Fatherly Advice From Three Career Dads

'Fatherly' Advice on How Online Learning Can Help You Break Into One

by Ysolt Usigan

Attendance and participation during parents' days at school... Lending a helping hand on homework activities such as making a 40-foot-long map of the solar system... Reading with your kids after school and before bed time... Vacations, road trips and day outings... How can any professional partake of all the joys and responsibilities of being a parent and still advance in a demanding job? Many have grappled with this question, so we asked three dads how they manage their parental priorities with challenging positions.

Read on for their advice on how eLearning helped pave the way to landing a family-friendly career.

Jim Kerby of Wheaton, Ill.

Job Status: Project manager for Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

Family: Wife (Sue) and three kids (Tom, 10; Steve, 8; and Charlie, 6)

Fatherly Advice: Home computer-access is key when it comes to maximizing your family time. Jim Kerby is the head engineer for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) Accelerator Project (an eight-year, $200 million international enterprise to develop, construct and deliver components for which should become the world's largest particle accelerator).

He is also the deputy head of engineering for the company's fabrication department and leads 100 employees. Sounds overwhelming, but he's quick to point out that he also finds time to ride his bike, play sports and travel with his sons. And he is in the process of earning his master's degree from Purdue University's Krannert School of Management (West Lafayette, Ind.).

Jim fits in all three areas of his life by taking some of his classes online and working on the LHC Accelerator Project at his convenience from home. Remote access to his company's network and the ability to set his own work and class schedules help the 41-year-old maximize his time. The only thing in Jim's life that he admits is suffering: his hobbies. "School is my current 'hobby' and then some, I guess," he says. "I'm reading textbooks as opposed to novels." And when it's time for dad to engage in his scholarly "hobby," his family acknowledges his commitment.

"I make sure my kids, in particular, understand that there will be times when I'll be in the house, but not to be disturbed," he explains. "But when you're spending time with your wife and kids, [concentrate] on them." Luckily, it's his organizational skills and ability to focus on whatever task is at hand that keep Jim's different roles balanced. None of his responsibilities is ever neglected, he points out.

"Blocking out time for family is critical to making it all work." Especially since his sons and his supportive wife are more important than any job or degree, he adds.

Brian Johnson of Milton, Pa.

Job Status: Director of Multicultural Affairs and special assistant to the president at Susquehanna University

Family: Wife (Darlene) and two kids (Casey, 24; Tom, 21; Aubyn, 8; and Analisa, 6)

Fatherly Advice: Working for a school is as family-friendly as it gets. It helps that Brian Johnson works for a very family-friendly institution, especially since he juggles a career as a department director and president's assistant at Susquehanna degree pursuit at Nova Southeastern University (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.).

Brian realizes being a full-time student with a family and a career can be a rough ride. In fact, the doctoral program he chose was to be completed within three years. Brian didn't finish on time on such a tight schedule. "In the middle of the second year of the program, I also changed jobs and fields so that set me back," he explains. "Plus, I never sacrificed time with my children for school."

The doctorate in education student was able to balance his personal life, two jobs and online schooling with the understanding that those roles remain in that order. "I am definitely a family man first," he attests. "My wife and kids are crucial to my existence; I will never stop living for them."

Lucky for Brian, his current position offers many perks with his family in mind. "It really helps to work at a university where so many people -- from the president down -- have young children," explains Brian. "We have a really family-oriented campus -- from hosting family picnics to holding family-friendly events during major student weekends in which our kids can take part."

To top it all off, when it comes time for Brian's kids to consider college, they'll have the option of going to Susquehanna for free.

Louie Heaton of Fort Worth, Texas

Job Status: Deputy program manager of F-16 Programs in Italy, Turkey and Venezuela for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.

Family: Wife (Valerie), two kids (Christine, 26; Christopher, 30), and two grandchildren (James Ryan, 6; Anna, 1)

Fatherly Advice: Seek great benefits, perks and compensation. Louie Heaton doesn't march to the money horn, but he understands that a company with reasonable compensation and excellent benefits are paramount when it comes to raising a family.

"My company recognizes the importance of creating a family-friendly environment -- and its subsequent positive impact on employee productivity," explains the deputy program manager. "The medical benefits are excellent and the holiday and vacation compensation are more than ample."

And as if that weren't enough to keep family-oriented professionals happy at Lockheed Martin, the organization boasts a work schedule that allows employees to have every other Friday off, providing more time to spend with family.

Now that Louie's two children are grown and married with their own families, the 52-year-old spends those free Fridays online taking classes. "Many positions within my company require a master's degree, plus the education I'm receiving is very applicable to my present business environment," he says.

His enrollment in the University of Phoenix's (Phoenix, Ariz.) master of arts in organizational management program is conducive to his lifestyle, he says. "Since I travel frequently [for work], an online degree was the only solution. As long as I have a phone line, I'm able to attend class."

Even with the demands of student status added to an intense career, Louie always places family at the top of his list. "Dealing with complex technical problems in an international environment makes the challenge of school and family all the more satisfying," he explains.

"My accomplishments can be shared with family and friends, all who've made a positive impact. It's important to maintain priorities and the perspective that family always comes first."

Next: Confessions of Three Work-From-Home Moms >>

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