A New Way to Return to Work: Spotlight on Returnee Wendy Padua

Name:  Wendy Padua

Company and position title: Zendesk, I started as a field marketing intern and my contract was extended as a field marketing associate.

What did you do before taking a break? I had two very distinct career tracks. My early career began in a small, high growth software company based in Atlanta.  I worked in the marketing department, and the environment feels very similar to what I’m experiencing now at Zendesk. The second track took hold when I moved to the west coast and started working in HR for two companies with a very strong sense of their unique culture. I worked specifically in recruiting for Gap and Jamba Juice, hiring store managers and HQ personnel.

How many years of experience did you have before your break? 10

How long were you out of the workforce? 16 years

How long were you actively looking for a job before you got your Path Forward internship? I had been looking for about a month. I had refreshed my resume, started to make connections through LinkedIn, and had written about 8-10 cover letters and submitted resumes based on personal connections.

Had you taken any classes or done any training in preparation for going back to work? I didn’t take any courses or do any training, but I was super involved as a volunteer with the school system in my community during my time away from work. I held many leadership roles, planned dozens of events, helped with fundraising, and recruited for functions. This involvement and experience helped me return to work.

How did you hear about this program? A friend of mine who works in HR knew I was looking to return to work and in September sent me an article she had seen about Path Forward. That was the first time I heard about Path Forward and the return to work program with Zendesk.

Describe your role at Zendesk: I work in the field marketing department which is responsible for a large amount of regional and national activity in brand awareness, for both new and existing customers. My role specifically has been to build a framework for User Groups, providing a forum for customers in their local regions to meet, network, and share information. I support an amazing group of Field Marketing Managers who drive activity in their regions.  I’ve also become known as the ‘swag queen’ because I manage the inventory and distribution of our swag for thank you’s, trade shows, and regional events.

What skills from your previous experience do you use in your new position? A huge piece is relationship building and time management. My multi-tasking and event planning skills have also come back into play. I will say in addition to skills from my previous work life, as I mentioned earlier, I was super involved over the last 12 years in doing volunteer work and every one of those skills has come back into play.

What has been one of the more challenging parts of returning to work? Without a doubt, managing the amount of information that comes across my screen on an hourly basis. It can be difficult not to get bogged down by the amount of information that needs to be consumed.

What has been the most exciting or gratifying part of returning to work? One of the things that comes to mind is being surrounded by a group of people who love what they’re doing. I’m fortunate to be part of a team here that’s moving very fast, is super successful, and high energy. I’m having fun being around such a motivated group of people. I also get satisfaction from bringing my professional skills back to life and being rewarded by things working well, and receiving great feedback from my manager.

Did anything surprise you about your return to work experience? It was a serious adjustment the first month or two in terms of my schedule and trying to figure out what the new balance was between work and home. It’s been an adjustment for our whole family, but in a good way. Thankfully I have willing supporters at home who have stepped up.

What are you most proud of accomplishing during your return to work experience? There’s a lot going on and lots to learn here, and I feel terrific about being able to come in and in fairly short order make an impact, do my job well, and be recognized for that. My manager is wonderful but she’s in a different state and the rest of the team is here in California. In the past I was used to working more collaboratively, having someone to bounce ideas off of, and so the idea that I could be trusted to take this new role on and run with it means a lot.

What did you find the most helpful about being part of a Path Forward program at Zendesk? Doing a returnship at a company working with Path Forward was undeniably fantastic. It was terrific to have 9 other women across three other companies who all really understood the challenges and excitement we were going through. My first couple weeks on the job I went back and forth between feeling really great about how things were going one day, and then feeling a lot of self-doubt. By the time we had our first workshop as a group I had worked through some of these feelings and felt I was able to offer some reassurance to other participants who had started after I did and were feeling a lot of the same things I felt at first.  It was nice to be surrounded by this group of women when there was no one else in my immediate area at work who could share that experience. And obviously Path Forward was instrumental in me being able to have this opportunity by bringing these companies together and supporting them in implementing the program.

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