Megan Root, product manager at CB2 and mom of two young boys, gives the most she can in her life so she can get out the most out of it. At work, she was one of CB2’s first merchandising employees. She built a creative and driven team of textile and fabric producers from the ground up and spends her days dreaming up next year’s bestselling pillows and couches. And at home, she gives her husband and kiddos just as much energy, which is probably fueled by the adorable compliments her toddler showers her with. Read on for how she manages her growing career, growing family, and how she tries her best to soak it up along the way:
Name: Megan Root
Current Title/Company: Product Manager of Upholstery and Textiles, CB2
Location: Chicago, IL
Education: BS in Retail Management from Purdue University in Indiana
Children: Macade, 4, and Graham, 1
What was your first job and how did you land it?
Depends on what I would consider “first?” My first job where I learned a lot about myself was an internship in college working in the Men’s Department at Marshall Fields. It was a management position and the person managing me was on vacation for the majority of the summer. I was tasked with a job bigger than myself and had to figure out how to present a revolutionary idea to the board at the end of the summer. WHAT?! I did what I do, I threw myself in and learned as I went. It turned out pretty well, and my revolutionary idea to listen to customers and change their customer database platform was well received. Then Macy’s bought the company a few years later. Oh well!
Did you always want a career in retail merchandising? How did you come across the opportunity to join the well-known modern furniture store, CB2?
I didn’t always, no. I wanted to be a pastry chef growing up. I used to have the neighborhood kids over to my restaurant in my backyard, and I would make them the “special of the day,” which was cheese and turkey on Ritz Crackers and microwaved so the cheese would be “runny like brie.” My parents told me that they would support me if I wanted to go to culinary school, but what if I tried getting a degree in business just to have that in my back pocket? So, I went to Purdue and planned to go into Hospitality Management but decided that Retail Management looked like more fun…it was related to fashion! When I finally left school and had a few jobs working in boutiques and failing to make any money, I decided to try home decor. My mom is an interior designer, and while I would have loved at 24 to resist the fact that I may have some of her talents, I decided to apply for an entry-level position at CB2 and see if it was my calling. I grew up in the town where the original corporate office was located. CB2 has since moved to the city which has been a great opportunity for us to remain fast-paced and close to stores we admire and that inspire us!
You’ve grown from a CB2 merchandising assistant to a product manager and are one of five buyers responsible for 40% of CB2 sales. What professional habits helped you grow within the company?
When I started in 2006 with CB2, there were 10 people on the merchandising team. It was a very small family and the only way to show anyone that I had talent or was worth noting was to again throw myself in and learn on my feet. We all did this together, but being one of the few associates hired from “outside” the company, I really felt I had to prove that I could anything they needed. When most other people in my position had one manager, the two of us at CB2 had two, then I had three and was supporting over half the business. It was and still is an incredible group of people and I still learn something new every day. I have also learned what it is to be humble and take each day as a new opportunity to be part of this incredibly fun and evolving brand. It is an exciting time for us, and I can’t wait to see where we are in 12 more years!
What’s the hardest part of being a manager and how do you overcome the obstacles?
I really cannot complain about this one. The hardest part for me is separating friendship and work. I have had the great pleasure to work with such amazing people. When you spend more time with your coworkers than family, it can be hard to remain a professional manager in the eyes of a young team close to my age while also allowing for freeform conversation. I think not taking myself too seriously helps, but I also know when to delegate and allow the team to take part in the process.
Can you tell us about the transition of becoming a working mom and what surprised you the most about it?
OK here we go….The transition with my first was hard. Although everything with Macade was hard. He was born one month early because I had preeclampsia and my blood pressure was at dangerous levels. You should have seen my ankles…crazy! It’s not funny because it is dangerous but now that I look back, those suckers were BIG. Anyway, I digress. I spent three months trying to recover and also learn who this boy was. He was so small and breastfeeding was so painful I used to cry while he was trying to latch. Then he would latch and fall asleep almost immediately even though he was naked like all the lactation consultants said to do, and I would cry again. He was gaining weight but so slowly, and after each pediatrician appointment I would cry again. Also, my milk never really came in like he needed, so I felt like a failure all around. On top of it all, I was not losing the weight as fast as I wanted, and I couldn’t imagine going back to work wearing maternity jeans.
Disclaimer: this is the old me talking there. Here is where I tell you what surprised me most: How ready I was to go back. I know this is not the case for most moms around the world but for me, I felt like it was a chance to start over with Macade. To show him that mommy is strong and CAN do it! It was a slow transition and my head was in a fog for three months after returning but I know now that it is all normal, all of it. And it is all OK!
Then I had Graham 2.5 years later and I was never getting out of those maternity jeans. Who would, they stretch and cover everything, they are glorious!
Walk us through a typical workday.
My job moves in cycles or seasons. I work on product development all year but in between, there are trips to Asia, India, and Europe (pictures below is from Morocco), so many team meetings, sales analysis, process changes, regulatory meetings, and vendor meetings. If I had to describe a “typical” day it would be this:
5:30: Wake up, work out (usually on my spin bike which is in the playroom), get my oldest son dressed, then shower. He watches PBS (so that we feel like he is getting smarter) while my husband gets ready and then he gets the baby dressed. We both make protein shakes for breakfast because those take three minutes!
7:30: Drop my kids at daycare on the way to work (they eat breakfast at daycare which is ah-mazing)
8:30-9: Get to work and answer a few emails while I drink my coffee. Let’s get real I chat with my coworker who shares a cubicle with me over the toils of motherhood and all the sicknesses going around at the time 😉 #truth
9:00: Usually a product “emergency” has come up and my team and I will work through various dye lot differences for upholstery fabric or making sure we have the right customer service details in place for the stores to help someone who just moved and cannot find the legs to their sofa. Yes, this is an emergency, because I wouldn’t want to sit on the floor if I were them, either!
By lunch, I have approved some bedding or pillow samples, review a technical drawing for a new sofa and maybe fit in a meeting or two relating to processes in the office on my team, or a new regulatory process that a product needs to undergo in order to remain safe.
The afternoon is reserved for more product reviews or meetings, and if there is time, I will hop on blogs or other retail sites I admire and get inspired. There is rarely time for this.
I have typically thought of at least one or two new ideas for a product and sent it off to a designer to draw it for me, or to a vendor to work out a few samples for my next trip overseas.
5:00: My husband meets me at my office and we drive to pick up the kids, feed our dog, feed our kids, and assemble something for ourselves.
7:30: Kids are in bed and I either hop back on emails to get a few more things done or look at those blogs, retail sites, etc to feel inspired. If there is any time left in the day we may watch something on Netflix during which I will fall asleep on the sofa.
9:00: DEAD asleep!
Are there skills you’ve learned in your career that have helped you as a mother?
Absolutely! I am incredibly swift at negotiating with my toddler. We strike deals all day long.
How did you decide on childcare? Were there specific requirements you were looking for?
We chose daycare. This was a long discussion and, in the end, it was about socialization for the kids and the cost benefits. When looking for a daycare we wanted a place that would serve real food, was clean, and fostered learning AND play. They have so much time for school and while so much is important at their current ages, I think learning how to be humans around other humans is paramount.
Days can be long as a mom. How do you balance a busy workday and going home at night to take care of your baby?
We are very big on loving our home and our home life. We built our dream home in Oak Park so that we would want to be at home and spend time there together. When we come home at night we sit together for dinner. Of course, it’s a race to the finish to get the food on the table but once it is (usually within 30 minutes and in the winter the crock pot is my JAM), we relax with the kids. They eat cheese and puffs until we sit down and then they eat what we eat. I also like them getting exposed to all kinds of flavors and not just “kid food.” On weekends my husband, Paul, and I open wine and have an appetizer first and when the kids are in bed we eat our dinner. It is hard to have time for everyone but this way the kids get our attention and then we have time together as well.
Going back to work is never easy. What have been the greatest challenges and rewards from continuing your career while raising a child?
Greatest challenge would be missing them every day. It seems all the great activities for parents to do with their kids are all during the weekday. Why is that? Can’t they schedule mom-tot yoga on a Saturday morning?
The greatest reward has been challenging my mind in new ways every day. Not that kids don’t challenge me but this is just different. It is me pushing myself to new limits and creating something from scratch that is me, for me.
What would you say are your best parenting traits? How does it help in the workplace?
Relax. That is one thing I did not learn from my parents. My mom didn’t like to make different meals for each of us when we complained. I say, if you are eating then we are all winning. I think that attitude makes me relax at work. We are doing great work making beautiful things for people to brighten their homes and share in great moments together. However, we are not doctors, so really, it will all get done and everyone will be ok!
What is one thing you wish people knew about being a working mom and why?
I wish people knew that we don’t always do it because we “have to.” And just because we want to that doesn’t mean it isn’t an easy decision either. I do it for me and also for them. I have two boys and I want them to see a mom who contributes equally to the family, to the bills, to their future idea of what women are — no different than them.
Tell us about your favorite parenting moment.
I know I should give an example of when my kids learned something from me but it is actually when my oldest says “I love you forever” or “you are beautiful, mommy.” For my youngest, he is just a baby so not talking yet but when he runs to me giggling when I pick him up, my heart melts! It is incredible to think how your kids see you. You are a rockstar who is perfect and amazing and fancy and pulled together and everything you have ever wanted to be for yourself, you are to them!
When it comes to being a mom: what are you most insecure about and what are you most confident about?
This is very soul-baring. I’m insecure about my body and letting go of the body I had at 25. So it’s not all put back where it started, but it’s all still there right?
Most confident about my position in life. I love my kids and my husband and my job and my new home and my new friends in our new town. I’m just really happy!
If you could only pick one, what has been your favorite memory from motherhood so far?
We took a family vacation to Michigan last summer. My most favorite memory is watching my husband play in the pool with both kids. Dads are pretty cool, too!
Megan Root is The Everymom…
Best family night game?
Room in your home to relax in?
The patio in the summer with a glass of wine and dark chocolate
A quote you love?
“A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future.” – Coco Chanel
Song you sing in the car?
Today on the way to work my son wanted to hear Miike Snow Genghis Kahn. He likes the part where they say “hoo hoo hooo hooo…”
Most embarrassing mom moment?
Lactating through my shirt at work, ha!