Lindo Payumo took a two-year break from his 20-year tech career to care for his mother-in-law. When he was ready to restart his career, Lindo completed a returnship at OSIsoft, where he now works full-time as a Product Support Engineer. He talks about his return to work experience, the importance of soft skills in product support, and how one of his customers got him featured in a company video.
Returnship Company: OSIsoft
Returnship Role: Product Support Engineer
Tell me a 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 worked in the computer software field for about 20 years, holding roles in technical support, system administration, and finally DevOps. I was laid off in November 2015, which was timely, because my mother-in-law was ill, and I was able to stay home for three years and take care of her.
What prompted you to return to work?
My mother-in-law was doing better, and my kids were going to college. I really wanted to get back into the workforce, and with all these changes happening, it felt like the natural time to transition back into a career.
How long were you actively looking for work prior to applying for a returnship?
I was looking for about two years. During the first year, I wasn’t looking very actively, but more testing the waters, getting into the habit of interviewing, and gaining a general sense of what was out there and what skills employers were looking for. After that, I spent a year actively searching and applying for jobs.
Did you take any classes or complete any training in preparation for your return to work?
I took online programming and technical classes on Udemy, just to keep my skills sharp. A lot can change in technology in just one year, and I was out for three, so the classes were really helpful to me.
How did you find out about Path Forward and what prompted you to apply?
My route was a little different from the rest. I was actually applying for a different full-time position at OSIsoft, and during the interview process, the hiring manager told me that the position I was applying for wasn’t really as technical, and she was worried that I would be over-qualified or bored. She recommended that I consider applying to the Product Support team. I saw that they had recently joined the Path Forward program and were offering returnships, so I applied and was offered a position.
What was your returnship role at OSIsoft?
I was a Product Support Engineer. During the returnship they determined that I was a good fit for the role, and I decided that the role was a good fit for me, so when I was converted full-time after the returnship, I accepted.
What role are you in now?
I’m now a Product Support Engineer, Level II. Based on the work I did during the returnship and my previous experience, I was placed into a higher position, and am getting more responsibilities and expectations asked of me.
What was the process of on-ramping into the Product Engineer team? What kind of projects did you have a chance to work on during your returnship?
OSIsoft started the returnship by sending the Support Engineers to a two-month bootcamp to have us learn the software and gain technical support skills. We were given a lot of information that we learned and retained really quickly – it felt a bit like drinking water from a firehose, as the saying goes. My hiring manager also really valued the fact that I had previous technical support experience. After the bootcamp, they took off the training wheels, and we were tasked with assisting actual customers by phone. For the first couple of weeks we had trainers sitting next to us, giving feedback and guidance in case we got stuck, and then for the last two weeks we were offering support to customers on our own. So it was a gradual process, and I appreciate the structure that OSIsoft put in place to onramp us.
When the other Product Support Engineering returnees and I first started, our group leader assured us that there was enough headcount on the team for all of us to be potentially converted full-time, and that this would not be a cut-throat, competitive process between us, which made me relax. Our group leader was supportive throughout the returnship, and held weekly one-on-ones to see how we were doing and to offer guidance on any issues we were running into.
Are there any skills from your pre-break career that you use in your new role?
The main skill from my previous technical support roles that I now use is knowing how to break down a problem, which questions to ask, and how to handle different types of customers. For example, sometimes you have argumentative ones, and you have to know how to de-escalate the situation. Other than that, all of my technology and tech support skills have been useful.
What did you find most helpful about being part of a Path Forward program at OSIsoft?
The doors that Path Forward has opened up for us, because a lot of companies see that you have a gap in work experience and question it or look down on it. Not only that, but a returnship allowed us to start out slow and ramp up. We weren’t thrown into the deep water, so to speak, but were gradually onboarded at a pace where we felt comfortable.
What has been the most exciting or gratifying part of returning to work?
I’m just excited to be back in the workforce and learning new things, and to have the opportunity for career growth.
What are you most proud of accomplishing during your return to work experience?
After we close a product support case, there is a customer satisfaction survey that gets sent out. Not every customer sends them back, but I was happy to get one survey back that was such a glowing report, it was featured in our company video on customer success. I was really proud of that.
Do you have any advice for future returnees?
I’ve spoken to others who were afraid of getting back into the workforce, and I always tell them not to be scared, and to see what’s out there. With our experience, skills, and knowledge, we have so much value to add to companies.
Thanks for sharing your story, Lindo! We are so happy you’ve found success and balance in your career. You can learn more about Lindo on his LinkedIn page. – The Path Forward Team