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EP 269: An unusual decision and a successful relaunch in finance, with Jennifer Chin Schnabl

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Episode Description

Today we welcome Jennifer Chin Schnabl, who relaunched her finance career four years ago. Jennifer is currently a Vice President in the Capital Markets group at State Street Global Advisors, where she is responsible for managing and developing relationships and strategic initiatives with top tier investment banks and liquidity providers. In today’s episode, we speak with Jennifer about her return to work journey, and her unusual decision to plan for her career break by attending an iRelaunch return to work conference at the start of her break.

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Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3 2, 1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss return to work strategies, advice, and success stories. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. Before we get started, I want to remind our listeners who are actively relaunching to make sure that you register for the iRelaunch Job Board and upload your resume there because that is where employers go when they're looking to hire people who are returning from career break. All right, so let's move on now to our conversation.

Today, we welcome Jennifer Chin Schnabel, who relaunched her finance career four years ago. Jennifer is currently a vice president in the Capital Markets group at State Street Global Advisors, where she is responsible for managing and developing relationships and strategic initiatives with top tier investment banks and liquidity providers. In today's episode, we're going to speak with Jennifer about her return to work journey. Jennifer, welcome to 3, 2, 1. iRelaunch.

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: Thanks so much for having me, Carol. It's great to be here.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Well, it's great to have you, and I want to know if we could start out by, you telling us a little bit about your professional background and what you did prior to your career break.

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: Sure. So I've always had a work experience in the finance or accounting industry. I studied accounting out of undergrad and I did that for a number of years. Then went to graduate school, business school, and from there, went to New York City, where I worked at one bank, Goldman Sachs, in their fixed income division on the sales and trading, in the sales and trading function for the better part of 10 years.

I covered a number of asset classes when I was there. I started out in FX and interest rate derivatives, and then I moved to credit and credit derivatives as those products were being innovated. And then, finished out my career there in structured credit products before I took my break, my voluntary break from work.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Can you just tell our audience what FX is?

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: Foreign exchange. So currency and currency derivative sales.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Awesome. Wow. So that's pretty intensive career and a lot of complex financial products that you were in for a long period of time. So how did you decide to take a career break and when you were on career break, how long was it and how did you spend your time?

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: Sure. So like I was saying, a better part of 10 years was spent at one firm and it was a great experience. I learned a tremendous amount across a variety of different asset classes. Also, was able, had the fortunate a function to be able to face clients the entire time, which I enjoy very much doing.

But after 10 years, I had a number of personal things happen in my life that just warranted taking a breath, maybe taking a pause, reflecting a little bit. And it was not an easy choice to make. I considered myself to have a good job and to be fortunate enough to have a good seat at an excellent firm.

So those decisions are not easy to make. But, at the time, I, and my other family members decided it was the right, just the right decision for me and for my household. But part of the decision was, part of what was built into the decision was feeling somewhat optimistic about the options that might be down the road.

There was a little bit of risk and a leap of faith, and I just, we just went for it and I was ready to start a different chapter in my life at that time.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Very interesting. And did you do anything during your career break to stay connected with your professional interests or at some point to think about the possibility of relaunching before you got completely serious that about going back to work?

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: Thank you so much. It's a great question. Like I had said, when we, when, it was a kind of a collective decision for multiple people involved on me taking a voluntary career break from what seemed like a great job, and, some of the significant factors that went into that was some level of confidence or clarity, I should say, on what might be the opportunity set down the road.

And, one of the, one of the biggest factors was your organization and iRelaunch. And there were some conferences I attended, I believe two of them in New York City, uptown. And it was a gathering of sorts of all of the major financial institutions that I got to see firsthand. I did not know this world existed.

I think I attended shortly after I resigned and I was not planning on going back to work when I attended. I think I just wanted to build some confidence and enlightened myself on what was out there when I was ready to go back. And really, when I say out there, I meant it, it wasn't so much, it wasn't tactical, because I wasn't really putting pen to paper on an action plan.

It was really about networking and understanding how much people understood this silo, this group of people who were maybe looking to get back into the workforce with deep expertise, who left the workforce voluntarily for a number of different reasons, and and wanted a way to get back in.

So what I saw was every major finance firm, every major law firm, a lot of major hedge funds, and, financial sponsors all assembled in one place. And I think you were the MC or the headline speaker. along with a lot of other very senior industry individuals who were supportive of the cause. And it put me at ease.

So that was a really, that was one very critical experience that put me at ease. And, then it wasn't even until a handful of years later that I actually proceeded to get back into the workforce.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Jennifer, thank you for talking about this very interesting approach that you took of going to our conference when you were not at all focused on returning at that moment, and it was more of an opportunity to understand what is the landscape? Who are the companies that are out there with these programs? How does that impact my prospects for the future when I'm ready to return? And, we don't talk to that many people who use a conference in that way.

And I think it was really interesting that you did and that it was a confidence booster for you.

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: Definitely. And along the same lines, I think that, if I had to look back now, my sort of return has been smooth thus far and I credit a lot of it to just arming yourself with the knowledge. For me, attending your those conferences and understanding that I wasn't alone.

I wouldn't be alone in this journey, and there would be resources. Again for someone like me, we're all different. it was largely like predicated on networking and things like that and understanding which firms were aware, which firms were not, how to meet new people, et cetera.

But there was also an aspect of the years I did spend working, were almost spent expanding and fine tuning my skillsets and my toolkit, so that I was as prepared as possible when trying to reenter the workforce. I think that it did me a lot of favors, the hard work, the first 15 years of my career and, discipline and I having some technical expertise, having knowledge in specific areas.

I think that those things make entering easier. It's easier to brand yourself. Your brand can largely stay the same. And I did find some truth in that.

Carol Fishman Cohen: This comment about not being alone so that you're not alone. we used to run our conferences in person at university campuses, and I think we were probably at Columbia University at that time. And the feeling that people get when they walk into the room and they feel like, oh, I'm not by myself. There's all these other people here who are just like me, there's something really empowering about that.

And now that we're in a virtual model, we try to replicate that to some degree by having a pre-conference meeting on Zoom where everyone can see everyone else and it's not exactly the same feeling, but we try to get as close as possible to that. But that's also powerful. So Jennifer, when you, were on career break or maybe in the couple of years where you were getting closer to actively looking again, were you doing any kind of updating or reviewing or, were you keeping up with what was going on in the finance world all along?

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: Not until I was ready to look, I think, if I'm completely honest. I was consumed with how I was choosing to spend my time off of work and really leaned into that. I thought if there was a point to leaving my job, my good job, then go for it. I did that and didn't really look back, except just here and there doing some, it might be a good idea to go to this conference or, or to look up this thing, or something like, or respond to this one email that might come my way. But, I didn't really dedicate much time or capacity to that until I was ready. And then when I was ready, it felt fast. It, if I'm honest, felt fast and furious. There were all kinds of things that came my way that the networking part, so I felt like my getting up to speed in my field, in my industry I was trying to keep up with, then I triggered my network and the coffees and the, by then everybody I knew, so this speaks to, I think maybe it's another topic, but the importance of your network and maintaining your network. So I did do that along the way. I should maybe back up and clarify. I did continue social engagements with, where it felt organic.

I wasn't, having an agenda during during that time.

Carol Fishman Cohen: You weren't being opportunistic about it. There were people you just liked and wanted to be in touch with.

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: Yeah. Old colleagues that, former colleagues and former industry friends that we maintained and things like that.

But once I triggered the network in a more loud and proud kind of way. it came quickly and, then you had that feeling of saying yes to every coffee. And by the time I did that, everybody was, everybody I knew, was in a somewhat influential position, and then was happy to introduce me to other people.

And then things just moved. So I did, it almost came full force where then I was up all night, I was up at nights trying to just keep up and cram and get years of back history into my brain for some of these conversations. Yeah. But it was a really great experience.

Carol Fishman Cohen: You're talking about so many things that registered directly with my own relauncher experience. And one of the things that we talk about is when you get back in touch with people from the past, people with whom you work, they're great people to have these conversations with. And I remember myself, like really grilling people on, alright, how does that new financial instrument work? Like the details, how does it exactly work? Why are we not using the old ones anymore? What does this acronym stand for? Some very detailed questions and to use your network to have those kinds of conversations, especially as you're rebuilding your relationship with them and not, can you help me find a job, is a key piece of networking that you're illustrating. And then, I love this point and I feel really strongly about this myself, that we're on a career break for a reason, not to be then strategizing for how we're going to get back after our career break. And so I'm like right there in with you on that philosophy.

And I remember myself, I did not keep up. I wasn't even reading the Wall Street Journal and I had to resubscribe for six months and read it cover to cover, when you used to actually read an actual Wall Street Journal, before,

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: I still do.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. There you go. but just to feel like I, there was all this consolidation going on in the finance world over the decade that I was out. And, just to get a sense of what's going on generally in the business world in addition to having these conversations.

So let's get into a little bit more detail on these, the networking piece and these conversations that you had. So you're saying there were certain people that you were socially engaged with along the way, you just liked them and you kept up with them, but then things started to like really pick up the pace. And can you tell us a little bit more about that, and some detail, like what if you emailed them, what did you write in the subject line? If you had a conversation with them, like why were you getting in touch with them?

How did you start those conversations?

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: Sure. So for me, of course everybody's different, but I did grow up, like I said, in the finance industry, the sell side, I think, communication, both professional and personal tends to be direct and there's value in, there's appreciation in understanding other people's time and not wasting their time and things like that.

So, like you were saying, Carol, some of these I alluded to, there's certainly, your network as it pertains to opportunities and maybe opening some doors or making introductions, but there's networking very much so as it pertains to allies that take hours and help you get back up to speed, tell you what you've missed, help you prepare to have a conversation with some other person that you're less familiar with, no different than what goes on in everyday life. But when you've left the workforce for a little bit, you feel very humbled by people, friends of your, or former colleagues or friends, going out of their way to do that.

But I would really touch on, it's almost like you one could view this whole process, if you take a step back as like the tail end of getting back into the work is the equivalent of cramming for the final. But I have this view similar to maybe why I attended the conference when I wasn't really planning to go back to work.

I attended, it starts from day one. It's the reason why I feel like that the handful or the dozens of people that like would to make time for me is because they had some impression, or we had some sort of a relationship in my prior work experience. So whether that's being a good colleague or a dependable or, having specific, certain kind of output at your job, things like that. So maybe not that everybody knows that they would be taking a career break, but just the same way that people tend to approach a job with, the goal is to create more opportunities down the road, and most people think of opportunities as the next job or the next promotion or something like that, that the next opportunity could also be to take a career break and to have confidence that wouldn't derail your entire career.

So I think that some of that homework, it's like doing the homework all along the way. It then lift, it alleviates this cramming of the last six months before you get the job again. But back to the networking, right? I would maintain relationships with all of the people that it felt organic to maintain relationships with, and that made it much easier to reignite those in a more official capacity.

I think it's very important to be transparent. And clear when you are ready, so that you can make the best use of your network's time. And another thing is, I know that we were talking about leaning into why you wanted to take, why one would wanna take a career break to begin with, but, I did have natural interests as well, so I was on, I was elected to my condo board and that was like a semi-professional feeling of a project.

And yeah, they were having a leadership position in that or, dealing with real estate transactions in a more real leadership type of way. But they were really personal interests, as well. It didn't feel forced or like I was strategizing for something. But, networking, I think occurs, it can occur at the soccer field, it can occur at the grocery store. It can occur in the lobby of your building. It can occur, it occurs. I think it's all around you. And, if you just make an effort, then it doesn't feel like you're cramming so much at the end, I feel like.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And then I like, what you said about not wanting to waste people's time to be really careful around how much time you're asking them to spend and how you're spending that time with them. I think that's an important piece for people to take away who are listening to this. And the other thing was when you mentioned a little earlier that people had been moving up into roles that were more and more influential, and that was your original base. I don't know if it was your peers, your manager, people who were junior to you, but while you're on career break, people who are not in career break are moving up and sometimes they're in a position to open the door.

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: Absolutely all the levels you just said, and sometimes the most helpful are the people who are your juniors. You have a different kind of relationship and the memories of you being there for them and be doing right by them, and that played itself out many times in my experience. But really it was all people of all levels, and the network is still very much there. And, everything comes full circle, it feels at least in certain industries, in my opinion. And taking time and acting and taking time to hear what other people need too, see how you can help them, Nurturing and maintaining relationships was a critical part of how, of any success I might be having, having started out again four years ago.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, such an important piece there, nurturing those relationships. And, in the same way that some people might say, the people who are senior to me are retired now, but the people who are junior to me have been moving up while I've been on career break. And I should say, and my own case, the most junior guy on one of the investment banking teams that I was working on when I was out for 11 years, he was moving up and he's the one who opened the door for me to go interview, where I ultimately got hired after my career break. And we have numerous examples of relaunchers in our community who are working for people who used to work for them. So there, there's that piece of it too. So were there, Jennifer, it sounds you did so many things right along this process.

Were there any hurdles that you encountered along the way or times where you felt discouraged or that you made a mistake and would've done something different?

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: I think that everybody, every process has moments of discouragement, for every yes there's a no, or for every reply, there's radio silence, right? There's disappointment when you don't expect it within your network, like any other group of people. Not everyone is acting as if you, in the way that you anticipate. So, I think just having a nimble, flexible, rolling with the punches kind of demeanor is so important to, it's easy, I think, to get intense and discouraged when things that you don't expect to happen do. And just knowing that it usually means two weeks later something will happen on the upside that you don't expect as well. But yeah, you just gotta keep going.

But yeah, there, there were certainly discouraging moments along the way. I think that for me, the most, and this might be true for, I think just you versus you, I think can be maybe one of the largest hurdles. I think just given this subset of this population having taken a break by choice.

But then it can feel daunting, whether it's like lack of confidence in your subject matter, whether it's knowing your subject matter has changed, and being able to demonstrate that you understand things like that. I think that your biggest, your biggest hurdle can be in inside your own head.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yep. I think you're absolutely right. Jennifer, you initially, you relaunched your career at BlackRock. How did you find out about that position and what was that process like?

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: So back to the networking conversation we just had, one of my close acquaintances, friends from business school, who then remained in the financial services industry and was quite influential at the time, this person introduced me to somebody at BlackRock who was not part of the hiring managing team, but that other, that person, thought highly of, or we had a coffee and this person wanted, I just kept getting passed to, a hiring manager who had an opening that suited my background and who was a champion of this concept. And, was very enthusiastic about it, in addition to the fit, the natural fit I did have for the role. So I think I was very fortunate to, to, find this group and find this actual hiring manager. He was, he put quite a bit of thought into this whole situation and to this concept, and it's amazing the allies that this group, this cohort has, whether it's people educating, whether it's people going out of their way to, to try to give people like us a chance.

Carol Fishman Cohen: You never know. You never know who's gonna be your ally. Yeah, I always tell people, don't size anyone up and make an assumption because you don't know which way, whether they're huge proponent of a relauncher because someone in their personal orbit is on career break or returned, or whether they're someone who's really skeptical about the concept. You just don't know until you have a conversation with people.

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: That's right.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Can you tell us about your early days back on the job and did it take you a while to get settled and feel from, even office management technology or in addition to more technical pieces of the actual work that you were doing, what was that transition like?

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: Sure. It, there, there was a transition for me. I don't think it was Herculean, but it was, but there was a bit of a transition. And similar to that hiring manager, the team was phenomenal, just phenomenal. I think, BlackRock as an organization really embraces concepts like this or a variety of concepts. And it's a testament to their organization, even though this was not a widespread program to my understanding, but it was, localized to this team. But everybody was on board and there were no resources I couldn't tap into, they were just your typical get up and running.

And it was a new organization for me. This, I was somebody who spent most of my prior career working only at one organization. So I think a large part of it was just different systems and things like that. But the entire team was on board. And again, it, it's some version of building your network, so just making friends and keeping them along for the ride always pays, it just continues to pay. Whether it's learning how to use a new phone set or a headset or,

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, sometimes you have those questions, how do you use this?

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: Yeah, exactly. Exactly, or what the bathroom code is or whatever.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. And then, we talked about relaunching being a life transition both professionally and personally. Was there anything unanticipated or anything notable that you would comment on the personal side of people around you transitioning while you were transitioning back to work?

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: Oh, sure. Maybe that was built into me feeling like there was a transition to the work, because it was all just commingled in, there was a transition in my personal life as well, for me to go back to work. But, like I, my, my experience was, in my particular case, I had three children that I spent all of my time with, and I feel very fortunate that I was able to do that.

When I went back to work, they were my biggest fans. They were my biggest support system, so I'm very mindful of the fact that a lot of people would like to be able to do that, and I don't wanna say that I think I get to have it both ways or whatever that saying is, but it was great.

It was great to, to take a mid-career break for me. It felt necessary when I, when we did it. And then, and going back to work has been, I don't wanna say even better because my years at Goldman Sachs were phenomenal, but it's just been having been able to spend some years on my personal life, and then be to be able to go back to the industry that I was in and to see so many institutions and individuals embrace my skillset and embrace my knowledge and my expertise and my abilities has just been a really nice ride. And on the personal front, it's been much more positive than I would've expected it to be. It's been four years now and they're still just rooting for me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Oh, that's so great. And I'm just thinking about what you're signaling to them just by your example, and how meaningful that could be to them at different stages in their lives.

Can you tell us a little bit about your career progression since the time you relaunched?

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: Sure. I've been at two different organizations since the time I relaunched and it's, a few different functions, but they're all quite related. I think that I pivoted a slight bit, between what I did prior to my career break and coming back to work.

So there was a bit of a learning curve in my first role coming back. And I'd say things have gone well, but really for me, the punchline is just to continue growing, continue learning. The approach is to continue to build a network to continue to learn, do your homework, study lead by example.

We're all a year older. Every year, we're a year older, more mature, wiser. Just continue to adopt the same work ethic that you did when you were, maybe perhaps 15 years younger, and see where the rainbow ends. And so not too hung up on the whole thing.

Just little bit at a time, every chapter at a time. And just do your bit and it's worked out, so it worked out well so far.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. That, that's wonderful. Jennifer, in closing our time flew by and already at the final question, the question that we ask all of our podcast guests, and that is, what is your best piece of advice for our relauncher audience, even if it's something that we've already talked about before.

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: I'd say, know when you're ready and when you're ready, act. There's just a lot of, I think maybe because of the nature of this subset of people, there's a lot of theorizing what it should be or what it should look like, or that need to put together my CV and I'll do that next week.

Or just take, just one foot in front of the other, like, act. Act. Whether that's talk to your neighbor, get out there. Talk to people. Just talk. Talk, act, and take some risk.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. Great advice. And also accompanies what we say about, if you can do this with another person, it helps keep you accountable.

So some people are motivated on their own and some people need to be checking in with someone on a regular basis to make sure that they're moving forward. But this idea of acting and moving forward is such a key component to the relaunch because there's a lot of revision you can sit back and do, and a lot of research on your computer.

But before you, you take those steps that really lead to something that is a job opportunity, and I'm just gonna reemphasize how much of your process had to do with reinvigorating that network and getting in touch with people from the past and having those conversations. That's part of acting. As you're saying, taking that step, it's harder to do that than to sit behind your computer, but that is exactly what leads to relaunch success.

So Jennifer, thank you so much for joining us today.

Jennifer Chin Schnabl: Thank you so much for having me, Carol. It's been great. Thank you. And thank you for everything that your company has done.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Oh, thank you for saying that. I'm thrilled to hear about you going to the conferences early on. That's a first, and it makes me feel so happy and gratified that the conferences played that role early on, in your relaunch.

So thanks to you, our audience for listening to 3 2, 1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss return to work strategies, advice, and success stories. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch, and your host. Be sure to go to irelaunch.Com and take advantage of all the resources that we have there. Get on our mailing list, get our weekly Return to Work Report, upload your resume on our Job Board, and really take advantage of all we have to offer. Thank you so much for joining us.

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