Lead(H)er: Tatyana Gubin, Co-Founder & Head of Product at CozyKin
In the two years that Tatyana Gubin spent as a researcher in Massachusetts General Hospital’s pediatrics department, she noticed a troubling trend. Well-known women clinicians would suddenly stop coming to work. When Gubin inquired about what had happened to them, she often got the same answer. Whether their childcare provider suddenly backed out or they never got off the waiting list for a daycare, many of these women were finding it necessary to stay home and care for their children.
Later, Gubin began researching postpartum depression to reduce stress for new parents. She and her co-founder, Jeremy Au, had conversations with more than 100 new moms and dads about their first year of parenthood. Childcare again became a central focus.
“It was a huge root cause of stress for pretty much everyone that we interviewed, especially when it came to the tradition of going back to work and having to make compromises between the quality of care for your child and transitioning back into a career,” Gubin said. “That’s where the childcare status quo is really broken.”
Gubin’s own mother suffered from severe postpartum depression. A nanny, who watched over Gubin and another family’s child at the same time, helped provide her with much-needed support. Gubin’s co-founder, Au, had grown up in a similar childcare arrangement and had worked many years as a renowned social entrepreneur. The two met at Harvard and began building out the nanny share model as a solution to the childcare problem.
The majority of Gubin’s career before that point had been similarly dedicated to improving the lives of mothers and families with young children through healthcare advancements. She helped develop improved labor epidural delivery devices at MIT and served as the co-director of MIT Hacking Medicine, a hackathon that brings health professionals and engineers together to create solutions for healthcare issues. There, Gubin met mentors and founders who inspired her to begin thinking more deeply about ways to change the lives of struggling families.
Her focus was also influenced in part by her siblings, who were adopted from Russia when they were young and often found themselves working harder than their peers to keep up in school because they had missed out on critical years of early education.
“It became real to me how much those first years matter,” Gubin said. “Now they’re thriving, but what really stood out to me was how much of a difference you can make in a child’s life in the first few years.”
CozyKin, which Gubin co-founded with Au, was a natural extension of that career. The service helps families in New York and Boston match not only with a nanny that meets their scheduling and childcare preferences but also with a family looking for something similar and willing to share the costs of childcare.
“We saw families who were trying to do something like this through Craigslist or Yahoo,” Gubin said. “That’s how much they wanted this type of care. The whole point of CozyKin is to bring peace of mind to families.”
In the future, Gubin hopes to bring CozyKin to even more cities across the country, giving families everywhere access to high-quality and dependable childcare. She and the team, which Gubin made sure to note include a large number of women leaders who are doing particularly amazing work, are also potentially planning to expand the company’s offerings to include lactation and sleep consultations, as well as overnight and after-school care.
To get there, Gubin keeps sight of what she calls her “why power.” Remembering why she chose this path in the first place helps her push through difficult days and continue working to expand CozyKin. She’s filled a wall of her office with messages of gratitude from families who have used CozyKin, like one from a Polish couple who had recently arrived in the U.S. and whose daughter couldn’t stand to be separated from her grandmother. Through patience, kindness, and persistence, their CozyKin nanny was able to help their daughter feel right at home within a week. In the midst of serious change, the little girl was happy, healthy, and thriving.
“These are the moments that I hold onto. They motivate me to keep going through every challenge,” Gubin said.
Quick Q(uestions) and A(dvice)
What do you do in your free time?
I love reading and hiking. Reading is one of the best ways to learn by constantly getting exposure to new ideas and learning about how people build their companies and make an impact. I also think nothing clears your head more like taking a hike and using that time for reflection.
How do you manage stress?
For me, it’s about planning. Be clear about the most important things to accomplish that day and that week. I take time at the end of each week to plan for the upcoming week. Each morning, I list the top three things to get done that day. As long as you get those most important things done, you can recalibrate the rest of the week as necessary. It’s also helpful to have the right routines for myself at the beginning and end of the day. I’m setting those boundaries and doing self-checks to see how I’m feeling.
How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?
I love coffee. I would say typically one to two cups. Jeremy has gotten me on the tea train, so I’m trying tea for the coming months. We’ll see how that goes!
What’s one of your favorite places in the Boston area?
The MIT Museum is great. I’m a little bit biased because I had a kids’ exhibit there. I built a robotic arm to teach girls how to program and over half a million kids used it. Fantastic. I would go there on weekends and just have kids come up and ask me questions about how they can build robots. It’s a great place to check out and a great place to go with kids for them to learn about STEM, technology and how to be engineers.
What do you consider one of your proudest accomplishments?
Advancing CozyKin to where it is now while staying true to our mission: creating better care for families. When we first started, there were a lot of questions: Why were we choosing to employ nannies as W-2 employees instead of independent contractors? Why own the quality of everyday care? Why have a care concierge to support them? It was really about staying true to our principles. At the end of the day, those who are caring for children perform one of the most important jobs. They should be cared for just like any other profession, where you have guaranteed full-time schedules, overtime benefits, and professional development. We have many members of our headquarters team who started off as nannies, because who better knows the needs of nannies than someone who was a nanny?
How does this compare to where you saw yourself 10 years ago?
Life turned out the way that I wanted it to. I’m working on something that I really believe in. We are making a positive change. We’ve assembled a really like-minded team that’s diverse and passionate about the same mission. Everybody on our team is a parent, someone who worked in early education or pediatrics, or loves families and helped out at a summer camp or something similar. It’s a delight to see so many like-minded people building this with us. You can find your way together as a team no matter life’s changes by staying true to the mission.
What’s your advice for recent college graduates?
There’s a lot of pressure to have it all figured out and lined up right after graduation. What was most helpful to me was doing that reflection of what really motivates you, what do you really value in a fulfilling career, and making sure you’re staying true to that. It’s okay if you need a couple of weeks or months to figure that out. You don’t need to get it right on the first try. At the end of the day, it’s about being honest with yourself about what you want to be doing and why you want to be doing it.
Images courtesy of Tatyana Gubin and CozyKin