Meet Returnize member Victoria Keil. Through this Q&A, Victoria tells her story of the journey back to work.
Interviewed by Nandita Bose
Describe your career and work experience before the break.
In the 1990s, I was a finance professional, and when I took my career break, I was at the pinnacle of my profession as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of a company.
How long was the career break and what was the reason?
My career break has been for 17 years. I got married in the year 2000, and when we started our family I decided that I would focus on raising the family. It was what I wanted then knowing that I would not be able to do justice to both raising kids and working full-time as the CFO of a company.
Did you do any volunteer, part-time, or freelance work during the break?
During the break, I was able to leverage my experience in finance and volunteer for the school Parents Teachers’ Association (PTA), organizing fundraisers and managing funds. For a short time, I also worked as an accounting manager for a start-up in the area of energy management.
What were the major challenges you faced in trying to get back to work?
In the beginning, I did not know how to focus because there were so many choices and opportunities. I was struggling with how to start the process of going back to work. My kids today are 16 and 14 years old. For some years I thought of getting back to work but only began to take concrete steps recently. I realized that I wanted to do something and contribute to society but I could not go back to being a CFO.
How did you prepare yourself for a career comeback?
I saw a posting for the Returnize Spring 2020 cohort meet and I signed up. We met in person just two times and switched to Zoom meetings. From this stage, it took me a couple of months to figure out what to do. I realized that I needed to update my skills. I did some continuing education courses and started networking with people. I am reaching out to my circle of friends and getting their opinions on what I want to do and talking to other people.
How did partnering with Returnize help in preparing you for returning to work?
The nice thing about Returnize is that Swati begins by talking about things to focus on. She then gives us exercises and tasks to do. These have deadlines and that forces you to focus. We discussed continuing education, goal setting, and networking opportunities. We did some soul-searching and shared our thoughts with other Returnize participants. Returnize and Swati helped me figure out a direction through all the different exercises.
So, where do you go from here?
This is not a career restart, but a next journey for me. Returnize helped me with my search and made me more disciplined. I am still in the process of continuing my education, taking courses to become a certified stock administrator.
What advice would you give other women who are trying to return to work?
Others like me should definitely join Returnize, depending on where they are in their career, they should go through the process, the exercises, and soul-searching to get a direction. Returnize is a wonderful place to start for women trying to get back to work after a career break.