"When I first struck on my own as a personal trainer, I thought I’d never want to work in a corporate environment again," admits Meredith A., now a program manager at Facebook. "I loved setting my own schedule and having flexibility to care for my kids."
But after five years of pursuing her passion for wellness full-time, Meredith realized something was missing. “I was ready to participate in a complex problem solving environment again,” she says. “Something that challenged me regularly and required me to grow my skill sets to resolve big picture problems.”
People like Meredith who took time away from the workforce—to care for family, pursue passions, or focus on their personal life—can sometimes face an uphill climb when it comes to returning to work. The Facebook company’s Pathway Programs, including the Return to Work Program, offer valuable training and support to people transitioning into a new role. Read on to learn about how Facebook empowers skilled professionals to continue their careers, what the Return to Work Program is like, and where three graduates found the most value in their experience.
Empowering skilled professionals to continue their careers
Facebook’s Return to Work Program was designed to help lead experienced professionals who have been away from work for two years or more back into the workforce. The 16-week immersive program brings a group of participants—called returners—from different career paths together to serve as a supportive peer group for one another throughout the experience.
Additionally, each participant is partnered up with an experienced manager for mentorship, and has opportunities to solve complex, real-world problems while making an impact. At the end of the paid program, participants who have showcased the ability to succeed are considered for a full-time position.
“I was drawn to Facebook’s Return to Work Program because it offered me the opportunity to explore a brand new career path,” Sammy Z., a data scientist at WhatsApp, explains. “Before the program, I worked at a biotech company as a scientist. Though I worked on precision medicine for cancer patients and loved helping people, I wanted to make an even bigger impact. So, I decided to explore a new industry.”
“I was able to acquire domain knowledge and learn quickly,” she continues. “Right from the start, I felt supported by each recruiter I talked to and interviewed with. During the program, I had incredible support from my team, established cross-functional relationships, and made many friends. Everyone was so helpful! When I graduated, I felt confident showcasing my expertise in a new focus area.”
Sammy Z., data scientist at WhatsApp is a Facebook Return to Work program graduate
Embracing diverse perspectives and non-traditional career paths
Lakshmi C., a data engineer, had more than a decade of experience when she decided to step away from her job to care for her family. “During my break, I took bootcamps and courses, and thought about my future options. Once I started looking for opportunities, one of my friends told me about the Return to Work program. Around the same time, Facebook also reached out to me! I was excited because I wanted to get into more data-centric roles and this really felt like the right opportunity at the right time.”
Meredith says, “Once I realized there was a spark that wasn’t being fanned by my personal training work, I started updating my resume, networking, and meeting with people. I had completed my break and I had a wealth of experience. Facebook’s Return to Work Program was the first return to work program I applied to and heard back from. I was scared and excited. I didn’t know it yet, but I was in for the best ride of my life.”
Sammy, Lakshmi, and Meredith say that the encouragement and close collaboration they experienced during the program stood out. “I remember feeling like, ‘Your success is our success too,” Lakshmi recalls. “Even in the program, everyone worked together as a team. I had feelings of imposter syndrome when I was coming back to work, and Facebook’s supportive culture helped me overcome that.”
Lakshmi C. working from home as a Facebook data engineer while managing distance learning curricula for her two kids.
Re-engaging your talents and skills
Now working with future returners in her role as a program manager for the Return to Work Program, Meredith says she’s come full circle. “It feels so good to use my relationship-building and communication skills in this capacity again,” she notes. “Every person and team can make a big impact. I never thought a job like this would exist. I’m so happy with what I’m doing now.”
Lakshmi shares Meredith’s enthusiasm for tapping into her professional strengths again, and says that the skills she learned during the program and while working at Facebook have helped her grow. “My work is highly technical, but our team is customer-oriented too,” she explains. “We talk with many internal teams, and we need to understand their data-centric and infrastructure problems. I’ve learned that being a good listener is incredibly important.”
Meredith, Lakshmi, and Sammy offer the same advice for anyone interested in exploring a return to work program: Just apply. “We’re looking for you,” Meredith encourages. “If you think we’re not looking for you, that’s the only thing you’re wrong about. We’re interested in you and what your skills are.”
“You owe yourself the chance,” Lakshmi adds. “Give it your best shot and know that no matter what, you’ll learn something from the experience. You don’t have anything to lose.”
Meredith A., graduate of the Facebook Return to Work program, is a full time program manager and mother of two.
Learn more and apply
Are you thinking about returning to work? Facebook will begin accepting applications for its Spring 2021 Pathway Programs class in December 2020. Learn more about the Return to Work Program
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featuring Facebook's VP of Recruiting, Miranda Kalinowski.