Working Parents 2022: Passion in the Face of Hardship

Despite personal losses and global conflicts, this year’s working parents share why they’re dedicated to helping others.

Leaving a legacy of service

Meet our 2022 Working Parents of the Year, Julia Kovalchuk and Sheila Lockwood. They were nominated by their peers for their outstanding abilities to balance a career and family while still helping their communities.

AbbVie is proud to be selected again this year as one of Seramount’s 100 Best Companies, which recognizes companies for outstanding leadership in areas that impact working parents, from leave policies, fertility benefits, adoption, caregiver benefits, flexible scheduling, opportunities for advancement and more.

Chosen from more than 100 nominations, Julia and Sheila represent different roles at AbbVie and different stages of parenting, but they both aim to leave a legacy of service, passion and overcoming challenges.

Julia was born and raised in Ukraine and now lives in the United States. After the conflict in her home country began this February, Julia jumped into action. She spends her free time raising funds and sending supplies to Ukraine—on top of leading one of our commercial teams and caring for her two young children.

Sheila is a single mother of four. She lost two of her children, including a son who was killed by a drunk driver. Sheila turned her grief into action through advocacy and leadership with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), all while growing a 20-year career in information technology at AbbVie.

Tell us about your role at AbbVie and how you balance family and career.

Julia Kovalchuk: I’m a district manager specializing in gastrointestinal care within our commercial organization. I have an innate passion for medicine, which originally drove me to attend medical school and later led me to help patients through my work in the pharmaceutical industry. 

I’ve been with AbbVie for nine years and it’s really an environment where I can grow both personally and professionally. Work-life balance can be incredibly difficult to manage when your passion is split between two families: work and home. I try to live and breathe by prioritization and assessing each moment based on importance and level of impact. My kids understand that I need to occasionally devote additional time to my work family. On the other end, I haven’t missed a dance recital or preschool parent-teacher conference. Earning a level of trust and respect from my team allows me to prioritize the needs of both families. 

Sheila Lockwood: I’m the technology asset manager within our business technology solutions group. I lead a team of seven, and we’re responsible for ordering and tracking hardware and software for AbbVie globally. We make sure that all our AbbVie employees have the equipment and software they need to do their jobs. 

I’ve been with the company for 20 years. I started when my children were 6, 7 and 8 years old. What’s worked well is that my role grew as my children did. I had a flexible schedule that allowed me to start early and be home in time for the school bus to pull up and to attend after-school extracurricular activities. Being present for them has always been my priority. AbbVie and my role have been good for me and my family.

Pictured with their families, 2022 Working Parents Sheila Lockwood (top center) and Julia Kovalchuk (bottom center) aim to leave a legacy of service, passion and overcoming challenges.

Describe your family and their passions. 

Julia: I have a 9-year-old daughter, Mia Rose, and a 3-year-old son, Gabriel. Both of my kids are dedicated, headstrong and passionate. Mia plays piano and is a national gold medalist in ballroom dance, along with being a great student. I could not be prouder of her achievements, but more importantly the young woman she’s becoming through the failures and successes athletics have taught her. Gabriel is fearless and enthusiastic and a natural leader, even at a young age. Every day at preschool, he has to say goodbye to each classmate and waits patiently until he gets a response back.  

My husband and I show our kids the meaning of hard work through our daily actions. Kids are sponges during their development years and I hope they absorb what we’re teaching them and continue to grow their passions.  

Sheila: I had four children in less than four years, so they’re very close in age. I lost my oldest daughter, Taylor, to SIDS when she was 4 months old. Spending time with my children has always been important to me. 

My daughter, Morgan, is now 28. My son, Austin, was killed by a drunk driver when he was 23. He would be 27 now. My youngest son, Landon, is 26. They were inseparable as children, all the way through high school. They did everything together. As a single mom, our schedule was very busy, but so much fun. Morgan and Landon played water polo, Landon played football and Austin played hockey. All three attended every game possible for each other. This support has continued through to adulthood.

A Ukraine native, Working Parent Julia Kovalchuk and her family are committed to relief efforts and working together to help others.

Julia, can you tell us more about growing up in Ukraine and the work you are currently doing for your home country?

Julia: I was 11 when I came to the United States from Ukraine, specifically New York City. I had a great life there with everything a young girl needed to thrive, grow, be happy and contribute to society. However, my parents, like many parents, wanted to give me the world and decided America would be a better environment for my future.

Many of my friends and family remain in Ukraine. After the invasion, I knew I had to do everything in my power to help no matter the cost. A colleague started raising money for relief efforts and I knew I needed to be involved. I got insights from two of my cousins in Ukraine, a police officer and a physician, to customize the supplies we gathered based on what was needed most. We’ve collected thousands of dollars and distributed supplies to children’s hospitals, military hospitals and refugee centers. My daughter gathered a ton of her toys and asked if she could donate those to kids who are less fortunate.  It brought tears to my eyes because of how grateful she is to live the life she does and appreciate the things she has, that other kids do not.

Although this is not the top headline any longer it does not mean the work has to stop. I always keep trying to help at least one more person, family or town, knowing that it could have been me and my family suffering.

Working Parent Sheila Lockwood, with her children Landon (left) and Morgan (right), remember brother Austin (photo in center), who was killed by a drunk driver.

Sheila, you experienced the unthinkable when your son Austin was killed by a drunk driver. How have you turned this tragedy into advocacy and policy change with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)?

Sheila: I got involved with MADD shortly after the crash in 2018. I quickly learned what was happening in different states and especially in Wisconsin where Austin was killed. I realized the laws were not adequate and working to fix that became a passion.

I helped get two bills put into law in Wisconsin. Our bill included a 5-year minimum sentence when there is a homicide with a drunk driver. Unfortunately, it didn't affect the person that took my son's life. But if it happens to somebody else, at least they have that peace of mind that the person responsible is not going to walk away without significant consequences. The other law increases the jail time for someone convicted of multiple OWIs (operating while intoxicated) to 18 months.

I’m also very proud that MADD championed a provision (the HALT Act) in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in fall 2021, which means that starting in 2026 every new vehicle will be equipped with technology that detects distracted, drunk, and impaired driving. This is a huge win. I would never wish what happened to my son on anybody. If we can protect other people from going through this, that’s my goal.

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