Qualified professionals who took an extended break find a warm welcome—and growth opportunities—through Morgan Stanley’s Return to Work program in India.
After living and working for over five years in London, Saloni Kochhar and her family decided to return to India in 2011. Kochhar, then a project manager at a large multinational company, assumed that she could continue to grow her career.
Back in Mumbai, however, she encountered unexpected challenges because she had two young daughters to take care of at home; she ultimately decided to pause her career.
Seven years flew by. With both her girls in school full time, Kochhar felt eager to resume her professional career. She pursued openings at several different companies, but discovered that it was almost impossible to attract the attention of hiring managers. “In India, it’s very difficult to get a job if you have a gap in your career,” Kochhar says. “I had more than 10 years of experience, but I didn’t know if it would ‘count,’ or if I’d have to start my career over from the very beginning. I kept wondering: Do I have to start from scratch?”
Then Kochhar found Morgan Stanley’s Return to Work program, a 12-week paid internship designed for those who have taken a career break of two years or more and are looking to return to their chosen profession. When Kochhar completed her internship in 2019, she was offered a permanent role as the Chief Operating Officer of the Risk Management team in Mumbai.
Huge Pool of Untapped Talent
Launched in New York in 2014, the gender-diverse program now covers nine of our major global offices. In India, the program started with 10 female interns; fast-forward to 2020 and the cohort of 45 just completed the first fully virtual program, that included three male interns.
More than 70% of the interns in India, since inception, have gone on to accept full-time roles at the firm. For the past two years, the program has been recognized with the Top 5 Most Innovative Practices - Women Returnee Programs Award, conferred by Jobs4Her.
“There’s a huge pool of talent with great experience, often not using their skills,” says Rajat Mathur, Head of Human Resources at Morgan Stanley India. “The Return to Work program taps into that talent. We’ve had enormous success with individuals who have gone through the program, so much so that our businesses across the board—from Operations and Technology to Finance and Risk—are asking to increase the number of program interns, with the potential for even more participants to join our businesses full-time.”
Many Return to Work interns soon realize that their profession has evolved during their time away. To address this, the firm offers participants a variety of opportunities to brush up on existing skills and to learn new ones. On-the-job training at Morgan Stanley helped Kavery Subaiah, a Senior Manager in Wealth Management Technology, get up to speed on new developments in her field, which she missed during the 10 years she spent caring for her two children.
For example, Subaiah sharpened her Agile software development skills by taking a firm-sponored course, as well as learning from her colleagues, a collaborative effort at the core of firm culture.
“The firm gives you support and training to make sure you understand the platforms we’re using now,” says Subaiah. “There’s a lot of hand-holding in the initial weeks to help you learn what you need to be successful in your role.” Subaiah, who completed the program in 2019, now manages project teams tasked with creating new dashboards for U.S.-based financial advisors.
The Challenge to Grow
Michelle Dalal, an alumna of the inaugural Return to Work class in India, marvels at how quickly she was able to grow her career. Within two years of starting full time at Morgan Stanley, she advanced from an Associate to a Director within Operations. She now manages a team of 14 whose primary focus is managing risks and controls, automating manual processes and creating efficiencies.
Many of these projects have global impact. Recently, Dalal’s team was asked to analyze an external vendor’s data feed of prices for 60,000 fixed-income securities. She led the successful effort to review the feed for accuracy before adoption. Now, colleagues around the world use that feed to determine the market value of those securities at the end of each trading day. “My day-to-day is working with data, problem-solving and tackling strategic initiatives, which I find thrilling,” Dalal says. “Every day there are new challenges.”
As with many other participants, family priorities drove Dalal’s decision to detour from her career path. In her case, she wanted to spend time with, and care for, her newborn daughter. As her daughter approached her second birthday, Dalal felt the tug of her own career aspirations. Yet the self-described former workaholic, who was accustomed to 16- to 18-hour days at her previous role with another global bank, made a promise to herself and to her daughter: This time around, a healthy work-life balance was a priority.
Focus on Flexibility and Support
“You need to strike that balance, and it comes down to work flexibility,” Dalal says. “Work flexibility is the key to career growth, along with a supportive environment. At Morgan Stanley, you have both.”
That’s by design, says HR Head Mathur. “Flexibility makes a huge difference and is an integral part of how we make people feel comfortable with the decision to return to work.”
Just as important, the program itself has created a network of support for its alumni. Subaiah, for one, finds herself in “constant touch” with her cohort and feels so passionate about the benefits of the Return to Work program that she joined the team that helps drive the initiative within the Technology division, creating opportunities for alumni to connect and learn from one another’s experiences.
A common realization, Subaiah says, is that their years away from the corporate world often provide them with unique insight on how to navigate responsibilities at work. “I now see that the skills I developed while I was away and raising my children have helped me so much,” Subaiah says. “I’m an expert in multitasking, and I’m far better at handling pressure than I was before. I’m a much more mature person than I was 10 years ago.”