What happens when you and your co-founder are both mothers? Can you modify your work schedule without altering your ambition? What type of project is worthy of your precious time and attention?

Sometimes it takes a while to find the career path you really love. For Sonia Chang, it took a while to settle into and really own that entrepreneurship was something she felt called to do. Today, she is the co-founder of a brand new company called Playfully. She spent 10 years in product management and digital consumer products before she finally jumped in to the entrepreneurial waters.

Sonia is the mom of two young kids and has another one on the way and she is thrilled to be working on building products that make life easier for new parents. Today, we talk about how she took a long-term view of her career. Her advice: don’t settle for a job, or a career that doesn’t feel like it’s authentically you. It’s also okay to be patient and to wait for the right professional opportunity to come along even if you have to make short-term sacrifices, like staying in a less an ideal job for longer than you had wanted to.

Her background includes a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She has worked for a long time building digital consumer products at companies including Amazon, Zulily, Poshmark and Shutterfly. Just this last year in 2018, she left the corporate world to pursue her longtime dream of becoming an entrepreneur and she co-founded Playfully.

One of the fascinating things about the company is not the product, although we’ll talk about the product on the show. The fact that it is co-founded by two moms who work a very different schedule by design: they agree to meet three times a week in-person, but the rest of the work that they do is done around their kids.

Listen in as we talk about her career path, her partnership, her fertility story and how IVF, in vitro fertilization is part of that journey and how she navigates co-parenting and why equal partnerships are, to her, one of the fundamental pieces that make entrepreneurial journeys possible.

  • How Sonia’s first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage and set off a multi-year journey through infertility.
  • The ways in which Sonia reflects with gratitude on her infertility and IVF journey and how that has profoundly shaped and altered the type of parent she is to her children.
  • How Sonia and her partner divide child care and household duties 50/50.
  • How a project manager uses Asana at home to maximize efficiency and enjoyment.

The Startup Pregnant Podcast Episode #117

  • “I knew that I wanted to work. I wanted to have a family. It was through watching [my mother] that I knew that it was possible to do both of those things.”
  • “I just felt like such a failure for not being able to carry this baby. I thought that there must have been something seriously wrong with me. It actually clouded in many ways how I thought of myself professionally. It seems irrational, but it made me lose a lot of confidence in how I saw my own career and worth as an individual.”
  • “I also felt in the scheme of all these terrible things that could possibly happen to someone, maybe a first-time miscarriage just isn’t that bad. I felt, maybe embarrassed for feeling such a depth of emotion over it. I worried that if I told others how I truly felt, that either they wouldn’t be able to understand, or relate, or maybe they’d even judge me and think that I was crazy for feeling this upset over it.”
  • “I think looking back, not sharing with others was probably not the right decision at all because instead, I ended up feeling very, very alone.”
  • “The beauty of my struggle with infertility is that it’s just made me a much more grateful person. I know now looking back, had my first pregnancy just somehow magically worked out, I just don’t think I would be the same person I am today. I think the struggle to have kids has entirely shaped who I am as a mom now, how I choose to spend my time, what my priorities are.”
  • “You think you have control over these things. You think if you just do everything exactly right, that it’s all just going to magically work out. When it comes to pregnancy and really just parenting in general, the complete opposite is true. You have no control.”
  • “We designed our day-to-day working so that we can prioritize that time with our kids. What we try to do is be in the office together about three times a week. We’re very efficient on the other days that we’re not working directly together.”
  • “I think having that dedicated time multiple times a week is really great, because it gives us a lot of face-to-face time where we’re brainstorming new ideas, we’re doing a lot of strategic thinking for the business and just working through any data or analysis that is really much better done when you have two heads working together.”
  • “I think, like many entrepreneurs, this job is not a nine-to-five job. We did not structure that way intentionally. 5 p.m., I’m not necessarily closing my laptop and thinking that work is done for the day, but I find that it actually works really well for me. I like that I can move in between family and work and sometimes it’s minute-to-minute. I’m with my kids for lunch, then jumping upstairs to do a quick email. I think a big part of why it works for me is because I feel I’m working on something that I’m really passionate about and I’m finally doing something that I always wanted to do in my life.”
  • “We are really trying to build a company that has a lot of impact on parents. What we’re trying to do is address this gap that actually happens in the first three years of life, where a lot of the brain is formed, 85% of it and that’s the foundation for all future learning. No formal education really starts until a couple years later, and so I think Playfully has this opportunity to address this big gap in supporting their kids’ development in a really structured way.”
  • “We are trying to grow as quickly as we can. We’re trying to do everything that we can, given that it’s the two of us and our time and we’re trying to balance all that with the moms too. It’s hard. I think our goals are ambitious. I think we know where we want to be. We know what type of company we want to build. We are doing everything we can to get there.”

Sonia Chang is the co-founder of Playfully, a baby and child development app that provides parents quick, fun, expert-backed activities and tips to promote their child’s development. An accomplished product management leader, she has 10-plus years of experience building digital consumer products at companies including Amazon, Zulily, Poshmark, and Shutterfly. In 2018, she left the corporate world to pursue her long-time dream of becoming an entrepreneur and co-founded Playfully. As a mom of two young kids (and another on the way!), she loves building products that make life easier for new parents. Sonia holds a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.


Thank you to the sponsor of this episode: Aeroflow Breastpumps. They are dedicated to making the hassle of getting your breast pump a little bit easier—actually, a lot easier! Head to www.aeroflowbreastpumps.com/startup to have them help you qualify for a free breast pump through insurance.

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