Sonu Ratra, Co-Founder & President of Akraya Inc. on her personal journey, and why she’s so passionate about building the “Women Back to Work” program as one of the industry’s best.
“Many years ago, someone recognized my potential and enabled me to return to workforce. This break changed my life and allowed me to get back on my career path. I am passionate about bringing more women back into the workforce. Through the “Women Back to Work” initiative, powered by Akraya Inc., I hope to see more women empowered by leading them towards employers who are willing to give them a second chance while also contributing to their gender diversity goals.”
A beautiful baby born six weeks early! I was intimidated and overwhelmed by the fact that I was the one responsible for this tiny little person. I wasn't going to let anything get in the way of giving her my full attention.
My maternity leave near over, I took her to a meeting with my then manager. It didn't go well. She hollered, tried wiggling out of her baby seat and screamed at the top of her lungs. I was mortified and the decision was made. I decided to spend a couple years at home to raise her. So I resigned, leaving a job with top-of-the-line financial rewards, a great potential for growth, and some amazing colleagues. I walked away from it all.
I knew I was going to stay home with my daughter for as long as it took. Little did I know that that when I decided to return to the workforce, the doors would shut. I was tired of applying to roles where employers didn't see me as an active contributor and passed up my resume for other qualified candidates. The fact that I was the best performing employee, graduated from a top university, or was recognized with the company President’s Award two years in a row didn’t seem relevant.
My story probably sounds very familiar. How many women have taken these breaks to care and raise children or support an ailing parent? We might have been laid off work or took a sabbatical to enrich our lives. At that time, it didn't register that by doing so, we were diminishing our chances of going back into the workforce.
Over the years, we as hiring managers, recruiters, talent acquisition experts who are responsible for hiring the best and the brightest are sometimes wary of tapping into this pool of highly talented, qualified women. When we see a resume with a gap of a few years, we assume this individual won't fit the bill or won't be able to hit the ground running. We often reject before we can review.
Look around us, these women happen to be our neighbors, school moms, a family member or an ex-colleague. These are professional, highly talented, successful women who have been a part of the corporate world and are remarkable in every sense of the word. They have led teams, churned out code, and were responsible for some amazing products and services. Now they run a PTA, lead school project teams and juggle multiple roles and projects.
Wouldn’t these multi-tasking talented women be an asset to every company?
I urge you to have a cup of coffee with them, host them for an informational meeting, share job leads, mentor them and refer them to your network including your managers and your employers. If you are technical, offer to help update their technology skills. They don’t need to be a part of a separate quota. All things being equal on the qualification and skill levels, they deserve a chance. Be their advocate, mentor, and advisor!
I have much gratitude towards the manager who was willing to interview me, spent an hour with me and offered me my job after two years of my break. He didn't reject me looking at my paper resume. Instead, he decided to make that decision after meeting with me, getting to know my background, my expertise and the value I could bring to the role.
The Women Back to Work program is a cause that is personal to so many of us. The purpose of WBW is to connect talented, experienced, highly skilled, professional women to employers who recognize this talent. The program intends to be Bay Area’s most successful reentry program. However, we can’t do this alone. This is a collective cause for all of us. It’s an opportunity for those who want to contribute to empowering women by bringing them back into the workforce.
Today, I’m eternally grateful for that one opportunity, to the hiring manager and his decision to give me a second chance. It made a significant impact on my life and career. Women trying to reenter the workforce deserve an opportunity and a second chance.
I hope each of you will join the Women Back to Work cause.
About Sonu Ratra:
Sonu is the Co-Founder of Akraya Inc., a woman-led and minority owned business, which has been championing the cause of women since its inception. Akraya has enabled a large number of women to return to the workforce at various customer locations, through its wide network. The effort continues to grow by leaps and bounds through the WBW program, launched with the goal of becoming a leading program for women returnees.