Ranjany Krishnan took a four-year break from her project management career to care for her children after a cross-country move. After deciding to return to the workforce, Ranjany found herself applying to positions she was overqualified for. Then, she saw a returnship opportunity at Campbell that was a perfect fit for her – and applied. She completed her returnship in IT Project Management, and now works at Campbell full-time. Ranjany talks to us about the exciting projects she had a chance to work on during her returnship, the layers of support that Campbell and Path Forward provided, and what advice she has for future returners.
What type of work did you do before taking a break? What prompted you to take a break, and how long were you out of the workforce?
I started out as a software engineer, and I worked for five years as an SAP technical consultant. I was doing team lead roles during this tenure and realized my passion for project management, so I quit my job to pursue an MBA. I finished my MBA early with great academic standing and just after that, my little girl – my first child – was born. When I returned to work, I was an independent consultant working as Project Controller and Assistant Project Manager for different projects for another five years. Towards the end of this term, I had my second child and we decided as a family to move from the west coast to the east. I resigned from my job and made this move. After three years we realized California is home and we moved back with our two children. This was around the time when Covid hit and caring for two young children became even more complicated and I wasn’t ready to return to work yet. This extended my break even further. Overall, I was out of the workforce for almost four years.
Tell us a little about your experience after you decided to return.
When I was ready to return to my career, I learned about Path Forward. I couldn’t believe that such a wonderful program was out there. After my first break, to earn my MBA and care for my first child, I had to deal with so much bias when working with recruitment services. Many saw the gap in my resume and thought I wasn’t doing anything during that time and said they could not help me find a job. They had no idea how busy someone can be during a career break!
Prior to learning about the returnship program, I had been applying for mostly assistant project manager jobs, even though I had enough years of experience to apply for manager-level positions. I didn’t feel I had the confidence to step up and say that I could do those higher-level roles, so I applied for roles I was often overqualified for. Then, I saw on Path Forward’s website that Campbell was offering an IT Project Manager returnship, and I applied. I loved the rapport I shared with the hiring manager, and the position was a great fit for me, so when I was offered the role, I accepted. I was looking forward to having a supported transition into the workforce, given my career break.
What was your returnship role at Campbell like?
When I first started, I was very eager to get going. I kept asking, so what else can I do? And my manager encouraged me to slow down a bit, take the introductory courses, and to get to know the company first.
While I thought a slow transition would be nice for me, I realized that I am not that kind of a person! I wanted to come in and do things right away. By the second week, I was ready to contribute to projects. As a project manager, my first assignment was to help oversee an update that happens at Campbell every year. It was a great first project to work on after a career break. I realized that the process was in place, but some organization and structure would be a great value add. So, I captured and segmented over 200 users within the enterprise for communications and testing. I coordinated testing, created reusable engagement and deployment plans and led the awareness and readiness communications. In this process, I had already communicated with over 200+ people within the company, learned the collaborative tools within the company, and was already building relationships!
I was in charge of leading three other projects after the upgrade. Two of them were big projects where I could bring my strengths to the table in terms of building collaborative teams with clear expectations, roles and responsibilities, organizational skills and vendor harmonization. Throughout my returnship program, I felt included and valued by my teammates and my manager. Lot of learning resources were available for me. My performance was appreciated, and at the same time, help was offered whenever I needed it.
Just before my returnship ended, I created a returnship showcase deck that summarized my journey so far within the company- it included the projects I had worked on during the program, my key contributions, value additions to the project, successful project outcomes and key takeaways. I also included the positive feedback I’d gotten from my colleagues and stakeholders. This deck was really appreciated by my manager and the senior management, because it clearly showed all that I’d accomplished during my returnship, and it helped support my candidature for full-time employment.
What kind of support did Campbell provide during your return to work journey?
Digital Workplace was a warm and welcoming team. The Leadership and HR teams at Campbell were always approachable and helpful. I felt part of the company culture right away, and felt included and comfortable. I was assigned a Path Forward buddy, somebody who had been through the same experience at Campbell a few years back, that was very encouraging and helpful to know someone like that in the company. The returnship meet-ups and onboarding training were excellent ways to make a new hire feel comfortable while getting them up to speed at the same time.
My manager and coworkers were really kind and accommodating. My manager and I had regular check-ins and I always felt included and valued. I never hesitated to ask questions if I didn’t understand something, especially because the digital workplace was a new space for me.
One thing my manager did at the beginning of my returnship, which proved to be so valuable, was to invite me to sit in on a variety of meetings. That really helped me interact with my coworkers, understand the processes at Campbell, and get a sense of the team and company culture. This greatly helped me understand how to run my projects.
Overall, I was involved in four projects through my returnship, and was able to see two of them to completion. Since I was converted into a full-time role on the same team, I was able to continue working. One of our big projects has gone live successfully, and the product was just launched today!
How did Path Forward support your return to work journey?
Path Forward’s workshops were really helpful. The Path Forward team gave advice that was very specific to returners, and situation-based, on topics that we could all identify with. The program team was there to talk and offer support anytime we experienced issues. Having a chance to hear from program alumni was also great, because they provided us with insights and pointers based on their own experience.
I’m really thankful to Path Forward for being there and for helping folks like me. When people come back from a career break – women especially – your confidence is so low, you don’t know what to do. Having Path Forward as a genuine source of support as you work your way back into your career is a blessing.
What advice do you have for future returners?
My advice is based on what worked for me. First, ask questions. If you’re not comfortable asking questions in a meeting, check with your mentor or manager and ask them individually. Identify the areas right from the get-go where you can add value. Even though the returnship includes mentorship, find ways to contribute. I looked for areas where I could make a difference. Treat everyday as a learning opportunity. Understand the collaborative tools and learning resources available to you. I even found courses on general subjects like how to write and create efficient presentations useful.
Coming back from a career break, I was not thinking too much about whether I’d be converted into a full-time employee. My goal was to learn as much as I could while I had this opportunity. I knew that my work would speak for itself. Make sure to schedule regular check in meetings with your manager and incorporate their feedback.
What are you most proud of accomplishing during your return-to-work experience?
I am very happy and content that I can do this! That my projects are being delivered on time on budget and are well appreciated! That there was really no reason for me to hold myself back on managerial roles or returning to the workforce.
I’m just glad that I got this opportunity to prove myself, on a team where my work is appreciated, and that I was able to deliver on the trust my company has in me. After I completed my first project, I got such positive feedback from my team, which really boosted my self-confidence. It’s great to feel like I’m using my brain and making something that’s useful to others. It is a great feeling to be using all my past experience and knowledge and growing as an individual from learning every day. This opportunity was the right decision and a right step in my career growth.