Encore! Picking up your career where you left off
A six-month plan to focus on her children turned into a two-year career break for Jennifer Chen.
When she was ready to return to work, Jennifer found that not all companies recognised that parents returning to work could bring “valuable different perspectives” – until she found the Barclays Encore! Programme. Now Vice President in Treasury for the Capital and Leverage Management Team at Barclays, she tells us why the 12-week programme was the perfect stepping stone.
Jennifer Chen was used to one door closing and another opening when it came to job opportunities. A finance high-flyer from Shanghai with an MBA degree from the US, she had worked in mid to senior roles in the financial services and automobile industries in a 20-year career that took her from China to Japan and the US.
But everything changed when she wanted to return to work after choosing to take a career break to be with her children.
“I had two young sons and we were planning to move as a family from Shanghai back to New Jersey. I decided to take a career break mainly to help the kids make the transition into their new school. I thought my career break was not going to be long – only about six months.
“But it turned out to be two years. During that time, I volunteered a lot in the school system and local charities, I helped the kids with their homework and organised local school activities. I enjoyed it a lot. All of a sudden I found my life had slowed down – I had time to read and to give back to the community, which was really rewarding.”
There then came a point where Jennifer felt she was ready to return to work. “I realised that I wanted to resume my career aspirations, and I wanted to set a good example for the kids,’’ says Jennifer.
“But when I started to look for a job, I learned that not every workplace embraces the view that people who have had the courage to take a career break can actually bring valuable different perspectives back into the workplace. I decided that, as my next career move, I want to work for a company which shares and supports this view.”
Ideal candidate for Encore!
A combination of coincidence and research led Jennifer to the Barclays Encore! initiative, a 12-week programme for which she realised she “could be an ideal candidate”.
Having worked with an investment banker from Barclays in one of her previous roles in Shanghai, she already had a “good impression” of the bank, so it felt like a great opportunity. “I compared a few banks and I chose Barclays because of its values,” she says. “You want to work for a company that has the right values and will always encourage employees to be respectful, honest and to have integrity. I feel that is so important and that was another thing that made the programme stand out.’’
Jennifer applied, was successful and started the programme in January this year. “Encore! has a very good support system. They give you a mentor and you can always go to them to discuss your concerns, or any opportunities you want to pursue,” she says.
“It’s a safe, supportive system that you can always turn to whenever you need it. The programme fellows were a great support too. We got together regularly to talk about our day-to-day. You go through the same ups and downs and you do make good friends that way.’’
Crucially, the programme also led to a role as Vice President in Treasury for the Capital and Leverage Management Team at Barclays in New York. “The transition was very smooth, and I enjoy the work and the people working with me,” says Jennifer.
“Encore! was the right opportunity for me – it gave me a pathway back into work and for that I will always be grateful. More importantly, it’s a programme that, as well as benefitting participants, brings an important pipeline of talent into the bank – it really is a win-win.”