Several years ago, I quit my successful career in banking to start a brand new life across the globe. But the “brand new life” in question didn’t quite live up to the hype! After years of thriving in a fast-paced work environment, surrounded by an array of faces, I now found myself mostly home alone. Housekeeping had become my new work schedule! I couldn’t allow this to become my new norm. So, I decided to continue my education and restart my career. A few months later, I began working toward my MBA at a local university in Connecticut and started my first accounting job.

About a year after my graduation, we welcomed our first son! I decided to stay home to take care of him, which meant leaving my accounting job. I wasn’t alone — according to a Pew Research Center analysis, the number of stay-at-home mothers increased from 23% in 1999 to 29% in 2012, while the number of stay-at-home fathers increased from 5% to 9%. While some stayed at home due to lack of work, most, like me, had young children to care for.

The next several years brought us many more relocations, several more temporary accounting jobs (for me), and another son. Of course, you can imagine how this all impacted my resume and my professional expectations. I had an unimpressive resume and job history that looked how a scratched CD sounds (super skippy, folks.)

As my kids got older, the job search questions came rushing back: “How can I find a job? What job can I find? How do I start?” I stayed at home much longer than I planned. A survey conducted by FlexJobs in 2018, found that 58% of stay-at-home parents took longer time away from work than they originally intended. But the fact I was not alone didn’t really help.

I anticipated the complications in job hunting. Being a working mother is difficult, but being a working mother after staying at home is another animal. In 2018, Kate Weisshaar (Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of North Carolina — Chapel Hill) conducted a study: For which group was it easier to re-enter the workforce after leaving? Unemployed workers or stay-at-home parents? The study showed that unemployed workers are two times more likely to receive a callback than workers who stayed home with children. In 2017, a study at Walden University (conducted by Ph.D. graduate in Organizational Psychology Brenda Yahraes), found that stay at home fathers were often considered more competent, than stay at home mothers, who were perceived as less capable and therefore had fewer chances of being hired. So, you could probably understand my fear to even start my job search. Despite this, I knew I was ready for something new.

My accounting career was unexciting, so I was open to a career change.

I always had strong analytical skills and enjoyed working with numbers, data, reports, tables, and models. I started to research careers where I could use my analytical nature, current professional skills, and experience. At first, I considered software programming. I tried some online programming language courses, researched the job market and some barriers to entry. Ultimately, it wasn’t my cup of tea.

Enter the pandemic. The novel coronavirus caused us to re-think our daily lives. Most people were ordered to stay indoors and kids started distance learning, so “stressed” was an understatement. But one day, my luck changed. While scrolling through Facebook in my spare time, I found an advertisement (or rather, the advertisement found me). Apparently, the Yandex Practicum team was looking for beta-testers for their Data Analyst, Data Science, and Web Development programs (and it was free!) Bingo! This was my ticket to learning new skills — and possibly a new career. After some comparing, I chose the Data Analyst program. It entailed learning Python and SQL languages, Tableau dashboards, machine learning basics, and a lot of analytics. Also, I felt my business background would best complement this course versus the data science one.

I was hooked immediately. Furthermore, the Practicum team made it a priority to accommodate students’ needs. There are Slack communities, where students can ask questions, exchange thoughts, or share information; community managers who help with organizational issues; expert tutors who help with study questions and host informative real-time webinars; and industry experts who check students’ projects and provide great feedback and hints.

Studying was no joke. We had a new project every two weeks and plenty of theory and study tasks in between. I was a little nervous that I would not keep up with the schedule. Having a family at home — a bored toddler, a middle schooler learning online, and a husband working from home (#pandemiclife) — did not help. Despite that, I was enjoying every task and every project, and my life became much brighter and more meaningful. I finally found my dream career! My family was amazed by seeing me behind the laptop day after day, month after month.

The Practicum Data Analyst program helped me to define the career of my dreams and get prepared for my job search. Throughout the program, I completed dozens of tasks, thirteen projects, and attended several professional webinars (some with career coaches). I found a community of people with the same passion. It was so amazing! Though 2020 was a tough year, I will be always grateful for this life-changing experience. It introduced me to new perspectives. The next step is job hunting!

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