Father’s Day! The day all about letting the dads in our lives know just how much they mean to us. Here at SFS we’ve got no shortage of super-dads, so we thought we’d celebrate by checking in with our colleagues Ajay Patel – Head of Customer Innovation, and Rob Hallworth – Block Discounting Sales Manager, to have a chat about their experiences of fatherhood and working with SFS:
Tell us a little bit about yourself as a father.
Ajay: I am the father of an almost 4-year-old, who will start school in September. So far, he has lived most of his life under coronavirus restrictions, but I have been blessed to see him grow up and develop right in front of my eyes, which no doubt I would have missed under normal circumstances. With me being around the whole time, we’ve developed a lot of Daddy and Elijah peculiarities, such as me having to be waiting behind the letter box, when he arrives back from Nursery so he can lift the flap and shout “Come please Daddy!”. I have excused myself from several calls when I hear the front gate 😊. It is these things and the time I have been so fortunate to have with him, that are so important to me. Life is basically happening right in front of me.
Rob: Unlike Ajay, I have a daughter and a son both now in their mid-20s. They’ve both flown the nest, so whilst I certainly did school runs in the past and was very involved in their various activities, this is now becoming an increasingly distant memory (time flies!).
For me, it has always been about balance. It’s too easy to spend too much time at work. I have seen it so many times where people come to regret not spending enough time with their children. I was fortunate in that my wife was able to give up work whilst we brought up the children (which was something we chose to do) but it was certainly not without its sacrifices.
How has SFS supported you as a father?
Ajay: Prior to the pandemic, we as a team always worked flexibly and I afforded everyone complete freedom to work where and when as they saw fit. Now, in the days of hybrid working, Teams calls offer us such an insight into our colleague’s home life and families. As a result, no one blinks an eye lid at little ones joining a call, someone needing to do the school run, mop up a snotty nose, or save the house from going up in flames following the latest failed science experiment. I think it is so easy for me to say that I feel so blessed to work for such an understanding and caring company, but the truth is, I feel blessed to work with colleagues who are so understanding, caring and supportive. It is them who make the difference and create that feeling of being part of an extended family.
Rob: The management team at SFS are all parents themselves and so appreciate these same values, which I believe is reflected in the overall culture here at SFS. Family is priority and so in times of importance, I have always found SFS to be extremely accommodating and considerate, there is never an issue when a family matter requires unexpected time away from the business and ensuring the right balance between family and work life is actively encouraged.
The job is certainly demanding but I have always been ‘home-based’ when not travelling out to meet clients. This has allowed me to be ‘on-hand’ at certain points in the day to support the children, whether it be doing the school run or ferrying to and from events when I might otherwise be commuting. My previous roles (before joining SFS) were always office based and although it did take some time to adjust to the home-working approach, I wouldn’t go back. I feel I am much more productive and fortunate to be able to be as involved as I am in family life.
Do you think fatherhood has had a positive impact on your role at SFS?
Ajay: I think I am quite surprised how big an impact fatherhood has had on my role at SFS. Everything about being a father is completely transferable, from finding ways to solve difficult situations, to trying all sorts of ways to explain things in a simple way. Right now for me, being a father is all about feedback. Feedback that you need to give a little one, to help them grow or understand the impact of their actions, to the immediate feedback you get from them on how your actions and behaviours make them feel. Within the customer innovation group, we are all about trying new things, failing fast and resetting course as quick as possible, but when I watch my son, playing with some Lego bricks, attempting to scale the back of the sofa, or practising his version of a yoga pose, I realise we have a long way to go!
Rob: I would say yes in a number of ways, not least a desire to succeed, to be happy in the work I do, and for the children to recognise the value of hard work and commitment.
Of course, the benefit of having always worked in financial roles is that it has helped me to guide the children in terms of certain aspects, such as saving for certain things, budgeting for future events and appreciating what you have.
My daughter is now following a career in the healthcare sector (as a fully qualified dietician), whilst my son has recently completed his ACCA accountancy qualification, so now pursuing a career in business, not dissimilar from my own. Between my wife and myself, we have supported and guided both children through their school and university lives, and it is great to see them both now following positive career paths and, most importantly, being happy in what they do. 😊