Julie Setser, VP Corporate Functions R&D, Innovation Capability & PG Ventures
“I had made an intentional choice to re-enter the workforce at P&G because I wanted the role in my family to move from caretaker to role model. I wanted my 3 children to see me in a role where I was a professional, a leader, and an innovator. In hindsight after seeing my career continue to progress to Vice President, this has been really great for me and my family.”
I began my career in P&G’s Hair Care Organization in 1985. After progressing in my career to Associate Director and experiencing 2 international assignments, I was at a crossroads where my professional and personal workload became very intense. I have 2 daughters and 1 son and decided to leave P&G to focus on raising my children. For the next 5 to 6 years this was my priority. Once my youngest daughter reached Kindergarten, I decided to get back in the professional world through consulting. I learned a lot doing this and honed my consumer empathy and innovation strategy skills. I enjoyed the flexibility of consulting but over time this work started to intensify as well. I decided that if I was going to work this hard, I wanted to be somewhere that my career could continue to develop, and after a call to a former colleague, Procter & Gamble gave me an opportunity at the same level as when I left and with a surrounding team that set me up for success.
MY DAY 1 STORY
I was out of the professional workforce 9 years, but I was coming back with the energy, enthusiasm, and commitment of a new hire. I also had all my previous experience coming with me; both with working in my earlier career and the experience that I gathered through projects during my time away from the professional space.
The consumer hadn’t changed much, and the technology was very familiar to me, so I had the confidence that my skills would be valued. However, the company had changed quite a bit; On my Day 1, I went to an onboarding for experienced new hires. It was a weird experience to me because I quickly learned that I had no idea how P&G was organized. The most difficult part was figuring out the new structure, processes, and tools that had been put in place since I left.
Luckily, I had a great team of people that knew the company well and were incredibly supportive. I was also given a workplan that quickly brought me up to speed and was immediately trusted with task of identifying a solution to a crisis in our business.
MEANINGFUL WORK FROM DAY 1
The crisis stemmed from work that we had initiated on Head & Shoulders. We had received consumer data that the product had lost its superiority in the Philippines. As a result, the business was rapidly declining. This required me to work closely with our teams in Asia and in North American to collaborate effectively. As we worked togethering through this crisis, I really got to know and appreciate the folks in Asia, strengthen connections with my North America team, and learn our processes and systems very quickly. This work enabled us to successfully to turn the product around. This was a high-profile problem that turned to a high-profile solution and gave me an early win with my leadership team. Having the ability to work on a project like this right away gave me the confidence that I could successfully return to the workforce.
CONCERNS ABOUT RE-ENTERING THE WORKFORCE?
My biggest fear coming back was being able to effectively adapt to the professional environment while still having a healthy balance with my family. I had made an intentional choice to re-enter the workforce at P&G because I wanted the role in my family to move from caretaker to Role Model. I wanted my 3 children to see me in a role where I was a professional, a leader, and an innovator. In hindsight after seeing my career continue to progress to Vice President, this has been really great for me and my family.
ADVICE TO RELAUNCH YOUR CAREER WITH P&G
I encourage anyone considering this, to have the courage to take the initial steps to come back to the workplace, learn what the biggest issues are in your field, and have confidence that you are going to be able to solve them along the way. You may have temporarily left the workplace, but your skills and experience haven’t left you. When you return, have a conversation with your manager about your goals and your desire to be successful with an effective work-life balance.
One thing about P&G is that this is a company that requires a high level of commitment and work ethic, so you need to be able to have that expectation going in to be successful. My manager was very supportive and understood my needs but also wanted to challenge me to achieve my professional goals.
EXPECTATIONS OF THE P&G STEM RELAUNCH PROGRAM
There is a lot of talent that has left the workforce because people reached a point in their lives when they need to make a choice. When I made that choice, I didn’t feel like there were many opportunities. This program provides the opportunities for employees to have flexibility and make it possible to re-enter the workforce with a very successful career.
We’re going to be able to tap into talent that we’ve lost, identify diverse and capable talent externally, and create a vision for women and others who are feeling this tension between their professional and personal life to see other options for their career so that it isn’t such an “all or nothing” decision