From Career Break to Engineering Project Manager in 12 Weeks — My Best Advice for Returning to Work

Sponsored by Trane Technologies

Photo Courtesy of Trane Technologies.

Photo Courtesy of Trane Technologies.

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May 18, 2024 at 6:50AM UTC

After taking a year-long career break, Patty Christgau has become senior project manager for Trane Technologies’ Commercial HVAC business. She’s grown a lot through the company’s robust ReLaunch program, thanks to the support of her mentors and sponsor. And she’s shared some of what she’s learned with us.

Trane Technologies is Hiring! Browse Opportunities.

Keep reading for Christgau’s insights into returning to work after a break, achieving a healthy work-life balance and getting into a routine to boost both health and job performance.

How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?

I’ve been in this role for about a year and a half. Before this role, I was part of Trane Technologies’ ReLaunch program — a 12-week, paid professional returnship opportunity for engineers who have stepped away from their careers and are ready to go back to work in their field.

Prior to joining Trane Technologies, I took some time off work to attend to personal matters. And, before that, I’d held technical roles designing controls for nuclear power plants’ safety systems and in engineering project management.

How long was your career break, and what was it like to return to work?

I had stepped away from my career for about a year, and I was excited to get back to it. Onboarding through the ReLaunch program was unique because of all the support I received. I had mentors and a sponsor checking in on me and making sure I was getting the support I needed. The program is amazing and made a big difference for my career.

How is this support reflective of the overall culture at Trane Technologies?

Trane Technologies has a very diverse and inclusive culture, and its leaders walk the talk. They do all the things they say they’re going to do — like support me through the ReLaunch program — and I feel supported not just as an employee, but also as a person.

Why do you think Trane Technologies is a particularly great place to work?

Trane Technologies is a great place to work for many reasons, but at the top of the list for me is the way the company cares about its people. There is so much opportunity for career development and training. Plus, the health programs are top-notch. 

At our headquarters in Davidson, North Carolina, we have a beautiful lake with walking trails on campus, and we enjoy the flexibility to get outside for breaks or hold meetings while we walk. The company cares about our health, our well-being, and our work-life balance. 

What kinds of boundaries do you set to maintain work-life balance?

I am very organized by nature, and I love organizing. I try to proactively organize my time, as well, so I can get my work done in a timely way and still have time for myself at the end of the day. Time management is very important for achieving work-life balance. 

Being flexible is also important. The nature of project management requires it because there are phases where I’m really busy and working more hours, and phases when things slow down a bit. I really enjoy the variability because I can achieve work-life balance, and I’m never bored at work. 

How has your experience been transitioning to working from home during the COVID-19 crisis? What types of changes have you made to your routine?

Although I miss seeing my colleagues in person, I feel more productive when I work from home. It’s quieter and I can concentrate better. 

Working from home has made it easier for me to exercise more consistently in the morning, which gives me an energy boost and helps me feel good all day long. When I was commuting to the office before COVID-19, I had to wake up very early to exercise in the morning and get ready for work in time – or I’d try to exercise in the evening, but that was tough because sometimes I’d feel tired after work.

I’m also eating more healthfully because I have more time to cook. All of these changes make me feel happier and less stressed.

What’s your #1 tip for women who are returning to work after a career break?

Don’t feel insecure, and don’t hesitate. Sometimes, when you’ve been away from work for a time, you can lose your confidence. But know that you can do it — you can go back to work. Grab every opportunity you have.


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