Returning to work after maternity leave

The story of a Salesforce Implementation Consultant

For most women, returning to work after maternity leave can be a stressful balancing act. We spoke to Baran Fesharaki, a Salesforce Implementation Consultant and mother of two, to share her experience, thoughts and advice for new mothers coming back into the workplace. This is what she told us.


How did you find yourself following in IT career and a career in Salesforce at that?

It came as a result of a career change, which then changed again! I did my bachelors’ degree in Computer Science specializing in databases, followed by a masters’ in Business Administration here in the UK.

When I finished my studies, an opportunity came up to join a new TV channel for the BBC World Service based in London. It was a very interesting project; it would be the first Farsi speaking channel in England. I joined and worked as a TV producer for about seven years. Unfortunately due to the political unrest in the Middle East, travelling to Iran to see family and friends became increasingly difficult, and working for a British news agency as a producer was not viewed favorably.

It was for this reason I decided to leave my job at BBC and, since my studies were in Computer Science, it made sense to try and reboot my career in IT. However, being away from this field for so long, and with no relevant work experience, I was a bit lost. I reached out to friends from my University for guidance and two of them who at the time were working for Salesforce in Italy, suggested that Salesforce could be a good entry point for me as it required no coding and it offered a lot of opportunity for career development.

I  followed their advice and started learning Salesforce which soon helped me land a role as a junior consultant with a small Salesforce consultancy. I continued studying, developing my skills, getting certifications and progressing my career in Salesforce, and in July 2017 I joined makepositive which was already established and had a very good reputation in the Salesforce space.

At the same time you were investing in developing your skills and your career, you also had two beautiful children! How easy is it to balance your personal and professional life?

It isn’t! But what I say to myself is, since so many other women are able to manage it, then so will I!

Since I joined makepositive I was blessed with two wonderful kids, so I had two maternity leaves which were also quite close together; I actually came back from the second one a few weeks ago. So as you can imaging the past 2-3 years have been quite intense for me.

After I had my first child, I was quite stressed about how I was going to catch up with work as we all know how fast things progress in IT. I was hesitant to get back into the daily work routine and studied a lot to try and fill in the gaps.

Now, coming back to work from my second maternity leave I have decided to jump! The more hesitant you are the more difficult it is to get involved and also people tend to forget about you after you’ve been gone for 10-12 months. It’s a fast paced environment and you need to really try to push and make yourself present again and, in a sense, remind them of your skills and capabilities. So this time, I have joined a project as soon as I was back to work, and the team has been brilliant to onboard me and enable me on the client and the requirements.

What do you like the most about your job?

When I look at job satisfaction, for me there are two key components; the role itself and the company I work for. With respect to my role as a Salesforce Implementation Consultant, I love it because it’s very diverse and you get to work with different products, people and companies.

At makepositive in particular, I also appreciate the opportunity I have to expand my skills and, for example, work with sales taking on a presales role, or hone my technical capabilities becoming almost a technical consultant.

Another advantage I find in my role as an implementation consultant is the options you have to develop your career in different areas. For example, you can become a project manager, a solution architect, a presales consultant, or you might decide to continue your career on the client side.

What challenges do you see as a woman in IT?

For me the main challenge I see for women not just in IT but in any industry, comes with maternity. It’s not just having to be away from work for a period of time, potentially slowing down your career progression. It’s also the changes you undergo -your body changes, your mentality changes, you change. And when you return to work from maternity leave, you have to deal with the guilt of being away from your child, as well as the practicalities like childcare.

What I wish is that there was more awareness around that and for women to talk about these challenges, because we need to push ourselves more. And I also feel there should be more support not only from the companies but from the society as a whole.

What advice would you give to new mothers that come back to work?

Speak up! Don’t keep it to yourself. Connect with other women who came back to work after giving birth, share your thoughts and ask for help and advice.

Regarding concerns about slowing down your career, I prefer to look at this time in the grand scheme of things. If you think about it, it’s just one or two years within a possible career span of 20 or 30 years, which is nothing really. And I personally think that the life experience you gain from becoming a mom can add significant value to your professional development.

One final thing is the work environment you are coming back to. I feel very fortunate because makepositive really cares about people and supports me both as a professional but also as a mother. Although I’ve been away for two almost consecutive years, I really feel I am part of the team and there is always someone to help me when I need it.

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