Jennifer Young was a mother of three with a background in engineering and a big gap on her resume when she decided it was time to transition as a stay-at-home mom back into the full-time workforce. But, after thirteen years of a career break, she knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
Before having kids, Jennifer built herself a successful career in mechanical and manufacturing engineering, working with ergonomic bridge systems. Her job was to improve engines and axle lines to help individuals perform their jobs better. After ten years in the workforce, Jennifer became pregnant with her first daughter and decided to take a career break to raise the family.
Jennifer had three beautiful children, and once her youngest child was in full-time school, Jennifer felt the time was right to return to the workforce.
“I refreshed my resume and started looking for part-time jobs in the school system,” Jennifer said. “I wanted to ease back into the workforce and thought that an administrative or secretarial role would be a good way to do that.”
But, after talking to a contractor at Cummins who had also gone through a career break, Jennifer changed her mind and decided to pursue engineering.
“I actually talked to a lot of people about returning to work – people in my book club, from my church and from different mom’s groups,” Jennifer explained. “Most of them had worked at Cummins after a career break or had husbands who were working there. I found out about the STEM Re-entry Task Force opportunity this way.
Cummins 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 in 2016. The other founding members of the STEM Re-entry Task Force are Booz Allen Hamilton, Caterpillar Inc., General Motors Company, IBM, Intel Corporation and Johnson Controls.
Cummins program is called the RePower Program. Jennifer was hired on for the professional internship opportunity as a Diesel Exhaust Fluid Component Engineer at Cummins Emission Solutions in Columbus, Indiana. She started her professional internship in August 2016, working with suppliers on documentation of line updates that dealt with pressures, vacuum leaks and temperature requirements. She was also charged with performing lab tests on these systems and determining changes in lengths and configurations depending on how the system performed.
“It’s good experience for anyone who’s had a career break to get their foot in the door,” Jennifer said. “It’s a confidence booster – you’ve been out of the workforce for a while and you need to get reacquainted. The internship was an experience to learn the company, get familiar with the technical role again and get you and your family used to working 8-5.”
Jennifer was hired on full-time at the close of the professional internship. She moved to a new role in a new location – Power Systems Application Engineer in Seymour, Indiana. In the new role, Jennifer is working with engines that drive generators.
“I’m trying to learn everything that has to do with those engines – documentation, updating engineering documents about performance, emissions, etc. It’s been a completely different type of engineering.”
During Jennifer’s career break, she tried to stay as relevant as possible.
“I did volunteer work while I was taking a break so I could keep up with tools like Microsoft Office. I was also involved in different mom’s groups that allowed me to do some office and design work.”
When she returned to work at Cummins, Jennifer explained that she really had to learn the technical programs again – a challenging yet rewarded task!
“My advice to women who are taking a career break and thinking about returning to the workforce is to network,” Jennifer said. “Network with friends who have had the same experience as you or are in companies in your town – ask about what openings they have. Update your resume and take a technical class if you feel like it will help you out.”
“And, have confidence in yourself! Others have gone back to work after a career break, and you can do it too! Practice interviewing in front of the mirror or with friends, and visit websites with typical engineering questions to get practice