How does returning to work after a hiatus of 20 years sound? Exciting? Terrifying? Or maybe a mix of both? As it turns out, these emotions not only describe how Suguna Ranganathan felt when she knew she was hired, but also aptly sum up the sentiments of her employer, GlobalSign.in.
Speaking to The IT Society, Veemal Gungadin Shastri, Chief Executive Officer of GlobalSign. in puts into perspective the consideration behind the company’s decision to hire Suguna.
Q: Question, VGS: Veemal Gungadin Shastri
Q: How did GlobalSign.in come to hire Suguna?
VGS: We were looking for a full- stack developer and a Customer Success Engineer. Then it so happens that we came across the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) and got connected with the Institute of Systems Science at National University of Singapore (NUS-ISS) who offered to help. After looking through their pool of students enrolled under the PCP, we shortlisted about 15 candidates to attend interviews and sit for a technical test with us. From the onset, it was clear that we wanted a person who is not only technically sound, but also has the right attitude to grow together with the team.
Suguna was one of the few persons who passed the technical test. But what really impressed us were her positivity and her enthusiasm for learning. She made our hiring decision simple.
Q: But Suguna hasn’t worked for 20 years. Weren’t there any doubts?
VGS: Well, as with any hiring, you can never be fully certain whether anyone is really right. And of course, knowing that Suguna has not worked for 20 years, we were concerned whether she will be able to adapt to working life – be it the pace of work or her ability to work well with the team. Furthermore, in Suguna’s previous professional career, she had never taken on a customer-facing role before. However, as a Customer Success Engineer, she will have to play a critical role in working with customers and ensuring that projects are successfully delivered.
So this is the good thing about hiring more matured professionals like Suguna. With more life experience under their belt, they are usually more stable, more tenacious and less likely to give up. Otherwise, they are really just the same as hiring a fresh graduate; they need our patience and support so that they can learn the work processes and culture of the company.
Q: Was it helpful that Suguna was in the PCP?
VGS: Certainly. With established training partners like NUS-ISS supporting various PCPs, it gives employers like us confidence in the skills and quality of candidates. That said, we recognise that the training duration under the PCP may not be sufficient to train someone to become really proficient skills-wise. That is why, beyond PCP, we actively encourage Suguna to sign up for other courses that can help her in her course of work.
Q: What is an advice for employers looking to hire through PCP?
VGS: One of the key driving forces behind a successful PCP experience, I believe, is our willingness to walk the journey with her. For instance, although we had first hired Suguna as a Customer Success Engineer, we changed her role subsequently to become a Project Manager – so as to better harness her strengths.
Suguna shares her impetus to rejoin the workforce after two decades as well as what it is like to finally be back at work.
Q: Question, SR: Suguna Ranganathan
Q: What prompted you to want to return to work after 20 years?
SR: There are many reasons. To begin with, I enjoyed a relatively successful career before the 20-year break. I
had loved my work and the sense of purpose it gave me. That was why although I only officially returned to the workforce about a year ago, I had made attempts to return to work over the years. However, they were unsuccessful because of family commitments – especially my two children.
But then my children grew up and I suddenly found myself with plenty of time on my hands. That got me thinking about putting my time to good use. It resulted in a learning spree at first – I was taking course after course. Eventually, I started to toy with the idea of returning to work and shared this inclination with my children and husband. So the story goes that they were all very supportive and encouraging which made the process that was beset with challenges less trying. Their support gave me the confidence to go all out to explore various possibilities, including PCP. It paid off. Hence, here I am.
Q: How long did it take for you to find GlobalSign.in?
SR: You can imagine – with a 20-year gap in my résumé – no employer is going to jump at the opportunity to hire me. No matter which industry we talk about, 20 years would have been considered a very long time, much more for the fast-moving tech industry. Naturally, companies were worried about the relevance of my skills and knowledge. Others were also anxious whether I will be able to adapt to working life.
Being a go-getter and with the resolution of setting a good example for my children that I can do it as long as I set my mind to it, I persisted. I approached Workforce Singapore (WSG) for help, and got linked up with a career coach who suggested for me to attend a “Résumé Writing & Interview Skills” workshop. While I did gain some useful tips at the workshop, it was through the PCP where I found real job opportunities. Approximately nine months into my job search process, I landed a job with GlobalSign.in.
Q: How was it like to finally return to work?
SR: It was a little scary, but also very exciting. I was looking forward to learning new skills, meeting new people and having the same sense of purpose I had once felt for work. But having been out of touch with the work scene for so long, I was also apprehensive that I cannot do a good job and fit into the team. My fears turned out to be unfounded because the management of GlobalSign.in is very understanding and encouraging; the team likewise is very welcoming and helpful. What’s more, I relish helping customers solve their problems and meet their objectives.
Q: What is an advice for someone looking to return to the workforce?
SR: I have several to share. Firstly, I will recommend the person to approach WSG because WSG has many initiatives and resources that can help. Some examples are the career coaches who can advise on résumé writing and interview skills, career matching services – including career preparatory workshops – and funding support under PCP and Career Support Programme for companies who hire those returning to the workforce. I will also encourage the person to be open-minded about possibilities, but also set clear and realistic job expectations. These will ensure that they won’t miss out on any good opportunity, and be able to better evaluate their options.
Last but not least, I think it is most important to be proactive in the entire journey. For me, taking courses to enhance my skills and enrich my knowledge – while looking for a job – had helped to boost both my and prospective employers’ confidence in my abilities.