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Julia’s Story: Returning to Data Science at dunnhumby

Julia dunnhumby SS-image

Julia, Applied Data Scientist, dunnhumby (9 year break)

Most of my professional experience has been on the trading floor of an investment bank – I worked in the pricing and development of structured derivatives at Credit Suisse. My last role before my break was as part of a small team at a FinTech startup.

I took a 9-year career break to spend time raising my three children when they were young. I feel very fortunate to have been able to have that time with them, but after my third child was born, I missed the intellectual challenge of working and started to think about possible routes back. I was keen to return to something different and had always had an interest in tech, so during my break, I completed various programming courses. I decided to focus on data science and spent the third Covid lockdown doing a data science bootcamp (which was a lot easier than homeschooling!).

After that, the job search started in earnest. I found it much tougher than I thought it would be – we were still coming out of lockdown and I was trying to change careers after a 9-year break. Although the data science course helped boost my confidence, I still found it was low after such a long break. I then discovered Women Returners and felt reassured after reading the Success Stories on their website. I focused my job search on returnships and found it refreshing not to be penalised for taking a career break.

I attended the Insight Event for the dunnhumby Returners Programme in May last year and was inspired by the previous year’s returners as well as the senior women who spoke about their careers. The interview process was straightforward and supportive and I was thrilled when I received an offer for a 6-month returnship in one of the data science teams.

As part of the returnship, coaching was provided at various points by Women Returners to help navigate the return to work. It was invaluable to have this extra support as well as being part of a cohort of returners – an instant network within the company! My manager and buddy were both very welcoming and supportive and I genuinely felt that I was set up with everything I needed to succeed. It felt great a few weeks in to be working on a client project.

I’m now on a permanent contract and very happy, I’m loving using my brain properly again and doing something for myself. My confidence has returned and even though I’ve changed careers, I’ve realised that there are many valuable transferable skills from my previous roles.

For anyone considering a return to work, I would say:

  • It is very normal for your confidence to be low after a break – I found it helped to speak to previous colleagues who reminded me of what I was capable of in previous roles. Also taking a relevant training course to upskill can help, as well as showing potential employers how motivated you are.
  • Use the resources on the Women Returners website and reach out to other returners who may have been where you are – I’m sure they will be happy to help if they can.

dunnhumby’s 2022 returner programme is open for applications until 20 May: see here