Position: Customer Success
After over a decade working in sales, Melissa Evans took a 10 year break to raise her daughter. When she was ready to return to full-time work, she completed a returnship in Customer Success at Uber. Melissa talks about her returnship experience, how she kept her business skills sharp during her break, and offers advice on what truly makes a returnship successful.
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 was in sales for over 10 years and decided to stop working outside the home full time when my daughter entered kindergarten. I spent the next 10 years raising my child, volunteering, and working part time in a local retail clothing business, including building its online sales engine that drives much of its nationwide growth to this day.
What prompted you to return to work?
I can’t even call it “returning to work,” because there are so many ways to define working, and I have always kept busy in some way, whether part-time work or by volunteering. But I felt like it was time to go back to work full-time for myself and for my own personal satisfaction. I really enjoyed my part-time job in sales and was anxious to parlay this back into a full-time career in sales or account management.
I think that’s true for a lot of people – even if they don’t have a full-time position, they’re already working in one way or another, and just need to parlay that experience into a different setting.
How long were you actively looking for work prior to applying for a returnship?
I was looking for employment for six months, which included attending networking events, getting my CV updated, and pursuing interviews.
Did you take any classes or complete any training in preparation for your return to work?
I would recommend anyone going back to work, to do your homework and look for opportunities where companies are sponsoring returnships or training. Gainsight, the customer success platform, is a prime example of a company paying it forward by offering training to people returning to the workforce.
I was lucky enough to attend Gainsight’s annual conference, Pulse, as a “Gainsight Gives” recipient. It was a fabulous experience, because it allowed me the opportunity to network with people and learn new skills through workshops. I got to affirm my desire to go back to work, and feel confident in my ability to succeed. It gave me a chance to practice my elevator pitch over and over again and refine my story while talking to people about jobs and industries. This experience was invaluable, and I am so grateful to Gainsight to this day.
What was your returnship role at Uber?
My returnship role at Uber was in a customer success role and lasted 3 months. As part of its inaugural returnship group, Uber had 5 returnees in three areas of the business — many people applied for these 5 roles, and it was only posted for a little over a week! I applaud Uber for being a stand-out company in recognizing the value that is provided by seasoned job seekers returning to work.
What was your experience returning to work at Uber?
It was very rewarding to see myself grow in my career, while re-affirming and developing my skill set. There was a transition period, as well, for me personally and my family, to adjust to the “new normal.”
The people at Uber were great, and the returnship program manager, Clayton Williams, was amazing, and made sure that we had a support system and regular check-ins. It wasn’t easy, but it was an amazing experience.
Are there any skills from your pre-break career that you used during your returnship?
I used so many of my skills from my pre-break career. I asked three people — a friend, a family member, and a co-worker — for what they thought were my top three skills. It was really helpful to get an outside perspective. The three skills I narrowed in on fed into my CV and interviews were: the ability to talk and really listen to people, the ability to be solutions-oriented and match people’s needs with offerings, and ability to get stuff done.
I encourage people as they return to the workforce to open up their minds to think differently about what skills they use every day — in volunteering, with their families, or with their children — that are applicable to a formal job setting.
What about skills you gained during your career break?
During my career break, I learned a lot about how to manage my time, address competing priorities, and gain self-realization about my strengths and weaknesses. In working at a clothing retail business, I honed the key skill of managing a project and seeing it through, from step one to step ten. That involved working with different personalities, reaching out to tech companies for collaborations, meeting deadlines, and hitting sales targets. These are all the same skills that I used in my returnship, just in different industries — I went from dealing with dressing to dealing with cars.
What did you find most helpful about being part of a Path Forward program?
I’ll sing Path Forward’s praises all day long. It gives you a support network and just having people to talk to and get advice from is such a big help. There’s the structure that helps companies and returnees manage this process. I truly believe that you don’t need to get a full-time position at the end of the program to consider your returnship a success.
Just going through the program is a huge win, and whatever you want to do next, you have recent experience to talk about. Before getting my returnship, what frustrated me was getting to the final rounds of interviews, and the hiring managers not knowing what to do with me, since I’d been out for so long. Once you’ve gone through this Path Forward program, those concerns about your skills have been mitigated. Not only that, but you have this amazing story to talk about during interviews.
The Path Forward program gives you license to ask all the “stupid” questions you want — no apologies. You don’t need to “hide” your inexperience in some areas in order to feel like you will be perceived as a solid contributor. Part of my job is to learn and grow. A returnee really provides their employer with maturity and life experience combined with tenacity and a strong desire to learn new skills. Returnees are a gift to companies, which many organizations like Uber realize and value.
What has been the most exciting or gratifying part of returning to work?
I feel a lot of gratitude in my role as a mother and wife. But my career completes me by providing a different sense of satisfaction. Building my business acumen, honing my skills, and problem solving in a creative way gave me a real sense of satisfaction in being part of a bigger cause.
What are you most proud of accomplishing during your return to work experience?
I was proud of being part of a team at Uber that helps the company to bring its mission to life and builds a competitive and compelling product for its customers. It takes fortitude and self-assurance — even bravery — to just try to re-enter the workforce at a later stage in your life. So, I’m proud of myself for obtaining a returnship position that was being sought after by many competent people
Do you have any advice for future returnees?
Just being part of Path Forward makes you a winner! Even if you don’t get a “job” at the end of your returnship, you have already won because of what you have gained: fresh experience, interview talking points, new relationships through networking, and new skills.
I think it’s up to you to make the returnship a success, because it’s not a guarantee. A returnship is set up so that you have an opportunity to figure out what you’re good at, what you want to do and what you don’t want to do. You’re going to have to learn to work with different people and across teams, and get outside of your comfort zone. A lot of the same skills that are useful in any job are what you’ll need to make your returnship successful.
Thanks for sharing your story, Melissa! You can learn more about Melissa on her LinkedIn page.
– The Path Forward Team