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MadWomen of the Month / Julie Batliner

First, tell us a little about yourself: Name, Title, Company, How you got there. We want to know your story.

Name: Julie Batliner
Title: President
Company: Spong
I grew up in Kansas City, Mo. And went to Mizzou. After college I had to decide on jobs in KC, Chicago, Minneapolis and NY. I decided to come to Minneapolis because it was my preferred job offer. I knew no one, and I had never been to the Twin Cities. Ignoring the fear that I had to trade in my car for an SUV, buy a parka and learn how to say You Betcha’, I went for it. After a couple of years, I moved around a bit and ended up back in Minneapolis and fell in love with this city and the creative agency community.
After soaking up a lot of lessons at a couple of great small agencies, I spent a good chunk of time at FleishmanHillard and then joined Carmichael Lynch Spong in 2005. I’ve had several positions at Spong during the past 11 years – always looking for the next learning opportunity – and became President last year.
My husband Dan and I had two kiddos a bit later in life. Madelynn is almost six, has a profound sense of humor, is determined beyond belief and remembers everything. Nick just turned three and is laid back, super joyful and a skilled scooter rider. They are keeping us creative and younger than we are!
We love boating, family walks, being outside and trying different foods.

What’s your personal and professional mission statement(s)?

Personal mission: If you believe it, go and do it.
Professional mission: To motivate, inspire, encourage and succeed together while maintaining a positive presence during the ups and downs. And always being my authentic self.

What is your personal definition of what makes a “MPLS MadWoman”?

Someone that inspires other women to work around the barriers and achieve amazing professional goals. Someone who speaks up when speaking up is needed around gender equality. Someone that helps pave the way for other women.

How do you strive to embody what it is to be a MPLS MadWoman, in both your professional and personal life as a wife and mother of two?

First of all, MPLS MadWomen is an impressive organization. We have a fabulous chapter. There is no shortage of completely amazing people to learn from or to ask questions, and it always reminds me that there is still work to be done.
I strive for an environment in which we are helping each other at whatever stage in life or career we are in, through direct conversations, empathy and support. We have to continue to pave the way to make the realities of being working women okay to talk about. If we are aware, and we make all business leaders aware, we will be better. We will pave the way for all who come next.

How do you think being a working parent has affected your career and parenting style?

Parenting experiences add real empathy for, and understanding of, the target audiences we are marketing to for our clients. Seeing things through your kids’ eyes makes you see things differently – for the first-time again – and more creatively. I believe it makes us stronger ideators.
Being a working parent has also added a new layer of needed organization and preparation. Knowing your child may show up to school and be the only one not wearing red on “red” day or without an instrument on “music- sharing day” is heart-breaking. So you read the mounds of additional information from the school, organize and add on other tasks as part of your business routine. These organizational and prioritization skills transfer to work to make you even more efficient. Parents are some of the most critical thinkers and efficient decision-makers.

How do you promote work /life balance within Spong?

The term “work/life balance” is riddled with unreachable goals in my opinion. It puts undue pressure on us. The words signal that people view work as work and life as life. If you love your work, it can be a positive part of your life – for you and your family.
Instead, we talk a lot about the work/life pendulum at Spong. Some days your daughter’s kindergarten school party is a priority. Some days you are going to have to prioritize working late to give it your all for a big new business pitch or to solve a client’s problem. Some days your hobby is calling your name. We talk about supporting each other’s “pendulum priorities” each day. We cover each other if those things collide.
We also work to keep moms in the business. In the agency world, statistics tell us that moms leave the agency most often after their second child. We work to find solutions that work for each parent – whether it’s an 80 percent schedule or another solution.
We’ve implemented a phased-return after maternity leave, 100 percent paid maternity leave and a parent support group. Our team member surveys tell us that people are happy about this!

What advice would you give your children if they were to follow in your footsteps professionally?

I’m hoping they learn the value of hard work by observing my career and my husband’s career.
Find something you are deeply interested in and go all-in. Take risks, but always learn from and correct your mistakes. Because there will be mistakes, and that’s okay. It’s all in how you handle them.
Never try to be something you are not, but always keep driving to the next level of who you are.
Oh, and always wear sunscreen.

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MadWoman of the month is a monthly series of interviews highlighting an amazing woman each month in our community, voted for by the community, and published on the Egotist. We’re thrilled to shine a light on inspirational women. Nominate the next MadWoman of the Month on twitter.

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