World Down Syndrome Day, Three Arrows and a Start-Up
March 21, World Down Syndrome Day, is special to me because my second daughter, Nora, was diagnosed prenatally with Down syndrome. The twenty-first day of the third month signifies “the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the twenty-first chromosome which causes Down syndrome.”
I recently had the opportunity to connect with twenty other moms raising children with Down syndrome at a retreat designed to celebrate our little ones with that extra chromosome. Over the weekend, we talked openly and candidly and shared our unique stories. To unite us in the experience, we decided to get matching tattoos of three arrows representing the third copy of the twenty-first chromosome, also known as “The Lucky Few” tattoo. The arrows remind us that, like an arrow, we sometimes have to draw back to rise up and move forward.
Drawing Back to Move Forward
Nora is now eight years old, and every day, she teaches our family that no matter how far you’re pulled back, you will move forward in every aspect of life.
Certain milestones took a bit longer for Nora. For instance, she didn’t walk until she was two-and-a-half years old. But, when she finally took her first steps, it was a significant accomplishment that we all celebrated! We knew she worked so hard to get there, and it filled us with joy to see her start walking. This was just one of the many times that Nora reminded us that it’s okay to take your time or fall down a bunch; you’ll eventually move in the right direction.
The symbolism of the arrows—drawing back to move forward—also relates to how I’ve experienced our start-up’s journey. At a start-up, you must get down to the basics, trust the process and understand that it may take a bit longer and may be challenging. But then, when you finally achieve those milestones, it’s incredibly rewarding, and seeing all the hard work makes you appreciate it more.
Life is Not Linear
When Nora was born, I took a step back in my role as a recruiter and transitioned to working part-time in an administrative position for four years. When Nora turned four, she was a year into pre-school and thriving in that environment. She had hit her stride. As a mom, I felt like it was time to get back into my career, and that’s when I heard from Mike Greene, the CEO of Hi Marley.
Mike told me he was starting a new venture in the InsurTech space. It was the founding team’s second start-up, and they had bold goals; they wanted to make insurance lovable and create the best place that anyone has ever worked. They hired me as their recruiter to take the lead on bringing in new talent and help build the culture. I started as employee number six. Today, I’m leading the People function, the team responsible for talent acquisition, people operations, DE&I, learning and development, employee engagement, and benefits administration for our 90-plus employees.
Nora taught me that, like an arrow, life—and work—are not linear. We experience ups and downs, setbacks, and challenges—but everything still moves forward. This outlook influenced the way I approach the culture at Hi Marley. As a start-up, things change quickly, requiring us to have the humility to acknowledge that we won’t always get it right the first time and admit when things aren’t working.
Leading the people team and scaling the company during the pandemic required me to put the lesson of pulling back to move forward into action. We had to hit pause, step back, assess the situation, have the courage to try new ideas and continue to iterate as we move forward. The company has grown so much in the past two years, and this mindset of pulling back to move forward allowed us to be flexible.
This year, World Down Syndrome Day 2022’s goal is to “empower people around the world to advocate for full inclusion in society for people with Down syndrome and for everyone.” To start the global conversation, the Campaign is asking everyone, “What does inclusion mean?“
At Hi Marley, inclusion means creating a culture where everyone feels comfortable bringing their whole selves to work:
We believe everyone deserves to be respected and heard without judgment or compromising who they truly are. Therefore, we commit to creating a psychologically safe space for our community. We actively listen to, elevate and celebrate the ideas and perspectives of people of all backgrounds and levels of experience at Hi Marley.
Nora has given me a unique perspective in life that I’ve brought into the start-up world. Recognizing that we all have unique perspectives and experiences allows us to support each other and create a more inclusive environment where we can learn from one another, better ourselves and work together to achieve our collective goals.