“I want to be an example for my girls.”
What work were you doing previously?
Most recently I was working as a personal trainer, following a move from Brazil to the U.S.
Prior to that, I had a thriving job for many years in the oil and gas industry in Brazil. My last position was working in procurement, where I was responsible for procuring parts and services for a large oil field company.
What are you doing now?
I’m working as a Strategy Technical Buyer at Zoox, a company in the autonomous vehicle industry that is developing a purpose-built, fully-autonomous and fully-electric robotaxi and ride-hailing service.
I work with several of our suppliers to ensure we have the necessary components to build our autonomous testing vehicles.
Why did you change?
Two years ago, we moved across the country, which was difficult.
I had to start from scratch with my personal training work.
Then after our move, I went through a divorce.
While I loved personal training and being at home caring for my girls, I knew I needed an income that allowed me to live on my own and continue to support my family.
The twins had started kindergarten, which meant I now had time to restart my career. When I thought about what I wanted to do, I knew I could work and rebuild my personal training business, but I was feeling ready to return to a more corporate setting.
How did you choose your new career?
My region is renowned for its tech industry, and I knew it interested me, but I was skeptical that a technology company would hire me.
Alongside being interested in working in tech, it was important to me to work for a company with a good mission. Now that I have kids, I wanted to work for a company that I felt was going to change the future and ultimately create a better world for my girls to grow up in.
Are you happy with the change?
It’s been a really positive change, and the company has an amazing and supportive culture. If necessary, I can pick up my kids from school and then finish my work a little later. It’s been incredible to have that flexibility and support. It’s something that is completely new to me in a work environment.
I’m also excited to have adult conversations again after six years at home!
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
Working in tech and at Zoox is completely different than working in the oil and gas industry.
The company culture, and how welcoming and supportive my coworkers are is a positive change that I find I’m still getting used to. I feel like I can be my true self and I don’t have to hide any part of who I am.
My family is still living in Brazil, so it’s been difficult being so far away from that community and support system, especially as I’ve transitioned into life as a single mother.
But I know that this is now my time to focus on myself, to build my career again.
How did you go about making the shift?
While searching for jobs on LinkedIn, I came across a job listing from Zoox that specifically addressed caregivers like me returning to the workforce, called a ‘returnship’.
I was skeptical. I’d never heard of this type of program before.
But after experiencing several job rejections, I knew I wasn’t the same as all the other candidates. If there was a way for me to return to the workforce, perhaps this was it.
How did you develop (or transfer) the skills you needed for your new role?
Through the 16-week returnship program, which Zoox offered in partnership with the non-profit Path Forward, I was able to slowly transition back into the corporate working world.
I wasn’t expected to come in on day one and immediately get things done. I was encouraged to take it slow and find my footing.
Each week, I’d meet with my manager as well as a group of other “returners” from Path Forward, where we would have check-ins and discuss advice for how to address certain challenges, like parent-guilt.
The team at Zoox was really supportive. They encouraged me to ask questions and ask for help when I needed it.
I was so excited to receive a full-time offer to join the Zoox team, even before the end of the returnship program!
How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?
Deciding to end my marriage was probably the worst financial decision of my life (don’t get me wrong, I’ve no regrets).
Going from splitting one income to no income at all, I didn’t have the luxury of taking my time in finding a job. Not to mention, two kids can get expensive quickly. With twins, it’s not buy-one-get-one 50% off!
While staying home with my twins was what was best at the time, in my eyes, success for myself means having a career and money that allows me to live comfortably and care for my family.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
The most difficult change was navigating so much “newness.”
I had a lot of self-doubt about going back to work. Could I really do it after so many years at home?
I was newly back into the workforce after a long break, at a new company, in a new-to-me industry, and in the process of getting divorced, moving out, and getting the kids adjusted to everything.
I was extremely scared. The first few days back I felt like I didn’t remember anything from my old corporate life.
The first couple of months at Zoox felt like a roller coaster.
I had so many questions (I still do!), and I wondered if I deserved to be here and if I fit in.
Self-doubt is hard, but I know I’m doing my best and adding value to my team.
What help did you get?
Taking part in the returnship program and knowing that there were other women who were going through a similar transition was so helpful.
We could speak with one another, share our excitement and concerns. It was the community I’d been missing.
My manager and other employees at Zoox were also so nice throughout the entire process. It took me a while, about two months, but eventually I started feeling like I was really adding value at Zoox.
And it felt amazing.
What resources would you recommend to others?
It’s always helpful to talk to like-minded people who have been through it already.
Plus, you never know, they might even help you get a new job.
But if you do have a career gap (for any reason) I highly recommend looking for companies that offer returnship programs. This is something that I was unaware of before I started my own job search but I’m so grateful that I was able to take part in the program with Zoox.
Path Forward (based in the US) is an amazing community and resource. They work with so many interesting companies that value the insights and experiences the returner community can add to their workforces.
Many companies, including Zoox, are hiring for these programs. Give it a try!
What have you learnt in the process?
I’m more disciplined and focused now after taking care of my health and having kids.
I feel I can really do this. I can have my career, and have my family. I want to be an example for my girls. I want them to see that their mother has a fulfilling career, but also at the end of the day is there to take care of them.
I’m building relationships with my teammates and others at the company, as well as with the suppliers I work with, and it feels similar to what I’ve done before.
I’ve still ‘got it’ and I’m excited about how I can continue to grow my career at Zoox.
What do you wish you'd done differently?
This might sound a bit cliche, but nothing.
I truly believe and welcome whatever comes my way. Everything happens for a reason and we are able to handle it all, even though sometimes we don’t see it while in the middle of the storm.
However, I would have started therapy and meditation a little earlier in life.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
A returnship is a great opportunity to see if this is what you want after a break from work.
Going back won’t be easy, but just approach it one step at a time. One interview at a time.
If something doesn’t work out, it’s not a failure, it’s an experience.
Thanks to our friends at Zoox for this story.
What lessons could you take from Raquel's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.