Maternity leave – an opportunity for new career possibilities?

Parents with children would not dare lie – paternity or maternity break is not really a vacation, and at the end returning to work is not as easy as it used to be. Still, although the majority of the ‘break’ is occupied by parenting responsibilities, more and more women use it as a chance to change their careers.

This tendency is further accelerated by quickly growing remote education possibilities – mothers looking after their little ones can study on their own by dedicating a mere fraction of their time. According to them, this decision is encouraged by the desire to successfully rejoin the workforce as well as the thought that a career change is due.

Ula Pociute, the head of the programme “Women Go Tech”, which encourages women to re-train themselves for a different career, observed that there are more and more participants, who decided to change their careers during maternity break.

“Returning to workforce even after one year’s break is not easy. Due to the fact that the need for specialists is changing so rapidly, it’s important to continue developing new skills and increasing competency in existing ones. And even though the tasks of raising a child and developing yourself professionally are not easy to accomplish in tandem, many “Women Go Tech” participants decide to undertake this effort.” According to her, amongst the 260 participants of this year’s programme, tens of them are doing this during their maternity break.

Renata Gvozdovic is very familiar with such a career shift – after a long time working in account and fund management she is currently employed as a data analyst at “Danske Bank”. During five years spent raising her children Renata got curious about a field that’s very different to what she originally specialised in. “I did a job that required meticulousness and responsibility, as it impacted all company operations. However, even before I went on maternity leave, I was considering going into a different industry. Later on I became interested in data analysis.” – says Renata. During her time on maternity leave she was moving towards that goal with determination, taking courses to update her knowledge and develop new skills.

“After the birth of both the first and second child I attended data analysis courses. It was very useful to repeat them, as this area has changed tremendously over the years – new software is being used, new ways to process data have been developed. To be fair, my studies took place before the quarantine, in person so it was a bit easier for me, as I thought that having to stay home with the kids and study would be very challenging.” – contemplates the mother of two.

Renata used the help of a mentor to obtain further goals – her mentor was the head of “Danske Bank”’s analysis department. It was here that Renata was employed before going on maternity leave: “I returned to work before the mentorship programme ended, I was lucky to return to the same company, just a different department – where I now work as a data analyst.”

She is extremely happy with the new page in her career – she claims that it’s impossible to see herself doing anything else at the moment. “I am very pleased with how supportive and flexible my employer is, when it comes to both maternity leave and career changes. The job itself is very interesting, so much so that I have no intentions of returning to my previous career.” Renata says. She also wants to encourage other mothers interested in the tech industry to not be afraid of challenges and changes: “If I can do it whilst raising two kids – so can you!”

Juste Bartkuviene follows in Renata’s stead – prior to her maternity leave she worked in NGOs, and now she is aiming to retrain to the tech industry. “The work itself was very interesting, but I was unsure if I wanted to stay in that field,” – Juste starts her story. After deciding to use her maternity leave to also explore different career opportunities, she is determined to find work in IT, specifically – programming.

“Deciding to change your career is already a step outside your comfort zone. Then came the questions on how to balance responsibilities of raising small children and developing yourself in a new industry.” Juste decided to not let doubts hold her back and to instead ‘try on’ the new career in a remote course that was held by the Harvard university, aimed at programming basics. “It wasn’t instant, but eventually I got really hooked on programming. That’s when I decided that this is the path for me.” shares Juste. After completing the course she took part in several more, and later joined this year’s “Women Go Tech” programme.

She highlights that balancing motherhood with a new career is challenging, but not impossible. “Yes, I have to change my plans frequently, but I also have this feeling that the more involved I get, the more I have on my plate, the better I become at making it work.”

According to Juste, mothers who chose such a path especially need the support of their family members. “I suggest having an agreement with your relatives that they would come to your aid and look after the little ones when needed, so you can focus on your work.”

She is very optimistic about the future – “I just finished my maternity leave and I have the offer to return to my old job, however, I am fully determined to find a position in programming. My mentor not only helps me deepen my knowledge, but also motivates me not to give up. I am sure that soon enough I’ll fulfill my goal and start working in IT.”