Engage Squared was named in the 2024 AFR BOSS Best Places to Work list for ‘technology’ – and it was our $5,000 ‘Fertility Coverage Benefit‘ which most impressed the judges. In this blog, Engage Squared’s Marketing Manager, Steph Ryan, shares her personal experience of being the first employee to enjoy this policy.

I got my foot in the door at Engage Squared through my ‘techy’ husband, who worked here back in January 2021. Despite being together since 2008 I still didn’t really understand what he did, but I did admire how his company prioritised the wellbeing of their employees. My career had primarily been in the fashion industry, where looking after employees was never a priority – in fact when working for one retailer I remember being told “you should be grateful you work for us.” Despite the cut-throat environment, I learned a lot and most importantly made lifelong friends.

Oh yes, I am a Brit. And a proud one at that. Working crazy hours for companies that didn’t appreciate me was all part of climbing the ladder in the ‘big smoke.’ I romanticise it now, but it was hard. I worked when I was sick, I put in crazy hours just to hope I was noticed, and I’d spend two hours a day commuting in the early days because the large fashion companies were based in London and due to my salary being so low I lived at home. Ahhhh the good old days.

My husband is Australian. We met whilst backpacking and over the years we moved between Melbourne and London, making sure we both explored careers in our hometowns. We settled in Melbourne in 2018 and he started as a Technical Architect at Engage Squared. All I heard was great things. In fact, when we got a puppy within six months of him joining, he was even allowed to shift his working hours so the dog wasn’t left at home for extended periods of time. He was already a dad in the making! So, when a Marketing Manager position at Engage Squared popped up in early 2021 my ears pricked up. Although I still didn’t understand what my husband did, or the world of M365, I knew I wanted to work for an organisation that prioritised employee wellbeing – which Engage Squared had demonstrated throughout the pandemic. Small acts of kindness such as care packages would show up at our front door for my husband, a technology allowance of $1,000 was quickly introduced to ensure everyone had a good home office, and various other perks were quickly implemented to ensure employees felt supported at a time when the world felt so unpredictable. I got the job!

In case you haven’t noticed I like to share a lot – maybe too much? But at 36 years old I’m not going to change who I am now! Fast forward to April 2022, I was open with my boss, Claudia, that I had doctors’ appointments. When asked if everything was ok, I shared that we were trying (and failing) to have a baby, but there was light at the end of the tunnel through IVF. Her support was incredible; she checked in to see how I was, allowed me to use my personal leave for appointments and never once made me feel uncomfortable for sharing that I wanted a family. As sexist as it sounds, I thought maybe it was because she was female and had two girls of her own. Surely a male wouldn’t have this same compassion? Wrong.

At this time our Co-Founder and Director, Tom Hiscutt, oversaw our marketing practice, and as a team we caught up weekly. Without really thinking I announced that I wouldn’t be in next week’s meeting as I was having an egg retrieval. Ah yes, that oversharing quality of mine again. Tom didn’t bat an eyelid and instead said “I hope it all goes well. Please reach out if you need anything.” I ended the call in shock that I shared something so personal, with someone so senior, and he really seemed to care.

My egg retrieval went well (I’ll skip over the part where I caught Covid in hospital). The next part was waiting to hear how many embryos had been created. It was good news – we had enough that would likely allow us to have a baby. Although by this point the process had taken some time and we had decided we’d keep them on ice and proceed at a later date due to an upcoming house renovation. Out of the blue Tom called me to ask how it all went and I chatted through my experience and future plans. To my surprise, Tom shared that he and his wife had gone through a very similar experience, and that their baby due the following month was in fact an IVF baby. How incredible I thought, that he so generously shared that with me and how comforting it was to hear a success story firsthand from none other than my director.

Engage Squared's Marketing Manager, Steph, on the day of her egg collection

Some months later, a new policy was introduced. It was called the ‘Fertility Coverage Benefit,‘ and it was put in place to support employees at Engage Squared struggling to have a family by contributing $5,000 for fertility treatments. This included medical intervention, procedures, and other family planning services. I was shocked. Was this a coincidence? Of course it wasn’t. The senior leadership team at Engage Squared had pushed through this policy to help people like me have a baby. Although I was already out of pocket through my initial treatment, the $5,000 would be available to me when I was ready to move forward with an embryo transfer.

For once I did keep something to myself – the embryo transfer date. It wasn’t through fear of what Claudia would think, but more so to protect my own space should it not take. However, we were one of lucky ones, and on October 4th 2023 we received a positive pregnancy test and confirmation my transfer had been successful! I know you should wait until 12 weeks before telling people, but I was so excited I told Claudia after 4 weeks. She hugged me and said I was about to embark on the most magical time of my life and whatever I needed she would support with. A call with Tom followed shortly after, as I shared my exciting news and cut to the chase “so, how do I go about receiving the $5,000 fertility benefit?”. He laughed and told me I just needed to provide my recent invoices and put them through expenses under the ‘fertility coverage’ code. Within a week I had $4,644 in my account.

Paul and Steph capturing the moment they found out they were pregnant

So, why am I sharing this? Well because I am so proud to work for a company that doesn’t discriminate against having a baby, and in fact encourages and supports their employees to embark on this journey. Considering Engage Squared is made up of 43% women, I think policies being put in place like our fertility coverage benefit and 12-weeks of paid parental leave show how progressive we are. We aren’t one of the ‘big four’ so I know this would have been a financial consideration for our executive team. Was it easier for the policy to be rolled out because we’re still relatively small? Maybe. Is it because Tom had experienced the financial burden firsthand? Yes. But regardless, large organisations with leaders who don’t want children can also make this happen. Organisations are nothing without their people, so thinking of ways you can support staff, especially at vulnerable and emotional times goes a long way. I’m so proud to work for a company that does this. And it pays off; this policy was never introduced as a retention tool, but it’s certainly helped us to keep talent. Since it was introduced, retention has risen from 80% to 94%.

In 2024 it’s time to lead with a people first approach because if you keep your employees happy, you’ll create an environment where they want to make you happy. Here I am two weeks away from going on maternity leave and genuinely scratching my head at how lucky I have been to find Engage Squared.

A congratulations message attached to a beautiful bouquet of flowers (not pictured) sent to Steph after sharing her news

Read our press release on being named within the AFR BOSS Best Places to Work list here.

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About the author

Steph Ryan is a Certified M365 Marketing Manager at Engage Squared. Having established a career in fashion marketing and ecommerce over 10 years, she moved into the world of tech when moving into her current role and hasn’t looked back. Having worked in the fashion industry where technology was an afterthought, Steph loves that Engage Squared transforms the digital landscape for clients by modernising outdated systems like the ones she used to work with. With every new Microsoft technology that gets released, Steph is passionate about making sure our clients jump on the M365 journey from the beginning and aren’t thrown in at the deep end. Originally from London, Steph is now an Australian citizen and has settled in Melbourne with her husband Paul and fur baby Rupert.