Tips to Get Back to Work After a Career Break

Joëlle Gernez

Vice President, Engineering at Pinger


Going Back to The Industry After 6 Years

I took a break in life from my career for about six years to take care of my kids. After 6 years of not being in the job market, especially in tech, it was really hard for me to get a grasp on the fast-moving technology. As my first priority at that time was my kids, I didn’t stay up-to-date with the technology, and making a comeback after such a long time can be quite overwhelming. During that time, I volunteered at a nonprofit organization and they just offered me a position as a director of fundraising that I turned down.. All I was more excited about was technology, but it had already been six years since I detached myself from that industry. The challenging part was to make a space for me again in the industry.

How to Cope With The Roller Coaster of Emotions

Start From Scratch:

I got the opportunity to enter the tech world, starting from scratch as an apprentice in an Extreme Programming Ruby on Rails consulting company.. It was indeed very difficult, and my resolve was tested almost daily. However, I knew that I wanted to get back into technology.. I could have chosen the easier path of continuing the role as a director of fundraising, where I would be getting a much higher salary every month, but that job did not motivate me at all.

My ultimate goal was not to stick by the engineering side of things or become an expert in Ruby on Rails. I wanted to specialize in Agile product management, and for that, I had a plan. Because of my plan, I was able to stick to it and make everything happen.

Reflect Back on Where You Left:

I left during the beginning of the agile movement. Upon my return, I found a role of a product manager that was more hands-on. My plan was to become a product manager, and so, I checked that most product managers were transitioning from the business side, UX, or technology side. Because of my experience in the technical side, I decided to go back and refresh my technical skills. I wanted to be able to use all my previous knowledge and experience with the current technology in order to make the move to product management.

Learn on The Go:

During my time as an apprentice, we were pair programming, and I was able to contribute to finding a solution to a given problem 一 even when I was not an expert in the technology stack. Although I had more experience then my colleague, I was able to quickly ramp up on the job, and while I was mentored by younger developers, some just out of high school, I learned more about humility. This was where I could experience that anybody can mentor anyone. While I had experience in scalability, Software development, etc.. I realized that there is no value in providing a solution unless all understand there is a problem to solve.

Get Support From Your Near and Dear Ones:

My life partner supported me through the avalanche of challenges I was facing during my time of making a comeback to the tech industry. Of course, I doubted myself, and anyone would doubt themselves in those circumstances. People might expect you to react like fresh grads, and may disregard your prior experience and knowledge. In that case, your near and dear ones can support you to make better decisions.

Lessons learned

  • If you are passionate about something, don’t be afraid to start again. Take on the challenge, and do whatever it takes to make it happen.
  • Don’t listen to people. It is hard, but trust the process because it will be rewarding.
  • Move companies if you need to throughout this rough process. I had plenty of rejections from companies because they believed my progression was too fast-paced. However, they completely disregarded the fact that I had 15+ years of experience before I had taken the break, and that I could be an asset as soon as I had the hands-on experience.

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Joëlle Gernez

Vice President, Engineering at Pinger

Leadership DevelopmentMentorship ProgramsTechnical SkillsSoftware DevelopmentCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionSkill DevelopmentIndividual Contributor RolesLeadership RolesAgile, Scrum & Kanban

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