Rachel Escott returned to a career in finance last year after leaving a high-flying job at EY around eight years ago and working closer to home in a number of admin roles in local schools.
Now analytics lead at payment processing company Worldpay, she has rebuilt her confidence and has already been promoted.
Although she only took a few months off work, the experience of doing jobs way below her ability was demoralising and took its toll.
Rachel had worked for Arthur Andersen and then Deloitte for 13 years until 2008, developing tax software and managing integration and automation. She took two lots of maternity leave while there, but felt she missed out on promotion opportunities as a result, which rather demotivated her. So she moved to EY after being headhunted to a role one step up the ladder which involved setting up a new department.
She and her husband, who also worked for Deloitte, had returned on four days a week after the birth of their first child in 2005. “It was quite rare for a man to work four days a week at the time, but we worked very effectively and it all went well. We thought we had it nailed,” says Rachel. “However, we found we were running around like headless chickens and that our lives were going at a hundred miles an hour.”
They had always talked about moving to the countryside and it made sense to do so while the children were in preschool so they started looking in 2008. The economic crash meant it took a year to sell their house. Rachel was working one day from home, but that set-up was being questioned and she knew that it would be even more difficult if the family moved further away. So she and her husband resigned in 2009. The family set up a small holding in Kent with pigs and chickens and tightened their belts. “It was really good. We had lots of time together,” says Rachel. After six months, though, they needed to earn some money so Rachel’s husband went back to work full time and Rachel went down the job centre and started looking for a part-time local role. She didn’t even get an interview for a filing job at a local council because she had failed to show she could work pro-actively. “It was quite demoralising,” she says.
She was keen to do something that contributed to the community and had done voluntary work at a local play group. She went for a job as a part-time secretary in a local school, but didn’t get the job. However, two months later the head teacher rang her to do a job share with a focus on finance. Rachel really enjoyed the varied nature of life in a school. A while later she applied for a job as a business manager at a secondary school. She didn’t get it, but the head teacher recommended that she get a school business management qualification.
So Rachel studied for a diploma in school business management while working on finance issues in two small schools. After receiving her diploma she moved to a bigger primary school as finance officer, but eventually found the job quite frustrating because she knew she was more than capable of doing more senior roles. However, she didn’t want to take on a full-time role in a secondary school and end up working in the school holidays. It didn’t make much sense given she had left a very well paid job in order to have more time with her children.
Her frustration reached its peak when the headteacher of a school she had worked at previously rang her about an interim post. She asked to do it as a consultant so she could set up her own business. She then built up work in other schools which meant she was bringing in more money.
Around two years ago, she went to a wedding with her husband and one of his work colleagues said “your husband tells me you are cleverer than him. Why are you the one who has given up your career?”. “He made me think,” says Rachel. “I was quite lonely and bored. My work was not stretching me in any way. I started to think about what I needed in life. I started to think what kind of role model I was being for my daughter. Money has never been my motivator. I just wanted to be recognised for what I can do,” she says.
She realised she wanted her career back in London. A friend who had been on a returner programme suggested she look into one. Rachel said she had been overwhelmed at the thought of having to find her own way back in and a returner programme seemed a good way to focus her efforts.
She went on an introductory returner programme held by an international bank. No-one who spoke on the panel was working part time, though, so she felt it was not flexible enough for her. Then she got a place on the Worldpay returner programme with 34 other returners. Immediately she felt it was a good fit for her. She became excited at a session involving data analytics. “I felt like it clicked. I felt this was what I wanted to do,” she says.
After the one-day workshop last February – as part of Worldplay’s first returner programme – Rachel was offered a relatively junior role, starting in April and received a brief induction as well as six months of executive coaching which proved invaluable.
She doesn’t regret starting on a more junior level and says it has helped her to know the day-to-day job better and understand the motivations of her “brilliant” younger colleagues.
She also decided to work full time and buy extra holidays through Worldpay’s holiday scheme. She felt this would mean she and her husband would share the domestic chores more equally since there was a danger if she worked part time that she would still have to do everything. Rachel was promoted within six months of starting the job.
Earlier in the year, her daughter was having problems after moving to secondary school. Rachel offered to stop working to support her. Her daughter said no. She could see Rachel was so much happier after returning to her career. In the event Worldpay has given her the flexibility she needs to support her daughter.
Rachel says her confidence has grown hugely since she returned, to the extent that she asked for promotion and also to be in her department’s leadership group.
She says: “I felt frustrated that I allowed myself not to get promoted on my maternity leave. I regretted that I didn’t say anything or challenge it. I felt I had a new confidence and that I wasn’t going to please others any more. I knew what I wanted.” She has started mentoring other women and men. “I feel really empowered,” she says. “I know that I have life skills from having had children and I believe I have something to contribute.”