Success Story: Payal Chopra

Payal took a break from her decade-long and varied tech career to raise her son. When she was ready to return to work, Payal signed up for Path Forward’s newsletter, where she learned about the Wells Fargo Glide – Relaunch Program. After getting motivated by reading returner success stories, Payal jumped on the opportunity and was accepted. In this success story, she talks about her return to work experience, how her tech skills have translated into her current role, and how Wells Fargo’s culture has helped her manage work-life balance.

What did you do before your career break? What prompted your break, and how long were you out of the workforce?
I had over a decade of experience in multiple roles, from software engineer to senior business analyst, implementing technology-driven solutions for clients across the consumer goods, automotive, and power and utility industries. I figured out what the business needed, and worked with the IT team to make sure we provided them with a solution and recommendations for productivity improvements or efficiencies. My husband and I used to move frequently on work assignments. When we had our son, we decided that I would take a break from the workforce, and we moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to raise our family. I thoroughly enjoyed being there for my son’s earliest years. But when he was a toddler, I realized that I missed my professional life, and that now was a good time to go back to work. 

How long did you actively look for work before starting your returnship at Wells Fargo?
I started taking steps to return in January 2020 and quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be the smooth sailing that I had expected, because when you’re coming back to a career in a very competitive environment, the gap on your resume makes a lot of difference. No matter how much pre-break experience you have, there are people out there competing for the same position with you who are currently in the workforce, and employers seemed to prefer them. I spent a few months applying to jobs with no luck, when a friend suggested looking into returnships. That’s when I started researching, found Path Forward, and signed up for the newsletter to learn about upcoming returnships. Unfortunately, that’s when the pandemic hit, and it made job-searching more difficult. My son was no longer in daycare, and I was taking care of him full-time. I finally resumed my searching in October, and that was when I saw one of Path Forward’s newsletters announce the new Glide – Relaunch return to work program at Wells Fargo. I was motivated by some of the stories of past returners I read on the Path Forward website, and jumped on the opportunity at Wells Fargo. 

How did you know it was the right time to return to work, despite the pandemic?
Thankfully, my husband was working from home at the time, so he pitched in and pushed me to take advantage of this opportunity. He knew that my goal was to return to work and saw my struggle during my job search. I think the attitude of having an open mind, no matter the outcome, really helped me decide to apply. I was a little discouraged from the rejections I faced but I felt ready and prepared with the resources and guidance from Path Forward. If it hadn’t been for this personal and professional support network, I probably would have missed the opportunity completely.

Did you take any classes or complete any training in preparation for your return to work?
I couldn’t find time away from my son to sign up for any formal training or boot camps, but I did a lot of informal training, through LinkedIn and any other online courses that I could find. I used these courses to brush up my skills and to learn more about the current trends in business and technology. Once I heard about the Wells Fargo program, I tried to learn as much as I could about the company – what their mission and focus was, where the company was headed – so that I could present my skills as a fit for what they needed.  

What was your transition back to the workforce like? How did the Glide – Relaunch program support that transition?
I returned to work as a Business Initiatives Consultant. I had a mix of excitement and worry going in, from not knowing how things would go after having been away from the workforce for so long. I was ready to give it my all, but wasn’t sure if I’d be able to balance my personal and professional life. On top of that, the program was remote due to the pandemic, which comes with its own challenges, since I’d have to meet and work with my team virtually. I wasn’t sure how well I’d be able to acclimate myself and ask questions in a remote environment.  

But working remotely turned out to be helpful for me, because my toddler still hadn’t gone back to daycare, so I had more flexibility in work, and spent the first few weeks adjusting to my new working routine. I had to figure out what my strengths were, and how to focus on them. Wells Fargo did a great job with organizing the inaugural returnship. The 10 weeks were well-structured, with onboarding sessions that gave us a good mix of soft skills and technical development. We had the opportunity to hear from some of the Wells Fargo leaders, including the CEO, and we finished with a capstone project. The program structure and sessions allowed us to engage better with the company culture, and get all the tools we needed to get back to the workforce.  

What was the experience of returning to work at Wells Fargo like? What kind of support did you receive?
It was a great experience. I was assigned a mentor for the project I was working on, who was in the same role as me. She understood the demands of the role, and was able to offer support and answer any questions that I had, which really helped. I was also lucky to be part of a supportive and approachable team. Everyone I worked with was very understanding that I might need an extra layer of support as I ramped up. My manager was very much aligned with the program expectations, and provided me with opportunities that allowed me to prove myself throughout the course of the program. 

What also helped was being part of a group of 34 other returners in the Glide – Relaunch program, who were all in a similar situation. That really helped ease my anxiety, because we could swap stories and support one another, and share ideas and advice on what we were going through. 

What did you find most helpful about the support you received from Path Forward?
What helped me the most was the platform that Path Forward provided, to both hear and learn from previous returners and their stories. I really appreciated all of the advice I received, both from the Path Forward team, and just by reading articles shared in the newsletter. All of that helped set my expectations and calm my fears as I was navigating my return to the workforce. And it was just really encouraging to know there were others out there who were once in my shoes, and who had made successful returns. It gave me hope that I could, too. And just following Path Forward is what led me to find out about this amazing opportunity at Wells Fargo. I absolutely wouldn’t be where I am without the resources that Path Forward provided. 

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?
My prior business experience gave me skills in collaboration, managing multiple priorities, and analyzing and making process improvements, all of which I found useful in my new role. It felt great to be able to enter a new environment, in the financial services field, which I had not worked in before, and be able to use my existing skills to contribute and make a difference.  

As for my career break, the number one skill I gained was the ability to multitask. Even though my professional career had called for that skill, having to meet the demands of a toddler while also taking care of a home, and job-searching, elevated me to another level of planning and multi-tasking.  

What are you most proud of accomplishing during your returnship period?
I’m really proud of being able to return to work at a company that’s in financial services, when I don’t have a background in that field, and being able to learn the ways of the financial services industry, get up to speed, and align my skills to be a successful contributor. I’m also proud of establishing a strong connection with my team and my fellow returners in such a short span of time, despite being fully remote.  

Has the culture at Wells Fargo helped you with work-life balance?
Wells Fargo absolutely encourages flexibility and work-life balance, especially during the pandemic. My co-workers are completely understanding if I have to step out to handle an issue with my child, or pick him up from daycare. My other team members model this behavior too, and take the time to care for their families or take a break as needed. So, from the beginning, it was encouraging to learn that I can make things work by setting up a schedule that works for my family. 

What would you say is the best aspect of the Wells Fargo Glide – Relaunch Program, and working at Wells Fargo in general?
The culture at Wells Fargo is a real highlight. Starting from the interview process to joining my team – I’ve seen that people here truly care about each other, and not just in a professional sense. Everyone here thinks about one another’s well-being. I’ve especially witnessed that during the difficult times of the pandemic. Team members have been making up for not being able to meet face-to-face by constantly checking up on one another. They did such a great job of creating tools to help with working remotely. For instance, they conducted sessions to help us make the best of the current remote situation, and gave advice on how to prioritize taking care of our personal life and health. Wells Fargo is growing and changing in exciting ways, which provides you with opportunities to contribute to that growth by using your skills to stand out and shine. 

Do you have any advice for future returners?
I would say when you are on a break, and experiencing anxiety about returning to work, know that there’s support out there. There are programs, like Wells Fargo’s Glide – Relaunch, that can help you restart your career. I was so stressed out in the last few months of my career break, thinking, ‘Did I make the right decision to go back to the workforce? Can I really return and work in the same capacity and level as my prior career?’ And looking back, I really shouldn’t have worried and questioned myself so much. Don’t worry too much, and take things one day at a time. And when you do go back, give yourself some grace as you ease back into working. Focus on your strengths, be yourself, and be open to learning every single day. 

Thanks for sharing your story, Payal! We are so happy you’ve found success and balance in your career.
– The Path Forward Team