This June, we celebrate fathers who work at Encora by interviewing Encorians from around the world. In our third interview of this series, we talk with Joshua Kanter, Encora’s Chief Marketing Officer. Joshua and his wife Penny live in Scottsdale, Arizona with their son Skylor (who turns 17 this month), their daughter Yurielle (5.5 months), and their two dogs Zoe and Rex.
Joshua, please introduce yourself and tell us about your background and current role.
I started my career in the late nineties as a consultant in New York. After about a dozen years in consulting, I moved to Las Vegas in 2010 where I worked for several years in marketing at Caesars Entertainment. In 2017, I moved to Phoenix to take on the role of the Chief Marketing Officer at PetSmart, the largest brick-and-mortar pet supply store in the US. After a couple of years at PetSmart, and a brief role in the International Cruise business (ended due to the pandemic) I joined Encora last summer. While I don’t consider myself a technologist, I have always loved to learn about new technologies, because leading-edge marketing is only possible through technology. Now, as Chief Marketing Officer at a leading software engineering services company, I apply my love of technology to the marketing function in a fundamentally new way. In addition, I also help to lead our talent acquisition strategies, where we are applying the disciplines of performance marketing that I have developed over the course of my career.
As CMO at Encora, what would you say is your favorite part of your job?
The best part about my job is the team that I get to work with. Together with a group of talented marketers, I have helped create the Encora brand, defining its voice, its look and feel, and the roadmap for it will evolve in the future. In addition, I feel fortunate to work with a global network of deeply expert partners. The members of Encora’s global leadership team are kind, considerate, driven, and engaging. Even when things are intense, or we are working long hours, the culture of collaboration makes our work together very rewarding.
Has becoming a father changed the way you approach work?
I want to avoid using clichés, but there might be no way around it. Being a father has given my work new meaning. Before I was married, and before I became a stepfather, my career was more of a sport. It was something I was very good at, and it was competitive. I enjoyed standing out and succeeding. But now that I have a family, and we recently welcomed our daughter Yurielle, I see my work as being much more deeply connected to my role in the family. On the one hand, that lends new importance and value to the work that I do every day… and on the other hand, it is a reminder that the most important thing in my life is my wife and kids. Some days I feel like the most important thing I can do is hold my daughter. And quite frequently she joins me on my video conference calls. My team affectionately calls her “the little CMO.”
What are your favorite things about being a father with a career?
Even when I was a much younger man, I’ve always wanted to be a father. I had this romantic notion that I would take a few years off, and be a “stay-at-home dad”. Of course, that was before I had achieved any success in my career. And now that I have both a career and an infant daughter, I stand in awe of every single parent who has somehow managed to do both at the same time. It is truly amazing! In my case, I am fortunate enough to have my wonderful wife Penny, and our teenage son Skylor. The three of us take care of baby Yurielle together and in turns. It makes things a lot easier.
Even though I had thought at one time that I might take time off to be a full-time parent, I feel very fortunate to be able to work from home. There are so many “firsts” that you experience as the parent of a newborn. I love having the opportunity to have my career and watching our daughter grow. It is a real gift. I have the privilege of being with my children every day, while also developing and investing in my career ― that is my favorite part of being a father with a career.
In which ways has the pandemic affected your work and family life?
When my wife was 8-months pregnant, she and our son both caught COVID-19. Those were extremely stressful and scary times for us as a family. Thankfully, they recovered. I know many others who have not been so fortunate. We have lost family members and seen friends battle COVID-19. With that as context, it is with mixed feelings that I admit that for us, the pandemic has had a silver lining. Because everyone is working from home, I don’t go to the office every morning. Our family has been able to spend a lot of time together, and I have been able to experience many little moments with our daughter that I otherwise would have missed. For my family, the pandemic has been both an unexpected challenge and also a mixed blessing.
What is Encora doing to support parents who are working from home?
I’m proud to say that Encora always does the right thing to support parents. It values long-term relationships with team members. When Yurielle was born, I was able to take time away from my role to bond with her. I’ve heard other Encorians who work remotely and have children at home say that they feel supported as well. As a company, I believe we are guided by our values, and as a result, we have developed a very caring culture.
In your opinion, how much time of paternity leave should fathers receive?
The opportunity to stay home with your newborn and support your wife after she has given birth is very important. It’s hard for me to give a direct answer because, for me, remote working made the transition from paternity leave to going back to work much easier. Even though I technically went back to working full time, I was still at home with my wife and daughter. And whenever my wife needs me to take the baby, I can do it because I am working from home.
When your daughter grows up, what do you hope she will remember from her childhood?
She is still very young so many of the special memories that I am making with her, she probably won’t remember. She can’t balance yet but I help her to stand up and walk from one side of the room to the other while holding her hands. She has discovered that she can grab our dogs’ fur, and fortunately, they are very sweet and patient with her. Life with her is amazing. I even enjoy changing diapers, it’s another opportunity for me to connect and bond with her. Every day is filled with incredible moments, and although she won’t remember them, I will. When she grows up, I just hope that she will feel that she is loved and supported, no matter what.
How do you want your daughter to see you when she grows up?
If she thinks of me as an okay parent, I will be happy. What is most important for me is that she will grow into being her own person, with her own thoughts and opinions. I want her to be able to discover the world herself and find her place in it. While I realize that part of our relationship might change as she grows older, I want her to know that I’m always here with open arms, a listening ear, and a non-judgmental heart. She can come to me for anything, no matter what, anytime.
Do you think there are societal biases that keep fathers from talking openly about the difficulty of managing their career and home lives?
Traditionally, mothers have been considered the nurturers and fathers the providers. I think there are still cultural expectations that the parenting duties lay with the mother. In my opinion, I think mothers are superhumans. I’m in awe of single mothers because they find a way to work and raise their children which is incredibly hard to do without a partner by your side. I’m doing my best to be an equal parent, not only because I owe it to my wife but because I want to the best father possible for our son and daughter. Managing a career and a family is always a balancing act. I'm not just “Work Josh” and “Home Josh,” I'm a CMO, a husband, a father, and a son, too. When everyone went to work remotely, one of the interesting things that happened is that the line between home and work disappeared. A lot of us ended up working longer hours than we should because there was no dividing line. But another more hopeful thing has started to happen as well: elements of our home lives started to show up in our work. In a weird way, I think working remotely has made us value our non-work lives, and the non-work lives of our coworkers, much more than we used to. Hopefully, when we go back into the office, we can continue to bring more of our whole selves with us to work.
If you could share some advice with parents who struggle to balance their careers and families, what would it be?
In all honesty, I’m still trying to figure it out myself. I know I am in a fortunate position where I don’t have to choose one over the other. I can choose family over work without fear of losing my job, and I know not everyone has the luxury to feel that way. What I’d say though, and perhaps this is a small comfort, is that there will always be one more urgent business thing to do. And there are tasks that will expand to fill all available time. But in two weeks’ time, you might not even remember what was so important in the first place. Work is fleeting like that. By contrast, family is a persistent, cumulative effort. Make sure you focus on your family. You won’t regret it. Work is important but family comes first.
When we interviewed Mario Spencer earlier this month, we asked him to come up with a question for our next interviewee. His question for you is; What did you have as a child that kids today don't have?
The original Kenner Star Wars action figures. I remember watching the first Star Wars movie from our roof, at the drive-in theater a few blocks away. My little brother got so scared when Darth Vader came on screen in the first 5 minutes, he covered himself in his blanket and didn’t come out for the rest of the movie! Anyway, those action figures, I think I lost about a dozen of them in our sandbox, hiding in forts that caved in. Sadly, my daughter will likely never have one of those.
Final question, what is your favorite "dad joke?"
I’ve really struggled with this. I think the hallmark of a great dad joke is the post-punchline groan. With that as context, “what is the difference between black-eyed peas and chickpeas?” “Black Eyed Peas can sing us a song while chickpeas can only hummus one.” You’re welcome. And here is a bonus dad joke for all the new parents out there who are developing a special relationship with diapers: “What’s brown and sticky?” … “A stick!”
Ok the last one: I was wondering why this frisbee kept looking bigger and bigger. Then it hit me.
If you enjoyed this read you might also like the other interviews from our Father’s Day series. We previously spoke with Mario Spencer, Corporate Marketing PMO in Costa Rica, and Shane Baptist, Lead Marketing Analyst in India. And if you haven’t done so yet, make sure to follow Encora on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for upcoming interviews.
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