Best for returners

Deepa Parantaman talks to workingmums.co.uk about her experience of returning to work after a career break and how her employer Lloyds Banking Group supported her return and time off for cancer treatment.

 

Deepa Parantaman not only came back after a career break, but during her returner programme she was diagnosed with cancer and had to take time out. Her employer, Lloyds Banking Group, winner of this year’s WM People Best for Returners Award, supported her throughout, knowing all the valuable experience she brought. “They have always looked at me as the person I am and for the skills I bring,” says Deepa.

Her returner story began after she took over five years out of her career to focus on her two children, now aged 10 and 12. When she was ready to return she looked into returner programmes.

Deepa’s background before her break was in project management and consultancy in the IT and telecommunications sectors. She has worked for IBM, Accenture and Vodafone.

Deepa narrowed down her search to two returner programmes, including Lloyds Banking Group’s.  She took part in an introductory call with Lloyds Banking Group and was impressed by how they kept in touch throughout the application process and sought her feedback. She also liked how clear they were about what they expected from her. “It ticked all the boxes for me,” she says. “I felt like they really cared about getting returners back to work.” 

She adds that Lloyds Banking Group seemed to understand what it was like to be coming back to work after years out – the lack of confidence about using new tech and the forgetting of corporate etiquette. “They really put us at our ease,” she says. The returners who applied were a good mix in terms of gender, ethnicity and backgrounds. “There was a definite sense of feeling that it was ok to take a break and that your career didn’t have to come to a grinding halt. The break was a comma, not a full-stop,” says Deepa.

Cancer

She was accepted on the 16-week programme and started in September 2021, working online during the pandemic. Deepa really loves the Retail Transformation team she joined and stayed with them as a project manager until very recently. However, eight months into her role she was diagnosed with cancer and ended up having surgery and radiotherapy. She says Lloyds could have chosen to drop her, but instead her team supported her throughout. “They told me to focus on my health and family and that they would take care of the rest,” she says. After four months she felt ready to come back to work. 

The treatment left her with a health condition requiring ongoing management and Lloyds has provided extra resources to help her, including an ergonomic chair, headphones and specialist microphones. She also works flexibly so she can have time for ongoing therapies as part of her treatment plan.

On the day she received the news of her diagnosis, Deepa had been offered a new role. It was not the right time for her, but she felt the offer showed her that her career was not being held back by being a returner or by working part time. Deepa has worked four days a week from the beginning of her time with Lloyds and had travelled to the office two days a week, which involved up to four hours driving per day. Because of her health condition she now works one day a week in the office. 

I sometimes feel like the face of Lloyds Banking Group Returners,” Deepa laughs. Her story has been shared internally and externally, and has inspired colleagues and other returners alike. She has maintained contact with her returner cohort, takes part in returner events and is hoping to be a returner buddy moving forward. “It helps to keep up the momentum,” she says. For Deepa returning after a career break is like riding a bike again. You’re a bit wobbly at first, but your experience is embedded in your brain. She says: “You just need TLC and the rekindling of your confidence.”



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