Between the new job in the tech industry and the news about becoming a new dad, Nate Skinner was excited about life’s latest challenges. But the celebration was countered by the news that his company didn’t have a policy to support new parents.

“There wasn’t anything in place for paid time off for parents other than the Family Medical Leave Act,” Nate shared. While many companies in the tech industry adopted maternity and paternity policies, his company wasn’t among them.”

At the time, Nate was completing the 5280 Fellowship with Denver Institute for Faith & Work, a nine-month program in spiritual formation, professional development, and civic influence that forms Christian professionals to serve God, neighbor, and society through their work. After hearing about the Fellowship from a few friends, he was excited to dive into the curriculum, the cohort discussions, and the monthly spiritual disciplines.

But the program’s professional project provided an opportunity to put learning into practice. As part of the 5280 Fellowship, participants consider a practical need within their organizations, communities, or industries and develop a project that addresses the issue.

“The purpose of the professional project was to try to find something that was broken that could be cultivated into some kind of meaningful work,” Nate explained. “We asked ourselves ‘What here doesn’t make sense, or what can we make better?’” For Nate and his growing family, the question was personal.

As Nate considered areas of need within his organization, as well as his own agency and resources, he decided to pursue a family leave policy as his professional project. He mapped out a plan to research similar organizations with family leave policies and identified stakeholders within his company who could affect policy change, including his supervisor and the organization’s benefits manager.

“I asked others in the Fellowship to share their employer’s parental leave policies,” Nate explained. “I really appreciated the Fellows who offered feedback on their employer’s parental leave policies.”

Nate also looked into similar organizations in Denver to determine how the benefits his company offered compared to others. He wanted to address both the costs and benefits of introducing a family leave policy in his organization.

“I sought out time to see our director of benefits, and ultimately that was the best decision-maker to connect with,” Nate shared. “I offered my perspective on why I thought it would be good to offer [a family leave benefit] and how it could help the company’s competitive advantage. I was told at the time: ‘Thanks for bringing this up. We’ll evaluate it for our next benefit cycle.’” So Nate waited, unsure of the impact that his professional project would have.

Several months later, Nate’s company announced a new parental leave policy. The company’s policy now offers eligible primary and secondary caregivers paid time off to give birth and/or bond with their new child. Eligible employees get up to six weeks of paid leave, which can be used in addition to up-to six weeks of short-term-disability leave for the birthing-mother. While Nate wasn’t the only one advocating for the policy change within his organization, his colleagues knew about the work he put into it.

“A couple of my team members who’ve had children since [the policy’s implementation] have benefitted from it, which is pretty cool,” Nate shared. “One of my friends just had a child in December, and she was really appreciative of the policy and she knew I had played a part in seeding that change.”

Nate wasn’t sure his project would ever become a company policy. Now a few years after his time in the program, Nate encourages another class of Fellows to pursue their projects, even without the assurance of any immediate impact.

“I really didn’t know that my project would result in change,” Nate explained. “I think you need to take a shot because you never know what God can do, and you never know how big of an impact it can be.”

“Look for where you can have an impact,” Nate shared. “What are some things that are broken, and what can you do to fix it? Maybe it takes a while, like mine did, to really see the change, but you never know when you’re going to be a part of that change.”

Applications for the 2021–2022 class of the 5280 Fellowship are open now through May 3rd.

Leave a Reply