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EP 290: A pivot into life sciences with a dual masters degree after a 15 yr break with Rowena Zahn

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Episode Description

Rowena Zahn took a 15 year child care career break during which time she completed a dual degree master's program in Food Science (MS) and Business (MBA). Having left a pharmaceutical sales career before her career break, Rowena's relaunch ultimately led to her career in account management in global life sciences. Her key accounts include global pharmaceutical companies in the biopharmaceutical industry and laboratories, from drug discovery and development, to production platforms. We speak with Rowena about her strategy of using full degree programs to relaunch her career after a lengthy break. A proud career relauncher and champion of the benefits relaunchers bring to employers, Rowena takes us through the day to day of her relaunch journey and the step by step stages of her successful relaunch.

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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 active relaunching to make sure to register and upload your resume to our iRelaunch Job Board because this is where we go to share relauncher profiles with our employers that are hiring for their career re entry jobs and programs.

Today, we welcome Rowena Zahn, who took a 15 year child care career break during which time she completed a dual degree master's program. Having left a pharmaceutical sales career before her career break, Rowena's relaunch ultimately led to her current role as an account manager with a global company that offers solutions for the biopharmaceutical industry and laboratories, from drug discovery and development to production platforms. We are speaking with Rowena about her strategy of using full degree programs to relaunch her career. We'll get into the day to day of what this was like and how she used her university experience beyond the classroom.

Rowena, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Rowena Zahn: Thank you. I'm happy to be here. Thank you.

Carol Fishman Cohen: we're really excited to speak with you. We don't often see a relaunch where there is a full degree program that is involved during the career break and then relaunching a career. So very interested in this pathway. But before we get into that, can you start by giving us a little background about your professional career path before your career break and then, what prompted you to stay away, to step away from the workforce?

Rowena Zahn: Absolutely. I would say, most of my background has been centered on the life sciences. I was a biochemistry undergrad, went to a small women's liberal arts school. There were about 15 people in my major and it was very challenging. I felt like I really enjoyed being in an environment where I had the support of other women, but I think just the nature of the content was very, very challenging.

And I don't necessarily think looking back that the sciences came naturally to me. I think, throughout high school, I had done quite a lot of debate and, a lot of things that would probably have steered me a little bit more towards maybe English or political science. But, I had really landed on rising up to this challenge that I had set up for myself to really dive into the sciences.

So had primarily a science background and part of the reason I say that the sciences were a bit challenging for me was that, the time in the lab I found, was extensive and at times I felt, isolating. I felt like I was spending a lot of time in the lab, but did not have as much interaction with other people.

And so when I graduated, I ended up taking a bigger shift, where maybe other people in my major had been focused more on roles where they would stay in the lab, like continuing to do research. I reached out to an alumni from the college who had started an executive recruiting business and was looking for someone to join.

And so reached out to her and that ended up being my first job. It was a great start, but then I realized that when I would talk to different candidates, I was really curious about the organizations that they were with. I loved learning about their backgrounds, but also felt like I wanted to know more about kind of the role, how they fit within their team and the bigger organization.

And I started to feel like, you know what, I think I wanted to take step back and maybe transition to a different role. So I had a few different steps and then eventually landed in pharmaceutical sales. And it was a really great blend of some of the relationship building experience I had with executive recruiting, but then it was a return to the life sciences background that I had stepped away from.

So I felt like it was a really great blend of the different interests that I had.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Great. Thank you for giving us that detail, 'cause it does give us the context will become relevant when we talk about your relaunch. So tell us what happened when you decided to take the career break.

Rowena Zahn: Sure. That's a great question. And growing up, both of my parents worked. I, back then I was what was called a latchkey kid. I have an older brother and after school we'd walk home and we'd be on our own after school and that was very normal. That was really, what most of my friend's family dynamic had looked like. And so that was really what I had seen growing up, that was the message I had when I graduated from college. That was my plan. And then I met my husband, we got married, and when we were expecting our oldest child, I thought, you know, maybe I should take a one year leave of absence, what are our best options here? And my husband had said, I think one of us should stay home and, if it's not going to be you, then maybe I should, and I think we should try that to begin with.

And we did not have any family locally. So I had thought it probably makes more sense for me. And I decided to take a one year leave of absence from my role in pharmaceutical sales. And I found that I really enjoyed being a stay at home parent. It was so different than any message that I had seen. I think maybe growing up, I knew, one of my friends had, a parent who stayed at home and was a full time caregiver, but I don't think I had seen anything like that.

So it was very new, but I really found that it was a really great fit. I found that I was a mom who had lots of energy, loved to stay busy, and part of me always felt like if there was a way that I could keep my foot in the door of, I don't know, maybe being a contractor for something and still being part of the paid workforce, that was what I wanted, but I found I could not figure out that when I would be able to fit that into my schedule. I met people who would say, Oh, as soon as I put my child down for a nap, then I spend time doing this, but I couldn't, could not figure out what type of project based role or how I would be able to fit that.

We had also relocated to a new city, so I was also trying to develop new relationships there. And, by the time that the one year had come up of that leave of absence, we were expecting our second child. And so at that point, I did not think I would be able to return. And it just made more sense for me to stay home as a stay at home parent.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, I think almost to a person, we have the conversation where someone will say, I only thought it was going to about be out a year or two. And the next thing you know, like five, 10 plus years went by. So it sounds like this might've happened with you.

Rowena Zahn: Exactly. It really was. And I had different, heard different stories of parents when they had their children.

And I felt like, with each child, I remember right after they were born feeling like I really want to have another one, like just feeling that I really just enjoyed the experience so much that I felt like I wanted to have another until I was, we were expecting our fourth child and I felt oh, this is, what I hear from other parents where they say, I think this is it.

I think we're done. So, until then, I had just felt like, you know what, I think I'd like another, and I had always felt like I do want to return to work, and I just, at that time, was not sure how I was going to do it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: All right, so you turn, it turned out you were on a career break for 15 years. Yes. And I'm interested in, at what point during that 15 year period did you think that you wanted to go back to school, or, you know, was it after thinking about other ways that you were going to go back to work, or did something grab you about this particular kind of degree or degree program?

Rowena Zahn: Sure. I would say when my youngest was in preschool, I felt like this was the point. This was my time to do some investigation and research for the next year or two, so that by the time she started school, and was in kindergarten with her older siblings, that I would have a plan and at least be able to move with that.

But I felt like it took some time. I really wanted to be very mindful and thoughtful and really think about what I wanted to do and how I would get there. And so I had looked at a few different paths and still very much gravitated toward the sciences, but I just was not sure how I was going to combine that.

I had met other parents who had stayed at home and they always seemed to have these wonderful ideas of going into all these different fields that gave them quite a lot of balance with their family life. It could have been, I don't know, there were different parties they would throw about. selling jewelry, or I don't know, selling these designer jeans, or I don't know, going into real estate.

There were all these great ideas and I had so much respect for them and I could not picture myself doing any of those things. And so I felt like I really needed to carve my own path, but I also felt like there weren't that many guiding lights for me. And so when I finally felt like food science was an area that I had narrowed down, and that was through a lot of influence from my personal experience, a lot of it coming from being a parent in that I was really interested in the types of foods that my family was eating.

I, was just very curious about, really the interactions that a food matrix had like a very science y perspective on nutrition. And so, I kind of taken a look at what was my end goal? What did I want to see? What kind of career what kind of place did I want to be at and then I backtracked from there. And I had never heard about food science I did not know there was such program and then found out that there was a small liberal arts school that had a graduate program that was a 20 minute drive away.

And I felt like this would be a great program to look into. And, I do consider myself also very privileged to decide to go down that route. I know that many people that are in my situation, may not have the time or the finances to pursue a graduate degree in a private institution. So I felt so grateful that my husband was extremely supportive about that and that I was able to pursue the program.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. So you apply for this program, you're, you get accepted. Was it a dual degree program right from the beginning? Or did you start one degree and add the other one subsequent? And can you just mention briefly what the two degrees actually are?

Rowena Zahn: Sure. Absolutely. The two programs, one was a master's in food science program. So I received a master of science in food science. And at the same time I pursued a master of business administration. It was able to get my MBA at the same time, but initially I was only looking at the food science program. I felt like that was more than enough for me at the time and just was really not even sure how I'd be able to go about it.

But I felt like, you know, this is the right time. I am the type of person who loves classroom settings. I, if there was a way, I would be eternally a student. I just love, like anytime there was something I wanted to learn, if there was a way I could take a class for it, that was my go to. Whereas other people, they prefer to learn on their own, or I'm the type who thrives in the setting where there's an educator up front and I'm the student.

And so I felt like it would be a very successful environment for me, as a way to transition back to work. So when I did start the Master of Food Science program, that was when I learned, I had met a few other students had also been participating in the program for a dual degree and pursuing their MBA at the same time.

And I was not aware of the program at all. And I had talked to them about it and a part of me felt is this a bad idea? Because this is already challenging enough with just one program. But then I really felt like this could really help make me more marketable when I knew that I had this significant break and a part of me also felt like, if this is something I want to pursue, this is the time to do it. Because I did not have a great deal of confidence that I was going to go back to school after this run.

And so I ended up looking into both programs. They made so much sense and I ended up enrolling and it was such a contrast in environments because I was in a very, a science oriented program. the curriculum was so different. The people I went to school with were so different. And then with the business school, the projects were so different, the professors, it was such a contrast and I loved both of them. And it felt like I thrived in both environments.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And maybe that once again, you're validating that idea within yourself about somehow marrying the two areas.

Rowena Zahn: Exactly. Right. Right.

Carol Fishman Cohen: How long did the combined program last and were you in this full time or was it a part time program?

Rowena Zahn: I was in the program full time and I completed it in two and a half years and I went pretty much straight through so, we've had semesters, but I also did winter intersessions and I did summer school too. So I just went straight through. I also completed my graduate research thesis and had my work published.

And, I was really the, I remember in the beginning, I would look around the classroom, but I did not see any other stay at home parents there. But, so I, I knew going into it that I would, I didn't expect to find this big group, but I really set this expectation of this is the program that I want to pursue.

I was really skeptical about making really any friendships or being able to connect with others because I felt like I had such a unique, I was in such a unique place in my life, but I ended up, connecting with a handful of students that were closer in age to my children than to me. They were just so wonderful and we helped support each other so much through some challenging classes that I still stay in touch with them.

And I became very engaged, which I was surprised about. I really thought, I would be a commuter student, I would go to class, I would participate when I needed, I, would return home, I would complete my work, but I found myself very engaged, I ended up becoming very involved in both programs, both as a student volunteer, was on, different committees, and really enjoyed participating in different ways.

They had launched a three minute thesis competition and I, I had never heard of it. I had thought, you know what, I think I should check this out. I, enjoy public speaking and I'd never heard anything like this. And it was open to students across all different programs. And, I decided to do it.

I think at the time I was the only one presenting highly scientific information and I wasn't even sure how this was going to go, but I was able to create a story in a compelling way. We were also limited, the time limit was three minutes. We were limited to only one slide that would be on a projector on the stage.

And so it really was a lot of pressure on the presenter to create this picture for the audience and the speakers that would be compelling enough to capture them. So I was able to do that and I was able, I won and my, the close friends that I had made were there in the audience and it was just, I remember.

Thank you. My last name starts with a Z as in zebra and they had gone alphabetically. And I just remember sitting next to my friends and thinking, I can't believe they're going alphabetically, you know, and I just remember trying to just take deep breaths. Like, I think it's going to be okay.

So I found myself a full time student and really actively participating in many student organizations, which pleasantly surprised, I was pleasantly surprised, but very happy to be involved with.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So this was almost like this was your job. You're working full time. You have these four children who I'm guessing, I don't know, are ages five through 10 or something like that?

Rowena Zahn: Exactly. Exactly. School age children. Yes.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That's also maybe almost like a trial run of what life might look like when you had a full time job, and then I'm very interested in your detailed description of this experience with the competition, because I'm wondering, later, and we'll get back to this, but when you were in interviews and they, did you use that experience as an anecdote at all to illustrate anything, or were there other parts of your academic experience that you relied on that was sort of the right thing to be talking about?

Rowena Zahn: Right. I do not think that the actual competition itself came up that often as I look back. I think a lot of it was focused on the experience that I had in graduate school. And I feel like many people who were in the program, we're kind of doing like a continuation of where they already were in their career.

They could have already been with a company that focused on, on food and felt like this would help project them to the next level. Whereas for me, it was a totally new space. And I felt like many of the interviews that I had done, I was really talking a lot about my experience as a student and the content there, maybe it could have been focused on project management and managing, my thesis project and all the different timelines with that.

But I, I do not feel like the thesis competition had come up.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I'm just interested in like what was coming up and what wasn't and actually that leads me to my next question, so you're graduating, you're in this program, was there something about the school or career services or something that was helpful there or and how did you, did anything about that experience change the type of role that you ended up looking for because of your school experience.

Rowena Zahn: Right. So I was very focused on the goal that I had by combining these two programs. I was interested in finding a marketing role that was more on the brand side within the food industry. And so it was very much a business to consumer focus, and it was very specific. And I thought that was very helpful in the beginning because, I would go to school with certain students and they're like, I'm not sure, maybe I want to go into regulatory, we want to go into product development. Or from the business school, maybe people had said, no, I, really want to go into sports management or I'm interested in entertainment. And so they had been, of course, very focused, but mine was so specific, the function as well as the industry, for me, I think I felt like this gave me so much clarity. Like this is why I'm doing this. I felt like I had really been able to meet different people and really been able to narrow things down. And during my experience as a student, I was fully aware that I had a very non linear background. I felt like there were people that I had gone to school with who had started at, I don't know, at a role like such as an analyst, had moved up and then business school made sense.

And I just knew that my story was very different. And so from the very beginning, when I would meet with, excuse me, different advisors, I would, just say immediately, I don't have a traditional background. If I'm a candidate out there in the workplace, what resources are available that will help me?

Because I have to really prism, prove myself even more than my peers. I felt like I had a lot of explaining. I felt like it would be challenging to get through the door. But once I did, I felt like if I had a chance to tell my story, that they would hear me out. I don't know if I would eventually get, you know, a job offer, but I used whatever resources I could find.

I met with my advisors. I would go to the career center. I would have them revamp my resume. I did mock interviews. I reached out to my undergraduate alumni office. I redid my Myers Briggs personality testing, like whatever resources that I could find that were available, ideally without an additional fee were always on my list and things that I would check off.

Some of them were hits, some of them were misses, but I would say through most of those initial resources that I had found out about, it would end up branching off. So through the mock interview, I found out that the person who had done the mark interview knew someone who had done quite a lot of coaching for professionals.

And she thought that she would love to work with me. And I was not even familiar with professional coaching. I had heard about it maybe early in my career, but had not known about it. And was connected to this wonderful person who had a full time job in talent acquisition. But on the side, she thought, Oh, I have time.

I will help you with my, with your resume and helped revamp my resume, which had not been done since I had left the workforce at that point, maybe about 12 years, 14 years, and, was, she was able to revamp my resume. I talked to her about LinkedIn. I remember saying I'd heard about this LinkedIn, giving her full transparency of I'm not great with social media.

I'm uncomfortable with posting, you know, what should I expect? I know I need to do this, but what, how can we approach this in a way that makes me comfortable? So she,helped me just kind of set up my LinkedIn profile and talked me through so many different things. And she had also used some of the worksheets that she had had from her coaching experience to just help me fine tune what I wanted to talk about in an interview setting and what to highlight in my background.

And she was really, really instrumental in that. So, from that full time experience that I had as a student, I used all the resources that I could to help get me ready from the very beginning, also just finding internships through they're, one of them had been on campus in the incubator space for the startup.

So a lot of all everything that I could find that would help me once I was done with the program, transition back to work, I would utilize that.

Carol Fishman Cohen: You know, I just want to remind our audience because we talk about this, but we haven't for a while, don't forget to check back with your alma mater to see if they have alumni career services and what they're offering.

And then we also talk about one of the benefits of going back to school. And it doesn't necessarily have to be for a full degree, like you did, Rowena, but it could be a certificate program or continuing ed, if you can also then have as a resource the career services benefits of that institution. So, you fully took advantage of all of this, and I just love the way that you illustrated it.

So, can you give us just a few highlights about what moments in your job search were, do you consider pivotal and led to your relaunch opportunity? Right.

Rowena Zahn: You know, there were, there were so many times that I needed to pivot. There are, looking back, there are situations in my mind that stand out that were incredible advantages.

And then there were situations that were pictures of the reality that I was facing that I did not really, I don't think, I think I was too naive to realize it. I think even though some of my professors had said, you have a very unique situation right now and it's going to take some networking to be able to make those connections.

I was fully aware of that. Even as a current student, I had to lead a networking night event and help moderate that. So I was fully engaged with that and was engaging with as many alumni from the current graduate program that I had been in. And so through, I think many of the connections that I had made through so much networking that I had done, I was able to often get through the door.

So then, I felt really great, oh my gosh, like, you know, because I had somebody vouch for me, they were, these people were willing to have an interview with me. So often, I would be able to have a first round and then I would have the in person second round. And then I think it took me a few times to realize this is going to be very difficult.

I think I felt like, and part of it may have been, I was also really buoyed up by the experience that I had in graduate school. I was, I felt like I had good relationships with my peers, was well regarded with my professors. I had made myself known, you know, within the kind of the sphere that I had, and had just been involved in certain leadership roles with student led organizations.

And I felt like, there were certain awards that I had received. I had presented my research thesis at a national conference and had won that. And so I think I was still riding this nice wave and had a lot of positive accolades at the time. But I think in these Interview situations, the harsh reality of it was what I needed to accept.

I do think I was very naive and even though I knew I could not find people who were in the same situation as me at the time, I somehow thought I was just going to be able to arise above that and kind of carve my own path. I did carve my own path, but it was very challenging. I made it through in person interviews, but then not past that.

And I ended up finding my first paid role since I had taken a career break years ago was for a paid internship. I had joked around when I had started, I was like, I'm probably the oldest intern and the person who interviewed me, I felt like I might be old enough to be your parent. And you know, and I just felt like I knew the reality.

and I feel like, you know, a sense of humor has gotten me through many challenging situations. And,I just knew that this was going to be really out of the ordinary for them. It ended up working great, but it was literally the first time I had gotten a paycheck in all this time. And so that was the first paid role that I had.

And then when I had my first full time job, it ended up being that even with all the networking that I had done, all these connections that I had built, it ended up being just a post that I had seen on a job board that I had applied to, and that was my first job where I was actually had relaunched successfully.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Can you just give us a sense of what that job was and like what kind of work it was? And then what happened in that job search process that you think made the difference and then you got hired?

Rowena Zahn: Right. And so after I had gone throughout graduate school being very focused. Everybody knew that I was looking into marketing and I wanted to work in the food industry.

So that was super clear. So the first role I had was an entry level marketing assistant position at a company, a CPG, consumer packaged goods company. And so it was close enough that I could drop my children off at school and be in the office. So it worked out. It was, the location was close by, it was a great space.

And I had been able to, I think, make a good connection with hiring manager, like when we were interviewing. and I think he was willing to take a chance on me. I had a very untraditional background, nothing I can imagine really other applicants having the experience that I had, and he was willing to take a chance. So, I was very excited.

I also had to get, accept that this was my situation. Like I, I don't think I realized I would have to start from the very beginning all over again. I knew I had to relaunch and I had met people who had taken some time off and then it had, the career break had been maybe a pause and then they were able to return to where they had left off. But I was not returning to a pharmaceutical sales role, so, this is going to be really new. I did not have any marketing experience aside from my internships. And so I knew it was going to be challenging, but I did not realize until that the job role, the best opportunity I had was an entry level position, but it was exactly in that area that I wanted to be in.

So that was my whole goal throughout graduate school. So I felt like it was, I had successfully landed the role that I had wanted. I did not realize that I would have to start at the bottom of the rung. But at the time, I was just thrilled that I had this opportunity and I felt like I was going to learn as much as I could.

And, but then, I realized, it's a very tough story to tell as far as wanting to go into marketing, even though I had graduate degree programs, without the straight experience. And I felt like it would be too big of a leap to try and do this. I felt I don't have this very long runway to make this return at the time I was already in my forties, my peers who had been stay at home parents had felt like this was the best time of their life, and I, and there I was either going to like studying wherever I could find time or I was all of a sudden in the workplace again.

So I came to the harsh reality of you know what, I really need to take a look at what my plans are and where I want to go. And if that makes the most sense. I felt like trying to build a career in marketing was going to take me two or three times longer. And so I had thought, you know what?

I have mostly sales experience. I felt like I really enjoyed building the relationships. I also felt like I missed some of the face to face contact that I had as somebody in sales. And so I started thinking like,maybe I should think about that, and ended up moving to a bigger company, but it was more of a sales support role and was supporting salespeople who are interacting directly with the customers.

And then by the time I had that role, it was very clear to me that, you know what, I do want to return to sales and I want to be the one interacting with the customer, not the person supporting the internal stakeholders. So I, made that my focus. And I was able to transition over back to the life sciences, which I had missed.

And that was a bit of a debate also of, I had committed to this graduate program in food science. is this what I want to do? Like I had done all this graduate research, and I remember just thinking that,and I, but I felt like all those experiences were the skills that I had were very transferable.

And so I had decided to pivot and really feel like my sweet spot is a place where I could build those relationships in a sales role, but still have very much this life science nerd need that I have and be able to blend the two.

Carol Fishman Cohen: You know, I'm just reflecting as you're speaking and, I'm thinking about you had the very long break, you're pivoting to a brand new role in a brand new industry, you've just come out of a graduate school program. So maybe on paper you're sort of appearing as, forget about your age and that you were a relauncher and you'd worked before, but you were presenting as someone who might come in at an entry level because of all the new, the newness and also the length of your break.

So it's really interesting to process that because it does happen sometimes. But, the way you approach it, you were like thinking the whole time and absorbing and trying to figure this out. And then when you made the later transition to the next role, you weren't a relauncher anymore in the traditional sense because you had immediate work experience before that.

Rowena Zahn: Right. Exactly. And I remember like still I continue to be a member of the iRelaunch community. And I just remember there were certain comments that would be out there or certain positions, and I remember just a part of me feeling like, Oh, I already relaunched technically, and I remember just even looking like some of the job descriptions being like,

like I, I admitted a different, now I'm at a different stage, and, for that specific role, whether it was a returnship or the way it was described, that's not where I am in my career. And I just remember thinking like part of me was like, I felt like I really need needed when I first started this, I needed to carve my own path. And when you asked me about going into like full time graduate programs, when I had looked at some of the certification programs, like I just wasn't sure if that was going to be enough substance to get me where I needed to be. I felt like I had such a big break in my career and that it was going to be such a new field. And maybe also maybe subconsciously I had just always really thrived in a classroom setting. Maybe I had decided that, you know what, I'm going to go where my comfort zone is as hard as it is and as challenging as it is, maybe that was part of the reason I wanted to return to that classroom setting.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. Well, let's, let me just jump to where you are now. You mentioned, the iRelaunch community and you are part of our, the beginning of our partnership with Lean In, where we've started Lean In Circles, that we call iRelaunched. So, Lean In Circles for people who are in the early part of returning to work. And I just wanted to know if you can, we haven't had anyone speak about this, so I wanted to know if you could reflect on your experience in the Lean In Circle just briefly before we then wrap up and I'm going to ask you to give us your greatest piece of advice.

Rowena Zahn: Of course, I was so I was thrilled and so surprised when I received an email about these Lean In Circles that were about to launch. And it was, I think, initially more of I don't know if it was a survey, it was just to kind of gauge interest to see if people want to be involved. And I felt like, oh my goodness, there are other people like me out there because I wasn't exactly fitting into needing to immediately relaunch because I'd already had previous roles.

But I was also kind of in this space that not many others were in, I felt that I interacted with. And so when I saw the, this email come through, I immediately expressed interest in it and wanted to find that these other people, who are they? There are other people like me, and ended up being placed into this group of four other relaunchers.

And when we had our initial meeting, I felt like, where have you been all my life? I felt like, Oh my goodness, to have the common ground to have others who understood it. I felt like throughout my journey, I was either talking to stay at home parents who had decided to continue and stay in, in that type of role who thought it was absurd that I was tackling all these challenging things.

And I remember just feeling like, I had just taken a different direction in what I wanted to do. And so it kind of felt like I wasn't in that group. And then when I was working and I was with my colleagues, I felt like, I felt often that I was the cautionary tale to my colleagues of, okay, this is why you should not take a career break because you're going to have to go through all of these things, steps that Rowena did and who knows if you're going to have energy for that. So I felt that and I, I just always felt like there, it was very hard to find, maybe I had crossed paths with one or two people in the current role that I had, but it was very, out of the ordinary. And so when this group formed, I felt like there are others who understood exactly what I had been saying.

There are others who were in very similar stages of their life and going through many of the same challenges and also feeling a lot of the rewards for the decisions that we had made to go back to work. So I felt like it was such an incredible way to connect and come together. And I felt so connected, even though I was speaking with people virtually and we were at different places in the U. S., but I just felt such a connection with them that I felt like it was such a gift to be able to be placed into the circle.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Oh, that's so great to hear, thank you for telling us about that.

Rowena Zahn: You're welcome.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Well, Rowena, we are coming to the end of our podcast time, and I wanted to close by asking you the question that we ask all of our podcast guests, and that is, what is the best piece of advice that you have for our relauncher audience, even if it's something that we've already talked about today.

Rowena Zahn: Sure. I would say there are a couple of things that stand out. For anyone who's in a similar situation as I was in that wants to relaunch, I would say be kind to yourself because there are a lot of challenges, but also be a cheerleader for yourself.

There were, there were many times I think I felt like I probably held myself back because I felt like the only person in the room who had been in that situation. And there are other times that I know I had this strong fighting spirit that was like absolutely acknowledging I was the only person in the room who had this situation.

But I felt like, this is my chance to tell my story and I'm going to break the mold or any stereotypes they had about people taking career breaks. So I would say, believe in yourself, be kind to yourself, if you are in a similar situation where you are juggling things in your personal life like caregiving and also looking to relaunch.

And the other message that I had is for others who have successfully relaunched and are maybe in roles, leadership roles where they're hiring, I feel like it also gives us an affinity to look within the network and, also hire iRelaunch, others who have relaunched, but also maybe those who have not been walked in exactly the same path.

But for those people who are hiring to keep an open mind, there may be a candidate that has a very different trajectory and be open to that. You know, now that you don't have to follow steps you know, A, B, and C to get to that next role, and to take a chance. And, you know, it may be the best hire that you've ever made.

So that's kind of what comes to mind. And I do hope that that helps make a difference.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Well, I love that. And that is one of, part of our mission at iRelaunch that we have a critical mass of relaunchers back in the workforce who then hire other relaunchers to work for them as they've been moving up.

So I love that you touched on that. Rowena, thank you so much for joining us today.

Rowena Zahn: Thank you. It has been an absolute pleasure. I'm very honored to be here. Thank you.

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, the CEO and co founder of iRelaunch and your host.

Be sure to visit iRelaunch. com and access our many tools and resources for relaunching your career. And also make sure to sign up for our mailing list. So you can receive our weekly return to work report, which features career reentry jobs and programs. Thanks for joining us.

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