Imagine being five months pregnant with a 4-year-old son and working a job that requires living in two cities 1,200 miles apart. “It does sound crazy, and I admit there are times when I ask myself: ‘What am I doing?’” said Felise Glantz Kissell ’91, newly hired senior vice president of investor relations and strategy for Home Shopping Network.
This year Kissell and her family will alternate living in Tampa, where HSN is based, and New York, where she will manage the company’s Wall Street operations. “You can look at the dual-city issue and think of it as complicated,” she said. “Or you can embrace it and it can be an adventure for our family.”
The opportunity to take a senior position in a company with more than $3 billion in annual sales convinced Kissell that the career boost outweighed the difficulties of juggling a new job, two homes, a preschooler, and a baby due in March.
“The easier path would have been to stay in New York City with Maidenform, a company I loved,” Kissell said. “But Home Shopping Network represented the next level of career growth, so I just had to go for it.”
Christine Petersen ’85, at home in Wellesley, Mass., has some fun with her daughter, Charlotte, before heading to the office. Petersen’s workday has already begun, with early-morning e-mails.
A self-described “adrenaline junkie” who thrives on challenges, Kissell admits it is difficult to balance ambition and family obligations. “You want to conquer the world, but life can get complicated.”
She does not cook or clean and splits the responsibility of relieving the nanny with her husband, Robert, who heads quantitative trading strategy for J.P. Morgan. “There’s no gender dynamic in the household,” Kissell said. “Why should I cook? I’m working equally as hard as my husband.”
But she also fought through pregnancy nausea on the job and works through lunch so she can get home to read bedtime stories to her son, Landon. “We’d talk and catch up on life,” Kissell said. “He understands mommy works, and I like that he has a strong female role model in his life.”
Still, working-mom status has its downside. Many of her son’s classmates were children of diplomats, and the majority of their mothers did not work outside the home. “I’m the outcast,” Kissell said. “And that can be hard on the soul.”
To compensate, she picked up or dropped off her son off at school once a month. She also took him to school his first day. “I wanted to experience that with him. Certain things you have to make choices on how important it is for you to be there. I didn’t want Landon to feel like the odd man out.”
She’s already trying to figure out how she will continue to work once her second child is born in March. “It will be hard to for me to disengage,” Kissell said. “I don’t want to lose traction. If you disconnect, you’re out of the loop, and it shows your gender. If you want to keep building your career momentum, it’s hard to take time off.”
Over the next few months, Kissell will immerse herself in developing relationships with Wall Street investors and researching growth strategies for HSN. And, in between shuttling back and forth, caring for her son, and contending with swollen ankles and pregnancy fatigue, Kissell will do what she has always done in her career: “I’ll take it day by day and keep my game face on.”
A cup of coffee on her desk, iPhone within reach, Christine Petersen sits before her computer at TripAdvisor’s Newton, Mass., office.
Named one of the travel industry’s 25 most influential women for 2008 in ForbesLife Executive Woman magazine, Petersen has overseen rapid growth at TripAdvisor, which boasts more than 20 million monthly visitors to its Web site and 35 million to related sites.
At TripAdvisor, which netted nearly $150 million in profits last year, Petersen is responsible for public relations, revenue/traffic growth, and global market expansion and for launching innovative online travel tools and guides.
But Petersen’s screensaver also flashes a photograph of 4-year-old Charlotte taking a bite of a chocolate chip cookie that is bigger than her face.
“I got married in my mid-thirties and my daughter was born when I was forty,” Petersen said. “My life has been defined by my work, so staying at home would be very difficult. And, I also really, really love what I do.”