In Her Words: Work | Life | Balance

Camelia Rusu

December 14, 2015

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If you're like most, some days can be a real struggle to keep our cool when our personal life and work compete for attention. But, when I catch a glimpse of someone who seems unusually self-assured, it gains my full attention. That happened when I heard Camelia Rusu deliver her thoughtful responses during a panel session at the 2015 WITI Summit. My eyes opened even wider when we met, and I started to understand the complexity of her work and personal life. I trust you will appreciate how Camelia has personalized her set of habits to become a highly effective leader. I noticed in how she integrates them in her values, her character, the principles she holds to sustain win-win relationships, and her emphasis on creating synergy.

Camelia's role involves leading teams to develop emerging technology for Lam Research's worldwide customers. Her highly-regarded work requires major commitments, long hours, and extensive global travel. She manages to hold onto enough energy reserve to enjoy her relationships with her husband and teenage son.

RS: How do you manage your "Life-Work in Balance" while keeping your calm demeanor?

CR: Personally, I am challenged by the word "balance" when I hear people talking about life and work as needing to be in balance. I wonder if that means we are to do everything life or work throws in our direction. And, are we expected to balance all of it?

I view balancing life and work quite differently. I see work and personal relationships as simply a series of activities to manage and integrate. Let's face it... we all have life and work commitments, regardless of our gender or stage of life. We have commitments (more or fewer) that need our full attention every day. Some tend to complicate, others less so. One thing is consistent, is that they vary in form and degree from day to day.

How do I deal with this mix? As I would any management activity - I prioritize and delegate. I seek new opportunities to share important responsibility with my direct reports, which gives them new opportunities to step up, grow... and shine. At home, I delegate in similar ways, too. The delegation is not always successful, but in those less joyful moments, I remind myself that success is relative, and imperfection is more realistic.

I find prioritizing to be more difficult. While family comes first, obviously, developing my career is also very important to me. There are times when I've had to recognize that our family will be OK even when I need to concentrate my full focus and energy at work. These moments aren't always easy, but I'm empathetic, and I understand and accept that my timing doesn't always work the best way for others.

RS: What unique ways have you discovered to nourish your centering balance with difficult conversations, tough decisions, and extended global travel?

CR: Yes, I sometimes travel for many days to all parts of the world. On top of that, I often stay late at work when I'm not traveling. A method that is practical only because I have a very supportive family. Both my husband and our son understand that I like my job, and they appreciate how fulfilling it is for them to support my professional commitments. A wise friend once shared with me, "You will need to choose the right man. Your spouse will need to understand you, be supportive, and share in responsibilities".

My unique way to maintain a centering balance is simply to be grateful and voice my gratitude to my supportive family. But, at the same time, I have friends who don't receive similar support and know that makes balancing responsibilities harder for them.

While it may seem difficult for some women to accept, I recommend sharing with your current or future spouse what you hope for your life and work. I find it's far better to clarify things from the beginning, rather than later when life becomes more complicated. Our ultimate goal in all relationships is to support mutually and accomplish our respective dreams, goals, and priorities.

RS: What "words of wisdom" would you share with those who struggle with their families, their personal lives, or with overwhelming work?

CR: Everyone goes through "ups and downs" in life. I agree that life and work can be daunting. But, in those challenging moments, it's important to remember to take the time to sit back and just take a few deep breaths. After you've relaxed and regained composure, then you'll be ready to dissect the big problem into smaller ones. Then you can decide the priority of each of the smaller ones. If they're not a high priority, simply drop them, and shift your focus back to top priorities. You may find it helpful to write them down, and check them the next day. With this fresh context, ask yourself, is it still a priority? If yes, put together an action plan. Discuss it with others (family, friends or coworkers depending on the type of problem). I've found that asking others to become part of the solution is essential. And I don't recommend doing this alone!

My advice in a nutshell: Don't be idealistic! Don't overwork yourself to be perfect in everything you do. Be yourself, and follow your dreams. If your dreams take you to a place where life and career seem to compete against each other, then stop to reassess, prioritize, and delegate.

While we may agree that developing win-win relationships is essential for life-work balance, I've discovered thoughtful conversations keep this sustainable.

RS & CR: As a final takeaway Camelia and I encourage you to make a brief list of what you've learned from this conversation, and imagine how you can significantly improve your personal relationships while up-leveling your career. Trust in what's possible, seek support, and learn to take consistent and incremental steps to move beyond your comfort zone. We hope that you will find at least one new priority to help you integrate your life and work relationships.

Author's Bio

Camelia Rusu, is Senior Director of one of the Dielectric Etch accounts at Lam Research Corporation. She joined Lam after graduate school and has been with the company for 15 years. She started as a process engineer and consistently advanced to her current position while holding various leadership positions: process etch manager, head of the 3DIC team, and recently the leader of a technology team in Dielectric Etch Product Group. Dr. Rusu received a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.

Ruth Simone is the founder and principal of Luminare Coaching and Consulting. As a Leadership Coach, she works with executives and entrepreneurs to focus on - Integrating Personal and Professional Excellence. To learn more, or

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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