We had the good fortune of connecting with Gemma Thomas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gemma, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Work-life balance is a lot like making a soufflé. Too much or too little of one ingredient throws the whole recipe off. And honestly, has anyone ever gotten it just right on the first try, all on their own, without messing it up royally at least once? While baking at home has been on trend recently, and some have maybe even perfected their soufflés (spoiler alert, I haven’t), many have been forced to throw their old work-life balance recipes out the window. My personal work-life balance recipe has evolved continuously, even pre-pandemic. As a driven, hungry-for-accomplishment young professional, I often bit off more than I could chew. Okay, enough of the food metaphors, let me give you a real life example… While finishing my master’s degree several years ago, I was working full-time, in school full time, and working much more than I was living. Because I still had an ounce of free time somewhere between 5 days of work, 4 days of school, and 2 days of an internship, I decided to take on a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training to become a registered yoga instructor simultaneously. The scales were *heavily* tipped in the work direction. So, how did this recipe turn out? Let’s just say the soufflé looked great, but didn’t exactly taste delicious. I graduated with a 4.0, finished my RYT200, and was promoted at work. And, wow, was I TIRED. I was absent from my loved ones, void of any hobbies, and unsure of who I was outside of a student or an employee. I like to think the recipe I use today maybe isn’t as pretty, but it definitely tastes better. Here’s my current work-life balance recipe: 2 cups work hustle (let sit for approx. 40 hrs/wk) 1 cup exercise (I use spin classes and yoga, but there are plenty of substitutions) 1 cup hobbies (cooking, crossword puzzles, reading, dancing) ½ cup volunteerism 1 tablespoon patience (add to taste) 2 tablespoons self-love Add a dash of gratitude and mix thoroughly It’s not a foolproof recipe and as I mentioned before, it changes regularly. I should also mention it’s an acquired taste. It was difficult for me to add less work and to figure out what other ingredients I enjoyed in its place. I had worked so hard for so long I really didn’t know what I enjoyed outside of work. The good news is, I do now, and while at times I get caught up in my professional identity, I am much, much happier with my work-life soufflé now. As the kids these days say, YOLO. I’ll leave you with one small addition to this silly yet profound notion, and it comes to you from Mae West. “If you do it right, once is enough.”
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m in the business of taking care of the cutest, most resilient kids on the planet. At least, that’s what I like to think about working at Children’s Clinics, a comprehensive medical home for children with special health care needs. As the Chief Administrative Officer, I have responsibility for a few really fun components of our work: shaping our brand and community reputation (marketing/communications), enhancing our employee/physician experience (human resources, professional staff services, and engagement), and arguably the best part of all, oversight of our childhood experiences (think: Santa, soccer teams, bike rides, costume contests, ice cream socials and more). I came to the Clinic as a graduate student intern after 7 years managing a private medical practice. As the CEO of the Clinic planned to retire, she agreed to take on one last student. I don’t know how it happened, but we were a match made in heaven. One year later and two weeks after attending her retirement party, I walked into my first day as an employee at Children’s Clinics. Since then, I’ve held a variety of progressive positions including my current role, which I’ve been growing in for the past 3 years. I lead with a deep appreciation for collaboration and harmony, which I know at times can be seen as a weakness, especially as a female leader. I don’t rule with an iron fist, and I have been known to spend the first half of a meeting listening to my team tell me about their latest wine tasting, hike, or Netflix binge. As I settle further into my career, I become more comfortable with my innate strengths and turn to others to fill in the gaps. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned has been the ability to find synergy with those around me.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Tucson gets a bit of a bummer reputation when compared with the Phoenix area, but as a native Tucsonan, I’m here to tell you that’s just simply not the case. It’s been a while since I’ve had out of town visitors, but let me just tell you what a week in Tucson would look like (this is for my cousins in the UK who owe me a visit!): Let’s say we’re driving into Tucson from Sky Harbor. We’d be jamming out in the car on I-10 listening to some of my favorite local musicians, XIXA or Miss Olivia and the Interlopers to name a couple. Throughout the week, we’d hike Sabino Canyon, visit Sanctuary Cove, drive down to Sonoita (and/or Elgin) for some Arizona wine tasting (an acquired taste). We’d have cocktails at The Royal Room, enjoy a bloody mary from the Hotel Congress bloody mary bar on the weekend, and pair it with the baked eggs–my favorite brunch! We’d pop into the Etherton Gallery downtown in hopes of catching art from local artists like Kate Breakey hanging on the walls. We’d have tableside salsa at Guadalajara grill, tres leches cake on the patio at Contigo, and work off the cake at a spin class at (r)evolve the next day. We’d end the trip with a spa day and a float down the lazy river at the JW Marriott Starr Pass, and a tequila toast at sunset, on the house. There’s so much more to see and do, but I’ll leave you with some creative room fill in the rest.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
To the female “chefs” that helped create my work-life balance recipe: Jill Bemis and Mimi Coomler, the leaders who taught me how to make the most out of the “work” in my recipe My mom and sister, who have shown me how to chill out, prioritize self care, and add a little spice The fierce community leaders I work alongside (Hilary Van Alsberg and Kate Jensen, to name a couple) And to my closest female friends, all of which are so different yet truly key ingredients: Adiba, Crystal, Lauren and Savanah And to my morning spin instructor, Brenda, for keeping me accountable for simply showing up (and for the endorphins I need to stay sane!)