A New Way to Return to Work: Spotlight on Anne Smith

Anne Smith Cloudera

Anne Smith has 28 years of software engineering experience. After taking a three-year career break to spend time with her teenage children, she re-entered the workforce through a returnship at Cloudera. Despite the fact that Anne had not worked in a hands-on engineering environment for a few years, her understanding of software engineering concepts made her an excellent fit as a project manager within the Quality Engineering team as an intern, then as an engineering manager as a converted full-time employee at Cloudera.

Describe your current role. I’m a development manager working on a team called Customer Centric Engineering. We’re focused on making a number of big-data open source projects enterprise-ready.

What skills from your previous experience do you use in your new position? In the software engineering world, a lot of the skills in problem solving, dealing with people and operating within an organization are the same, but the domain and the technology stack vary quite a bit. If Cloudera hadn’t become acquainted with me through the returnship, I’m not sure I would have been considered as a candidate, since I didn’t have closer experience with the technology they work with. Cloudera wanted people who had previous management experience, and after getting to know me they gave me a chance. That turned out to be a good fit for me.

How long were you out of the workforce? Three years. I began thinking about re-entering the workforce near the time my daughter planned to leave for college.

What drew you to Path Forward’s program? When I was looking at software engineering management jobs independently, I saw most required recent, hands-on coding experience; I haven’t coded extensively for fifteen years.

When I saw the engineering job listings in the the Path Forward program, some of them required strong coding skills in very current technologies. My first thought was “in today’s very hot job market for engineers, nobody with those specific skills needs Path Forward to get a job.” I did not possess those skills.

But reading the success stories encouraged me to apply. Those stories described people who got jobs in new areas and new technologies, even if they didn’t have an exact skill match. There were some stories where participants made a shift in roles, so that the fundamental capabilities were the same, but it wasn’t the exact same technology or role.

I also saw there were a lot of older people who were re-entering their careers successfully through Path Forward. This was most encouraging to me.

What were the benefits of restarting your career through a returnship? Primarily, the opportunity to work at a first-rate company that otherwise would not likely have considered me. Also, the internship role allowed me to ease back into managing a work schedule with my home life. I was still able to pick up my son from school. My son is involved in competitive rock climbing, and we had to travel for competitions. Cloudera was understanding of my scheduled trips.

What was the interview process like for you? I was extremely fortunate in that my Path Forward application landed on the desk of a woman with whom I instantly connected. She set up an interview panel with colleagues who clearly understood my circumstances and didn’t interrogate me on the latest technologies or on material I last studied way back in college! All went well, so I was given the returnship opportunity. From there, a four month stint provides plenty of interaction with hiring managers that is otherwise impossible to gain.

What has been the most exciting or gratifying part of returning to work? Engaging with intelligent adults during the day and feeling once again part of Silicon Valley.

What are you most proud of accomplishing during your return to work experience? I am proud of the relationships I established in such a short time. People at Cloudera are incredibly smart and engaging, and in a technology company, it really adds something to the culture.

What did you find the most helpful about being part of a Path Forward program at your company? I think the main thing was simply having it. The fact that Path Forward has recruited these companies and persuaded them to have a broader view of employment and diversity sets returnees up for success.

What advice would you give future returnees? Jump in and give it a try. Go for a new opportunity when it comes up and try new ways of doing things. Things will keep changing and that’s ok.

Would you recommend a return to work internship to others who are looking to restart their careers? Of course. I think it’s a great way, especially if you’re on the fence about timing or whether it’s the right role.

What kind of preparation would you suggest potential returnees do before applying for a return to work internship? Just jump in and give it a try! You don’t have to be perfect or an exact match. These are companies who have signed up to take people who don’t fit their traditional candidate profile.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention about your returnship experience? I want to thank my employer Cloudera for being open minded to this. The technology and software that they work on here is one of the most male-dominated fields. They’re taking diversity of all kinds very seriously and as part of that really embracing the Path Forward concept.

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