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Society of Women Engineers

Engineer Turned Home School Teacher Reenters Workforce with GM’s Take 2 Program

GM is a founding member of the STEM Re-entry Task Force, a group of engineering companies offering paid internships to technical women returning to work.

Published On: April 2017

GM is one of seven founding members of the STEM Re-entry Task Force, a group of engineering companies that committed to piloting an internship program for women returning to work after a career break.

STEM Re-entry Task Force

Wendy Kwiecinski (left) and Chindu Chemmarikattu Rajan

Wendy Kwiecinski was approaching a 20-year career break, or gap, when she decided it might be time to get back into the engineering workforce, but she wasn’t quite sure where to begin.

“I had my resume revised and ready to go because I was considering going back into engineering, but I had no idea where to start,” she explained.

Many relaunchers can relate.

Before her gap, Wendy was a GMI graduate, completing a rotation that included getting hands-on experience with fasteners, testing, validation, and other technical areas at GM before moving into a permanent career in advanced vehicle testing. Keeping in touch with her GM network ended up making it easy for Wendy to re-launch – it’s how she found out about GM’s Take 2 program. GM approached Wendy about the program just as she was beginning to think about how to re-enter the workforce.

“Networking is important. I maintained my network, which worked well for me, but not everyone has that established,” Wendy said. “I encourage people to get involved in SWE and other programs to start networking. Get out there, meet people, take some classes, update your skills.”

Now in its third cohort, GM’s Take 2 program receives high praise from Wendy.

“As part of the program, we received a lot of training and coaching on things like presentation skills in addition to traditional technical training at GM,” Wendy explained. “The well-rounded professional training helped us re-establish ourselves in the workforce, and prepared us to be confident as we re-entered.

Susan Gray (left) and Wendy Kwiecinski

It wasn’t just GM’s program that helped make Wendy and her colleagues so successful. It was the support of the women within the program that took them to the next level.

“The other Take 2 colleagues and I would meet to discuss how we were doing in our positions, problems, solutions, and other things we had encountered throughout the program,” Wendy said. “The support system of the women made us feel like we were in this together, and it was a great networking opportunity.”

Wendy is now paying it forward, providing mentorship to women in GM’s current Take 2 cohort.

When we asked Wendy what advice she had for other women thinking about re-entering the workforce, she suggests finding ways to brand yourself and not being apologetic for your gap. “The skills you acquire during your gap are just as useful as those you acquire in the workforce.”

Wendy spent the majority of her career break raising her three children and running a homeschool group – which at one time contained 50 kids. The unique co-op was run out of Wendy’s church and allowed children to experience a similar environment to local schools, including gym classes, art fairs science fairs and other activities.

“I didn’t gain a lot of engineering or technical skills during my career break, but there were skills I acquired running the homeschool program, such as problem-solving, that I found to be transferable once I entered the technical workforce,” Wendy said.

“Being proud of your gap is important,” Wendy added. “Being able to articulate which skills and experiences you learned during your gap that make you a valuable asset is essential when re-entering the workforce.”

Fall, 2017 opportunities for the GM Take 2 program will be posted in May, 2017 on the GM Careers site.

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