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Common Themes from Female Software Developers Returning to Work After Maternity Leave

Kashasa Barreto-Inman

Returning to work after a long break is never an easy thing to do, especially when you have a new human being to worry about. Having recently worked with several female software developers returning from maternity leave, I noticed a few trends in terms of the questions that were asked as well as the concerns that existed before, during and after the interview process. I wanted to write a short article detailing that journey. It is important to be aware that this is only from a few female developers’ perspective and is by no means a generalist claim for all female developers. If you’ve returned to work from maternity leave or helped someone in that position, I would love to hear from you! My contact details are at the bottom of the article. 

The first thing, and what I believe to be the most important, is the decision that you’re ready to go back to work. One of the ladies I worked with said this was the third time she was looking for a role after returning to maternity leave because she found that each time she went through the process and interviews, she had to stop because she didn’t feel ready. 

The most important thing here is to find out the reasons behind your decision, it may seem as prying but these reasons are crucial not only to ensure that this is the right decision for yourself but to help you long-term. Being a consultant also has the responsibility of ensuring that the work you do is in the person’s best interest and you can only do this if you know what they really want. 

Once those have been clarified in your mind, I would recommend writing it down or telling someone important, so that later down the line when you start questioning yourself you can refer back to the reasons for making your decision. 

NOTE: This is long before you even start looking at the market. There will always be opportunities in the market and most of the time, as we’ve experienced, many of the roles we have worked on are not actively advertised by companies. However, your decision should not be based on what is in the market, or what you believe to be there- it should be about when you are ready. 

Then it comes to updating your resume to show the break in the work. Many times, I’m surprised that maternity leave won’t be mentioned anywhere in the CV, when initially looking at the CV or LinkedIn profile without speaking with the individual, it is difficult to see why they haven’t worked for months/years. If a consultant/hiring manager then decides to ring or drop you a message, which I know many hiring managers and clients are guilty of not taking the time to do, you will lose out on this opportunity. Something as simple as detailing your reason for a career break cloud increase your opportunities. 

Normally, a CV is reviewed in less than one minute, the reason for the break in professional work needs to be clear as day. Why risk eliminating yourself from the game without even being able to bat.  We provide CV editing and tailoring for these reasons.  

Now, technology is changing at a rapid rate therefore it’s important to keep up to date on the tech. My candidates told me they did this by reading tech news, articles on development and changes in programming languages, new concepts, etc. Hence, they could keep up with the rest of the work, they were not isolated even though they were not actively working, and it didn’t take much time to brush up on skills before attending any interviews. 

Even half an hour a day whenever they found time. There are various stages in an interview, many of which include coding exercises and technical tests, so it’s important to know your basics and continue practicing occasionally to makes things easier when you return to work. 

Now you’ve started speaking to people, sent out your CV and started to get requests. You weigh up your opportunities and begin to start the interview process. The next stage that tends to come along is making sure the environment you leave your child in is safe for them. An environment where they can adjust, if you are away for a few hours a day and then gradually increase this, slowly setting up a routine and helping your child get used to you being away. Really, it’s about you getting used to being away from them! 

You have begun to win half of the battle once you and your child being to get adjusted. This is not to say you won’t question your decision, there won’t be tantrums and times you will have to reschedule interviews, do coding tests late at night and have your child crying in the background of a telephone interview, but you will all get used to these changes. 

Many of the women I have been working with said they thought employers might be hesitant to hire new mothers because they feel as they not be able to devote as much time to meet critical deadlines. The relationships we build here at Harrington Starr ensure that we know our clients, their motivations to hire, the culture and what it’s going to be like when you work there. Whilst there may be some companies that demand a lot of time out of their employees, the majority of our clients understand your situation and mold the role to you- rather than the other way around. 

My candidates were also concerned about the commuting time, if it was more than an hour then it wasn’t feasible for them, kids get sick, you’ll have parent teacher meetings- there are different things you will have to worry about and working from home/flexible working was a theme that was really important. 

In conclusion, I would say the important features to take from this are: 

  • Making the decision to return to work and your reasons behind it 
  • Mentioning Maternity Break on your CV/LinkedIn 
  • Keeping up to date on technology 
  • Setting the environment for you and your child to get used to you being away for extended periods of time 
  • Flexibility of your role 

The struggle never stops and there will always be challenges but that is what we are here for. I’d really love to hear about the ways that companies help individuals transition back into a full-time role after an extended maternity break.