Isabela Quitzau Conceicao worked as a Product Engineer at a foundry in Brazil when she took a career break to support her family’s move to the United States, and to care for her newborn child. When she was ready to return, Isabela found a returnship role at PepsiCo that would be a perfect match for her skills, and jumped on the opportunity. She returned to work as a Process Improvement Engineer at PepsiCo production plant, and now works there full-time as a Production Supervisor. She talks about her return-to-work experience, the projects she had a chance to work on during her returnship, and what advice she has for future returners.
Tell us a little bit about your career break? What type of work did you do before you took a break? What prompted your break, and how long were you out?
I’m from Brazil, and worked there for six years as a Process Engineer in investment casting – sort of like a foundry – for an automotive company. My husband and I then moved to the United States for his job, and I took a break from my career because I did not have a work permit. Then, the COVID pandemic hit, which made the visa process even slower, and I had my son. I thought that it would be a good opportunity to stay at home a bit longer to take care of him. But I always intended to go back to work. I’ve always worked, and staying at home full-time felt strange to me. I missed working. So when he was about one, I decided that it would be a good time to try going back into the job market. Overall, I was out of the workforce for about three years.
I found out about Path Forward while job searching. I had no idea returnships existed, but the more I read about the program, the more I realized it was perfect for me, and this role at PepsiCo matched my skills so well.
What was your returnship at PepsiCo like?
My returnship role was as a Process Improvement Engineer. This was not just my first job after three years, but my first job in the United States. My previous experience was at an automotive company, and this was a completely different environment. At the beginning, I was pretty scared that I would be lost. But my manager and the entire team were really, really supportive. They were always willing to help me, to give me any information I needed, and to answer all of my questions. I had the opportunity to work on several important projects, including dealing with waste on each production line. I spent a lot of time on the floor observing everything, and figuring out how I could improve things. After my returnship ended, I was converted into a full-time Production Supervisor. I now spend almost all of my time on the floor, overseeing the entire production process.
What did you find most helpful about being part of the Path Forward program at PepsiCo?
Me and the rest of the PepsiCo returnship cohort held weekly meetings, which was great. We could talk about our experiences and give each other support. It was great to realize that my feelings throughout the returnship were normal, and that others were going through similar experiences.
What are you most proud of accomplishing during your return to work experience?
I’m proud of succeeding in my returnship. When I started, I was worried about my language skills, since I am not a native English speaker, and how I would handle my first job in the US. It was a challenge in the beginning, but now I’m so proud of myself for getting through it and succeeding. Everyone here treats me like any other member of the team, and respects my skills. This process has shown me that I can do anything I set my mind to. It’s a really empowering feeling.
Do you have any advice for future returners?
During your returnship, time flies. The weeks will pass by quicker than you can even imagine. So try to learn as much as you can. Talk with as many people in your organization as you can, and reach out for help if you need it. And finally, try to enjoy yourself and have some fun!