Meet Debs Ingham, EMEA business lead, facilitator and coach for HDYDI
Tell us a little more about your working background.
I’m a chartered occupational psychologist and have always been passionate about work that supports not only individuals but also the wider aims of teams and organisations.
Prior to working with How Do You Do It, I worked firstly in advertising and then moved into professional services. During six years at EY, I made the most of opportunities to work with a variety of populations, supporting new graduates transitioning into the firm, through to more senior staff looking to move into a Partner role. After a period living abroad, I returned to the UK with a young baby and was able to take the chance to think carefully about what I wanted from the next stage of my career and what would work for me and my growing family.
Having embraced life as an independent psychologist I gravitated towards work that I loved and felt a strong connection with. This includes coaching, facilitation, diagnostics and consulting projects. Clear themes have evolved over time (I can’t claim to have planned it that way!) and I’m delighted to work primarily in the areas of neurodiversity and working parents.
How do you/how have you managed the juggle between career and family life?
The million dollar question! A move overseas with my husband’s job highlighted to me how much I loved my work and I really missed the personal fulfilment that part of my life provided me with. So when we started a family it was always going to be a question of how I could make the juggle work.
I think for my family the key has been flexibility. Neither my husband nor I have typical work patterns that are the same week to week, so it has taken an evolutionary approach to what is working and what’s not working to ensure that it runs as smoothly as possible – having a shared electronic diary has certainly made life a lot easier!
The other part of the jigsaw that helps the juggle is the support around me and recognising that it’s not a sign of failure to ask for help when you need it. There’s no denying that there are days when I find myself thinking ‘there’s got to be an easier way’ but on the whole I think we’re striking the right balance for our family.
What are your hopes for working parents in 2025?
With the introduction of Shared Parental Leave and new initiatives enabling women to return to work after a career break, I feel extremely positive that UK industry recognises the value that working parents brings to our workplaces as well as their contribution to the wider economy. I hope this continues to grow.
What are your top tips for working parents?
Clarity and communication. Working parents often cite being time-poor as one of their biggest challenges, and carving out time to do some valuable thinking about what success looks like for you and your family as a working parent often feels like an unobtainable luxury. However, I think if we can get clarity on what’s important to us and what success might look like both at work and home, this then gives us something we can use to make decisions that align with our aspirations. The second part to that is communication. It’s all very well if we’ve managed to define internally what we’re aiming for but if we don’t take the time to communicate that confidently and positively to all the key people in that juggle then the vacuum left so often leads to others making assumptions on our behalf – which don’t always meet the hopes and expectations we have.
What‘s your advice for managers working with working parent employees?
Keep the dialogue going. We’re all busy, and managers, like working parents are no exception. I think it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking we’ve had the conversation about a return to work and that once the working parent is back in their role, that’s the end of the discussion. From the hundreds of working parents, and managers, we’ve worked with, we know that everyone needs support at work at different times. For some, leaving their baby is the hardest part of the transition from working person to working parent, whilst for others the early years are fairly straightforward but the demands of a school transition or a teenager take a lot more out of them, and the need for a supportive and flexible manager at that point is more key.
Which three words describe you best?
Positive, flexible and a team-player.
Describe your typical working day.
If only there was a typical day! It’s probably easier to paint the picture of a typical working week which will include a mix of school runs, session facilitation, client meetings, phone calls, 1-2-1 coaching, lots of emails, juggling multiple children’s hobbies and activities, and in the main, everyone being where they’re supposed to be – hopefully on time!!