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Yuliia’s Story: Returning to Project Management with National Highways


Yuliia Nazarenko, Pilot Delivery Manager, National Highways (2-year break)

I’m a PMI certified Project Manager. In my last role before my career break, I worked as a Senior Project Manager for a Ukrainian company that specialised in energy efficient solutions for residents and businesses.

In 2021, my family moved from Ukraine to the UK. I took a career break to take care of my son who has special needs while we waited for a school place for him. During this time war started in Ukraine, so I also spent time volunteering, helping Ukrainians seek refuge in the UK with paperwork and essential needs.

Alongside my volunteering, I worked on my personal and professional development. I took English classes to increase my tech vocabulary and online project management courses to catch up with the ins and outs of fast-paced work environments. It was always my aim to get back to work as soon as my children were settled at school.

However, despite my extensive experience and impressive skill set nobody wanted to consider my CV because of my career gap. I was desperate to find a new position. I had been looking for a job for more than 6 months when I came across Career Returners. I applied for a position on the National Highways Returner Programme and subsequently secured an interview. Following a successful interview, I was delighted to be offered a role! My manager later told me that even though I had never worked for a company that builds and maintains roads, I showed a range of transferable skills during the interview that would be helpful in the project I was interviewed for.

From Day 1, National Highways and Career Returners provided support every step of the way. National Highways offered various touchpoints to acquaint us with the company’s priorities and values, ensuring a smooth integration. Additionally, Career Returners facilitated regular coaching sessions that proved invaluable in helping us readjust seamlessly to the working environment.

It was difficult at the beginning with my family to manage their existing expectations and set new boundaries for my availability. But at work, maybe because of the amazing team I work with, I had no problems. Everybody was understanding and supportive. No pressure at all. Flexible/hybrid working helped me a lot to organise my personal routine.

I’m still excited about being back at work and I have plans to progress in the future! Anyone thinking about going back to work should consider how it will impact their routine ahead of time. Let your family know in advance that you will be working and might not be around as much as you used to be! Once you’re in your role don’t be afraid to ask questions – there are no wrong questions. If going back to work is something you’re serious about, then don’t give up!