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Patty Nghiem

Business Development

San Francisco, CA

I strongly believe that building and leveraging your network and support base (at work and at home) is incredibly important.

I’d had a great run. Straight out of college, I went to work at a fast-growing technology company, where I gained invaluable experience by taking on new challenges and new positions every year. I then joined a startup that offered even more growth. I was promoted to vice president before I turned 30, and later I served on the management team for several startups. I took time off between jobs to travel and take classes, but I thrived on finding an exciting new opportunity and jumping back in.

In 2003, I took on a new role: stay-at-home mom. Little did I know this would be my toughest job yet. It was a quite humbling (and often mind-numbing) experience. I had intended to go back to work after my first child was born, but I won the lottery and had twins a year-and-a-half later. Three kids under the age of two—even more mind-numbing. I embraced my time at home, but I kept an eye out for jumping back into my career.

What I underestimated was how difficult that leap would be. In 2010 I brushed off my resume, re-engaged my network and started interviewing. Invariably the question “When did you last work full-time?” would come up, and I could sense the interviewer subtly pushing the eject button. Figuring it might be a tough sell after seven years, I didn’t limit my search to VP-level jobs. However, I was getting routinely rejected (ejected?) for being overqualified for those positions. (“Why would you want to take a step back?”) I went from being easily employable to being undesirable, under-qualified and over-qualified. What a dose of reality!

I came across Sheryl Sandberg’s TED Talk. It was inspiring, though I needed to adapt her advice to my situation:

Sit at the table: Check. Been there, done that – but now how to get back to the table? After all, I wasn’t in the room, the building or even the parking lot!

Make your partner a real partner: Check. My husband was and still is my biggest supporter, but could he really handle 50/50 childcare and housework?

Don’t leave before you leave: Got it. But I already left; how do I get back in?

I realized that I would have to lean in that much more. I doubled-down on re-engaging my network. I took contract jobs and classes to refresh the skills and recent experience needed on my resume. My husband and I arranged our family schedule so that I could start a full-time position immediately without needing any transition time.

The steps I took paid off.  In 2011 I went back to work full-time, and early last year I joined Salesforce.com. I’m also a soccer mom and my husband a basketball dad. It’s challenging at times, but it can be done. I strongly believe that building and leveraging your network and support base (at work and at home) is incredibly important, so it’s great to see the Lean In Community and Salesforce.com teaming up for success.

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