Returning to the workforce after taking time off is challenging, and the hurdles get progressively higher the longer you’re away. Technology presents unique obstacles in this regard, because in addition to the usual challenges of reentry, you also have to contend with the almost inevitable likelihood that your skills are out-of-date. For Mangalambigai Sivaramakrishnan, this was exactly the scenario she faced. How she took those challenges on, overcame the obstacles, and drew on her Udacity experience to build a new career for herself, is the story we’re so excited to share with you today.
Welcome, and thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with us! Let’s start by addressing the basics for our readers: Who are you, where do you live, and what Udacity programs have you taken and/or graduated from?
From previous conversations with you, I know your Udacity experience played an important role in your return to the workforce, and I’d love to talk with you more about this, so maybe we can set up the story by going through the chronology. What were you doing before you took the time off?
I worked from 2000 to 2008 at iNautix technologies, mainly as a desktop developer.
Did you enjoy your role there?
I thoroughly enjoyed my work—bringing intuitive user interfaces to life, collaborating with my team, and fixing tricky bugs was exciting.
What was it that led to your decision to take time away from the workforce?
In 2008, I had to take a break to take care of my children.
At that time, was your goal to return to the workforce at some point, and did you stay engaged with developments in your field during your time away?
I always kept track of technology! And when my youngest went to Kindergarten in 2015, I was ready to get back to work.
Did you find it challenging to try and reenter the workforce after your time away?
Yes, it was very challenging. No recruiter would submit my resume to a client because of the long break in my career. One of them even told me that she couldn’t help me because no client would pay premium for a person who hadn’t worked in eight years, and that networking was my best bet to find a job. Another recruiter suggested that QA was my best bet, and as long as I didn’t care about the pay or role, she said she could find me a job. She did try to help me by setting up a phone interview for a QA position. When the interviewer asked what steps I took to get myself ready for the job, I realized that all my efforts had been to get a developer role—I can’t think of a bug or a problem without thinking of how to solve it! I want to fix issues, not hand them off to someone else. How am I going to own a product without having access to source code? So I asked the nice recruiter to stop sending me QA roles, and I made it clear that going forward I was only interested in development, no matter how junior it was.
That must have been so frustrating! That said, your self-awareness and courage of conviction is so inspiring. You knew what you really wanted to do, and you were willing to pursue your goals no matter the challenges. How did you proceed once you’d made the decision to commit to finding a development role?
At that moment, I realized I need a partner who would not judge me on my long break, but would instead help me find a job that I would enjoy, not just get a paycheck from. Also, though I had extensive experience, most of the technology I had used earlier was obsolete. So I needed to target one area of technology that was current and in high demand, so I wouldn’t just have to talk about my job from eight years ago.
Was that when you discovered Udacity? How that did come about?
After doing some research, it was clear that Udacity was the partner I was looking for. I enrolled in the Front-End Web Developer Nanodegree program, and then the Senior Web Developer Nanodegree program. I learned how to use Git, as well as front-end frameworks like Angular, Knockout and Backbone, and tools like Gulp and Grunt.
Wow! Not one but two Nanodegree programs! That’s really impressive. What was it you liked so much about the Udacity approach?
The best part about the courses is that they clearly show you why you need to do something—rather than just how to do it—so it is almost like reading a story. Often, the instructors will demonstrate how hard it is for the user when something is not handled properly, then they’ll teach us how to handle it.
That’s great insight, thank you much for sharing it! Any other things about our approach that you found especially helpful?
The courses also focus on the tools that are currently used by the industry. After I finished my programs, I had a really strong Github profile. I also benefitted from reviews of my LinkedIn profile and resume. Suddenly, job listings online actually matched my skill set! Instead of having to learn new tools on the job, I could actually jump right into any front-end project!
Sounds like not only did you learn an incredible amount, but your confidence got a boost as well. How did you feel when you started the job search again after completing your Udacity studies?
When I started applying for jobs this time, I was really hopeful. I had a lot to talk about in the interviews! Also, Udacity kept me applying for jobs every week, and was always there for me. I set up an appointment with the career counselor, who had great ideas on how to get a break.
So here’s the question I’m particularly excited to ask: do you have a new job?
I am happy to share that I got a Front-End Applications Software Engineer role at YieldBot and it is all I ever wanted in a job. I have smart and supportive teammates, I get to work on the latest technologies, and we are building beautiful products! Thank you, Udacity!
I think I speak for us all at Udacity when I say it’s us who should thank you! It’s the dedication, tenacity, and spirit of students like you that make everything we do worthwhile! Thank you again for sharing your story with us, and congratulations on all your remarkable accomplishments.
“All I ever wanted in a job.”
Those seven words are music to our Udacity ears! Getting the opportunity to work with, learn from, and be inspired by students like Mangal is one of the great joys of being a part of Udacity, and it’s a tremendous pleasure to share her story with you today.