This June, we celebrate fathers who work at Encora by interviewing Encorians from around the world. In our first interview of this series, we talk with Mario Leonardo Spencer, Corporate Marketing PMO, who has been working at Encora since August 2020. Mario was named after his father and grandfather and has passed the name onto his own son as well. Mario and his son Mario Joel (11) live in Heredia, Costa Rica.
What were you like as a kid?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in technology. Growing up, I was the only kid in our neighborhood with a computer. It didn’t have Windows but DOS, and the few games that were available at that time were pretty awful looking back on it. I played around with WordPerfect a lot, I was learning how to code without even knowing it. By the time I went to high school, I quickly became the pro in computer class. It only made sense to chose my college based on my interest in science, engineering, and tech.
How did you end up in your current role?
When I earned my degree in computer science, it was difficult to find a job in Costa Rica. I ended up having jobs that were completely different from what I studied for but these jobs helped me get more confident in speaking English. I had transcription jobs, worked as a support agent, and even spent two years working in a pharmacy. Eventually, I was hired by an international company as Engineer. That job transformed my professional path completely. When the company moved its software development to Mexico, my employer arranged for a career test for me. Every single test indicated that I should work with people. I gained experience working at Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Intel, before joining Encora in August 2020. After diverse experience in different industries, I eventually found the right job for myself.
As Corporate Marketing PMO at Encora, what is the best thing about your job?
What I enjoy most about my job, are the people that I work with. My team is supportive, dedicated, and hardworking. It is a pleasure listening to their ideas, sharing my own, and engaging in conversations to put our communal ideas into action. We work remotely but collaboratively, with each person being an integral part of our team.
When you first became a father, did you notice a big change in your working life?
From the moment my son was born, I felt a huge responsibility to provide for my family. Before becoming a father the need to have a career was present, but having my son encouraged me to do something that would make him proud of me. Being mediocre was no longer an option, I felt the need to become a provider and a strong role model for my son.
Over the years, how has being a parent changed the way you approach work?
Being a parent has made me more empathetic, more patient, and more efficient. I work with people a lot, and being a father myself makes it much easier to understand other parents' concerns, positions, and issues. I believe that becoming a father gave me the tools that I needed to become a better manager.
What are your favorite things about being a father with a career?
My favorite part is being able to provide for my son. My career enables me to give my son a proper education, take him on adventures, and teach him life lessons. It also makes me a better role model for my son and helps him realize that he can accomplish great things through hard work and dedication. Pursuing a career and raising my son isn’t always easy, but it can be done.
In which ways has the pandemic affected your work and family life?
Before the pandemic, I went to the office six days a week. And although I love what I do, I realize now that I wasn’t spending enough time with my son. When I stopped going to the office overnight, Mario had to get used to me working from home. He would march in with a joke or meme while I was in the middle of a meeting. My father gave me a valuable piece of advice―he told me to sit down with my son and show him what I do for a living. This definitely helped Mario to better understand the importance of my job and to be more respectful of my time. It took us some time to get used to our new routine, but we made it work. Since our chat about my job, he has become more interested in computers and technology. For years, he wanted to become a firefighter, a chef, or a professional soccer player. Last weekend, he told me that he would like a career in technology when he grows up. I would be lying if I said that didn’t make me feel proud.
What is Encora doing to support parents who are working from home?
Working from home while also caring for your child can be challenging. Fortunately, Encora gives parents the freedom to do both. At times, a family situation might come up that requires my attention. I know that my manager understands that I will need to be flexible at times. I am grateful for the trust and support Encora has provided. As long as we’re able to manage our workload, they accept that we are first and foremost parents.
In your opinion, how much time of paternity leave should fathers receive?
When my son was born ―I worked at a different company than today― I received three days of paternity leave. As a new parent, I didn’t know anything about changing diapers, preparing bottles, or coercing a fussy baby to sleep. Back in the office, I couldn’t wait to get back home and be with my family. In my opinion, three days of paternity leave really isn’t enough. I feel that anything between 3-6 weeks is accommodating and necessary.
When your son grows up, what do you hope he will remember from his childhood?
Although he is only 11 years old, we have been through some tough times. When he grows up, I hope that he will remember that he can always count on me, even or maybe especially when times get tough. My parents taught me that family comes first and this lesson has greatly impacted my life. So I want my son to know that he will always have a family to fall back on.
How has the pandemic affected his behavior?
Children are amazing, they adapt so fast. When the stay-at-home orders were put in place, Mario and his friends moved their conversations online. Instead of playing outside, they now keep in touch over PlayStation, Xbox, and Whatsapp. Of course, I had to establish some limits. It’s not healthy to stay inside and hide behind a screen all day. A couple of months ago, I installed Pokémon GO. This motivates us to go for 4-5 kilometer walks and spend quality time together outside of our home. The pandemic has taught us to find happiness in simple things and appreciate what we have. This last year, Mario and I became much closer.
How do you want your son to see you?
My father is my example, my role model, my everything. I used to be pretty stubborn during my younger years, but my dad has always had my back. My family is very close, and my father will do whatever it takes to take care of us. One day, I hope that my son will see me the same way that I see my father.
How would you define fatherhood in 3 words?
The first three words that come to mind are commitment, motivation, and example. Commitment, because being a father does not come easy. Being able to provide for your child and set a good example takes time, effort, and dedication. Motivation, because as a father, everything I do is for my son. Ultimately, I want to leave a brighter and better world for him to grow up in. In everything that I do, I hope to set a good example for my son. Children copy the attitudes and behaviors of people around them, so to me, fatherhood is about setting the right example.
Do you think there are societal biases that keep fathers from talking openly about the difficulty of managing their career and home lives?
Yes, I believe that there are societal biases that keep fathers from asking for help. Men can be way too proud sometimes. We hate to ask for help because we think it makes us look weak. But there is no shame in asking someone more experienced for advice, they might be able to offer a solution that you would have never thought of on your own. Asking for help is not an act of weakness, it’s an act of strength and courage. Even though I realize all of this, I still find it hard to talk openly about the struggles of managing family and work life. Fortunately, I have my dad who I can always turn to for advice or encouragement.
If you could share some advice with fathers who struggle to balance their careers and families, what would it be?
I would give them the same advice that my father gave me. Take a moment to sit down with your children. Don’t just tell them about your job, but show them what you do. Explain how your work affects other people and how what you do to make your company better. They will feel important and included, and become more respectful of your time. Of course, it depends on your children's age and emotional intelligence how detailed your explanation should be but I think this advice could work with children of different ages.
Last question, what is your favorite "dad joke?"
How many jokes do you want? Because I have quite a few, haha.
- Can February march? No, but April may.
- Stop looking for the perfect match. Use a lighter.
Do you enjoy getting to know (fellow) Encorians? The next interview of our Father’s Day series will be with Shane Baptist, Lead Marketing Analyst in Bangalore, India. Keep an eye out for this and more interviews by following Encora on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Are you ready to create the future you want with us? Encora is hiring! We have open vacancies for people who are just as excited about tech as we are. Let’s talk!