Your hard work now could pay off with flexibility in the future.
Life rarely follows a straight line. There will be times when we need to realign our priorities and make massive life adjustments. Tamara Scoville has spent her professional career pursuing balance between work and family. She talks with us today about the importance of honest communication with your manager, confidence in your abilities, and making time for family whenever it’s needed.
4word: Did you always know you would pursue a career in law?
Tamara: No. I was always intrigued by the law and government, but was also interested in the sciences. At Gettysburg College, I had an amazing political science professor, Dr. Shirley Warshaw. She brought the world of government and law to life for me, and she motivated her students to reach our goals. She was instrumental in helping me find my passion for the law. She has remained an inspiration and friend.
4word: As a woman, did you ever come up against any “gender barriers” at work?
Tamara: I have been a lawyer with Reed Smith LLP for over 20 years and have not experienced “gender barriers” at work. In fact, as a young associate I had several women partner role models and mentors. The women partners motivated me and, at times, expected more from the women associates. Although there is a healthy competition among all attorneys at my firm, I find both men and women attorneys are supportive of each other – at all stages of our careers and lives.
4word: As a wife and a mother, you found your work/life balance seesawing at times. How did you gain the confidence to ask your boss to “work with you” during those times?
Tamara: I have always worked very hard to establish my reputation as a highly qualified, reliable attorney. This involved many years of dedication to my profession and sacrifices in other aspects of my life. Before I started a family, it was easy for me to dedicate time to my profession. I loved the challenges and thrived on practicing law. Through these years, I was able to create a foundation and establish a strong reputation at my firm and with our clients. This foundation gave me the confidence to ask the firm to allow me to be flexible with my schedule when I had other demands in my life.
4word: With your sons getting ready to leave the house, how are you transitioning back into full-time career life?
Tamara: I never stopped working as an attorney through all the stages of my professional life; I just worked less when I had two young children. I think it is important to keep your foot in the door and stay on top of your profession, even when you cannot commit to full-time work. In addition to working as an attorney at Reed Smith LLP, I also teach Health Care Law at Oregon State University in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. My teaching position is flexible and gives me the opportunity to not only teach and advise college and graduate students, but to also stay on top of all the ongoing developments in health care. As my sons entered high school, I was able to increase my workload, and I plan to continue working more as they transition to college. The key for me was to maintain my reputation as a producer of high quality work, whether it was part-time or full-time. It was important to me so that my firm and clients wanted to continue to engage my services.
4word: A few months ago, your parents decided to relocate to Oregon from Virginia, due to their health. How did you reprioritize your life to accommodate caring for your parents? Was your employer sympathetic to your situation and willing to work with you?
Tamara: I have always been an organized person and had to adjust my time and schedule to stay on top of everything. I needed to schedule work calls early in the morning and work later in the evening so I could have more time in the middle of the day to help with my parents. I also learned to take advantage of any “free” time to get ahead on work projects, in case there was an emergency. It was a challenge to stay on top of everything, but I learned to prioritize my work and take it day to day.
My husband and sons have been very supportive and extremely helpful. My employer was also amazingly supportive with my new situation. My department head recently lost a parent, and another partner with whom I work cared for her parents. They were not only considerate with work, but provided emotional support, as well. I have not felt the need to reduce my workload, but if that changes, I am comfortable and confident discussing the issue with my employer.
4word: Did caring for your parents cause you to take a step back and evaluate your life’s priorities? Are you thankful for the time you’ve had with them in Oregon?
Tamara: Absolutely. When my parents moved to Oregon, it made me reevaluate my life’s priorities. This new stage confirmed that my family is the most important part of my life. This includes all of my family members, children, husband, parents, siblings, and so on. Work will always be waiting for you, but you will not have time with your family forever. My mother’s health deteriorated quickly after the holidays, and I spent every day with her and my father up to the day she passed away in March. I will always treasure the time I had with my mother, and was blessed to have every day with her up to the end.
4word: How have you and your family been affected by your parent’s situation? Has this experience strengthened your relationship?
Tamara: When my parents moved to Oregon, it changed everything in my family. My two sons and husband quickly learned they had to share me with my parents. At first, this was a big transition for everyone, but we all adjusted and learned to support each other. We have always been a close family and this experience deepened our relationship even more. We also learned that it was a gift to have my parents living only one mile away. We have had beautiful family time together and are blessed to share this stage of life with my parents.
4word: What advice do you have for professional Christian women who are too afraid to ask for “wiggle room” at work?
Tamara: I think the most important advice I have for all professional women is to work hard to earn a strong professional reputation. It will follow you through all stages of your career and life. This foundation will give you the confidence you need to ask for flexibility at work when other life issues, whether it’s your children, your husband, aging parents, or friends, need your attention.
4word: What are some tips you can share for maintaining a healthy work/life balance?
Tamara: It is critical to know what makes you happy in life. This will evolve through each stage of your life, and you need to evolve with it. If you don’t love your work, find something that you do love. If you want to work less than full-time so you can spend more time with your family, do it. You need to be happy and not have any regrets. When my children were four and six, something clicked, and I realized they were growing up so fast. I was missing too much. I had established a foundation at work, so I could ask for more time at home with my family.
Have you ever had to ask for “wiggle room” at work? There will be times in all our lives where we will need to appeal to our managers for grace with our work schedule. Heed Tamara’s advice and begin laying the foundation for a solid reputation at your workplace. In completing this groundwork, you will help set yourself up for a more successful negotiation over your schedule.
Have you ever needed to increase your time away from work? What worked/didn’t work for you when discussing this with your boss?
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Tamara Scoville is a member of the Life Sciences Health Industry Group, practicing in the area of health care regulatory law. Tamara’s practice focuses on health care fraud and abuse and compliance, and regulatory issues facing health care providers, manufacturers, and distributors.
For almost 20 years, Tamara has represented clients under investigation by the Office of Inspector General, the Department of Justice, and other investigatory bodies. She has prepared and implemented corporate compliance programs, and provided analysis and counseling on health care fraud and abuse matters. In addition, she has conducted internal reviews to ensure compliance with the ever-changing health care laws and regulations. She has negotiated government settlements and corporate integrity agreements (“CIAs”). Tamara has represented clients at both the trial and appellate levels in state and federal courts, as well as administrative tribunals including the Provider Reimbursement Review Board.