Our year together

Renee Boundy and Lily Zhang

Parenting a newborn can be lonely at the best of times. Add a natural disaster and a global pandemic to the mix and 'isolation' takes on new meaning. Allens Partner Renee Boundy and GPT Group Treasury Manager Lily Zhang (an Allens alumna) supported one another through the ups and downs of new parenthood with their own pandemic parents' group.


Renee: Lily is one of those people who excels at everything. The kind you admire for being naturally talented, but more because they are also humble, hard-working, resilient and filled with grit and determination. When she was a junior lawyer in our team, I secretly thought it was only a matter of time before she would do my job better than me!

We first worked together when she was a grad and I was a new partner, finding my way. We worked on a number of big, novel deals that landed in quick succession post-GFC, so we were really thrown into the deep end together. Lily is unflappable and was a phenomenal support when I was under such huge pressure.

As our careers progressed and Lily went from colleague to client, our relationship has continued to evolve. We've ridden peaks and troughs and Lily has been there all the way, professionally and personally.

When I shared news of my pregnancy with Lily, I was thrilled when she told me she was pregnant too, due a couple of months after me. We couldn't believe it when my colleague, Rita Pang, also announced her pregnancy a few months later. Three babies, six months apart. Our WhatsApp career mentoring chats soon became a pregnancy and parenthood support thread.

My daughter, Ashley, arrived during the bushfire crisis at the start of the year. It was strange to experience something so joyful in such a heartbreaking time, but that was nothing compared to what Lily faced when Imogen arrived at the peak of the first wave of COVID-19.

Being a new parent during a pandemic is certainly challenging. At one stage during lockdown, our whole area completely sold out of nappies and baby formula. Lily organised an emergency (socially distant) delivery, along with some much-needed 'you got this Ren' words of encouragement. It was one of countless kindnesses she has done for me over many years.

Lily was a colleague who became a client. I would never have thought that our work connection would've nurtured such a rich and cherished friendship. We've supported each other in our careers, in our personal relationships and now through the most incredible, challenging, amazing, breathtaking experience in our lives. So far.

There's so much more ahead for us and our babies. I can't wait.

Lily: When I first met Ren she was a superstar on the floor. She made partner in banking and finance at just 32, which is an incredible achievement. We started working on a series of time-critical transactions, one after the other. When you’re thrown into the trenches like that, you really get to know someone. You see how they act under pressure and how they treat people in stressful situations.

Ren is a strategic, sharp and creative thinker. But she is also disarmingly warm and a fundamentally kind person. She comes up with crazy ideas like convincing a group of us to dress up as nuns for a Sound of Music theatrical singalong. When I had a bout of illness, Ren sent a box of handpicked Dinner Ladies meals to my doorstep.

After I started at GPT, Ren went from being my boss to becoming my legal adviser. I already saw her as a mentor and a valuable sounding board, so it was an easy transition.

I had my daughter in the peak of the first wave of COVID. There was a lot of uncertainty during that time –lockdown rules were constantly changing and supermarket shelves were being stripped. New motherhood can be a lonely time anyway, but COVID took it to a whole new level. We had no visitors, the early childhood centres were shut and parents’ groups were off.

Although I retreated in a physical bubble, I was lucky to be able to lean on Ren and Rita in our virtual WhatsApp parents’ group. Our babies are close in age and it’s been invaluable to have this support network of mums who are also up at very odd hours of the night. We celebrate the milestones and push each other through the tricky times. Our chatlog is wild!

Ren and I have been in each other's lives in such a meaningful way over the years. Our relationship transcends work, particularly this year as we navigate new motherhood in the middle of a pandemic. As things improve on the COVID front, I’m looking forward to many more beach outings with the babies this summer!

10 quick questions about Renee's 2020

  1. How would you define 2020 in three words? We’re all human.
  2. Best silver linings of COVID? Teaching the grandparents how to FaceTime and the fun, connection and joy it brought to all of us.
  3. What are you most grateful for right now? Science. Science that helped my baby arrive safely, gave my best friend an extra year with her family, is giving hope to end this pandemic and that will solve the biggest problems facing people and the planet in the future.
  4. Who would compose the soundtrack to your year? Sia. 'Oh-oh, I see another mountain to climb, but I-I, I got stamina. Don’t give up...'
  5. What's the most adventurous thing you've done this year? Unfortunately there were no annual adventures like sea kayaking in Antarctica, so I dived in to ocean swimming and conquered my fear of swimming in deep, black water.
  6. What's inspiring you right now? Seeing the world through the eyes of a baby where everything is new and exciting and every detail should be explored with wonder.
  7. Who's your 2020 pop culture icon? John Krasinski. Some Good News and The Office Reunion was the dose of feel-good I needed during lockdown.
  8. What's one thing you wished you knew when you started this year? How to speak baby!
  9. How will you see out 2020? Probably as a human-pillow snuggling my scrumptious baby with my wonderful partner and our fur-kids beside me.
  10. What are you most looking forward to in 2021? Everything! The best is yet to come...

Lily's summer entertainment picks

I’m reading My Paris Dream by Kate Betts. I was a bit of a Francophile in my teens and this brings me back to the few months I spent on (a far less glamorous) exchange in Paris. In a time when international travel still seems so out of reach, this is an engaging escapist read and a great follow-up for those who secretly enjoyed Emily in Paris like I did!

Range by David Epstein. I got this because Malcolm Gladwell loved it. This book has forced me to question everything I thought about learning and the paths to success. A thought-provoking and fascinating read.

I Believe I Can by Grace Byers. The illustrations are beautiful and the writing is poetic and empowering. I am very grateful for all the inclusive children's books that are starting to pop up (at last!).

I’m listening to Chat10looks3 – Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales bring me so much joy. Listening to this podcast is like catching up with two extremely intelligent, articulate and funny friends who have impeccable taste in books, podcasts and shows.

The Habitat by Gimlet Media. This miniseries follows a group of volunteers who stay on an imitation Mars habitat in a remote part of Hawaii for a whole year in a NASA-funded experiment. They are completely cut off and the evolving group dynamics and dramas that play out are fascinating and oddly pertinent for these ‘iso’ times.

The Happy Song by Imogen Heap. A GP friend recommended this as a song that was scientifically proven to make babies happy. I was sceptical but we gave it a go mid tantrum during a long car ride and it worked. We’ve since played this on repeat dozens of times. I personally don’t care for it but it magically stops ear-piercing screams so it’s basically the greatest song ever written.