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EP 272: Relaunching as a business systems analyst in academia with Priya Venkatesan

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Episode Description

Priya Venkatesan works as a Business Systems Analyst at University of California, Davis. She relaunched into her position with UC Davis after a 16 year career break. Her relaunch involved many job applications, interviews and rejections before she ultimately found success.

She became a certified Scrum Master during her career break, and since she's been back at work, she has achieved her Lean Six Sigma white, yellow, and green belts.

Priya calls attending the iRelaunch Return to Work conference while she was relaunching, “life-changing”. In the ultimate full circle, she returned to the iRelaunch Return to Work Conference in 2022 to speak about how she successfully relaunched! Her mantra to everyone is keep pursuing your dream job and don't give up.

Read Transcript

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 relaunchers, our listeners, that if you're actively relaunching right now to be sure to go to our Job Board and upload your resume and register there so employers can find you because employers come specifically to our Job Board in order to find people who have taken a break and are now interested in returning to work.

All right, so now on to our conversation today. Today, we welcome Priya Venkatesan. She relaunched as a business systems analyst at University of California, Davis after a 16 year career break. Priya has more than seven years of experience in working customer centric and analyst roles in the finance and education industries.

She became a certified Scrum Master during her career break, and since she's been back at work, she has achieved her Lean Six Sigma white, yellow, and green belts. Her relaunch involved many job applications, interviews, rejections, and much more. Priya was a speaker at one of our iRelaunch Return to Work Conferences in 2022, and her mantra to everyone is keep pursuing your dream job and don't give up, and we're going to explore all of this in our conversation today.

Priya, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Priya Venkatesan: Hi, Carol. Thank you so much for having me. It's great to be here.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I'm really excited to have this conversation and I want to know if we could start with you telling us a little bit about yourself and what you were doing before your career break and then what prompted you to step away from the workforce.

Priya Venkatesan: Yeah, sure. So I, basically I'm from India and, so I graduated from master's in computer science a long time ago, like before 20, 25 years ago. That's a long time ago. And then, I was working as a project analyst in a financial institution at a retail bank in India in 2003, during that time.

And then, I got married and that's what I had to give up my job, my career that I was working back in India and then I had to relocate to the United States. So relocation is one of the main reasons that I had to give up the job that I was working and relocate to the United States. And then as soon as I came here, I did not have a work visa.

So I was on a dependent spousal visa where you cannot work. I think the laws have changed now. You can still, you can work still if you have a spouse visa. And then I came here and then everything, things changed, like family, kids, taking care of them, full time parenting happened. And slowly after that, I thought to myself, maybe it's time for me to get back to my career or what should I do?

So that kind of, it gave me an opportunity to explore, start working as a part-time analyst at a company called Proctor U, it was a learning company. It's, it's a proctoring job, which just started essentially three, four years back. And as I was working there and then some things happened in my life, like personal things happened that I had to take, make a decision to come back to work full-time.

So then I started searching for a full-time job. And that's when I started applying and, my career search, the job search strategy changed entirely 20 years before. Right now it's all LinkedIn. So I had to relearn everything coming back to workforce, like how to apply for a job and what skills that you need.

So I started exploring and then I found business analysis to be my go to, the passion that I found for, I love to help customers. So I'm a customer centric person. I have this mindset of helping out people and I love to do presentations, I love to facilitate and because I was also working as a, volunteering as a room parent for my children's school, so that transferable skills I could easily bring to Princeton's analysis and I started exploring and did some courses on Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, that's how I got caught up. And then as I was searching for jobs, rejections happened and then finally I landed a job in UC Davis, so I'm proud to be where I am.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. All right. So I just want to unpack some of that because there's a lot there. First the ProctorU role, how did you even think to apply for a role like that? And I'm assuming it, it was all virtual and flexible and remote, yes. And so what was the process there?

Priya Venkatesan: When I initially started thinking about job, because I was not in front of a computer for 15 years, so I lost touch with lots of things.

Because I was always focusing on my kids, taking care of them, school activities, extracurricular activities, everything. So I wanted a job which did not put so much pressure on me, yet still I had, I learned something, like sitting in front of a computer. Just basically a small job, a hourly job, which I can be flexible.

ProctorU at that time, they had an evening shift from 5pm to 10pm. So what I do is, I send my kids to school, do all the, all everything, make sure, do the chores, and have dinner ready, everything ready, and then off I go. The time I joined, there was not remote work. I had to go to my go to ProctorU office, which is like two miles from my home.

I'm from Falls Simpsons, California. It's two miles from my home at the time. So that was actually and you won't believe the training that they gave me the first day. It was so hard. It was so hard because, it was hard for me, it was not easy, because the colleagues that I had in ProctorU were all young college kids.

So I had to sit with them because they were so fast in doing things. And I was like thinking to myself, did I do the right thing? Why did I come to this job? I wanted to gain some kind of experience before I launch into a full time work. I wanted to have that practical experience of using computers and tech, technology and stuff.

And then a week went, a lot of hard work, everything, mock calls and things like that. And then I picked up, and I was one of the best employees that they had at ProctorU. And I did everything that I could. And that's how we started. And then when the pandemic happened, it slowly shifted to full time, remote work.

I was working from home, they even closed the location, so everything became remote

And I started working remote. The schedule was flexible, meaning I get to pick the shifts, like two to ten or whatever shifts I would like. I can work a whole day or just two days in a week or something like that. It was flexible. As long as I notify them in advance. So they are flexible, and they are very helpful. So I really enjoyed the job that I was doing because it was basically a customer service, analyst, everything put together.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. That's so interesting. and I love your strategy of not being in front of a computer for 15 years and then taking on this role where they train you and you're forced to be in front of a computer and figure it out. And, you had to make that leap. Also, I just want to point out the, that time management piece that, that you were talking about.

I know that you took your career break for child care reasons, and it sounds like you worked that 5 p. m. to 10 p. m. shift. That meant you had to have, kids had to know they were going to come in the door, they could eat, they were probably, did you tell them they couldn't knock on the door or bother you or something while you were doing the work?

Or, I don't know if they were able to come in or not, but how was it for them? Was there, did that feel like a significant change?

Priya Venkatesan: Yeah, initially because I was going to, literally I was going to work, I said bye bye, keep the dinner, everything ready, and they know that mommy's going to work, and then.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That's right, you were out going out of the house at that time.

Priya Venkatesan: Yes, for, for at least, for five to six months, I was going to the location. And then, because I joined ProctorU I believe in 2020, 2019 if I'm not wrong, and then from there, then March 2021, 2019. 2020, I believe, was the pandemic that happened.

Carol Fishman Cohen: March 2020.

Priya Venkatesan: Yeah, so that's when I brought in, I remember bringing so many monitors and my computer back home and creating a workspace. So they knew that I was going to be working in the evening and they won't bother me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: All right. And then, can you tell us a little bit about this timeline? You have this job at ProctorU, you said you started to take some courses on Udemy and other, what kinds of courses did you take? And was that at the same time you were doing this job?

And how long were you doing coursework and in this role before you ended up, I don't know, did you then leave to focus on job search full time, or did you keep that job all the way until you relaunched?

Priya Venkatesan: I, frankly speaking, when I started ProctorU, I did not do anything else because ProctorU was, itself, was too much for me.

Yeah. I need to get, I've, that's the honest opinion of me. I cannot take too many things because I have kids to focus on their homework and household work and a lot of things going on, and so I did not do any courses while I was doing ProctorU because I had to learn on the job. I had to learn tools.

The fact that I told you I'm not using computer means I was using for email and basic stuff, but it's not like you sit in front of a computer for 5, 6 hours at a stretch and do some requests on Zendesk or using the CRM application, so many other things, like you, you use that, the remote, remote app and all this, all those things.

So you need to learn all this. That needs some time to, take some time to learn all of that. And also the, I was looking to work in the evening, that's why I chose ProctorU and it was close to my home within two miles. So all those factors will fit in. So I was literally learning on the job.

It's not like I was earning money, but I was learning and also gaining experience. That's what I was, my focus was on. And, and the courses I started after six months of ProctorU. I started looking into, okay, what I can do now that I have some experience. Can I look into other options? Then I found business analysis.

And actually my brother in law suggested doing some business analysis course on Udemy. I didn't know about Udemy at all, had no idea, no clue. And my family actually suggested me, my brother in law and my sister actually, they suggested me, why don't you check out Udemy? They have so many courses on there.

And then I started exploring Udemy and I've, I found it like a huge resource. So having courses on there. And there are so many courses that I always like to select the interactive courses where you get to do assignments and homework and you interact with the instructor. That's the most effective way to do a training or certification.

You cannot just sit in front of a computer and do some courses without any interaction or any assignments.

You have to learn while you're doing the certification. So that's when you're, when they're giving assignments or project work or something on the site, it helps you a lot. So that's when I started learning after six months. Slowly, I didn't rush. I took my own sweet time. Yeah. I had other competing priorities and, and then after a while, I also was consistent.

So consistency is really key to learning, so you can just learn for a while, like I set some time like early morning, kids wake up late on weekends, there's no school, so that's the time I can spend on learning, like Saturday morning, 5 to 7, that's my time for learning, or Sunday morning, 5 to 7 a. m., or if sometimes evening works, night time works, and they go to bed after that at 10 p. m. to 12 p. m., whatever works for 10 p. m. to 12 a. m., I'm sorry, whatever works for you, you have to set some time, and I have a reminder on my fridge as a magnet, Do this, finish this assignment or do this course this week. I set some goals, not future goals, like weekly goals, like one hour, one hour every week.

That's how much I could spend, honestly speaking, you cannot spend five, six hours in a week. So I started increasing the time. As I was learning, I started increasing the time like 30 minutes every week. So that added, and that's how I increased the efficiency, the fast, the fastness of completing any courses.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay, so I just want to highlight this for our audience. This is the real deal that, that you're hearing from Priya that where she's saying, you know what, I couldn't take courses at the same time I'm working, five hours a day for however many days a week for the ProctorU. I only had time to do the work part.

And also the work part was enough in terms of all these things I had to figure out. And then, later at some point, maybe six, at least six months later, you decided, okay, I'm ready to take some sort of coursework. And what do I do? And you had some conversations and you got suggestions about checking out Udemy.

And then I like how you said, the way you paced yourself in terms of taking the course and how much time per week you would allocate to the course, depending on what else was going on in your life. So you were fitting this in, in a very realistic way, to a busy life, where you were in this primary caregiving role and involved in volunteer work and your kid's school and all of that. So I think that's really important to point out. And then, I know that we talked in the introduction about you getting the Scrum Master certification, was that part of this coursework or did that happen a little later?

Priya Venkatesan: Scrum Master happened a little later after I was as I was doing business analysis or exploring explore what is business analysis and went into the, I deep dived into various business analysis courses as I was doing, because Udemy would give me an alert once I finished one course, they would send me an alert saying this is the next one you should do and next, next, next.

And so as I was exploring and I start, that's the time I started also using LinkedIn a lot. I started creating a profile and every day I would browse LinkedIn, on LinkedIn for at least for 10, 15 minutes to see what's going on. And so then I came upon a lot of scrum master certifications. And everyone was talking, I was like, what is scrum master?

What is this thing? And then I started exploring and, though I'm not practicing a scrum master role right now, the role I'm in, however, it's very good to know the value, the scrum values is essentially the business values that you have, your business methodology that you put in when you go as a scrum master, the print, the scrum value, the prints, the business analysis role.

And, and a lot of them were hiring, Scrum, junior Scrum Master. if you're a fresher for Scrum Master certification or business analysis, some companies were also hiring business analysts with Scrum Master certifications. I saw a few job posts like that. So I thought, okay, I started exploring the instructors and I happened upon one, one, through Scrum Alliance website and I found out one instructor and I took their class and finished, then completed the exam. And that this happened actually last March, I believe, if I'm not wrong, it was 2022, March, if I'm not wrong. That time I was still having, I'm working in ProctorU, continuing my job and slowly exploring business analysis and coming back to Scrum, doing Scrum Master Certification.

I want to tell you one thing, it is really hard to come back to studying and working and having kids. It's not easy. Everyone can say it's not easy. You should take your own time. Not every, everyone's timeline is different. Everyone goes through so many different situations. Everyone's situation is unique.

So you, whatever works for you, it works for you. You don't compare yourself with others. Oh my god, that person is, they've already finished their IABA certification. Why am I only doing, just started, I'm not done. I never compare myself with others. I just go my own path. That's my path. There are lots of ups and downs.

It's not a flat line, right? You just go through ups and downs a lot in your life. And that's what I do. Whenever I have time, I do it. But I do it consistently. Consistency is the key for learning and success. So I believe if you're being consistent in what you do, you can achieve.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Excellent advice all the way through. Priya, question, can you just repeat where you took that Scrum Master course, what was the website or the course to offer?

Priya Venkatesan: The Scrum Master certification is from It's a, they're the licensed certification board organization. And if you go to their website, there are so many instructors, they list you.

You can even, they also have Product Owner Certification, PSPO, and so many other certifications. And you can choose your instructor, whoever. My instructor was someone called Bonsi. So she's on LinkedIn, and I took their class through, and that's where I did my, completed my exam, and I have licensed a Scrum Master now.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. So the other thing you mentioned with that course, and this dovetails with something that we talk to relaunchers about, so we say, look for courses that have a field study or a capstone project or an opportunity to do some sort of work that demonstrates your knowledge. And I heard you say that you had time to work on certain projects or certain parts of the Scrum program early in the morning, on the weekends, or whenever. But were there, all along when you were in the business analysis and other courses, was there like homework or problem sets or something that you worked on? And what was the role of those activities in your gaining knowledge and in your relaunch?

Did they go on your resume or did you talk about them in interviews?

Priya Venkatesan: Yes, absolutely. I, when I was doing courses in Udemy, I did get assigned. That's why I picked one instructor who was very good from, they are called, that's the website. it's Mr. Jeremy Ashenberg. That's his name.

He's very nice. For me, it worked out for, as an instructor, he was very interactive, a lot of assignments and, sometimes assignments would also have, you have to send an email to them and then when they'll check the assignment and reply to you back, they'll give you constructive feedback. But it was very helpful for me and even the process workflow or flow chart or business methodology, whatever assignments.

So that helped me a lot. So that's what I would work on in the weekends, sit quietly in a room and work on my assignments. That was helpful and eventually that also helped me through interviews as well because they asked me about, did you do anything on business? What did you do in Udemy? Because Udemy was my recent certification, though it's not like recognized big certifications, but it I did learn through Udemy, the business analysis part.

So they did ask me about business analysis. What did you do in Udemy and what kind of things that you did? So I did have to tell them I use this tool and that tool. So that was very helpful. Yes.

Carol Fishman Cohen: All right. And so when did you decide that it was time to go to, to look for a full time job? And how, what were some of the early steps you took when you were at the beginning of that process?

Priya Venkatesan: So my, for me, the full time job, I started looking, honestly speaking, I went through a life changing event. I had to I'm still going through a difficult, high conflict divorce. So, that, when that started, for some, there are some, a lot of things that happened in my personal life. So I had to come out of a relationship and provide for my children, for myself.

So then I thought this particular job I'm doing, part time job, while a 15 year big, it's not enough. I need to be financially stable to provide for myself and also empower my children. They need to know mom can do things too. They need to know that I can stand on my own and so that's when I thought, okay, let me do this.

I can do this. And I started doing everything on my own without any help. And, that gave me more power and resilience and perseverance and strength or whatever I needed and that thing. And so that made me, when I started applying for jobs through LinkedIn, exploring various jobs, so I would get rejection email. So many rejection emails, like hardly any recruiters contacted me. And then I knew the path, so there's no nothing to worry about because everyone is going through these rejection emails and as soon as you send an email, ATS will send you automatic like within 30 minutes, sometimes even five minutes, you get a reply back.

I'm sure the computer is not going through your resume. Then I started following folks who are like having, they are having a resume webinars on LinkedIn. Sometimes they have free webinars and podcasts and things. I started hearing or listening to stuff, and then I also found out, like through iRelaunch and went back to work through that are like reentry programs, which when I started looking for those programs, no one was aware.

I asked all my, the friends, my, the folks that I know, they did, they said, we don't know anything. What are you saying? What is it? Is it internship? Is it apprentice? No one knew what returnship was. Then I started exploring returnship programs and I also applied for a lot of returnship programs.

And then I bumped into the conferences, like iRelaunch conference and going back to work conference. That's all the conferences I attended. And iRelaunch conference essentially changed my life, I could say that, because when I attended a conference, there was Ambika from Meta. I'm not sure if you remember last year conference, she was one of the speakers and she, and she shared the story that they are also single mom duos.

And also Joanne from Oracle. She also shared her single mom journey and, that there was, she was, she had to come back. And that inspired me a lot. So at that time I was going through mentally a lot of things, stressful life. So that gave me motivation and inspiration. And that I said, okay, if they can do it, they are in a big, they are working in Meta and Oracle.

So I can do it too. Now, I don't have to start like as soon as I go to one of the big tech companies, but I, that's something they can achieve maybe in long term. And so I started applying, attending the conference was an eye opener for me. So it's an eye opener. I learned so much and I also gained several friendships.

I'm still friends with a lot of them from iRelaunch conference from the last, last conference, and I have one very close friend. We still keep tabs on each other. If they do anything nice accomplished something, they immediately text me. I would text them. So it's like we share all even any pit falls, any even any failures also success and failures, we share even now. You won't believe we have not met each other in person, it's all through FaceTime and calls. And we also have developed a friendship so much that we also share our personal stories. We have gained that friendship, that strong friendship is there. And she's like my accountability partner.

We both are going through a relaunch and they were also on a 15 year break and they were also in that journey and children, and we were on the same boat. So we could really, we could really relate to each other. I could understand what they're going through. She could understand what I'm going through.

So, it's the accountability partner. And when they apply for a job, they were actually looking at QA. They are a QA, I'm a BA. When they bump into a BA job on LinkedIn, they'll forward it to me. When I bump into a QA job, I'll forward it to them. And when we have interviews, we always keep Say, did you enter this interview?

What happened? What were the questions? So I would, we would exchange. So there's a lot of sharing resources, knowledge, when you have a friendship or the accountability partner. That's why I say you have to have someone who can say, oh, did you do this? Did you do that? So it'll motivate you and inspire you to do things.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, again, you're covering so many excellent points, let's go right to the accountability partner. This is something that we recommend at iRelaunch because we hear from relaunchers like you, Priya, how effective it is and, of course, I'm a relauncher myself and there are many of us on the iRelaunch team who are relaunchers.

So we understand the effectiveness of having an accountability partner because you do keep each other on track. If you know that you're going to be meeting every week and you have certain goals, whereas if you're doing it on your own, maybe you miss a week here or there or things come up. So It truly is about accountability and keeping you moving forward, keeping your momentum.

So that's really key. I love the idea that you met friends at our virtual conference because we used to run our conference in person and people would have this interaction in person. Hundreds of people would be there, but friendships came out of that. And we still try to preserve an element of that when we do our pre conference Zoom call, where everyone can see each other.

But it just, it makes me feel so good to hear that in that virtual setting, you were able to connect with other people who became friends and especially the person who was your accountability partner. So I just think that's, that's wonderful. And I guess the other piece of it for besides the accountability piece, it's like when you get rejection after rejection, there's someone else you can talk to about it.

And, it gets you through the low points, I think, a little smoother. And I just love that there were two successful relaunchers who talked about their experiences as single moms relaunching and how that motivated you. You use these words, resilience, perseverance, power, motivation, inspiration.

So you were able to capture all of that, from hearing from them. And I just want to highlight that. First, that you had that experience, and also that you were so open to having, hearing what other people had to say. I just, I love the detail, and thank you for sharing that. And what happened after the conference?

You ended up at a role at UC Davis, at a university, and I'm interested in, I guess two things. How long did it take you to identify that job after the conference? And then, how did, let's talk about that first and then later I want to just ask you about low points and lots of rejection and what were some things that helped move you past that difficult part.

But, how did you land this role at UC Davis?

Priya Venkatesan: So as I started exploring more and more jobs after the conference, it motivated me to not give up and keep applying for jobs. And what I did was I was also, I was focusing mainly on the big tech companies. That's a mistake I did. And then I wondered why can't we apply locally, like local to myself, though I want a remote job because I'm, I cannot go to office every day, pickup and drop off school. It's going to be more than remote. I need a job just flexible, not remote. Even remote jobs sometimes you have to sit in front of a computer for a long time. So flexibility is what I was looking for. And I started exploring. Then I looked up all the local companies and organizations in my Sacramento Valley area, northern California.

Then I saw UC Davis is one of the biggest employers in the region, and I have Intel right across my house. Where I live in Folsom. But nothing worked in Intel. I did apply for several opportunities. So I was like, okay I'm not gonna worry about Intel not giving you though, even if I want to go to work it's right across my house, but I cannot they're gonna they're not gonna call me. However, I didn't give up.

I said, fine, UC Davis Health is a big thing in Sacramento area. So the clinics and University of Davis is very close, like 40 miles away from where I live. And I said, okay, let's, why don't I apply and see just. I'm applying for so many companies, why should I give up? And I started focusing on the local organizations and companies.

I started leaving the big tech companies out. I started working on Sacramento, northern California companies. I was applying constantly. And I received good recruiters calling back, actually, because I'm local to Sacramento, local to northern California. They actually preferred, though, they were offering remote jobs.

They preferred my candidacy because they called me, I got several interviews like that and UC Davis is one of them. It just clicked. I saw business analysis position and I applied for it. And though the process of applying in the university is a lot lengthy, like three months process. It took three months, but eventually I got the interview.

I did get an email and a couple of panel interviews and then they offered me the job. So I was very happy, but at the same time, I would like to point out one more thing. When I was doing UC Davis interview, I was, this is the first time I'm openly saying this, I was also one big tech company from San Francisco, they were almost giving me an offer, which I rejected.

I rejected because there was no flexibility. It was like a fixed time I had to sit in front of the computer. The salary offer was very high than what I'm getting right now. I didn't think I would up for that job because UC Davis, the job I'm doing right now as a BSA Business Systems Analyst is exactly the job I wanted.

I love to do presentations. I love to facilitate. I love to talk to people. I love to share. I love to help and I didn't want all the time remote. I wanted to meet people in person also. Because I was in the cycle where I didn't want complete remote job as well. I want to be able to go to office like once in a while.

Like once or twice a month. That was exactly what I wanted and UC Davis offered me and this job was excellent and I learned and I found the passion. This is my passion. What I'm doing right now is exactly the job I wanted. So I went with UC Davis.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. All right. So great, and so many important pieces of advice.

Academia. We love academia at iRelaunch as a great place for relaunchers. And there is an organization called HERC, Higher Education Recruitment Consortium, HERC.Org. No, it's HERCjobs.Org. And that is a huge database of opportunities at academic institutions across the country and you can separate faculty from non faculty and you think about all the different jobs that make a university run and, they can be great places to work.

So I love that you have, you relaunched, at an academic institution. Also, I was wondering, how did they, how did you talk about your career break? Did it come up in interviews, on your resume? How did they respond to it?

Priya Venkatesan: Yeah, it was very positive because I had written career break in bold letters in my resume.

And then in career break, I put ProctorU, the part time job and the courses I did under career break in my resume. So, there was nothing hiding in it. They knew everything was out in the open, my LinkedIn profile is right there. You have the full time parenting, years in my LinkedIn profile, so everyone can see it.

And they were actually very positive on the response from the team I got the interview with. They were really highly all team moms mostly in the team and they were like, oh, so you have they said I did my interview well, of course, and they found a lot of my skills from my previous job and the school work and the volunteer work.

Everything is a transferable skill. So that's exactly what they wanted. And they said. We need more than experience. We need someone who's passionate about what they want to do. And so that's where that's the feedback I got from them. And eventually they found me very passionate about the job I was applying for, and I was offered this.

So there was no hiding anything. I put everything out in the open and also my personal things and everything. So they knew what I was going through and the struggles that I was going on and my resume, the career break, the job in India, everything. So whatever is in my resume is what I had went through.

So there's nothing fake or nothing, nothing like over achieved thing which I have not achieved. So whatever was in my resume was exactly what I went through in my life or the experiences that I had.

Carol Fishman Cohen: The other thing is your strategy about looking at small and medium sized companies, local companies, because I heard what you said was you're getting lots of rejections from big companies, sometimes within minutes of applying, and once you started to look at the local employment scene around you, that's when you actually started getting interviews, it sounded like.

And I don't know how long that took, but it sounded like you got a response, and a better response much quicker.

Priya Venkatesan: Yeah, that is also one of the reasons the local companies responded much quicker and faster than the big tech companies, because their hiring processes might be difficult. I did get interview calls from some, as I said, from a few big tech companies as well.

I went through a few rounds of interview with Pinterest. Pinterest, I was still the final round and also Twilio. And they both, Pinterest was actually an apprenticeship program and Twilio was a returnship program. So I did come, went to the final whatever rounds, like sometimes they have six, six to five rounds of interviews, like going on and on. And so that's also there, but local companies, organizations, they've responded better. When I say local, it's not just tech companies. It's also like universities, colleges, you have community colleges in your area, school districts. I don't know, a lot of them are overseas school district.

There are so many good opportunities in school districts. If you, especially if you want to admin or analyst type of jobs, they have plenty of open positions in school districts, colleges, and cities, counties, so you need to focus those jobs that if you want to try to apply. You would eventually get a, I think if you have experience, or if you just apply for the basic analyst position, you would get what, for me, any opportunity that they give you.

Just for an interview is also an experience. Just, you get an interview, You don't have to take the offer, but attend the interview and see how fair or how well you're doing and learn from there. So I never say no for an interview. I always, if there's an interview call, I always sit and take the interview.

I never say no for an interview. It's always an experience.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I'm going to wrap up now because we're running out of time, but, I wanted to ask you, was there ever a point in this process where you felt like, I don't know if this is going to work out and it, you were getting overwhelmed with rejection or, did you, was there something that you did to keep yourself motivated even at the low points?

Priya Venkatesan: For me, one of the motivation I would say is, it's my kids because I had to look at them and say, I want to provide for them. I have to, need an example for them. And that's because I, because going back to, I had to do this because there's no way I cannot do this. I have to do this to survive, to be financially stable, to make, to provide for them.

That was one of the biggest motivation factors. Another factor is getting rejection emails. You would get a rejection email, but I wouldn't. Initially it was a little tough. So I would just go, okay, let's not do any job search. Maybe if you're getting overwhelmed, what I do is I would just take a break from job hunting for a couple of days and then regroup and then come back to a job search or coming back to that point.

And always, I started listening to motivational videos on YouTube or looking up stuff, TED talk, listening to TED talks, it helped me. Following folks, their motivational speeches really helped me a lot, they were my inspiration. And so this, so failure is always there. The success, you can see only success, but before success, there are a lot of failures that we don't see.

You can see my story is a success, but there are a lot of failures before that. And so there's some point you'll achieve success. You just don't give up. And also don't compare yourself with others. Everyone's path is unique and go through your timeline.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So that sounds like excellent advice for our listeners. And that's the question that I always like to end with is, what is your best piece of advice for our relauncher audience, even if it's something that we've already talked about today? And you've had so much advice all the way through, and you just gave a couple of more great points. Is there any particular point that you want to repeat or, or anything else that you want to bring into the advice category?

Priya Venkatesan: The advice I would say is anyone who is trying to relaunch is, look at options for part time jobs as well. Don't just have your, if you're trying to relaunch at a full time career, if you're not having any part time experience, part time, having a part time experience will help you relaunch to full time career.

So, if you have that part time experience or part time project work that you're doing, you'd be able to get that experience that you can get and bring it, bring that experience in to get a full time job. And also do not compare yourself with others. That's the best piece of advice I can give you. Go through your journey on your own and, what do you want, only you know.

You cannot take advice from others. Anyone can give you advice or anything. However, you know what your situation is, what you're facing, what your difficulty, what your success, what your strength. Focus on your strength rather than focus on your weakness. Always focus on your strengths. See what your strengths are, what you're good at, and focus on that.

And find your passion. Passion is more important than getting a high paying job. So you need to have that drive and passion for a job. If you find it, I think go for it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. Priya, thank you so much for this conversation and all that you have given our listeners today.

Priya Venkatesan: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me here. It's always a pleasure.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And thanks 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, CEO and Co- founder of iRelaunch and your host. I want to remind our listeners to go to to check out all of the tools and resources and events and Job Board that we have for you that's specifically directed to people who are looking to return to work after career breaks.

Thanks for joining us.

Thank you.

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