Taking a career break was a thoughtful and deliberate choice I made for both my family and my career. The mother I wanted to be did not align with the demands of my Wall Street job and its 60-80+ hour work weeks. I did not want to miss any moments with my children, nor did I want to make any professional compromises that would impact my performance and career growth. As the flexibility of working from home was not an option at the time, I made the decision to step out of the workforce. I was fortunate to have the choice.
I knew I wanted to return eventually, but was not sure exactly when. I valued both my professional career and financial independence too much to stay at home permanently. When my youngest son entered kindergarten, the time was right. My children were more self-sufficient, especially my two older boys, and my husband worked out of our home office and would be there when they came home from school. I thought I had it all planned, except….
Beginning a new career and building my financial independence proved far more challenging than I imagined. Where I was once thriving in investment banking at J.P. Morgan, I was now unsure, after an extended period as a stay-at-home mom, where and how I could fit into a professional role and bring value. Could I compete with other job seekers with more current experience? I needed to find my confidence again, but it was like searching for buried treasure.
I spent two years networking, combing job ads, and applying for unsuitable jobs. I networked with graduate school alumni, former J.P. Morgan colleagues, and many others I met at events and informational interviews. I also attended a return-to-work conference which proved very helpful. Because I was struggling to find my confidence, I set the bar way too low when applying for jobs. I needed to learn how to confidently tell my story.
The change agent came through a former board member I met at a networking event. She recommended that I apply for a brand new training program at a company called reacHIRE. I applied during the summer of 2013 and became a member of the first reacHIRE cohort.
Following the training, reacHIRE helped me secure a contractor position at Fidelity Investments working as a Senior Business Analyst in the Corporate Technology Group (CTG). I spent two years in that role before I was hired into a full-time permanent position. Today, I remain happily employed at Fidelity. My current role is Project Manager in Fidelity Brokerage Technology. I have earned positive performance reviews, merit salary increases, bonuses and I am once again able to contribute towards retirement.
“reacHIRE helped me unearth my confidence. I met other women trying to do the same. We supported each other. The reacHIRE program helped me reflect on my goals. I took stock of my skills and how they could be valuable in the professional world.”
reacHIRE helped me unearth my confidence. I met other women trying to do the same. We supported each other. The reacHIRE program helped me reflect on my goals. I took stock of my skills and how they could be valuable in the professional world. But the greatest part of the program was the opportunity to prove myself within a company. This was, in part, due to reacHIRE’s mission to educate companies about a non-traditional, largely untapped talent pool of returning women. Despite career gaps, we are still a valuable resource. We are talented, educated and motivated women who need open-minded companies willing to listen and appreciate the value we bring. It was very impactful to have a strong voice like reacHIRE championing us and advocating for our success.
In returning to work I faced a variety of challenges. The word “technology” did not appear anywhere on my resume, yet my first contractor position was in Fidelity’s Corporate Technology Group (CTG). How could a former investment banker be successful in a technology environment? Growth in my former career was defined by a vertical climb. This was an opportunity to grow horizontally and broaden my skill set.
With the help of supportive managers and mentors, I learned, among many other things, valuable skills in project management, the key principles of Agile methodology, the importance of vendor risk management, and the art of preparing executive level reports. I also realized (with great relief) that I had not misplaced my brain on a playground somewhere after all! At Fidelity, I rediscovered passions for problem solving, teamwork, writing, and good-old quantitative analysis.
I have come a long way since my first day as a contractor. Though the learning curve still has no end in sight (which is actually a good thing), I am far more confident that I can climb it! reacHIRE helped me regain my confidence and provided a much-needed bridge for returning to a career. The support of the many other strong reacHIRE women from my cohort with common goals was invaluable.
When I returned to work, I entered at a lower position than my last. But, I embraced the opportunity to broaden my skill set and envision myself advancing my career to a higher level with greater leadership responsibilities. No matter what role I take on, however, I am committed to always learning, developing new skills, meeting new people and making a difference.