Parenting is tough. Working parents face a unique set of challenges, striving for work-life well-being and opportunities to grow their careers while raising their families.
AbbVie is honored to again be recognized on Seramount’s (formerly Working Mother Media’s) “100 Best Companies” and “Best Companies for Dads” lists for outstanding leadership in creating progressive programs, advancement of women, flexibility, childcare and paid parental leave, remote working and more.
With about 150 AbbVie parents nominated by their peers, we thank all our working parents who endured an especially challenging year. Meet our 2021 Working Parents of the Year recipients, Nicole Fountain and Kailash Purohit, who bring different stories and experiences but have a common parenting goal: Teaching their children the value of service to others.
You’re both working parents to two children each. Tell us about your kids and what you do at AbbVie.
Nicole Fountain: My husband, Justin, and I have an 8-year-old son, Brecken, and a 5-year-old daughter, Ellie. Both of our kids are incredibly social and have big personalities but are uniquely different. Brecken is active and loves all things sports, especially football and lacrosse, while Ellie is more creative and artistic and wants to be a rock star.
I’m a business development manager with Allergan Aesthetics, and my role is really working with physicians and medical practices to help them succeed in the aesthetics space. What I’ve really found at AbbVie is a team of people with different backgrounds and skills, whether that’s someone in research & development, technology or aesthetics, with a common goal to help better people’s lives.
Kailash Purohit: My wife, Mukta, and I have two sons and they are totally different. Neil is 15 and while he looks more like me, his personality is like my wife’s, very reserved. Sohil is 14, looks a lot like his mother but like me, he is outgoing. It’s incredible to watch them grow into their own skin.
At AbbVie I’m a finance systems portfolio manager, and I work with teams and systems across the globe. What I tell my family and friends is that I help my stakeholders do the right thing with the resources that we have.
As parents and partners, how do you approach challenges?
Nicole: What’s unique about my relationship with Justin is that we met at 18 as freshmen in college. Our relationship has and continues to grow over time and through the challenges we have faced. One of our biggest challenges early on in our marriage was going through the IVF (in vitro fertilization) process to have both Brecken and Ellie. Justin and I always knew we wanted to be parents, and unfortunately, that wasn’t going to be easy for us. Life threw us a curveball but that only strengthened our bond and our desire to have a family.
From the very beginning, we had conversations on how we would approach the challenges associated with raising a family, both being working parents. We took the lessons learned from our own childhoods and incorporated our own vision. We try to approach each new experience with the challenge: How can we have fun with this? Because at the end of the day, raising a family (and marriage) should be fun. We’ve found that the best way to approach challenges, especially challenges in parenting, is to be on the same page.
Kailash: My wife and I both joined the U.S. Navy in 2013; we really wanted to thank and serve the country that’s given so much to us. I was born and raised in India but have lived the last two decades in the U.S. We are Americans; this is where I’ve grown my career and had my children. I got deployed to the Middle East in 2017 when my sons were 10 and 11. We sat the kids down and explained to them what was happening and that we were going to tackle this as a family. It was an amazing learning opportunity for me as a dad, to figure out how we work together and have the kids really step up for the 9 months that we were separated.
How do you define the concept of “service” and what does it mean to your family?
Nicole: Volunteerism and service have always been important for us, whether it’s coaching or fundraising for our kids’ sports leagues or the work I do with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation (CCF). I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in college and really went through my young adult life not knowing where to go for help or answers. I connected with the CCF upon receiving a flyer to train for a half marathon in support of the Foundation. I brought it to Justin and we both agreed: let’s do this! We ran our first half marathon and the whole experience was so meaningful. I finally found a way to give back and connect with others who suffer from these diseases.
I then joined the Foundation’s New Jersey chapter board and co-founded the “Touch of Football” charity tournament at MetLife Stadium, where I was working at the time. In its inaugural year, the tournament raised over $100,000 and is now a national event held at NFL stadiums across the country with over $1M in total fundraising. We bring our kids along on this journey. It’s important to us that they understand that every human being has challenges, but by tackling those challenges head-on you can often find opportunities to help others.
Kailash: I want my children to understand that they are as American as anyone else, but that they also have a rich heritage they should know about. We do this by serving both locally and globally. Here in Illinois, we started a North Shore Sanskriti, or “culture” group for nearly 20 kids to learn about their Indian heritage. I’m also on the board for an American India foundation that helps to fight the cycle of illiteracy, poverty and joblessness in India. As chairs for the foundation, we helped raise over $3.4 million for these causes. My family supports a program in India that’s helped fund education for about 960 children of migrant laborers over the last 7 years. Once you educate a child, you change the outcomes for not only the child’s life but their family, community, village and the country. We may have the next top scientist coming from one of these villages.
A few years ago, Mukta and I took the kids out to see schools we were supporting. It was a learning experience for Neil and Sohil to see firsthand the struggles of children around education while their parents had their own struggles with poverty. I was speaking to the children in Hindi, the local language, and asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. One little girl answered in English, “I want to be a cardiologist.” When I asked why she said it was because her mother died of a heart attack. We all had tears in our eyes hearing this because we knew she was going to get an education and have an opportunity to make an impact in her community.
“Working parent” has taken on a whole new meaning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nicole, how have you balanced work with your family the past year?
Nicole: It was an incredible challenge being a working parent with two school-aged children who need your help with everything. It was a constant balance between being present for your family and your colleagues. At AbbVie, we learned a lot about each other’s personal lives and met spouses, children, families and pets virtually. In many ways, it brought us closer as a team. While it was challenging to switch to online work and education, one positive thing about virtual education was that we were given the opportunity to get an up-close look at what our kids were learning every day. We were able to help them and celebrate their accomplishments in real-time. We learned that kids are resilient, and they can adapt to anything. And those morning snuggles are ones we will never forget.
Being part of a military family gives both kids and parents a unique experience. Kailash, please share your experiences during your deployment and what you’ve taken away as a father.
Kailash: I’ve learned that all moments, including small moments, are valuable. When you’re away on deployment you miss soccer practice, putting your kids to bed, and even listening to those tantrums. It’s stuff that shows your kids are growing up and we take it for granted until we miss it. It made me appreciate what we have; not everyone gets to see their kids grow.
The other point is that our communication as a family improved tremendously during my deployment. We had to find new means of communication. I started writing letters to my kids and I encouraged them to write letters not just back to me but to other family members.
My kids wrote letters to my dad, who lived in India. We lost him at that time to a heart attack, very suddenly. My kids had an incredible relationship with my parents. It’s emotional for me to reflect on but it’s a big point of pride for me as a dad that my kids had this loving relationship despite generational differences and physical distance. When I came back from deployment, I saw so much maturity and growth in my kids. Often times as parents we only look at them as our sons and daughters, but we have a generation of future leaders, scientists, athletes, professionals and artists growing in our homes.
What lessons do you have to share for other working parents and for your children?
Nicole: Try to find, and live, a true work-life balance. As a working mom, you must remember that you can’t be everything to everyone. I have an amazing mentor at AbbVie who shared this advice: “Remove the word ‘guilt’ from your vocabulary.” Instead, it’s about showing passion and energy for everything you do. It’s prioritizing what’s important to you. Our company culture empowers you to say, I need to step away because my family needs me. Every day it’s figuring out how to balance things and identify what’s critical for that day.
One of my favorite quotes is “always use your powers for good, not evil.” We frequently remind our kids that we work so hard to provide our family with the life and experiences we have and when you have opportunities and resources, you should give back to other people. From a professional standpoint, my resources are my experiences working in marketing, publishing, entertainment, sports and now the medical/pharmaceutical industry. My resources are my powers, and I try to use them to help others move forward in their careers as well as provide mentoring opportunities to those who seek it.
Kailash: We’re just travelers in time and we have a responsibility to leave behind a better world for our kids and future generations. I tell my kids, don’t be shy or afraid, instead, ask questions and announce to the world what you want to do. Then you’ll see people come and support you and that’s what moves us forward in this country. I’ve seen this personally as a U.S. Navy officer, where I’ve worked with so many people who come from diverse and sometimes modest backgrounds who come together and do incredible things. I say to the kids, you don’t have to have extraordinary circumstances to do extraordinary things and have an extraordinary life.