Having It All: A new column about women managing work and family.
BY KIM CLEMENTS-JOHNSON
Her iPhone alarm sounds at 4:45 am. She hits snooze at least once before rolling out of bed. She’s mastered her morning routine in order to catch the vanpool by 5:50 am to get to her job in Indianapolis by 7 am. She washes her face, brushes her teeth, slides the outfit she chose the night before off the vintage wire dress form, gets dressed, tiptoes downstairs, kisses each of her three sleeping sons, 9, 14, and 16, and whispers, “Have a great day.”
An hour later she lands at Eli Lilly and Company where she is currently consulting, leading a global $50-million information technology project.
For Jelanna Olivera Morgan, 40, the path to becoming a program manager for the consulting firm BCforward was arduous and nontraditional. “I finished my undergrad degree when I turned thirty,” she says. “I was pregnant, had two preschool-age sons, and my husband, Rex, was working on his master’s degree.” Jelanna began teaching technology application courses at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, where they were living, and became the sole financial provider for a year while Rex finished school.
“It was a real life choice, because at the time I thought I should just jump into grad school immediately. I was feeling the constraint of time, but knowing I had a baby on the way, and because Rex was working on his grad degree, I decided to wait,” she says.
Once her husband finished his degree, they moved to Bloomington, where he took a job teaching social sciences at Bloomington High School North. Jelanna periodically taught at Ivy Tech Community College-Bloomington, but felt a growing desire to pursue that advanced degree she’d put off years before.
“I knew if I was ever going to go from teaching to a more strategic, consulting IT career, I was going to have to go after that graduate degree.” She did just that, completing her Masters of Information Systems degree in two years at IU’s Kelley School of Business. Four days before graduating, she accepted a position with an international advisory services firm.
Looking back on her 20s, which she devoted to raising her children, Jelanna says she felt a longing for something more. “I loved being home with my boys but I remember feeling intellectually depleted, so going back to school was a great release,” she says. “Also, I knew if I didn’t pursue a career, our family choices were going to be limited—taking a vacation to see my parents and sister in San Antonio, Texas, was a stretch financially.”
Juggling a career and home life hasn’t always worked perfectly, but her goal isn’t perfection. “I struggle with the idea that as a mother, wife, and businesswoman that I need to be able to do it all well,” she says. “I work proactively at making decisions, to think more strategically about life, and I’ve learned to let the small things go.”
Jelanna Morgan’s Method
She comes up for air:
“On the first day of each month I take time to reflect on the past thirty days. Is this job still right? Is home okay? We let life get too granular sometimes, and this just helps me check in with myself regularly.”
She lives in the moment:
“I block out daily one-on-one time with my boys—without my cell phone. I’m completely present when I’m with them.”
She isn’t afraid to ask:
“If I want to work on a particular project or believe I’m deserving of a raise, I’ll ask. More often than not I’ve found if you just ask, and can make a good business case for it, you’re likely to get what you want.”