Shama: reacHIRE Graduate

2 min read

Shama | Capabilities Beat Career Break

Pre-break: Global Marketing Manager
Post-break: Senior Marketing Manager
Length of Career Break: 3 years

Shama and Addie at Amazon event.

Shama and Addie Swartz, reacHIRE CEO, at Amazon event

Shama and her family.

Shama and her family

Before I took my career break, I worked as a Marketing Manager for Honeywell Inc. where I had risen through the ranks to manage a portfolio of products for the renewable energy market. My husband and I had enjoyed our DINC (Double Income No Kids) status for a while, each growing in our respective careers. In 2011, I had twin boys, and soon thereafter, one of them was diagnosed with a genetic condition called Williams Syndrome. It soon became apparent that he needed much more attention and care than could be provided by two working parents.

For a while, I managed by working remotely from home. When we decided to move to the U.S. to bring him closer to the care he needed, I knew it meant a break in my career. Indeed, when we did move in 2014, my days were filled with visits to hospitals, therapies, and counsellors with no room for a full-time job.

By 2017, my family was reasonably settled, and we knew the lay of the land. My sons were in school, and I had some time to myself. There was a strong desire in me to start working again. Although I kept myself busy by volunteering in my children’s school (which I grew to love!) and picking up some mean DIY skills (rebuilding an entire bathroom almost single handedly!), I missed the sense of purpose that came from going to work each day. I was also keenly aware that the longer I was away, the tougher it would be to get back to work.
I was intent on my next role being in the IT industry as I knew that it afforded me the greatest growth in Seattle and flexibility of location in the future; however, my previous job had been in the chemicals industry. This disconnect, added to the three-year break, made it nearly impossible for me to get an interview with any of the companies I applied to.

“The greatest benefit of the reacHIRE program was that it gave me a chance to explain my capabilities to a company without having to explain my career break.”

In October 2016, I came across a reacHIRE event on a social media platform. What struck me was that this was a program targeted at women on a break. I joined a cohort in Seattle in January 2017.

The greatest benefit of the reacHIRE program was that it gave me a chance to explain my capabilities to a company without having to explain my career break. The week of training was fun, well rounded and extensive. Having found a set of mentors in Ellenmarie, Addie and others really helped overcome the lack of confidence and anxiety that had built up over the few years I’d been away. Being with 22 other smart, bright women made me crave a working life even more! Following the training at reacHIRE, I was offered a Senior Marketing Manager position at Amazon.

I love being back at work and the feeling of self-worth I associate with delivering professional results and achieving financial independence. The journey has not always been smooth. There are days when I feel that I am giving up too much on the family front to find my feet again at work. However, being in a flexible working environment has been very helpful, as has my husband’s constant encouragement to look at the bigger picture.

Looking back on my experience, I have some advice to share with women who are attempting to re-enter the workforce. I think it’s really important for us to be kind to ourselves. It’s easy to internalize the rejection coming from multiple attempts to break through the barrier. The system is broken in some ways, and it’s not optimal for women who have taken a career break, no matter what the reason. Also, I find some advantages to doing this in a group - so I suggest that you either build a network of friends with similar goals so you can prepare together, or join a program like reacHIRE.