By Robyn Konen
Shahina Kozhisseri has been working as a Design Engineer in Caterpillar’s Integrated Power Systems Division since January 2018. Before this she had taken time off from her career to raise her kids. Six years, in fact, with the last two years spent trying to return to the workforce. She had no idea it would take her two years to find a job and relaunch her career.
Prior to her leave, Shahina was working as a Research Analyst/Programmer at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston Salem, NC. She has a BS in Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering and a MS in Electrical Engineering with experience in engine acoustic signal processing. She decided to stay home and care for the family once her second child was born. Later when Shahina decided it was time to re-enter the workforce she ran into roadblock after roadblock. She was over-qualified for entry-level positions, but she was told she had too big of a gap in her work history for more experienced jobs.
She started looking at other resources that were available such as attending the Society of Women Engineers Conference in 2015 in Nashville, TN. She began part time teaching at a technical community college where she taught Electrical Engineering Technology students. This helped her continue her connection with engineering and technology. She also started to add more skill sets into her background by taking courses in AutoCAD and Data Science.
She learned about the STEM Re-entry Task Force through the SWE website. As part of a partnership with iRelaunch, the Society of Women Engineers is working to promote employment opportunities through a program called STEM Re-entry Task Force, which focuses on helping engineers interested in getting back to their technical careers.
As Shahina first started her new job at Caterpillar through their Returning Professionals Development Program (RPDP), the first four months were spent doing a returnship before being hired on full time. Shahina recently had the opportunity to attend the WE18 conference as a panelist and share her experience with others.
Q&A with Shahina
What is the best advice you would give someone who is thinking about taking a break from his/her career for personal reasons?
Stay connected with engineering and technology field and try to add on to your skill set through online resources. Try to expand your network by attending local technical events, career fairs and networking events by local employers.
What would you have done differently either in your career or career search knowing what you do now?
To have a timeline to get back into the workforce
What is your favorite part of your job at Caterpillar?
Collaborative team work environment
What advice would you give someone applying to a return to work program such as RPDP?
RPDP is an excellent opportunity to get trained on a variety of new skills through internal training programs. It also facilitated a confident and smooth transition back to a full-time position by being mentored in a collaborative cross functional team environment.
What do you admire most about the Society of Women Engineers organization?
Innovative initiatives in STEM outreach
Caterpillar is currently seeking applicants for the Returning Professionals Development Program (RPDP) for multiple locations and types of positions. This program seeks out and supports qualified individuals in their desire to re-enter the engineering workforce following a career break.