved in Professional development for staff. This led to me look for the next step in a large corporate Training and Development consultancy where I was heavily trained as a learning and development consultant working with a range of blue-chip clients and learning how to operate as a consultant account managing clients and projects. By this stage, I knew I wanted to have children AND suspected I would want to keep working in my field as I enjoyed it so much and it was such a good fit for my skills. Looking around me, I saw many examples of women who were unable to find work they really loved and were skilled for whilst at the same time being an actively involved parent. So my move into my own business was to give me the maximum opportunity of combining my roles on my terms – a decision which was spot on for me given the timing. I added executive coaching to my skills set in 2000 and have 000s of hours coaching experience. 6 years later I set up HDYDI
Why did you start How Do You Do It?
They say you design the work you wished you’d had and I know how much I would have benefitted from the kind of support we offer when I had children. My coaching sessions with most of my clients who were struggling with combining their dual roles inevitably included an aspect of – How Do You Do It. Their organisations- my other clients, we’re starting to become aware that they needed to offer some support but also needed help on what they could do. My thinking was crystallised when I laughed and cried my way through Allison Pearson’s book – I Don’t Know How She Does It and I realised how often I had been asked- How Do You Do It and I realised with my background and motivation there was something I could do to help
How do you/have you managed the juggle between career and family life?
By getting clear on what I think and tuning into that and tuning OUT what other people think because there are so many views of what it means to be a good working parent and it’s impossible to get it right for everyone. What you can do is to get it right for you and yours by getting clear on what’s most important, by regularly revisiting and refining this and by having a lot of clear communication. And by trusting yourself and being your own kind of working parent
What are your hopes for working parents in 2025?
That’s a big question – how long do you have because I hope for a lot. But in a nutshell I hope they live in a society which has moved further from entrenched gender roles about who should do what and what is ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’ for them to do to one where many different versions of success are celebrated, where mothers and fathers are supported to be actively involved with their families, where parental leave is the norm for mothers and fathers to share, along with flexible work- where it’s just what we do.
What are your top tips for working parents?
What‘s your advice for managers working with working parent employees?
Get smart about this. Working parents make good business sense. They are incredibly productive, focused and can achieve a lot as they’re used to working with multiple demands. If you are one of the managers who support them with bringing the whole of themselves to work, by being flexible and understanding, in a work environment that is already moving to be agile and flexible, you will reap the rewards of their appreciation, loyalty and commitment.
Which three words describe you best?
I tested this by coming up with mine – intuitively and then asking my family who know me best to have their say. Even though we didn’t use exactly the same words there were some definite themes – authentic, heartfelt (also referred to as being caring/ compassionate) and clear (in thinking and words).
Describe your typical working day.
There isn’t one!! Running a business is full of the unexpected and there are multiple directions I may need to look in any one day. Add to that a face to face role with clients when I am facilitating programmes where I know what activity I am being called to do – coach, facilitate or business development and as much as I am prepared, there is always the unexpected. I love the change of pace, activity and the variety- it’s fascinating and it’s a privilege to do this work.