Sarah-Jane, Portfolio Manager, Fidelity International (15 year break)
Before my career break, I was a portfolio manager, a Director of Fixed Income at Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, for 17 years. In addition to managing global fixed income portfolios, I was responsible for front office IT development (electronic reporting, trade order management and compliance monitoring) and new product development, which included launching a High Yield CBO. I took a voluntary redundancy package in 2002. During my career break, I focussed on my family as well as training as a homoeopath, establishing a small practice. I also worked for a small printing firm, concentrating on contract management and corporate governance. So I was definitely not putting my feet up!
Changing family circumstances in 2017 provided the impetus for me to re-establish my career in asset management. This was a tough thing to do, so I contacted my old boss to ask for advice and guidance and he suggested investigating women returner programmes. Finding the Women Returners website was the turning point. It provided me with information about current programmes as well as being a valuable resource and support. I didn’t have a clear idea about the role I was looking for, because I didn’t know how to value my previous experience in the context of such a long absence from the workplace. Fortunately, potential employers did. The real revelation came when I was interviewed for a role as a Fixed Income Portfolio Manager on the Fidelity New Horizons returnship programme – my previous work experience was still very relevant!
When I approached Fidelity International, I was initially interviewed for a role in Fixed Income before being asked to interview with Multi Asset. Multi Asset offered me an extraordinary opportunity: to become a Portfolio Manager in a dynamic, growing part of the business and learn new skills in an exciting area of asset management. They offered me a position that would stretch and challenge me – an opportunity that would have been exciting 15 years ago – and one that I grasped with both hands. There was a real job opportunity behind the 20-week contract and a chance to carve out a new career. I’m pleased to say that I now have a permanent role with Fidelity.
It is difficult to exaggerate the magnitude of returning to the workplace after such an extended period away. There were moments when it was completely overwhelming. However, the Multi Asset team was very welcoming. Whilst I was very much in at the deep end from the start, there was plenty of help and people willing to answer my questions. I only had to ask and support was there. This remains – I still ask questions and I still receive fulsome answers.
Fidelity has given me the time I needed to find my feet. As well as receiving help from my colleagues within Multi Asset, there has been good support more generally. I needed to sit the IMC exams and was given the resources and time necessary to do this. Other returners have helped by sharing their experiences, but probably the greatest support was the individual coaching received from Women Returners. This was superb. Anna, my coach, ensured that I managed my work/life balance and reassured me that the gamut of emotions I was experiencing was normal and to be expected. She had the enviable ability of being able to listen to my thoughts, order them and come up with a strategy. Whatever topic I chose to cover, I received measured advice and would leave each session with a list of steps to follow. Anna ensured that I could concentrate on my strengths and what I brought to the role. It is all too easy to focus on what you perceive as your weaknesses.
I am so glad that I made the giant leap back into the workplace. It has been challenging but stimulating and enjoyable. There is a renewed spring in my step and I am determined to make the most of every opportunity presented to me. My advice for anyone trying to get back to work is, first and foremost, believe it is possible! Be organised, do your research, brush up on skills that will be needed once you are working. Contact old colleagues and ask for advice – they will be happy to give it. Receiving rejections is hard, but learn from each interview and treat each setback as a chance to consolidate and assess your next move. It may take time to find the right role in the right company but it will have been worth the effort when you do.