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  Say I Can- Kad-Um-Bree



Ms. Kad Um Bree,
Data Analyst


 
  Kad-Um-Bree, as she prefers to call herself shares tips from her personal experience on how to make a comeback after a career break.

Thank you, Avtar, for reaching out to me and making me feel really special.

1. Please tell us about yourself, your passions and your dreams.
I am Kad Um Bree aka Sunita Sundaresh. I currently work as a Data Analyst in a software company in the AI enablement team on a part-time basis. My real passion lies in playing with words and today I have turned my hobby of writing into a very satisfying career choice. I always wanted to be a teacher just like my father, but I never knew that one can still follow that path without actually being one. I realized that there was an opportunity to reach a wider audience than just 40 or 50 kids in a class in some college or school, if I started writing. So, I am a published writer and someday hope to deliver lectures to inspire the kids.

2. Was your break a conscious decision? What were the obvious fears when you started looking out for openings?
I was a working professional way back until 2007. And the usual Indian mentality of "being there for my child" feeling held me back and I feel this is something in the DNA of our culture (more so in my generation) that made me take a sabbatical. However, soon the guilty conscious started pricking because this decision took away a lot of things that were taken for granted. After 10 years of stay at home mom, 2 failed businesses, my fears were very common:
  1. Will I be able to work with younger people?
  2. Would I be able to handle work and home?
  3. What if I can't manage the two?
  4. How would the younger people treat me if I do get a job?
  5. Do I still have a - go-getter attitude?
Today one can find that there are many opportunities in the software industry encouraging women to get back to work but not many for the non-technical field. So yes, it will be a bit difficult to get a job.

But the trick here is not to give up and to ignore the sarcastic/negative remarks by anyone who want to discourage you or mock you for still trying to make your dreams come true.

3. What kind of support or opposition did you experience when you discussed about your comeback with your family and friends?
I believe in financial freedom and with being a full-time mom, this was gone. The accounting I had to give at the end of the month, those fights over spending more than the allocated budgets. especially during the festivals, made me regret my decision. It felt like someone was trying to clip my wings. I had to look out and start something, but by then I was already a couple of years into sabbatical and all the above-mentioned questions popped up to play the spoilsport.

Every time, I brought up the topic of getting back to work, my family would discourage me or my daughter would fall sick (she was always suffering from fever - it's hereditary, I don't know if that's possible though) and my getting back to work would be put off. It felt like the universe did not want me to start working for someone, and that gave me an idea - Why not start a home-based protein-filled breakfast mix business using a family recipe? It took 2 years to have a steady customer base and get a gym owner to recommend my product to his clients. Sadly, I had to close my shop after almost 6 years as I failed to market it properly since it was home-based and no proper licenses. Plus warring with the bigger companies didn't seem to be the right direction especially if the investment was running into lakhs. Then came another idea - hand-made jewellery. I learnt this art as well but that didn't do well too simply because I was way ahead of the times. All this was between 2007- 2016.

4. Did you have any expectations of the new job?
In 2016, I was offered a job in a start-up as a content writer. It was like a dream come true. Someone was willing to give me an opportunity to dust my skills and help me hone my writing. I was happy with this job offer because it checked important boxes for me - of proximity and work timings. There were about 8 young professionals in the team and they were all very welcoming. They did not make me feel out of place or treated me differently. So my fears of being able to gel into the new environment were put at ease. I got ample opportunity to learn not just my job but help out other teams as well. It was very collaborative and reinforced that there is something for everyone out there who's looking for a job.

5. Would you like to share some of the questions that you didn't have an answer or found them irrelevant in the interview?
Interviews after a point of time became mechanical and almost rehearsed. But one question that perplexed me was -Why did your businesses fail? When I mentioned investments ran into lakhs and it was too big a risk their next question would automatically be what was the turnover? In short, it became very "finance" and "management" oriented. I found it difficult to answer because they were interested in numbers but my numbers were hardly interesting. They did not talk about strategies I employed that worked in my favour, only the bottom line was always holding their interest.

So, you need to structure your replies in such a way that you can steer away from uncomfortable topics that I mentioned above.

6. How important is flexibility for you? Do you think it is a must for all women getting back to career after a break?
For me, it wasn't money but flexibility and proximity to work that were the main criteria. I was willing to work only between 9:00 am to 2:30 pm and wanted to reach the office within 20 minutes to workplace. Rest were not deal-breakers. I rejected a few offers as it involved either brainless tasks or they rejected me (this was more common) due to different reasons.

7. What was your job preference when you were looking to comeback - Jobs that exactly matched your previous jobs, Jobs that matched your skills or Jobs that gave you flexibility while working?
It was completely different. When I quit, I was Customer Service Associate (a couple of levels higher than a representative) and the job I was seeking was Content Writing. So yeah there was this huge difference. My only goal was, and still is - to work from home (how difficult could that be especially being a non-tech person?). Jobs that matched me were no longer relevant, but the ones that interested me needed some sort of certification which was a challenge at that time. Sales (not marketing) was a job that matched all the time and I did not see it aligning to my passion, so I ignored. I did not want to sell anything, I just wanted to be the behind-the-scene force that made it happen.

8. How did you prepare yourself for the interview?
Well, I studied the question bank like how you study for your 12th-grade exam. But it did not help because the interview pattern has changed. The hiring manager wanted to know if:-
  1. You are trainable.
  2. You can adapt to the dynamic environment.
  3. You are proactive and can contribute above and beyond your goals.
  4. You can keep up with the deadlines.
  5. You can take independent decisions especially within the team that may or may not have an effect on the performance.
  6. You can get along with the rest of the team members and
  7. You either have the capability or ability to get the job done.
So rehearsed answers may not be the right approach. Usually, if you have faced some relatable scenarios, you can use that experience to make your answers more apt, relevant and shows your ability to use resources impactfully.

9. Would you like to give some tips to I-Winners on career comeback?
Well, If I can do it, So can you. The only tip I wish to share, and trust me it is the most important thing, is "Say I can." It sounds too simple, isn't it? But now try answering these questions with I CAN and see for yourself:

Can you manage home and Office? - I CAN
Can you finish the project on time? - I CAN
Do you think you can handle this work as well? - I CAN
Do you think you can manage this project? - I CAN

Cheers! Kad Um Bree

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the writer are purely personal

 

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