Bringing Her Joy
Marie Antaya is the owner of Eclectic Communications, a training and development consulting company that helps organizations improve their communication skills through flexible training and custom course design.
A sick child at home for the day, a drywall renovation in progress, and a colleague heading over to her home for a meeting. These are the signs of a full life that Marie was juggling when she joined Shift’s founder, Meg, to tell her career story, “Every corner is being used. It’s a prime example of what happens on a typical day.”
With both laughter and realism behind her words, Marie shares how she brought her life-long desire of owning a company to fruition while striving for her personal and family goals…
Meg: What was your inspiration for choosing your career path in professional communication and training?
Marie: When I was in high school, most of my jobs revolved around working for small businesses. It really sparked that goal for me to have my own company and to have that flexibility. It was parked in the back of my mind while completing my studies and starting my career. In my twenties, different opportunities that I said yes to led me to the opportunity. Through a series of jobs, I made my way to the provincial government. While there, I met one of Eclectic’s trainers. She saw something in me and said “I need to connect you with Maureen [Eclectic’s previous owner].” Maureen had been exploring retirement options, so she reached out to me and asked, “Would you ever consider owning your own company?” And I said, “It has been in my mind since I was a kid, so yes!”
When I bought Eclectic, it was a huge investment. I remember the moment I had gone to meet with Maureen. My parents were flipping a house at the time. I met with her and then I went over to the house to talk to my parents. We were sitting in the empty room, full of dust, because they were fixing up the flooring. Sitting on these folding chairs, I explained it. The comment they said to me was, “You know, if it doesn’t work it’s just a monthly payment that you build into your lifestyle to pay it off. Then you know that you tried it.” And I always thank them for that because they basically said to give it a try, you have nothing to lose. And thirteen years later Eclectic has grown from having me and just one other contract instructor to a team of six.
Meg: How have your own learning experiences shaped how you teach others?
Marie: My grade eleven high school teacher basically said that I was a poor writer. He’d mark a C on my assignment and offer no additional support or feedback. It was something that I ended up taking upon myself. Also, when I first started working in learning and development, I was in Quebec teaching communication skills. That experience gave me the chance to hone my skills and learn the key qualities of effective communication.
Meg: And now you’re supporting others and teaching others.
Marie: That’s right, and with Eclectic, it’s like I’ve gone full circle. I have an opportunity to help others with the struggles I had. I find writing is a sensitive topic for many people. Along the way they’ve been edited to death, they’ve been made to feel like they can’t write. It’s much like math. I find math and writing are the two things people have a lot of vulnerabilities around. But the great thing about it is that writing is a learned skill. And given the right techniques on how to do it, anyone can improve their writing. I find that so exciting.
Meg: Tell me about your family. How would you describe family life?
Marie: My husband, Jason, is a high school teacher, which is nice because our busy and quiet times for work are similar. We’ve got a couple peak months that are pretty crazy for us, but then we also have holidays together at the same time every year, so that works out quite well. My two kids, Isabelle and Benjamin, are in elementary school. This is the first year I’ve had both of them at school all day. For nine years I had someone in the house almost all the time with me. I didn’t have child care other than the support that I have had from my family, and in particular my mom.
Meg: When you became a mom, what career changes did you want to make?
Marie: Before I had Isabelle, I was in the classroom a lot, which didn’t give me the balance I wanted for our family. So, one of the biggest changes I had to do was hire additional consultants and staff. Now I focus mainly on work that can be done from home. The shift has given me a lot more flexibility.
Meg: What’s one strength motherhood has given you that has become a career asset?
Marie: I can say no a lot easier. I can walk away from things that I find aren’t relevant or when I’m not needed and use that time for something else. There’s so much that has to be done throughout the day, so I really want to make sure that what I’m doing is at the high priority levels.
Meg: What career advice would you give to other new parents?
Marie: Figure out what your life goals are. Then make your work goals fit in those life goals and don’t let ego play a role. The new contracts and job offers are wonderful to get, and you feel great that you’re being asked. But if the new opportunity is going to affect the family goals you have, you might want to step back and question why you’re really saying yes. For me, it’s finding that balance and the best way I’ve found it is by focusing on my family goals first and making sure my work goals fit within that. We have goals for when we want to retire, what we want to do when we retire, what we want our life to look like right now, how much time we want to spend together as a family and those sorts of things. We balance it all based on those goals.
Meg: Could you share your thoughts on what career wellness means to you?
Marie: To me career wellness is really finding those opportunities to balance Eclectic’s growth with my personal goals. I have a little piece of me that would like to see the company grow significantly. But that’s the piece of me that was around when I was single and my primary focus was the company. Defining success for me now is about building a company around the personal life I’m looking for and understanding that my family goals are first. I’ve been very selective with the work that I do and make sure that it ties right back to Eclectic’s goals too. Eclectic has a really important goal which is to make sure everyone communicates in a clear way so that the message doesn’t get lost through the use of bureaucratic language. It’s an ethical thing to me, especially when organizations communicate in a way that their audience doesn’t understand. As readers, we all deserve to clearly understand what is being communicated to us at school, work and home. If I can help someone write clearer or help organizations add clarity to the work they do, that’s what brings me joy.
Meg: What are you looking forward to in your career? What’s your vision for the future?
Marie: I want Eclectic to keep growing in supporting its goal, which is to help people with their communication skills, help people with their training, and really make training effective in workplaces. For myself, I want to continue to move more towards what I can bring most value to in Eclectic. Balance has always been a really important thing to me and that ties into my personal goals. I’ve recently taken on work with other organizations that are related but not under the Eclectic umbrella. It’s giving me an opportunity to do a variety of different things.
When you become an entrepreneur you kind of become the company. You can lose who you are. Having the two kids at home, I was either mom or the owner of Eclectic. And that’s it. The last six months with both my children in elementary school have been pretty eye opening to that. So, I’ve started to ask myself, what more do I want to be?
Do you have a parenting + career story to share? Help Shift change the narrative on Family & Career. Contact us to become a contributor or arrange an interview.