A Career Break isn’t a Career Ender; Why Women Love This Career Re-Launcher Program

Sponsored by General Motors

Kristen Siepker and Reta Arafat

Photos courtesy of General Motors.

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At General Motors, they know that returning to the office after a career break can be a daunting task. That’s why they launched their Take 2 Career Re-launcher Program to provide support and training for experienced professionals with an employment break of at least two years in the field and who have accepted a full-time offer with GM.

This 12 week re-entry program helps participants to effectively balance work responsibilities while accessing relevant training, professional development opportunities, company-wide networking and personalized mentoring/coaching that can help them succeed in their return to the workforce.

And, for GM as a whole, programs like these help them with their goal of becoming the most inclusive company in the world, by building a diverse workforce necessary to help solve the world’s transportation challenges.

Two of the many re-launchers who have found success through the program are Kristen Siepker, Finance Manager, and Reta Arafat, Active Safety Lead System Validation Engineer.

Siepker’s career began at another automotive company, and she transitioned to Visteon during the automotive components’ spinoff. Her work there started in manufacturing in a components plant before she transitioned to the central manufacturing staff and spent time in Corporate Development working on M&A and Corporate Alliance activities. As for Arafat, her career also began within the automotive industry, where she joined a rotational Institute of Engineering program after completing three internships across various departments. Following this, she was an Instrument Cluster DRE. 

Eventually, like many others, both women decided to take a break from the workforce due to family obligations and taking care of their children. However, these career pauses came to an end when Arafat and Siepker found out about the Take 2 Career Re-launcher Program. 

But how did they find out about the re-launcher program? What happened after they joined, and how did it help them grow their skills and excel in their careers? Find out the answers to these questions and more below!

Tell us a bit about your current role. What are your priorities, and what about the role excites you most?

Siepker: My team tracks global engineering resource requirements by vehicle program. We have an exciting role in critical program decisions for current and future vehicles.

Arafat: I write test procedures for active safety features. I work with the test tools team, as well as performance and feature validation engineers to verify the proper tools and facility to be able to perform the test in a safe and efficient way.

Tell us about your participation in the General Motors Take 2 Career Re-launcher Program. How did you first hear about it? 

Siepker: I had been looking at experienced internships to re-enter the professional workforce. It was my daughter, an engineer at GM, who told me that the Take 2 program had expanded to include finance professionals.

Arafat: I was volunteering at church, where another volunteer who worked at GM shared the Take 2 information with me. He knew that I was looking to get back in the industry and thought it was a perfect program for me. He was new to GM at the time and emphasized how happy he was with his transition to the company.

Tell us about your experience in the Take 2 Career Re-launcher Program. How do you think it prepared you to return to full-time work? 

Siepker: The Take 2 program provided the foundation to be successful as a full-time employee through technical skill training, professional development, mentoring and networking.

Arafat: Starting this program with others who were in the same situation was very comforting to me. It was understood that we were all joining after a long career break, some more than others. My group at the time in wiring was very helpful, patient and supportive.

What about your experience made you want to join GM as a full-time employee?

Arafat: I was always impressed with GM’s products; my first car was a Pontiac Grand Am after all. After I joined GM, the combination of the company's work ethics, vision, values and integrity is why I am still here.

Have you taken advantage of any additional professional development programs during your time at GM? If so, which ones? 

Siepker: Since joining GM full-time, I have been involved in Employee Engagement Committees, DEI initiatives, recruiting and the Finance Take 2 program.

Arafat: I am part of the GM Women Employee Resource Group. This group is amazing at providing speakers, workshops and other programs to aid in professional development. Technical career path, fireside chats and presenting with confidence are examples of a few classes that I’ve participated in. 

Have you had a mentor/sponsor, and how did you wind up working with one? 

Siepker: Initially, executive and peer mentors were assigned as part of the Take 2 internship.  However, over time, I expanded my network to include informal mentors who graciously and willingly took the extra time to help me navigate my professional development and career.

Arafat: I was assigned a mentor who had been through the Take 2 program and could help guide me through the process. We built a nice relationship and kept in touch even after the rotation ended. I have such a positive relationship with my current Engineering Group Manager that I consider him a mentor. He always asks and checks if I am interested in making changes, whether it’s within the department or outside the organization. He guides me in understanding my strengths and helps me improve on my weaknesses. 

How else does your company support and/or empower you to grow your career? 

Siepker: The culture at General Motors is guided by the GM Behaviors, which provide the foundation to empower each team member to grow and develop.

Arafat: GM encourages change. They have tools that help me develop and tools that match my skills and experience to jobs and positions that are available throughout the company. They encourage mentoring, continued learning and development.

What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received? 

Siepker: Always be curious!  Push yourself to feel uncomfortable; it is in this space you will learn the most.

Arafat: The best advice I ever received (which I continue to offer to others) is: “Don’t ever think you are not good enough for a job, a position or even switching career paths”. The fear of not being good enough will hold you back. Applying to the Take 2 internship four years ago was scary, but I am so thankful now that I did.


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