north of neutral dialog

November 2, 2009

by anne lueneburger

Linda Rafoss, Partner & Managing Director, DRIVER TV, New York

The current role

Linda Rafoss-Samios is Partner and Managing Director at DRIVER, a full-service production firm with offices in Los Angeles and New York City. DRIVER manages the creation of media on behalf of advertising agencies, corporations and entertainment firms, and clients include blue chip players such as Coca Cola, Delta, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, and Toyota.  Linda’s role is comprehensive: it involves business development, key account management, as well as talent sourcing and development.

The journey

Upon graduating with a BA in Economics and English from the University of Richmond, VA, Linda joined the newsroom at NBC as a junior producer. This was the beginning of her close to 20 years in the agency and post-production world. She has worked for big players such as J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy and expanded the global reach of smaller platforms such as Version2 Editing and VFX. Her strong sense to attract and develop talent led to a number of awards at the Cannes Film Festival. Now a partner at DRIVER, she shares her long-term goal of “producing a film on a story of my favorite author, Ayn Rand”, and, adding a smile: “I am just getting started”.

The professional is but one part of her journey. The other is her private life. Linda is mother of three young children, ranging from age six to twelve. Her children are well-adjusted, happy individuals. She and husband Scott have been together since their college years and live in a home just outside Manhattan. They regularly socialize with their wide circle of friends, and this past summer they spent one month commuting between a summerhouse in the Hamptons and work.

‘What have I done’ moments

Linda does experience moments of doubt when she leaves in the morning to catch the train to the city: “Is this the right thing that I am doing, leaving my kids for a job?” She describes having a sense of guilt when she works from home as it can blur the lines: “I don’t want to be a Blackberry Mom”. She continues to work on fine-tuning on what constitutes the right balance.

How to positively transform your work-home balance

Linda is a natural when it comes to the balancing act between career and family. Part of her success is the result of a positive disposition, a high level of energy (not surprisingly, zest is her number-one signature strength) as well as a love for both worlds she lives in. Part of her success, however, is due to some sensible approaches to make it all work. Here are some insights that evolved during our dialog:

O Be mindful: respect the moment

This is probably one of the most powerful but also one of the most difficult rules. When you are with family, be there 100%: physically, mentally and emotionally. When you are at work, the same rule holds: focus on where you are and the tasks at hand. Tempted to discuss issues at work over the dinner table?  Off limits! Been working on a client presentation, and realized that your thoughts were wandering off to your twelve year old’s report card? Stop. The secret of Linda’s success in both worlds is that she is mindful of and engaged in the space she occupies.

Occasionally, Linda’s senior role requires her to bring work home. In these situations she will continue to uphold the rule of not mixing the two worlds: “I will be on my laptop for a set number of hours, but then I will also close it and focus fully on my private life and forget about work”.

O Lose the guilt

Working mothers notoriously struggle with an underlying sense of guilt. Traditional points of view argue that children are better off with a mother at home and a father as the sole breadwinner. Research shows: this theory is a myth. As long as children have a secure attachment to their parents, they will flourish, whether they are for part of the day with a qualified third party or with their parent [1]. Linda’s nanny Liz has been with the family for many years and the children have built a strong bond with her.

O Build a support network

The saying goes: ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. Starting with good childcare, dedicated schoolteachers, qualified doctors or engaging soccer coaches: many ‘hands’ are involved in successfully bringing up kids. Aside from that, a strong social network offers a powerful resource when bottlenecks or emergencies materialize. Being in the film and creative industries, Linda frequently needs to travel in the U.S. and abroad, but with an extended family close by and a broad network of friends, she has ample help at hand.

O Live a true partnership

If both parents work, it is crucial to embrace an equal partnership model between husband and wife: responsibilities are shared at home. You may not always be able to equally divide the tasks, especially if one of the partners has a more rigid work environment. Key is to sit down and discuss who can and will do what. Linda’s husband Scott, who has a career in business development and marketing with a web software provider, is very involved on the home front. “We are 50-50 partners”, Linda shares, “and we both pull our weight. At the same time, we never sit down and keep tabs nor do we dwell on problems, but we work together on fixing them”. Whenever possible, Linda and Scott are joint parenting; most mornings, for example, they drop the kids off at school together.

A true partnership also implies that you make time for the relationship: Linda and Scott make it a point to hire a babysitter and to meet up with friends in Manhattan, to watch an Indie film or to cook and entertain together at home.

O Forgo perfection

We learn in our professional life about the importance of prioritizing as an element of effective time management. Parallel to this, working parents need to prioritize what is important and what is ‘nice to have’ on the home front. Linda does not hesitate to forgo a spotless home for quality playtime with her kids.

O Manage expectations at work

Being a parent means that you will need some flexibility in your work schedule. As long as you deliver, employees and clients tend to be accommodating. The best approach is to establish an open line of communication with your organization in general and your boss in particular. Linda’s frank communication style, her ability to build strong rapport with her peers as well as her contributions to bottom-line have resulted in her ability to telecommute and to create a flexible work schedule with days off in between.

O Pamper yourself

Even if you love your work and your family (and you are entitled to love both), chances are that you will need some down time to yourself. “If I am ever in a lull, I love nothing better than reading a good book in bed for a couple of hours on the weekend or cooking, which totally relaxes me and helps me show love for friends and family by feeding them!” Linda reflects when I ask her how she regroups and recharges her batteries, “And occasionally I get in a 30 minute run….”

[1] NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2005

2 Responses to “north of neutral dialog”

  1. I think that is an interesting point, it made me think a bit. Thanks for sparking my thinking cap. Sometimes I get so much in a rut that I just feel like a record.

  2. Nice review. I found your blog via yahoo while i was searching for job search engines. I will forward your site to our clients and I am sure they will think the same about your article on this site.Best

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