November 28, 2023
It was late at night and the kids were finally asleep after endless attempts of sending them to their beds. Feeling half brain dead after a long day, I was wracking my brain trying to come up with an introduction that our next spectacular Fireside Chat guest deserved…
At this very moment from the tv show playing in the background, I heard this signature line from Elizabeth Zott, the main character in this empowering story called Lessons in Chemistry, saying: “Children, set the table. Your mother needs a moment to herself.” Ah ha, that was a light bulb moment for me.
I see a lot of parallels between Elizabeth Zott and our Fireside Chat guest. They are both brilliant scientists (one a chemist and one who holds a PhD in infection and immunity); they are strong, focused, and determined; they have a knack for culinary arts; and last but not least, they are both moms. Having a background and experiences in medical science myself, I am naturally gravitated towards both of them who share the same passion and mindset as a working professional as well as a parent.
Please enjoy the following Fireside Chat from Pia-Lauren Reece (or Dr. Pia) that is transparent and unreserved and akin to a methodological step-by-step guide for parents who are breathing and living the Dual 10 Challenges!
Adapting from Elizabeth’s famous signature line that she ended her every beloved cooking show with: “Children, set the table. Your parents need a moment to themselves to enjoy this Fireside Chat with Pia.”
Without further ado, let’s get started!
P.S. Please join Pia and other amazing panelists who are going to discuss a very important topic – Women Professionals & Lawyers Discuss the “Second Shift” as Family Caregivers on Nov 30, 23 at 1:30 pm (Eastern Time).
P.P.S. If you are looking for a good book to read, check out Bonnie Garmus’ Lessons in Chemistry that is witty and full of inspiring quotes, such as:
“…rowing is almost exactly like raising kids. Both require patience, endurance, strength, and commitment. And neither allow us to see where we’re going – only where we’ve been.”
“Every day she found parenthood like taking a test for which she had not studied. The questions were daunting and there wasn’t nearly enough multiple choice.”
Part 1 - Introduction
Hi, my name is... Pia-Lauren Reece, but I just go by Pia (or some friends will call me Dr. Pia 😊).
Year of obtaining patent agent license: 2019, right before the pandemic!
Type of practice, your role, and where: I work for Aird & McBurney LP (a subsidiary of Aird & Berlis; a business law firm downtown Toronto). I’m a licensed Patent Agent in Canada, and because of reciprocal recognition agreements between the U.S. and Canada, I’m also a U.S Patent Agent (having the ability to file applications for Canadian applicants before the USPTO).
How many children do you have? I have two kids – my son is 6 years (as of September) and my daughter turns 4 in December.
What do you do for self-care or stress relief? I have at least a couple go-to’s actually – I really like working out – I’m a part of a HIT gym, which is amazing because it is a major stress reliever (and believe me, I have the lions share when it comes that lol), but also an amazing way to stay fit and learn self-defense techniques. I also enjoy my Zumba classes for an amazing dance workout with fun music and moves!
What would you do for work if you weren’t in the legal profession? Good question – I feel like it would likely be something in education or the arts. I really enjoy teaching so I could see myself as a prof, for example, in the sciences, or I have really gotten into cooking so I could see myself doing something in the culinary arts. 😊
Part 2 - The first “Dual 10” Challenge: within the first 10 years post-license
Equilawbrium: Do you have a master plan for your career path? What is the driving force behind your career decisions? What are the important things to consider as you are figuring out your career path?
Pia: The master plan I have for my career path is to: (1) become incredibly proficient at what I do; and (2) be a partner at the firm. To achieve the master plan, I set myself up with mini-goal(s) related to plan (1) and major-goal(s) related to plan (2).
My first mini-goal is just being the best Patent Agent that I can be (i.e. understanding the law, appropriate strategizing for clients, excellent communication skills, respectable response times etc). This is what I work on daily with the work that I do as a Patent Agent, whether it be drafting applications, reporting Office Actions, or preparing and filing Responses to Office Actions, for example. As I have been increasing my efficiency in this area, my second mini-goal is increasing my understanding the business side of the job. As an Associate, I have been given a number of projects to understand how to do my job proficiently (speed, accuracy, content). However, now, as I’m building my own book of business, I’m working on understanding how to build a book, but also, how the patent business/agency is run. It is, therefore, a mini-goal of mine to become very good and knowledgeable in this area as well.
My major goal is to become a partner at the firm, but I’m not interested in doing that until my above mini-goals are either completed, or at least at a state that I feel I’m ready to take that next step in my career. I work on increasing my confidence in myself and my abilities everyday so that I can make this goal a reality within the next 5 years.
The driving force behind my career decisions or what was important when considering my career path relates to family and financial reasons. My goal is to make sure that my family (and really my kids) is cared for both emotionally and financially. While I do not want to be in a career that keeps me away from my family, I do want to make sure that I’m compensated for my abilities, experience, and value. In addition, I value having flexibility with my job, so that if something happens with my kids (e.g. a school issue), I’m able to attend to it without that being an “issue” at work. Working remotely has definitely helped with things like this, and overall, greatly from a quality-of-life perspective.
I think that the most important thing to consider and that I have considered along the way, is what do you really want out of this life? Do you want to make a million dollar a year or do you want to spend time with family and friends? You can make insanely high salaries, but at what cost? I believe that you can make a really good salary and not have to sacrifice it all – quality of life is not disrupted (i.e. having time for yourself, time for family, but still able to live comfortably and enjoy what you do based on the money you make with your job).
I think that you need to determine what it is you want, and early, so that you can live as authentically as possible. Do what truly makes you happy because being happy in this life is, truly, the ultimate goal!
Equilawbrium: Please list one soft skill that contributed to where are you now and suggestions on how to cultivate it.
Pia: A soft skill in the communication realm that has definitely got me to where I am now, is my ability to listen and receive constructive feedback. When I was hired as a Patent Agent Trainee, I admitted that I was as green as they come. I had heard the terms “provisional patent application” and “CIPO”, but I had never drafted a patent application or claims. I was told, on numerous occasions, and it’s true (for anyone interested in this field!), it’s a very steep learning curve. I had to set aside my graduate school experience/knowledge and open my mind to learning something completely new. I was able to ask questions, but importantly I listened to what was being asked of me and the knowledge of the field being shared by my mentors so that I would be able to grow into the Patent Agent that I am today. In addition, not taking any constructive criticism seriously or personally helped me learn from the comment and grow as a Patent Agent.
Equilawbrium: Please list one hard skill that contributed to where are you now and suggestions on how to cultivate it.
Pia: I would say my research, writing, and communication skills, developed principally through my graduate studies, is one skill that has contributed to where I am now. Not only do I know where to find what it is that I need, but I can digest the information quickly and write down what is necessary to get the job done. This is applicable to all aspects of my job, whether it be a reply to a client with a query, or to drafting a patent application on subject-matter that I have never researched before.
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?
Pia: I think the key to juggling work/life responsibilities is both (1) your desire to have it; and (2) working in an environment that supports it.
With respect to (1), I absolutely want to have a strong work/life balance. I believe that this is important for mental and physical health. For me, being able to take a break away from my desk (e.g. going for a walk or just stepping away from the project) when I’m stressed or feeling overwhelmed, is so important, and helps me be the best “me”. In addition, while there are some projects that require more time to complete or may have fast deadlines, knowing that the average project does not have those kind of requirements of me, is also important. In this way, I’m able to break up the tasks as needed so I can approach each project appropriately.
With respect to (2), even if you want to have the work/life balance, if you are in an environment that does not believe in that, but, instead, wants their employees to “bill, bill, bill”, it will be very unlikely that having this balance would be attainable for you (except for those that can work really hard and still find a way to make time for everything else – I’m definitely not skilled in that area!). My firm is very accommodating, especially when there is a need (e.g. family crisis), and they understand that working people into the ground is very unlikely beneficial to anyone. I really appreciate that I am able to ride the waves of workflow and am not required to be a billing machine, so that when I need that time “just for myself” to “unwind”, I’m free to take it and recharge for the next amount of work on the docket!
In view of the above, I do believe that it is possible to have a family life and a work life simultaneously and harmoniously but you have to ensure that (1) and (2) are aligned. If these two are aligned, then it is really up to you just putting it into action!
Equilawbrium: What is the one parenting tip or trick that you must share?
Pia: I believe that children really do know when you are not “at your best”. In saying this, I think it’s imperative that you make time for yourself, to make sure that you are the best “you”, so that you can be the best version of yourself for your kids as it is said “you can’t pour from an empty cup”!
Equilawbrium: What do you find most rewarding having kid(s) ≤10 years of age?
Pia: I love watching them explore and describe the world. Since they don’t understand how things in the world work, why people do the things they do, it’s interesting to see their brains working to figure out their curiosities. I also really appreciate the fact that, no matter what I do, even when I think that I have messed up (really, as a mom, when do we think we get anything right!), my kids always remind me how much they love me and how important I am to them. That kind of unconditional love between us is really amazing and such a “pick me up” after a long day or week!
Part 4 - Achieving Equilawbrium: how to survive & rise from the “Dual 10” Challenges
"Live authentically and do what fills your cup because this is your time, so live it the best way you can!" – Pia-Lauren Reece
Equilawbrium: What is 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?
Pia: The biggest challenge during the Dual 10 phase is making sure that I’m present, both in my job and for my kids. It can be easy to throw yourself into one or the other (especially from a “let’s avoid multi-tasking” perspective), but, for me, I would like to be able to pay the appropriate amount of attention in both realms. I want to be there emotionally and physically for my kids, but also be able to excel at my work and become the best Patent Agent that I can be.
I think that it is possible to achieve this but it really does take A LOT of work – being present is an active process, you need to tell yourself to be present and then be present. With everything that goes on in life, it’s easy to just press autopilot and keep it moving, but to me, that’s not a life worth living/experiencing. In fact, it isn’t really living!
My advice to those that find themselves in their early career and with kids, is really ask yourself what you want out of life and finding a good “fit” for it. If you want the family time, work in a firm with the right culture and appreciation for their employees and built in flexibility and understanding for life’s many many changes or upsets! Once you have done this, my next advice, is just breathe and trust the process. I’m a firm believer of “what is meant to be will be”. For myself, I set goals, but I don’t tie myself to the way that I will achieve them. If what I want for myself is supposed to be mine, it will happen when the time is right, and I’m not going to force the issue. Put your desires into the universe and see how things begin to unfold almost “magically” before your eyes. 😊
Equilawbrium: What is your take-home message for our readers who are trying to find their “equilawbrium”?
Pia: My take-home message for finding an equilawbrium is know yourself and go after what makes you happy. I feel like there are too many people out there living lives that don’t “feed their soul” and, as such, they are very unhappy. Live authentically and do what fills your cup because this is your time, so live it the best way you can!
Equilawbrium: What is the one-word encouragement/support that you would want us to remember?
<<End of Fireside Chat with Pia-Lauren Reece>>
**A MILLION THANKS TO PIA!!!**
Pia-Lauren’s forward-thinking approach and scientific credentials allow her to understand the technological underpinnings of an invention as well as how the technology may evolve in the future. She looks at a product beyond its face value when drafting and developing patent applications to ensure its longevity and success in the marketplace.
Pia-Lauren is a registered patent agent in Canada and the United States with experience in the areas of patent application filing, drafting, prosecution and opinion work. She has a technical background in specialized areas of life sciences and medicine, including cellular biology, biochemistry, diagnostics, therapeutics and immunology.
She received a doctorate in immunology from McMaster University and went on to investigate early life biomarkers of allergic disease as a postdoctoral fellow at the university. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals and has been presented at conferences held in Canada and abroad.
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.