Position: Product Engineer
Rachna took a break from her career in the Information Technology industry to support a family move to Mexico and to take care of her son. After five years, she was ready to return to work, Rachna completed a returnship at Allstate, where she now works as a Product Engineer. Rachna tells us about her return to work experience, and all the support that her team at Allstate provided as she transitioned back into her career.
Tell us a little bit about your career break. What type of work did you do before taking a break? What prompted your break and how long were you out of the workforce.
I enjoyed my career in the Information Technology industry, working as Software Developer, Scrum Master and Technical/Program Manager. In the 7 years prior to my break, I worked for companies like IBM and MCM Telecom for customers in India, US, and Mexico.
We relocated to Mexico while my son was very small. This was an entirely new environment for him (in terms of place, language, and surroundings). Hence, I decided to take a break and help him settle down. My break lasted for five years.
What prompted you to return to the workforce ?
I always wanted to return to work and continue my career. During the break, I had done everything I wanted to do, such as dedicate time to family, take care of my son, and make sure he was well adjusted. As he grew up, I saw him become more independent and confident. That’s when I felt it was the right time for me to start looking for my next role.
What was the job search process like for you, prior to applying for a returnship ?
When I began my job search, I quickly realized that the technology landscape, and the job requirements had changed. To update myself, I decided to connect with my contacts in the industry – friends, recruiters, previous customers, and tech influencers. I browsed through various job sites and LinkedIn to grasp the environment. I created a learning plan and started upgrading myself in technology and professional skills. It was a tough journey, and I had a few unsuccessful interviews as well.
How did you hear about Path Forward ?
It was during the job search process that I learned about Path Forward, when one of my friends shared news about the Path Forward returnship on LinkedIn. The concept of returnships gave me a completely different perspective. When I was applying for regular jobs, I was competing with people who had up-to-date resumes with no career breaks. I had a slim chance of getting through that competition.
So, it was really refreshing to find an organization that focused on helping people get back to work after caregiving breaks. I felt like there was finally a light at the end of the tunnel where I would not be judged by the gap that I had on my resume.
Did you take any classes or complete any training in preparation for your return to work ?
Yes, for the last year before joining the returnship program, I had started upskilling myself. I picked up several upcoming technologies that were in demand, and took their online training programs. I even hired a personal trainer for DevOps to ensure I was up to date on current technologies. I trained for and got certified as a Scrum Master. These trainings helped me during the interview process, and during my returnship.
Can you talk a little bit about your returnship role at Allstate?
Returning to the workforce after five years of break was a big step, and I was anxious. But the onboarding process at Allstate was very smooth and made the experience easier. The returnship program at Allstate was very well organized and well thought-out, keeping the needs of the returners in mind with training, support groups, and more.
Everyone made us feel welcome in the organization. We were not being judged on our knowledge on current technologies but on our attitude, adaptability, and ability to learn. Everyone from HR, my Manager, and my mentor gave me all the support I needed to perform at the best of my abilities. I was provided with frequent feedback which helped me understand my role and responsibilities better.
My manager went above and beyond to make sure that I was ready and supported me throughout the program. She spent time with me on a Friday evening to ensure I had all my devices and access set up to start that Monday. Allstate also assigned each one of us a training buddy. My buddy provided me with encouragement to keep going when things got a little tough.
Allstate introduced returners to larger groups within their organization, like “Women in Technology”, “Women in Senior Leadership” and others. Everyone made us feel welcome and provided genuine support. These sessions gave us more confidence to take on newer challenges.
What kind of support did Allstate provide during your remote returnship ?
The returnship was a very highly visible program at Allstate, and the organization made every effort to ensure the 16-week program was correctly set up during the pandemic. All returners had their devices shipped beforehand, the 3-week training program was setup online and regular video sessions made the remote learning & working process very engaging.
Training on the different technologies like Java, Springboot, Databases ensured that we were ready to work on real time projects. I never felt like being remote wasn’t a hindrance, in fact everybody was approachable and always there for me, including my manager, training buddy, and mentor.
Returning to work remotely or in person is always a challenge. How did Allstate’s culture help you transition more easily into the workforce ?
My work prior to joining Allstate was very demanding. I had to put in a greater number of hours and would often stay past regular working hours with limited support.
The culture at Allstate is amazing. I have never felt like I had to compromise any aspect of my personal life. I work regular hours and I’m able to finish my work within that time. I always receive the support I need, and my entire team is always approachable. So, I am able to focus on my family and my son while managing my work responsibilities. At Allstate, people really want you to be successful and grow in your career.
Are there any skills or knowledge from your pre-break career that you use in your new job?
Yes, in my pre-break career, I worked as a Software Developer and a Scrum Master managing a team of 20+ people. Both of those skills really helped me understand and adapt to the Agile methodology that my team uses at Allstate.
Did you find anything most helpful about being part of the Path Forward program?
Path Forward has offered me so much support and encouragement. This organization has taken care of me in many unexpected ways. All the workshops and events they organized helped me calm my fears of returning to work after a break.
During my tough job search process, I had begun to lose hope and started to think that the break would ruin my career. No one would pick up my resume amongst the thousands of applications. Many recruiters even told me to hide my career gap. I refused to do that, as I took a career break for genuine reasons. For me it wasn’t something I felt guilty about.
I’m so thankful to organizations like Path Forward, who help and provide an opportunity to people with career breaks. Returners are viewed as having potential, and provided an opportunity to find career success. I’ll be eternally grateful to Path Forward for this opportunity for having helped me find my path and a new sense of purpose.
What was the most exciting part of returning to work ?
I was most excited about regaining the sense of purpose and validation. Once I completed the 16-week returnship program and joined Allstate as a full-time employee, I had a sense of such an accomplishment. It’s very exciting to be part of the workforce again, developing critical software and in general being successful in my career.
Do you have any advice for future returners ?
Always believe in your abilities. Spend time upskilling yourself and reconnecting with the people from your industry, to increase your knowledge and confidence. There are plenty of opportunities in today’s world. Returnship programs from Allstate and other companies are facilitating people looking to restart their careers. Path Forward offers various resources and support to make sure you are successful. Take the first step, keep learning, and do not hesitate to reach out.
Thanks for sharing your story, Rachna! We are so happy you’ve found success and balance in your career.
– The Path Forward Team