Tanya Lahdelma, a vice president at Morgan Stanley, was keen to restart her career after having children, but she lacked confidence following more than a 10-year break.
Now in her role as Product Manager in Technology, Tanya plays a key role in the delivery of technical projects and services within the investment bank. It was Morgan Stanley's Return to Work programme that provided her with the opportunity and support she needed to re-enter the workforce.
The programme is aimed at men and women with previous experience in finance or professional services, who have been out of the workplace for two or more years.
It offers a 12-week paid internship, during which participants are given meaningful tasks or projects to complete, ample opportunities to network with other return to workers and employees from across the firm, and new skills to learn.
Lahdelma says: “There was a point a few years ago when I knew I was determined to return to work, and I had an idea in my mind that I could be effective and successful, but until you test it you can’t be 100% sure.”
“The 12-week programme enabled me to deliver some value in a supported environment and to prove to myself that I could do it.”
Lahdelma, who is originally from South Africa, graduated from the University of Cape Town with a Bachelor of Commerce degree.
She started her career working as a software developer for a large insurer in South Africa, followed by a post as a consultant at a software consultancy in Namibia.
She later moved to London where she had technology roles at several investment banks, as well as doing a stint in executive search for financial services at a boutique start-up, before taking a break to have her three daughters.
But once she decided to return to work, Lahdelma found the process daunting.
“Most recruiters won’t look at a CV with a gap. It’s hard coming back and having to justify that gap and convince somebody that you still have valuable skills,” she says.
“It is really refreshing that Morgan Stanley recognises that careers are fluid and don’t always follow traditional paths and that they recognise the potential of people who have taken time out.”
She was attracted to Morgan Stanley’s Return to Work programme for a number of reasons, one of which was the fact it has been around since 2014, meaning it is well established and has gone through several iterations.
She also liked the structure of the programme: “You have an opportunity to deliver real value and feel like you are contributing early on.
“The programme provided me with technical training, as well as career coaching, to help me get started,” she says.
Lahdelma was particularly impressed with the support she received from Morgan Stanley during the internship, including having a divisional champion, a business buddy, and a manager, as well as a network of other people on the programme.
“Having a built-in network and being part of a returner cohort that was going through the same experience was a very helpful aspect of the programme. The support structure that was in place during those 12 weeks really helped me.”
The programme also puts an emphasis on learning about Morgan Stanley and offered networking opportunities with senior management.
“During the 12 weeks, we came back together as a cohort on a weekly basis for Managing Director-hosted insight lunches, so we had access to very senior people from various parts of the bank. I was really amazed by how well supported the Return to Work programme is across the whole bank,” she says.
When her internship ended, Lahdelma was employed full-time by Morgan Stanley as a product manager in the Technology organisation.
She is extremely passionate about the programme and is still involved with it, acting as a Return to Work alumni buddy.
“I am able to give objective support and share my experience of the journey. It is tough and I was grateful for the support I received,” she says.
She has also become involved in the bank’s Women in Technology network, which aims to recruit, retain and develop female technologists.
“I have been to external conferences promoting the firm as an employer of choice, and this was a great way to widen my network and build my brand. I also organise regular networking events for internal female technologists to stay connected and collaborate across the organisation,” she says.
Lahdelma is impressed by the inclusive culture Morgan Stanley has and the emphasis it places on diversity.
“The bank really lives its core values, and because I am very much a standards and values person, I feel very at home here.”
“Those values are putting clients first, doing the right thing, leading with exceptional ideas, and giving back. People do actually know these values and live them.”
She also really appreciates the fact that employees are encouraged to give something back, whether through volunteering activities organised by Morgan Stanley or their own individual efforts.
For anyone thinking of returning to work, Lahdelma advises: “Whether you have been out for a long while or a short while, just be confident, believe in yourself and go for it.”
“I would highly recommend Morgan Stanley’s programme. I can’t think of a better investment bank to work for. It really is a fantastic internship,” she says.