Participant Spotlight: Lavanya Kannan

Lavanya earned an MBA and worked for more than five years in the technology sector before she left her career to raise her child. After three years away from her career, she found it difficult to re-enter the workforce at the same professional level. She attended a Path Forward Career Restart Seminar and applied for a returnship at Medallia. She now works as a full-time Senior Analyst at Medallia.

What type of work did you do before taking a break? I started in the tech industry, I was working as an analyst, and I slowly climbed the ladder and became a project manager leading fairly large teams.

And what type of work are you doing now? As a Senior Analyst, I am responsible for implementing Medallia’s software for clients. Once the software is implemented, I manage and maintain any enhancements or issues clients have with the system.

How long were you out of the workforce? I was out of workforce for about three years. Once my child became two, I felt like I was ready to re-enter the workforce.

What preparation did you do to restart your career? In the technology sector, a gap of six months is considered huge, and here I was with a three year gap. I knew a lot had changed and I wasn’t sure what the latest trends were. I decided pursue a nanodegree at Udacity to help me get in touch with the current tech environment and up my skills in data analytics.

I also did a lot of research. I started reading and watching a lot of videos, researching companies, really trying to understand the landscape in the Bay Area. If you’re in the Silicon Valley, you have to be sort-of involved in technology. I did all of that for about a year.

How did you know you were ready to re-start your career? When I started doing this data science nanodegree program, I was so passionate about it, I would get lost for hours exploring code and analytics. I think that’s when I knew. Even though I didn’t want to leave my child, I was sure that I was taking a step in the right direction.

The nanodegree helped me prepare for my current role. I had to learn new programming languages at Medallia, and taking the step to sharpen my technical skills before I started helped me adjust to working at a tech company.

What has been one of the more challenging parts of returning to work? I think time management is essential. You have to be willing to forego a few things. I realized it’s ok if my son wears a dirty shirt for a couple of hours. I don’t have as much time to keep a perfect house, and that’s ok. The guilt is very real and I miss not having as much time to spend with my baby but I am grateful for the opportunities I have. I go to bed exhausted but happy. If you put it in that perspective, things like that don’t really matter. I am proud of my son and grateful for my family’s support.

What has been the most exciting or gratifying part of returning to work? Actively working within a team toward a common goal of helping clients. There’s a passion that exists in the workforce, and it’s amazing. It’s not something that you can get at home. Medallia is a very awesome place to be.

What are you most proud of accomplishing during your return to work experience? During the Medallia onboarding, you go through an intensive two-week product training and orientation. At the end of the program, there’s an exam with highly technical questions. When I got the results, I found I had the top score for that class! It was amazing. I was totally blown away. It just goes to show that I still have some ability to learn new things.

What do you like most about working at Medallia? I’m proud of my team. I’ve developed strong relationships with everyone I work with, and I’m proud of forging those relationships to create a supportive environment.

What was it like working with Path Forward to restart your career? Without Path Forward, none of this would be possible. They go beyond recruiters, and support you for the entirety of your return-to-work journey. They are genuinely concerned about your success.

When I was looking for work, I encountered the same two scenarios: I was either overqualified or I had too much of a gap. There is a prejudice against people who have taken a break from work. It’s hard to overcome and get your foot in the door. Knowing that Path Forward was there to advocate for and support my career-reentry was a relief. I honestly don’t think I could have done it without them. It’s been so great.

What advice would you give women looking to restart their career? When you’re looking for a job, the only job you have is to look for a job. So act like the job-search is your full-time job. It’s not an easy thing to do. I faced a ton of rejection, but I learned a lot from my rejections. There’s a lot you can learn from facing failure. I believe everything will work itself out, but you have to put in the effort.

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