STEM Returners doesn’t only facilitate career returns for candidates following a career break but also for those who wish to transfer sectors. Read Sarah’s experience of transferring skills from the water industry to aerospace with Leonardo Helicopters.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOU
I am from the South West of England, grew up in Cheddar, then Weston-Super-Mare and currently live in Sherborne, Dorset. I am educated to Bachelor degree level, and have also completed a number of vocational and career relevant courses during my working life, including a Certificate in Asset Management. In contradiction to my technical education I really enjoy creative hobbies. I have enjoyed drawing and painting, interior design (while renovating properties I have bought and sold over the years) and currently really am embracing upcycling old clothes and making new.
WHAT IS YOUR WORKING BACKGROUND?
About 25yrs ago, I completed a Bachelors degree in Electrical & Electronic Engineering at UWE, unfortunately by my final year I had lost all my mojo for engineering so upon completion I worked in retail management positions. After a few years of working in retail I decided it was time to fulfil my bucket list item of going travelling around the world. After an 18month round the world adventure, I ended up living, for about 12years, in Auckland, New Zealand where I was primarily working in the utilities industry. I started as a manager in a call centre and over the course of nearly 10 years, worked my way up to Team Leader, Information and System Specialists for the Electricity and Gas Network provider. These roles were varied and sometimes exciting, enabling me to work on high-profile IT projects and engage with the wider business to entrench new ways of working and digital data capture methods to support better reporting and regulatory audit processes. Upon my return to the UK in 2016 I took a few months off work to be with my aging parents. A role in the water industry came up in early 2017, the role was similar to one I had been doing a few years prior to leaving New Zealand, so I decided to apply. I was very fortunate that after an informal chat I was offered the position which I held for 6 years.
WHAT BARRIERS HAVE YOU FACED WHEN APPLYING FOR ROLES?
I must be honest I have been very fortunate and have not faced many outside prejudices during my career. However, the biggest barriers I have faced have been self-prophesised by a complete disbelief in myself and my abilities.
WHY DID YOU APPROACH STEM RETURNERS?
During my time at the water company, Covid hit and I ended up working from home for about 3 years. It was also during this time that I moved to Sherborne which meant travelling to Bristol too often was prohibitive both in time and expense. Due to the isolation and monotony of working from home all the time I started to look for another role, and having been in the utilities industry for the best part of 17 years I really felt it was time for a change. It was during the search that I saw a role in Yeovil being advertised by STEM Returners, and whilst I wasn’t a returning after a career break I was an industry changer.
HOW DID STEM RETURNERS HELP?
Claire and the team were very supportive and helped me believe in my skills and myself as a person. They helped me to see that whilst I had specific utilities industry experience nearly all of those skills were transferrable into another industry, enabling me to thrive and grow.
WHAT WAS THE END RESULT?
I had an interview for the new role and within a few weeks had been offered the role, it was only a 3month fixed term contract with an opportunity to become permanent. This made me a little anxious as I have bills and a mortgage to pay, after talking it through with my partner I decided to take the plunge. I started working in January, I met new people and have thoroughly embraced working in an office again.
HOW HAS THIS CHANGED YOUR CAREER?
I have learnt some things about myself and developed some new skills too. Whilst the initial role I applied for wasn’t for me the company I now work for recognised my skillset and have now offered me a permanent role, in a different team. Initially I was sceptical and a little ‘put out’ that they didn’t want me permanently in the role I had applied for, but with hindsight I am flattered that they made the effort to ‘keep me’, help me succeed and to find the right role for my skills and overall happiness.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ABOUT THE PROGRAMME OVERALL?
It is a great programme, assisting returners and career changers to find their way back into a job they will love doing is a wonderful thing to provide.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR RETURNERS LIKE YOURSELF?
Do it! It is hard and often scary to believe in yourself.
To try to help put things into perspective, if you have taken a career break to raise a family for example, then you are already running your own company with staff as well. Running a house, organising the family activities, school(s), clubs, holidays, meals, shopping, laundry, bills, vehicles, and rent/mortgage. All fundamental skills for doing any job, being able to do all of these things will perhaps even make you over-qualified for the role you are applying for. Any company that doesn’t recognize this need to re-examine their outlook and expectations.
If you are looking to return to work after a career break or looking to transfer, you can register your interest in joining a STEM Returners programme, here.