As founders of Superkin, we talk to A LOT of incredible women -- those who work across industries, cities and lifestyles. To no surprise, many of these conversations focus on the challenges between motherhood and work. So many of us are making decisions everyday whether or not to move to a new company, take a new role or thinking about the next promotion -- all while having babies and raising a family. Unfortunately there is no formula for the right decision but we are inspired by the stories of these exceptional and determined women.
That's why we're thrilled to introduce the Superkin community to Kate Whitcomb, CEO of Cocoon Health. She's a multi-mastering boss with the cutest 2 year old (plus one on the way) and the liveliest sense of humor! Read below how she made the decision to take role as CEO (at 7 months pregnant), how she and her husband tackle the work-life dance and what podcasts keep her entertained.
First, tell us about Cocoon Health! What is the path that led you to this role? Cocoon Health is a Silicon Valley-based technology company using computer vision and AI technology for remote non-contact health monitoring. I have been an advisor to this team for the past 4 years. I've known them through their initial product launch, their fundraise process and ultimately their new CEO hunt- so that made it a more comfortable transition. My background is in hardware investing and retail, so the fit was strong from day one.
You’re a CEO that took the role 7 months pregnant- congrats!! Did you handle it differently than any other job offer? There is never a good time to make a big career change. Taking a CEO job 7 months pregnant is no exception. The biggest factor here was making sure my husband was aligned with the impact on our family, since my hours are much longer now and we have a very active 2-year old at home. I thought critically about if this is a company I wanted to lead in a year, after the dust of the next baby settles- and the answer was always "yes".
Kate, wearing our Julie blouse, with her son, John David (2)
As you’re building a team, how do you think about parental leave? As a startup, we'll never be able to accommodate the kind of leave that the big tech companies offer (until we are a big tech company!) but we are uniquely poised to be flexible around everyones' lives. Our team is accustomed to working across time zones, working hours and in-office expectations. I personally will be taking 3 months of leave and we'll extend the same to any future employee who is expecting a new addition to the family, and strive to be extremely flexible upon returning to work.
How do you and your husband manage demands of work- schedules, traveling, etc? We have two strategies here: we ask for help a lot and say no to things a lot. This part of life is called "the longest shortest time" for a reason- you are in survival mode, but in the scheme of things, not for very long. When we are stretched too thin or one of us is traveling, we have a relative or friend fly out for a week to help. When we get invited to things that make our schedule too busy, we simply say no. We'll be available again in a few years when this chapter closes!
Kate, husband Dan and son John-David (2).
What is the best piece of advice - in work or life- you’ve received? Again, two strategies here: attach yourself to successful people, and don't be afraid to ask for things. Ultimately in your career you work for people, not companies. If you love or admire a manager, develop that relationship and follow that person if you can. Their success will ultimately be your success, by either what you learn or where they take you. Secondly, as long as you are putting in the work, don't be afraid to ask for things. Money, promotions, travel opportunities-- the majority of my major career advances have started with me asking for them. If you are valuable to the company, you will get what you ask for.
Hot Seat Questions:
Who’s your current Female Founder or Female exec Crush? Tara Henning from Superkin!
(Founder's edit: I'm blushing!)
What Superkin piece would you choose first or give to your BFF? The Elizabeth Blouse is my newest favorite!
If you have an hour to yourself…what do you do? I take a long hot bath and listen to true crime podcasts.
(Editors' note: If only my walkman played podcasts...)
What 3 words would you use to describe yourself? Self-confident, outgoing, determined.
Best book you’ve read recently? As a very pregnant person, I have been re-visiting books about parenting. I just finished Emily Oster's new book, Cribsheet. I love data-based decision making, so this was a fun read! (Editor's note: Check our spotlight on Emily here.)
Currently in the middle of Chanel Miller's book Know My Name, which is both incredibly well-written and a very important book.
Favorite vacation spot? Before kids: Paris, Southeast Asia, Hawaii! With kids, anywhere where Grandma and Grandpa are!