Participant Spotlight: Zandra Otubamowo

Company: Facebook
Position: Technical Program Manager

“Taking a break to focus on raising my kids was a decision that was well worth it over the sacrifice of my quitting my professional job,” states Zandra O, a Technical Program Manager at Facebook. However, after 3 years away from her professional career,  Zandra experienced feeling “like I was not maximizing my potential to its fullest – I had a feeling I needed to do more than what I was currently doing.”

After stepping away from her career as a Software Product Manager in Nigeria to start a family,  Zandra moved to South Africa before finding a new home in the United States. When embarking on her Return to Work journey,  Zandra had the additional challenge of finding a career path in a new country with great differences in relation to job applications. For instance, “your online presence is important here in the United States, you need to ensure that your online profiles are updated, not so much so in Nigeria. So, I had to update my LinkedIn profile and my resume, and connect with potential recruiting agencies.”

Once her online presence was updated,  Zandra began applying to available jobs. However, she struggled to find open roles that matched her experience, and when she found potential opportunities, she wasn’t landing the interviews due to the 3 year gap on her resume.  She eventually “got to a point where I was willing to take any job even if the role did not match my background and qualifications in order to get back into the workplace.” 

That all changed when Zandra applied and interviewed for a Technical Program Manager role with Facebook’s Fall 2020 cohort, which operated in a fully remote capacity due to the global pandemic.  Zandra prepared for the interview by researching the Facebook family of products, reading blog posts about the TPM role at Facebook, and about the history of the Return to Work program.  She also “watched a couple videos online that helped me learn more about Facebook and how to structure my responses in a way that clearly highlight skills I bring to the table and impact of work I delivered in my previous role.” 

All of this hard work paid off as Zandra joined Facebook’s cohort in September of 2020.  Working remotely while transitioning back to work was a struggle, and Zandra’s resilience was a continued asset as she endeavored to overcome imposter syndrome: 

“The major challenge I had was feeling that my career gap would be too obvious at work and I would not be able to ramp up quickly enough to deliver anything meaningful given the scale of operations and services at Facebook. I needed to silence that feeling in order to get ahead and prove myself. Four months in, and I know for a fact that we are our own greatest critics and what we feel is not always what is true.”

The support network provided by the program was of great value as Zandra worked to overcome these challenges. The program offers five pillars of support to all Returners: A hiring manager, mentor, cultural guide (buddy), program manager, and the cohort of peer Returners. These people “are always there to help, especially when you start to feel like you are drowning in a sea of data / information. They help pull you out of the ocean and offer you speedboats to get you to where you need to be.”

Zandra seamlessly transitioned to her role as a Technical Program Manager with the Infrastructure organization at the conclusion of the program.  She is most proud of feeling that her return to work helps her be more successful not only as a working professional, but also as a parent:

“Before returning to work, I was worried that one would suffer more than the other. Wrong! If anything, it has made me stronger; I am meeting and exceeding expectations in both areas. What really surprised me is that, the skills I exercise at work, like problem solving skills, organizational skills and attention to details, are also very relevant in my day-to-day life. So now I see my work as a way to make myself better.”

Her advice for future Returners? “Bring your authentic self to the program, but be open to learn new ideas and approaches. Don’t let anything stop you, just go for it and do your best. Have faith that your best would be good enough.”

Great advice,  Zandra! And congratulations on your new role with Facebook!