Participant Spotlight: Rae Haouaoui

Rae Haouaoui has had an extensive career with more than 15 years in sales and account management and  seven years in marketing and brand strategy, plus small business ownership. When her family relocated for her husband’s career, Rae was seven months pregnant. After 20 years devoted to her career, she made an intentional plan to take a break from the workforce to raise her son.

How did you end up leaving sales to become a small business owner?
When I was working in sales and account management, my stress release was to go to day spas. I realized when I went to these spas, there was something missing in terms of customer service and experience. So I set out on that journey to create that in my own business. I managed my own spa for three years, but was ready for the next challenge. I sold the still-thriving business to my mentee. Being able to mentor and set another woman up for success is still one of my biggest accomplishments to date.

After relocating, how long were you out of the workforce for caregiving?
After the relocation, the plan was for me to stay home until my son could speak well enough to tell me about his day. So, I tried to go back to work when he was three. I got this amazing consulting role at GE in their global communications department. They offered me a full-time position, but that’s right around the time when we realized my son had special needs. I had to stay home again and ended up homeschooling him for about two years while I did some consulting. When things stabilized for him, I knew I was ready to start applying and focus 100% on my next career adventure.

How long were you looking for work?
It took a good year. I applied for at least 300 jobs in 12 months. I got maybe 30 responses, but only 12 phone calls, and six interviews. Out of all of that work, I only received two offers.

It was always the same story: “You’ve been out for so long.” Employers didn’t think my consulting work counted. They wanted to pay me less than what it would cost to put my child back in daycare.

And what type of work are you doing now?
I was hired as a Talent Associate through my returnship at Medallia. I stayed there for a year and I’m currently a Talent Partner on the Talent Acquisition team at Quora. I really love my job. I’m kind of a matchmaker. I work with hiring teams to understand their needs, and then I work with applicants to find the right match. My favorite part is building relationships, making connections and talking to candidates. I get to have deep conversations and find out what candidates are passionate about, the impact they are most proud of creating in their careers and how that translates to the role we are trying to fill.  I don’t feel like I was given that chance when I was interviewing. Besides Medallia, no other company interviewed me like I was a person when I was trying to come back from my break.

What made you switch from Marketing to Talent Acquisition?
After being a caregiver for a child with special needs, I wasn’t the same person I was before. Business development in corporate America wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore. In job interviews, I was asked robotic questions about marketing, and even though I could answer them, I felt disingenuous because I was no longer interested in only managing brands and campaigns.

I spoke with a Medallia recruiter about a Path Forward role, and as soon as I read the job description for the Talent Acquisition returnship, I thought, “this is what I’m supposed to do.”

What has been one of the more challenging parts of returning to work?
I tell this to any new hire: Don’t be so hard on yourself. For me, this role was a career change. I was coming back to work after a couple years off, and I was coming back to work in tech. It took me longer to on-ramp than I expected. That being said, my expectation was that I’d ramp in three days.

As I was getting to know the systems and business, I was being really hard on myself. I wanted to understand everything “now” and “faster,” but you have to give yourself time. This takes everybody a while, it’s not just because you were out of work for a few years. It takes everybody time to come into a new system, a new company, and a new job. Fortunately, Medallia offered so much support for returnees and new hires.

What has been the most exciting or gratifying part of returning to work?
The sense of accomplishment from learning something new and then seeing the impact that it can have on an organization or on someone’s life.

What are you most proud of accomplishing during your return to work experience?
I was able to give back. In fact, I helped hire another person from Path Forward.  

What did you find the most helpful about being part of a Path Forward program at your company?
I love the Path Forward programming. The programming around educating companies about diverse sources of talent, and also the programming for us as returnees. It helped us negotiate restarting our career and managing a work-life balance.

Thanks for sharing your story, Rae! We are so happy you’ve found success and balance in your career. Learn more about Rae on her LinkedIn page. – The Path Forward Team

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