Mona Gavankar takes on Mastercard’s ‘Relaunch your Career’ program after 7 years in the healthcare industry.
"Wait, you're going back to a desk job?!" Were the words uttered from Mona Gavankar's Zumba students. "Yes, I'm going back to the corporate world!" Mona beamed.
Mona, as some of her students called her, the "Zumba Instructor with two Master's Degrees" spent seven years on a career break, juggling children and some personal matters that life threw into the mix.
Mona shares with us her journey in reconnecting and finding her sense of identity after taking an extended period off.
"When you have been away for some time, people see your identity differently. When you have been out of the workforce for a long time, sometimes people forget what you used to do."
"There were some that only knew me as the Zumba instructor and then some — like my mother and sister – who knew my long-term aspirations. They said go for it and were very supportive from the start of my plans to return to work."
Preparing for a successful comeback
Determined to make her career comeback a success, Mona started a Lean-In circle, a concept born out of Sheryl Sandberg's bestselling book, Lean In.
I started a Lean-In Circle called 'Relaunch and Pivot'. It was a supportive group for people like me who were looking to return to work. It was inclusive of both genders, and we did mock interviews and shared learnings, including rejections. You have to deal with a lot of rejections when you start applying for a job, so having a supportive network is a must,
Mona decided to take it a step further by applying for Mastercard’s, 'Relaunch your Career' program but was apprehensive at first because she didn't have a finance or technology background and thought it would rule her out.
"Mastercard was exhibiting at a job fair along with other companies interested in hiring people who were relaunching their careers."
"At first, I thought I wasn't a suitable candidate for Mastercard due to my background. I had worked in the healthcare industry, most recently in research and development. I initially had a bit of anxiety because I wasn't sure whether someone of my background would be a good fit."
Mona changed her mind straight away when she saw a video of CEO, Ajay Banga. He shared how important diversity and inclusion was at Mastercard, but what surprised her the most was he started sharing stories of his personal life which she felt was authentic.
"He said he wanted to drive a winning culture with decency at its core. I immediately applied after watching the video. I felt Mastercard was a place where people of different backgrounds would be included, and therefore could succeed."
"It was fantastic and a dream come true"
Mona was one of the first to experience Mastercard’s 'Relaunch your Career' program. She started in September 2018, and at the time it was a 12-week program. She was excited to secure a permanent position afterwards. But like many new initiatives, it did have some challenges.
What I found challenging was that I was not from the industry or the function. 12-weeks is a short time to learn everything — a new field and new industry and develop relationships with new people. It's a lot to take in. Mastercard has since made it a 16-week program because they took our feedback on board.
While the three-month program did feel intense at first, Mona felt that there was plenty of support available to set her up for success.
"We were part of a structured learning program. We were encouraged to take the time to meet people and ask lots of questions. There were plenty of 'lunch and learn' sessions. We all had access to a career coach which was very helpful."
Networking was encouraged and Mona was able to meet senior leaders who made her feel welcome from the start.
"The senior leaders made time to meet us. I wasn't expecting that reach! I met the Chief Talent Officer, and it made me feel that the program was important and special. It truly sets the tone for the organisation."
When asked what Mona enjoys the most in her role, she says, "Being the Staffing Lead for Asia Pacific, I like how my role is global. The people in the office are very diverse. There's a lot of people moving around, and it does make it very fun."
Advice for anyone wishing to relaunch their career
Since completing the 'Relaunch your Career' program, Mona is excited to mentor and guide fellow 'Relaunchers'.
When asked about what advice she gives to anyone wanting or thinking about returning to work after a career break, she says,
Be fearless and coachable. Whatever job offered to you may not be what you are thinking of. Mastercard is an environment where you can make mistakes — but never let mistakes drag you down. Just learn, be curious and move on.
"Another piece of advice is don't wait for something perfect — just go for it. For example, I was working as a consultant for six months when an opportunity to do staffing for Asia Pacific came up. I gave it a go!"
"I worked for various biopharma companies in marketing and R&D. It was an environment of lab coats. Then I pivoted to Zumba instructing for seven years, and now I've been here at Mastercard for two years. Anything is possible." Mona smiles.
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