Last month, FDM hosted our second Equate MeetUp. An opportunity for women in STEM to come together to build a network, find new opportunities and meet likeminded people.

The topic of the evening was ‘returning to work following a career break’ with several speakers from FDM. Speaking at the event and introducing FDM’s Returners’ Programme was Jenny Holmes, Head of the programme.

Graduating with a degree in Chemistry from Exeter University, Jenny has had a diverse and varied career.  Starting out as a Chemistry and Physics teacher to working with NATO followed by time in the Royal Air Force before joining FDM, Jenny speaks to us about switching careers and why Returners are an asset to any company.

1. Tell me a little bit about FDM? What the company does, its values and why diversity and inclusion is central to the organisation.

We recruit graduates, ex-forces personnel and returners to work by equipping them with the relevant technical skills and commercial experience required to excel in an IT and/or business career. Once trained we deploy candidates out on-site with a range of clients from over 30 different industries.

Our CEO Rod Flavell once said that “Diversity, social mobility and inclusion are an essential part of who we are. At the heart of our business remains our desire to launch the careers of people from many different backgrounds, helping them to develop their skills before starting work with our clients.”  Which portrays the kind of company FDM is, a chance to support social mobility and give people from all backgrounds the chance to succeed in the industry, no matter what part of their career they are at.

2. As a former Chemistry teacher and having previously worked in the armed forces how has working in STEM shaped your career and role at FDM.

My career history has been diverse but it has greatly influenced how I have approached my role at FDM. Much of what I do is about people and the value that they can bring. As the Head of the Getting Back to Business Programme, I am able to work alongside trainees and consultants and one of the greatest aspects of my role is that I get to see their development throughout the programme. I feel that I have been able to make a real difference by changing the dialogue for those returning to the work place and ensure that they are seen for the value and skills they bring and not the time they have been away. I have the pleasure of seeing candidates evolve and regain their confidence to go out into the world of work once again and thrive. I have a Chemistry degree and have worked in roles that have used my degree and others that have not. STEM is not something singular that you either have or don’t have, it is something that touches all roles in some way; the world is STEM.

STEM is not something singular that you either have or don’t have, it is something that touches all roles in some way; the world is STEM.

3. Why are Returners so important to the workplace?

Being able to have employees in your field who have a wealth of knowledge is never a negative aspect is it? Many of the returners we have are so keen to get back into the workplace that they often excel out on site with one of our clients. Our returners are happy to spend time in one of our academies refreshing their knowledge or learning new skills in a modern environment so that they are ready for the modern day workplace. Being able to offer an opportunity to someone who has a gap in their CV and has struggled to get back into their chosen field is not only a chance to address the diversity, social mobility and inclusion aspects of your business, but is also a chance to expand the talent on your workforce and to hire someone who is willing to revamp what they know best, to suit your company.

4. What is your advice to someone thinking about Returning to work after a career break?

Be positive, be flexible, build your network and believe in yourself. The world functions on networks. If you do not know something, a strong network will ensure that you know someone that can help. Every situation can provide an opportunity to build your network and learn from the people around you. A strong network can be a cushion of support in your times of need. It is easy to feel that you have lost your skills or that you will not be as good as you were before you took your career break, especially if you have had a substantial period away. Do not lose confidence in yourself or the people around you. Set yourself achievable goals, but also ensure that you challenge yourself. It takes about four months to settle into any new job whether you have taken a career break or not, so do not despair. Also, enjoy and own your return!

It takes about four months to settle into any new job whether you have taken a career break or not.

5.What opportunities are available through FDM’s Returnship programme?

Our seven-week training programme aims to refresh the existing knowledge returners have and to build upon their previous experience in such areas as business or technology. We provide returners with the opportunity to gain external qualifications in Business Analysis, Project Management and Agile Methodology as well as CV workshops and interview coaching, as we realise that for many people this will be the first time they have been in a corporate setting for quite some time. We want to be there with ongoing career support and professional development to make sure that returners are ready to make a smooth transition into the corporate world. Once training is complete, we offer a minimum of two years’ experience working with our clients from a variety of backgrounds to help consultants return to the level they were previously at.

FDM are a recruitment and training provider for the tech industry working across the UK and around the world. If you are interested in a Returnship opportunity with FDM visit their website or contact the Equate Careerhub on careerhub@napier.ac.uk.