The army is the backbone of any country, who are willing to sacrifice their lives and go through tremendous hardships for the safety and betterment of their countrymen. The support system of these brave hearts is their family and spouses.
Army spouses are often the unsung heroes, who are often bereft of their partner’s company in a foreign country tending to home, work, and raising children, singlehandedly, while their husband/wife is fighting in the frontiers.
But a common obstacle that most army wives face is the lack of employment opportunity. It isn’t because they lack qualification, skills, or have any other negative attribute. Since the army deploys their personnel after every few years, and their family relocate across the country or even in foreign locations, most employers are skeptical of hiring them.
Michelle Penczak had a lucrative career in Washington before she fell in love with a marine. As she moved across the country to be with her husband, she realised those job opportunities were things of the past. She then landed a job as a virtual assistant, and aced the job, until her employers filed for bankruptcy in 2015.
Her great work, made her clientele stay on with her, and this proved to be the turning point in the career of Michelle Penczak.
Today, Michelle Pennczak’s company Squared Away has over 150 employees stationed in over 6 countries. They partner with Hire Our Heroes, a non-profit organisation that helps provide employment to Military Veterans and army spouses.
Penczak employs army spouses, who have proven to be an asset to not only to the company but also to their clients. As virtual assistants, they undertake huge responsibilities and strives to provide a smooth working of their clients business.
This mother of two now juggles her roles as a CEO of Squared Away, time differences, and her home with aplomb. Though Michele in an interview with Forbes had stated, “I never saw myself as a CEO ever, in a million years.”
Since every employee of Squared Away is an Army spouse, they can empathise with the challenges that the other might be facing. They step in to help when someone gets deployed in a new posting or has a new baby. It is like an extended family.
Michelle Penczak has her eyes set on expansions and empowerment, providing career advancement for more army spouses.
The Voice Of Woman presents the story of Michelle Penczak, the founder of Squared Away. Read on to know her tips for being a successful military spouse, an excellent virtual assistant, and ways to juggle motherhood with the running of a business.
1. Being a military spouse is no cakewalk. What tips have you learned so far that come in handy?
As a military spouse, the first piece of advice you ever receive is to be flexible. While important, I’ve also found that it’s most important to be transparent. Our lives are ever-changing and I can guarantee that someone else is probably struggling with the same things you are.
2. What challenges have you faced until now while running this amazing venture- Squared Away?
The business side has been challenging but the toughest has been balancing my role as wife, mom, and CEO. Squared Away began when my now 4 yr old son was only 15 months old. Since that time, we’ve added another little boy to our family. Adding Covid to the mix with military moving orders, life has yet to be dull!
3. Military spouses are educated and experienced but they face challenges due to their marital status- what do you want to tell potential employers?
Military spouses are worth the chance you take on them. Their experience, drive, and talents are unmatched. Not only will you be getting someone who will do their absolute best, they also know how to thrive amidst many unforeseen challenges.
4. It’s not easy being a working mother, but being a military wife without partner support, can be extremely daunting- how do you successfully manage?
I make sure to employ boundaries between work and family as much as possible each week. At 5pm PST I go completely offline and focus on my family. Before 9am PST that is also my family time. It’s important for me to be present for my children so that they have consistency as much as possible, even though the military does not always allow the same for my husband.
5. Virtual assistants are becoming a reality especially after the pandemic- can you share tips for becoming a successful VA?
My biggest tip to being a successful virtual assistant is to be persistent and do every task to the very best of your ability.
6. Will work from home allow for greater participation of women in the work force?
I believe that depends on whether or not the opportunities to work from home for women are presented in a way that encourages them to apply.
7. Working from home often leads to longer working hours and working even on weekends, taking away on the downtime- how can one manage a work-life balance in such a situation?
Determine what your ideal working schedule and environment looks like and be sure to stick to your plan. Burn out from being overworked is a product of not maintaining a good work-life
8. You are already running a successful business, what are you plans for the next 5 years?
I wish I knew! The military lifestyle doesn’t allow for great predictability but I hope to be traveling more in the next 5 years!
9. What inspires you on the days that you might be feeling blue, especially when your husband is deployed?
My friends, family, and Squared Away community. We live a hard lifestyle and it’s awesome to have a support system of people who understand the challenges that come with it.
10. Please share a message for Military wives across the globe through the Voice of Woman.
Don’t give up! The season may be difficult but you are incredibly strong and resilient.