Jodi Bricker, now VP of Women’s Merchandising for Levi’s, Opted Back into her Career after Two Years as a Stay at Home Mom to Help Build Old Navy’s Online Business on a Reduced Schedule
Benefits of this Flexible Arrangement to the Company
By all accounts, the Gap’s offer of a flexible work arrangement was critical in re-attracting Jodi to the company. In fact, flexibility was a key factor in building the leadership team for their Old Navy Online business. Jodi and her boss the original VP and GM of Merchandising for Old Navy Online, simply would not have returned to work when they did without the offer of flexibility. Over their 5 year tenure with Old Navy Online, Jodi and her boss Dawn built one of the Gap’s highest growth businesses and trained more than 100 people, all while working part time, so clearly the investment paid off. As a result of the Gap’s creativity they were able to double Jodi’s tenure with the company to a total of 12 years.
The success of Jodi and Dawn’s arrangements also seems to have influenced the corporate culture at the Gap. They supported a number of team members in creating flexible schedules of their own. And the company eventually instituted a formal flexibility program to retain and motivate other talent through similar arrangements.
Motivation for Flex Career
Jodi’s motivation for working a reduced schedule is familiar. Both Jodi and her husband were working full time in demanding careers when Jodi became pregnant. Jodi’s original role at the Gap handling merchandising for Old Navy stores had her traveling more than one third of the time. Recognizing that they needed to create more time for parenting while their children were young, the couple decided that they couldn’t support Jodi’s travel schedule in the near term, and so Jodi chose to stay home for some time.
Jodi wasn’t looking to go back to work two years later when the President of Gap Direct contacted her to offer her the job with Old Navy Online. But when the offer of an interesting job with a 66% schedule, and manageable travel requirements was presented, she couldn’t ignore it. Admittedly, Jodi did miss her career and the creative stimulation of work, and accepted the position because it offered her the best of both worlds - the opportunity to succeed in her career without sacrificing her family.
Over time, as their careers have progressed and their children have grown Jodi and her husband’s motivations and their choices for balancing their careers have changed. Eventually Jodi accepted a VP Level position with the Gap and chose to return to full time, and her husband chose to stay home with their children for a few years. Once she was back to full time, now as a primary bread winner for her family, Levi's was eventually able to entice her away from the Gap with an offer of a new business challenge and a return to her product development roots as their VP of Women’s Merchandising. The couple now views their options for balancing their careers as much more fluid and plans to evaluate their options again in a few years.
How Jodi’s Part Time Schedule Worked
Jodi’s schedule changed progressively after her return to the Gap. After two years at home with her first child, Jodi originally returned to the Gap 66% time as the Director of Merchandising for Old Navy Online. In that initial arrangement she worked three days a week, one of those days from home. Interestingly Jodi took on full responsibility for the function on her 3 day a week schedule, and simply hired stronger direct reports and delegated more to deliver the full time responsibilities of the job. She always left the office at 5pm, but often worked in the evening and early morning to finish up work and get a head start on the next day. As Jodi’s children grew older and her team at work grew, she migrated to a 4 day a week schedule, with three days in the office and one day at home. Eventually she moved to 4 days in the office. When she was promoted to VP of Merchandising for Old Navy Online (the position previously held by her boss Dawn part time), she chose to return to a Full Time schedule.
Now in her position with Levis, Jodi works full time as their VP of Women’s Merchandising. But Levis as a company offers workers Friday afternoons off, so Jodi is in the office 4.5 days a week. She highly values that extra half day with her family. And she says that her years flexing have encouraged her to be much more fluid with her work and schedule even on a full time schedule. She relies much more heavily on technology today, protects her creative time, and is still ruthlessly disciplined to ensure a focus on the highest value investments at work.
Jodi was responsible for Merchandising for Old Navy Online, a new business when she came into the role. In her ultimate role as VP/General Manager of the group, Jodi oversaw a team of 60 individuals responsible for design, marketing, merchandising, planning and web production for the brand’s Online store. Old Navy Online was one of the highest growth businesses at the company during much of her tenure.
When Jodi accepted her part time position, she was the second of only two senior individuals at the Gap working part time, and she was working for the first. So flexibility was certainly not typical at the company at the time. Partly as a result of the success of these two executives’ arrangements, the Gap has since introduced a formal workplace flexibility program and flexible arrangements are more common at the company today. Over their five years working flexibly, Jodi and Dawn supported a number of individuals on their teams in creating flexible work arrangements. When she left for Levis, 4 of Jodi’s team of 60 at the Gap were working part time schedules.
Amy Nassisi is Founder of Flexibility Alliance . She is also the Former Sr. Director of Business Development for Siebel Systems, a 15 Year Community Volunteer, Advocate and Leader.