Breaking the mould
How Shell’s unique approach revived Swetha's career after a period of absence.
I reached a point where it was clear I needed to take a break from my career. I knew it was a huge decision, but it was only during my time out of the office that I was able to comprehend the many difficulties women face when they want to rebuild their careers after a period of absence.
I decided to take a brief break for three reasons. One, a small accident had resulted in cervical disc slips. To recover, I could either go through surgery, or give my body a year of rest to recuperate. I decided to go for the latter option.
The second reason was my family had shifted from Delhi to Chennai due to my husband’s career.
Lastly - and most importantly - I wanted to have another child. I’d been delaying the decision on the basis that I wouldn’t be able to balance my career and care for an infant, especially in the initial years.
So, I had planned for a two-year break. This was shortened because my previous employer offered me the choice of working from home until I had the baby.
When my second son was about seven months old, I decided to test the waters by getting into a working-from-home consultancy role for a few hours a day. It was considerably relaxed (compared with my earlier 13-year stint in work) and I had the comfort of spending more time with my family.
However, I felt that I wasn’t doing something meaningful. I loved spending time with my sons, but was also unhappy about not getting to do anything productive mentally. It was then that I began to identify with the stress that women encounter when they quit their jobs due to personal reasons, but are unable to get back on their desired career path.
My introduction to Shell
It was around this time that Shell invited me to a session for women on career breaks. I was impressed to see a company focus on this widely ignored pool of talent that I told my husband that if the opportunity arose, I would join Shell. I associated with the company, and I knew that Shell would be the ideal place to develop.
I am now a Senior Team Manager with the Corporate Holdings & Treasury (CHT) team, handling the management information (MI) reporting of Corporate and Legal (CAL) and Real Estate functions and associated month close process.
Putting employees first
I am impressed with the employee-friendly policies at Shell. The annual safety day initiative, the safety standards, child support for women with younger kids, and the sessions for women employees organised by Shell Women in Chennai (SWiCH), are just few of the efforts that highlight Shell’s commitment to caring for employees.
I love the effort put in by Shell to accommodate an individual’s choices as much as possible. Sivaraj, the CHT Lead, interviewed me in September 2016. During our conversation I informed him that I would only be ready to work after December, once my youngest son had had his first birthday. HR then made sure not to contact me before December, when they knew I’d be free. It may sound a simple thing, but it shows that Shell listens, and makes every individual feel respected.
Advice to women that have had a career break
To ensure a career break doesn’t sap one’s confidence, I suggest that any woman be objective about her achievements. It’s good to list down your contributions and accomplishments in a document, because not only will this serve to boost morale, but it will allow you to present your career triumphs when doing interviews.
I have seen many talented women make themselves so indispensable to their children and their family that when they think of going back to work, their families are resistant. To this I’d say, if you believe that you have supported the family during the critical periods, and believe that your career is important, please don’t let your emotions pull you away from your career. I have read research that suggests kids of working women tend to be smarter, as they do not rely on their mothers; they learn to handle their environment by themselves.
Of course, it’s crucial to select the right organisation when you decide to go back to work. Being around caring people in a supportive environment makes everything so much straightforward.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the individuals featured and are not representative of the views of the Shell group of companies and their affiliates.
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