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Thinking of Pressing Pause? Here’s How 4 Career Breaks Shaped Women’s Trajectories

“Taking a year to be a human ‘being’ instead of a human ‘doing’ was life-changing”

Woman traveling during a career break
Photo courtesy of Guilherme Stecanella

This article is part of InHerSight's Career Trajectories series. Women's career paths vary significantly. Hear from women themselves about the pivotal career decisions that have shaped their growth and success.

This article is part of InHerSight's Partners in Diversity series. Discover companies partnering with InHerSight to better support women in the workplace.

Ever dreamed of taking a year-long sabbatical and traveling the world? What about going back to school to pursue a career you love? Big career-defining decisions like these are daunting because veering from the known path opens us up to risk—the possibility of failure, an uncertain future.

They can also yield tremendous growth and success, as these four women at our partner companies can attest. Each took time off to soul search, skill up, or rest and recover, and each bounced back in spectacular fashion. 

In this installment of our Career Trajectories series, find out why your next career move might not be centered on your career at all—and that’s absolutely okay. 

How 4 career breaks shaped women’s trajectories

Kristin Marschhauser

Director, Ecosystem + Infrastructure at DoorDash

What do you do?

As a director of Ecosystem and Infrastructure for DoorDash's Drive product, my team ensures that merchants have a seamless experience onboarding and growing their business on the Drive platform. Drive is DoorDash's white-label fulfillment delivery service, meaning Dashers deliver orders from a merchant website, app, or third party delivery platforms. We support enterprise merchants and small- and medium-size businesses through our ecosystem of partner relationships. I spend most of my time supporting my team, setting strategy and priorities, and maintaining strong cross-functional relationships within DoorDash and with our external partners. 

How did you get where you are?

I've never been the person who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up, but as a kid I both loved math and logic and also talked too much. I probably could have been a good trial lawyer, but ended up in technology partnerships instead! One of the best things about being in partnerships is that you develop relationships with loads of people in your industry. Through my network, I've largely taken opportunities as they came up and let my career unfold somewhat organically. 

Some of these opportunities felt pretty risky at the time, like leaving my consulting job at Accenture (one of the biggest consultancies in the world) to be the 60th employee at an ad tech start up, or leaving my lifelong home of NYC for a new role with Facebook in London. But I've found these moves to be some of the most catapulting for my career, and in some cases my personal life. 

Which meant that when the opportunity to quit my job to travel for a year with my boyfriend (now husband) came up, I leaned in. After 14 years of working nonstop, taking a year to be a human “being” instead of a human “doing” was life-changing.    

What has most surprised you about your career?

Starting your career in NYC, you always feel behind. Your colleagues are getting promoted in 2 years instead of 3, or going to business school and getting that top job on graduation. So you feel like you need to run, and keep running to catch up. Or at least to not fall behind. 

Pshhhh. The times when I stepped back, took that pay cut, took that time off. The times when my graph went flat or down or backwards, those were the times that made my life more fulfilling and exciting and actually helped my career the most. 

As an example, after six years with Facebook (and 14 years of working in corporate), slowly inching my way up the ladder, I was burnt out. So, I quit my job to travel the world for 14 months with my husband. I had so many fears about this "resume gap" and what it would mean for my career. But as I was interviewing, I got several offers including my current role with a large pay raise and the promotion/title that I had been fighting so hard for previously. The time off not only didn't hurt my career, but the clarity and recharge I had helped me go for and land the roles that actually propelled my career.

Allie Brandwein

Client Success Manager at InfoTrust

What do you do?

To make sure our clients get the most value out of our partnership, I am their advocate. I listen to their honest feedback and guide them through their analytics maturity journey. As things pop-up, I am there to help streamline processes and make their day-to-day easier.

How did you get where you are?

I started studying at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism (focused on advertising). I first worked in merchandising at Target’s headquarters in shoes, then moved to account management for a client whose product was in Target.

I then moved to Portland without a job. I worked as an account associate at SurveyMonkey for their audience product and was laid off after five months during a company reorganization. I spent three months looking for jobs until I got a job at CLEAResult as a marketing account manager working with small, medium, and large utilities on promoting their energy-efficient programs (rebates, etc).

I found growth within the media team (a team of two, including me). I did media planning, strategy, and  implementation for all clients over the U.S. I decided to leave after four and a half years, then spent eight months figuring out who I am as an adult and what I really wanted to do. I interviewed with many places but only found two that fit the environment I was looking for. And that's how I ended up at InfoTrust.

What has most surprised you about your career?

That I’ve been able to jump into many different industries without prior experience. The interpersonal and organizational skills that I have allowed me to excel at any job I’ve had, even if I didn't know the inner workings of the industry. I was able to learn that part on the job.

Kathy Blau

Organizational Development Specialist at Ursa Major

What do you do?

As an organizational development specialist, I am responsible for the growth and development of our team at all stages of the employee lifecycle. This includes training and program creation and development as well as working on inclusion efforts at the company.

How did you get where you are?

After over a decade of experience in clinical psychology, I needed to search for something new. Via soul searching (including my own career counseling), I was drawn to HR. I started my journey at Ursa in talent acquisition and slowly took on development roles in working with our organizational development (OD) department and Inclusion Committee. Recently, I was offered the opportunity to move over to OD, and I couldn’t be more excited.  

What has most surprised you about your career?

“Starting over” doesn’t feel as much like starting over as I thought it would. Many of the skills and tools I’ve learned in my former career as a licensed clinical psychologist are incredibly applicable to my new career in organizational development. I’m excited to use these skills from a different perspective to support the overall growth, development, and wellness of our staff.

Preeti Awasthi

Sr. Program Manager at Amazon

What do you do?

I work across different business functions designing improvement strategies, implementing new operations, and supporting the execution of the company's goals.

How did you get where you are?

Where I am today is 80 percent based on mentoring and coaching and 20 percent based on my education. After working with senior leadership for five years in India at both Accenture and Vodafone, I realized how much I enjoyed working closely with customers every day and felt the need to learn more about business management and strategies. 

This realization inspired me to study further. In 2018, I decided to pursue my master’s degree. My career was stagnant, and I wanted to be more directly involved in key business decisions. I studied at Purdue University with a full scholarship along with a graduate assistantship (GA) that helped me in not only financing my degree but also paying my rent.

In addition to the strategy classes I took during that time, my change management and people management classes now play an important role in my work today as a Sr. Program Manager at Amazon. I also developed a habit while pursuing my master’s of talking to leaders in every field. The process of continued learning, plus finding the right mentors, helped me achieve my current position. I learned how to ask the right questions, and I am proud to be an Amazonian today. 

What has most surprised you about your career?

I never planned every role that I worked in. I relentlessly worked toward investing in the learning process and trusted that it would lead me toward the right point. My experience has taught me to work toward creating a process and not simply focus on the end goal. If the process is correct, the end goal will be achieved.

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