Bridget Kelly was ready to restart her career after taking an eight-year break from her sales operations career to raise her children. She found a job posting for one of Path Forward’s first-ever returnships, a customer success role at SendGrid. Intrigued by the concept, Bridget applied and completed her returnship in 2015. Below, Bridget discusses the ways her team at SendGrid, now a subsidiary of Twilio, supported her return to work journey, how she’s used her existing skills to move from customer success to a change management role, and how she and her family prepared for her return to the workforce.
What type of work did you do before taking a break? What prompted your break, how long were you out of the workforce, and what prompted you to return to work?
I worked in sales operations for a business-to-business office supply company for several years. I took a break to raise my children, and I was out of the workforce for a total of eight years. In 2015, my youngest child started kindergarten, and it seemed like the perfect time to challenge myself in new (and old!) ways and return to work.
You completed your returnship in 2015, when returnships weren’t that well known. What motivated you to apply for one?
I had been job searching casually for almost a year, polishing up my resume and getting a sense of current job trends. Then, I found a posting for the returnship. The concept was interesting to me because a returnship meant that my long career gap would be expected and welcomed. I was excited to throw my hat in the ring for a role that was designed for someone in my situation.
How did you and your family prepare for the changes that would come when you returned to work?
My family and I had to make some adjustments when I returned to work. For eight years, we had the luxury of me being available, who could show up at any time or take care of anything that came up unexpectedly. Before I started my returnship, we strategized as a family about calendar management. We didn’t want to accidentally leave a child at school or at practice.
What was your returnship role?
I was a customer success associate. I was responsible for developing customer relationships that promoted retention and expansion. I worked with customers to ensure they were satisfied at Twilio SendGrid and if not, worked to improve their experience.
What was your experience of returning to work at Twilio SendGrid?
My team put a great support network in place, where I felt valued and respected. They were receptive to my unique skill set and were excited for me to contribute. My team leader was the sponsor of the initial returnship program at the company and was extremely supportive.
I’m still so grateful for my returnship. It was the perfect way for me to launch my post-break career. Once I got into the groove of working again, I really found my confidence. I quickly began to feel like I was valued. Eventually, people didn’t recall how I was brought on board, and the fact that I had a career break wasn’t at the front of anyone’s mind. Sometimes even I forget that I took an eight-year break from the workforce!
It’s been about five years since your returnship. Can you talk a little bit about your career trajectory at the company?
Within a year or two of my returnship, there was an opening on the revenue operations team. I had prior experience in that field in my pre-break career and was excited to dust off my operations skills. I secured a role on the team as an analyst. I loved leveraging my prior career experience and my customer success knowledge in the analyst role. With the acquisition of SendGrid by Twilio, my work shifted to aligning sales processes for the sales teams. Currently, I am a manager on the Change Management Team and am really enjoying it. My focus is on the people side of change. I partner with folks to roll-out new processes and tools to the Twilo sales team.
Are there any skills from your pre-break career that you use in your current role? What about skills you gained during your career break?
Absolutely. During my pre-break career I worked on the deployment and rollout of Salesforce.com. And for my role on that project, I spent over a year traveling and training sales teams on the CRM solution. Not only do I still use Salesforce in my current role, but my time training teams helped me develop experience in both sales operations and project management. Even though technology and tools changed during my career break, the core functions of a sales operations team remained the same.
As for my career break, there were so many soft skills that I picked up: having patience, thinking outside the box, being a critical listener, adapting to different learning styles, appreciating other perspectives, and remaining calm under pressure. The list goes on and on. There are countless skills gained during my break that I’ve applied in my post-break career. I am definitely a better team member the second time around!
What did you find most helpful about being part of the Path Forward program?
I really enjoyed being a part of a community of returnees. It helped build my confidence and provided a sense of camaraderie in my return to work. It was nice to know I wasn’t alone, and I took advantage of the opportunities we had to meet and network.
What are you most proud of accomplishing during your return to work journey?
I’m proud of making a difference on my team. There were years where I only contributed to my family – which was wonderful – but it is a great feeling to know that I can contribute and make a difference at Twilio.
I’m also really proud that my unique background compliments my skill set. I’m very grateful to have experienced my second career with Twilio. I was welcomed into a terrific organization where I enjoy going to work every day.
Do you have any advice for future returnees?
Don’t give up. There’s definitely a learning curve to being comfortable back in the workforce. Be patient with yourself. Give yourself time to find your balance. There is more on your plate this time around and it takes some practice to find the right balance of responsibilities. Know that you’re not going to have it all figured out on day one, and that by the end of the returnship, you’ll have a better sense of how you can move forward in your post-break career and enjoy it.
Thanks for sharing your story, Bridget! We are so happy you’ve found success and balance in your career. You can learn more about Bridget on her LinkedIn page. Want to restart your career at Twilio like Bridget? View all of their current returnship opportunities here.
– The Path Forward Team