Fireside Chat with Meyling Ly Ortiz
May 24, 2023
One night after we put the kids to bed, my husband showed me a photo on his phone. It was a photo of a cute baby crawling happily on a mat. My first impression was: what an adorable baby with chubby cheeks and big eyes filled with curiosity. At the next awakening second, I was shocked and overwhelmed with a hint of guilt and sadness. That baby was my own son at around 10 months old and I couldn’t recognize him at first sight. In fact, I don’t have much of a recollection of my kids at that time period because I was so consumed by the self-imposed urgency on building my career. In other words, I was so distracted being a mom and was totally absent for my kids.
While I am glad those dark ages of mine were over, I hope no working parents will need to go through the same haunting experience. I realize and truly appreciate now that the time I have spending with my kids is precious and will never come back (yes, even those hair pulling moments dealing with their tantrums or cleaning up their gargantuan mess). The truth is, time flies and the kids will double their size in the blink of an eye.
It is the one of the many wise words and encouragements that our next Fireside Chat guest, Meyling Ly Ortiz, has shared with us today. In addition to Mey’s authentic and heartfelt sharing, she has provided many practical tips for working parents including a list of important things to consider as you are figuring out your career path, keeping a ready-to-go bag in the car, and finding a fun way to stay connected with the kids such as the rose, bud, and thorn exercise.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
P.S. Can’t get enough of Mey? Check out her incredible personal blog: TheMeybe.com.
P.P.S. I strongly urge you to seize this present moment today and give your kid(s) / loved ones the biggest hugs and kisses like never before.
“Wherever we're standing, I won't take you for granted
'Cause we'll never know when, when we'll run out of time
In the blink of an eye, just a whisper of smoke
You could lose everything, the truth is you never know
So I'll kiss you longer, any chance that I get
I'll make the most of the minutes and love with no regret
Let's take our time to say what we want
Use what we got before it's all gone
'Cause no, we're not promised tomorrow” – Like I’m Gonna Lose You by Meghan Trainor
Part 1 - Introduction
Hi, my name is... Meyling Ly Ortiz – I go by Mey (“may”).
Year of call to the Bar: 2006.
Type of practice, your role, and where: In-house employment counsel at Toyota Motor North America, Inc.
How many children do you have? A precocious 7 yr old girl, a free spirited 5 yr old boy and the sun in our family universe, a 1 yr old girl.
What do you do for self-care or stress relief? I am always amazed by how a 30 minute quiet hot bath in candlelight can turn my mood around every time – it’s an automatic reset for me.
What would you do for work if you weren’t in the legal profession? I would write, have a podcast, coach young professionals --maybe be a journalist or professor. I might do these things still.
Part 2 - The first “Dual 10” Challenge: within the first 10 years post-license
Equilawbrium: Did you have a master plan for your career path? What was the driving force behind your career decisions? What are the important things to consider as you are figuring out your career path?
Mey: No master plan. From my perspective, setting something so far out when I had little control and little experience or exposure seemed unproductive. Rather, my practice was to set one or two professional goals at a time, and once I achieved them, I would set another one.
For example, my first goal was to graduate law school with honors and getting a job as a lawyer to start paying back my student loans and to help my immigrant parents. Once I graduated and began working at a small firm, my next goal was to move to a big firm. I also had the goal of being president of the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers.
The driving force behind my career decisions was initially financial security. From my lived experience as a child of hard-working immigrants, financial security was everything. I was willing to sacrifice sleep, health, my free time – almost anything to make sure that I was one of the top billers and the kind of associate that most would want on their team. I wanted to make partner as quickly as possible. In hindsight, my ambition was unhealthy but I didn’t know any better.
There are so many important things to consider. Here are some questions to ask yourself, in no particular order:
Do you enjoy the work?
Are you learning and growing?
Are you getting the training, mentoring, coaching, sponsorship you want?
Do you enjoy the people you work with and the culture of firm or company?
Are you respected?
Do you feel fulfilled and valued?
Are you able to be authentic?
Do you feel like you belong?
What is your growth trajectory?
What are you good at vs. what do you enjoy?
What do you dislike vs. what are you not good at?
Equilawbrium: Please list one soft skill that contributed to where are you now and suggestions on how to cultivate it.
Mey: The ability to connect and empathize with others has led to strong relationship-building.
To cultivate empathy, start with having intellectual curiosity about the people you meet. Wonder who they are and why they are the way they are. Then muster the courage to talk to others, ask them questions in genuine interest to connect to them and learn about their lived experiences. Even if they are different experiences, search for the commonalities you share. Consider how it may feel if you were in their shoes.
Equilawbrium: Please list one hard skill that contributed to where are you now and suggestions on how to cultivate it.
Mey: The ability to speak publicly. I started at an early age with speech and debate in junior high.
For me, public speaking is about preparation and lots of practice. Consider joining Toastmasters or speech or debate-type activity that will force you to practice. Watch Ted Talks and other speeches or watch talented trial lawyers. Sign up for moot court or mock trial, if you’re a law student.
Part 3 - The second “Dual 10” Challenge: have kids in their first 10 formative years
Equilawbrium: How do you juggle work/life responsibilities? Is it possible to have a family life and a work life simultaneously and harmoniously?
Mey: So important not to buy into the myth of work/life balance. The term does not reflect reality. First, it makes work more important than everything else that is a part of life, which is a fallacy in and of itself. Work is a part of life; not outside of life and so big as to equal life. Instead, I like the term Work Life Fit -how any parent fits work into their life is personal and changes constantly. I also like the term Work Life Shift – how we constantly shift work to fit into our lives as our seasons change.
It is possible to have work life fit simultaneously and harmoniously. It takes constraint, constant prioritization and flexibility. For example, I was very active in community volunteering and bar association service before having children. With three children ages 7 and below currently, I can still be a part of the bar, but I cannot serve the same way as I did and it is simply not a priority right now – but I am confident I can give in the future, just not now.
I think it is important to come up with your list of priorities and stick to them, then build processes to make your life easier around those priorities. Of course, I am privileged to have an amazing partner, the ability to hire help as needed.
Equilawbrium: What is your fondest memory of your kids at that age?
Mey: It is so hard to choose but I’m going with the first time my daughter kissed my “boo-boo” at 18 months. I loved how she already learned empathy and could show love, just as she was taught.
Part 4 - Achieving Equilawbrium: how to survive & rise from the “Dual 10” Challenges
"Lean into your intuition and figuring out what works best for your family. And don’t be afraid of seeking community with other parents – not for the sake of comparison but for camaraderie and connection – to combat the loneliness" – Meyling Ly Ortiz
Equilawbrium: What was your biggest challenge going through the Dual 10 phase? Any advice for our readers who are living and breathing this phase and trying to survive and excel?
Mey: For me, my biggest challenge is quelling my inner critic – the one that berates me for mistakes and guilts me when I cannot be at every school function. Thank goodness my husband is great reminding me of all the mom-things I do well. As overachievers we always want to be the best or want the best. But now with my third little one I better understand that I am already the best in their eyes and what they need the most from me is presence and connection, to feel safe and loved.
Equilawbrium: What is your take-home message for our readers who are trying to find their “equilawbrium”?
Mey: There is no “right” way – so save yourself the energy of chasing it. Instead, lean into your intuition and figuring out what works best for your family. And don’t be afraid of seeking community with other parents – not for the sake of comparison but for camaraderie and connection – to combat the loneliness.
Equilawbrium: What is the one-word encouragement/support that you would want us to remember?
Mey: Presence (over perfection).
<<End of Fireside Chat with Meyling Ly Ortiz>>
**A MILLION THANKS TO MEY!!**
Meyling "Mey" Ly Ortiz is Managing Counsel of Employment at Toyota Motor North America, Inc. Her passions include mentoring, championing diversity and inclusion and a personal blog: TheMeybe.com. At home, you can find her doing her best to be a "fun" mom to three kids under seven and chasing her best self on her Peloton. You can follow her on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/meybe/).
Disclaimer: Any views, information, and personal opinions expressed by the authors or guests are entirely their own and do not reflect or represent those of their employers or clients.