A close up of a young woman with dark hair standing at the bottom of a staircase.
Nadine Krakowitzer. Image: Workhuman

The boomerang employee: Returning to a former employer

8 Feb 2023

Workhuman’s Nadine Krakowitzer shares her experience of leaving and subsequently returning to work for an employer and her advice to others.

Sometimes it’s time to move on from an employer, even if you are enjoying working for them. It may be time for a new adventure in another country, it may be time to branch out into other areas or industries or you may just need a change.

Moving on is normal and happens all the time. But sometimes, these employees may end up ‘boomeranging’ – returning to their former employer after a stint somewhere else.

That’s what Nadine Krakowitzer did. She started her journey with Workhuman as a scrum master in 2016 after relocating to Ireland from South Africa. She worked with different teams over several years and was able to progress to the role of engineering manager.

While she loved her time at Workhuman, she was given the opportunity to join another company that needed to standardise their agile process.

“I saw this as a good opportunity to step outside my comfort zone, challenge myself and give to others what I’ve learned over the years,” she said.

However, unlike her previous role at Workhuman, this new opportunity did not involve people leadership, which Krakowitzer soon realised was where her passion lay. “I had an amazing manager at Workhuman when I left who welcomed me back with open arms and I was lucky enough to join my previous team as engineering manager again.”

‘I knew many people would have questions on why I returned’

What’s it like working as an engineering manager?

I’m currently the engineering manager for two teams within platform engineering. Our area has grown significantly over the last few years, and we went from one platform team to multiple across core, integrations and data and it has been amazing being part of this journey. I work with both the longest standing team within the platform group as well as our newest team to have been established.

The biggest highlights for me within my role are centred around the people I work with daily. I feel very proud to see my teams in action as they’re all incredibly smart, proactive, curious and helpful. It’s important for me to focus on building and fostering self-organised, successful and happy teams.

It’s also important for me that everyone on the team is given an opportunity to grow and learn. Some of my proudest moments throughout my career is to see a team member grow into a new role and taking the next step in their career.

Focusing and being supportive of people’s need to grow often means that team members will move into a new role or team that will give them this opportunity. This will always present a challenge, as any change within a team will cause some level of disruption and the team will be shifted back to the forming and storming stages.

Navigating this with the team requires some TLC and clever thinking to rearrange ourselves, hire and onboard new members while ensuring our people, delivery and processes are minimally impacted and the morale within the team is sustained.

Were there any concerns you had about returning to Workhuman?

Although I was excited, I definitely felt apprehension and nerves returning. I knew people would want to hear about my time away and why I felt that the company and new role I moved into, even though an amazing opportunity for others, was not the right fit for me.

I knew many people would have questions on why I returned instead of moving on to somewhere new. I worried that there would be a perception that I had failed or made the wrong decision leaving in the first place.

On my first day back, the environment felt both familiar and new to me. My nerves soon disappeared as I was greeted with many messages and calls of people welcoming me back.

Of course, I knew people had questions and would ask them. But I’m grateful that everyone was understanding of my journey and the decisions I made. I felt welcomed, appreciated and valued, and I knew that I had made the right decision returning.

Part of our culture at Workhuman is to give feedback, reflect and adapt to make ourselves more successful, productive and happy. So, I was not surprised that some processes had changed while I was away, so I had to take some time to learn any new ways of working. I’ve been back now for a few months and feel like I never left.

What advice would you give to someone considering returning to a former employer?

My advice would be to evaluate the factors that you took into account when you resigned initially and consider whether these factors can be overcome, or opportunities can be created when returning to address those.

It’s important to leave a company in good standing, in a respectful way and be thankful for the opportunities you received while you’ve been employed with them. It’s also important that you feel valued and feel like you’ve made a good contribution to the company when you move on.

Being aware of your own core values and the culture you thrive in is an important factor in making your decision and you need to choose a company that aligns with this. For me, this was a big factor when deciding to return to Workhuman and to my previous team. In the end, you need to be happy to go to work each day!

If you feel that your initial concerns can be overcome and you and your previous employer are aligned in terms of values and culture, it’s important to have an honest discussion about the expectations from both sides.

It’s also important to highlight what you’ve learned while employed elsewhere that you can bring to the teams and the company and see this as an opportunity to enhance the processes and the culture.

Lastly, it’s important to be aware that when returning, people will be curious and interested to hear about your time away.

It’s only natural to feel nervous when returning, but take the time to talk to people, understand what has changed and what has stayed the same, and feel confident that when you have considered all factors, had the open and honest conversation, and understood the environment that you will be returning to, that you’ve made the right decision.

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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