Fatima Loumaini joins Collective Health under our new returnship program, The Path Forward. She discusses how it feels to re-enter the workforce and the importance of normalizing career breaks for women.
Fatima Loumaini is part of The Path Forward, our new returnships program. She works as a product manager in reporting & analytics on our Product Development team. In honor of Women’s History Month, and coupled with the overwhelming number of women leaving the workforce, we sat down with Fatima to discuss her role, the returnship, and what she thinks it will take to retain and attract women back into the workforce.
Collective Health’s return to work program, in partnership with The Path Forward, is a 16-week paid returnship for experienced professionals re-entering the workforce after taking time off for caregiving. The program is open to individuals who have at least five years of professional experience and have been out of the paid workforce for at least two years to focus on caring for a child or other dependent. If you meet these criteria, we welcome you to apply.
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Meet Fatima, Product Manager and Returner
We must normalize career breaks. It can be very frightening for women to take them.
I was born and raised in Morocco. I left when I was 18 years old to go to college in Canada, where I studied electrical engineering and Actuarial sciences. After I graduated, I started working as an actuarial analyst for a retirement benefit TPA in Montreal, Canada.
I eventually moved into more business analysis/ program management roles, where I focused on driving digital transformation in the business by moving all our processes to a Customer relationship management system (CRM) in liaison with an in-house benefit calculation system and employer portals. It required wearing different hats and that was my first experience in insurance tech.
We moved to Seattle, WA in 2016 with my family for my husband’s job. I worked as an external Consultant at Microsoft on various data analysis projects. In 2019, I took a maternity break and we moved recently to the Bay Area.
How did you learn about Collective Health’s returnship program?
I listen to Harvard Business Review’s IdeaCast— it’s a podcast. They talk about various subjects, and one was about a company that does returnships. That’s where I first learned the term ‘returnships,’ and when I researched returnship opportunities in the Bay Area, I came across Collective Health.
When I was looking at the returnship job description, I remember thinking, I have this background in insurance tech, but I am not sure about the product part of the role because my previous experience was in business analysis/program management. In the job description, there is a section that specifically talks about imposter syndrome, and it states that if you feel that this role is not for you, just tell us, why would you be a fit? I applied, and explained why. And two weeks later, I got the job.
Why did you choose Collective Health over other opportunities?
I always had this secret dream of working for a healthcare startup., I like being challenged and being pushed outside of my comfort zone as much as possible. Finding a returnship program at a company that is challenging the status quo of healthcare was a dream come true. I also really aligned with their values of empathy, authenticity and curiosity. I feel like those values are a core component of who I am and what I believe in.
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Often, leaving work is not a choice
I never wanted to leave the workforce. I had a very complicated pregnancy, so I was on bedrest for most of it, and then COVID-19 hit. Instead of doing what I did with my first pregnancy, where I took a six-month break and went back to work full-time, I found myself at home for two-and-a-half years.
I have to be honest, I don’t even remember all of that time at home, because every day felt the same. When the number of COVID-19 cases eventually went down a little, I started looking for jobs.
How can employers support women returning to the workforce?
This is my favorite question because I’m very passionate about it. I would say the number one thing we must do is normalize career breaks. It can be very frightening for women to take them. For example, when I was taking my career break after having kids, I had two questions: How much time is OK for me to take? And the second question was, how would this break look on my resume?
The second part of this is support. Having this returnship program is incredible, because it’s a soft transition. Right now, I’m learning, and while I know my team has treated me like a true product manager from day one, at the same time, they know that I’m part of this 16-week program, where I’m learning new skills and relearning how to be comfortable at work. It feels great to be on a returnship versus starting from day one on a full-time position.
The final part with retaining women for me is one word— flexibility. If we want to keep women working, we have to trust them on how they manage their time and their responsibilities, instead of forcing them into the eight to five model that we had in the past.
How is a returnship different from a full-time job?
You know when you go for a vacation for a week and you come back to work, you are a little lost? So imagine being away from work for months, and for a lot of that time, you aren’t sleeping much.
With the returnship program, the expectations about returning to work are different. The type of work I do is the same, but I have a lot more support from my manager who is an ally and honestly the best manager I have ever had.
We also have support from Path Forward, a non profit organization that Collective health partnered with, they conduct weekly workshops to help us stay engaged, provide us with tips on how to set expectations at home and at work, how to deal with stress..
We have a lot of support during this transition and I think it is the main differentiator. We also have our own support group between the other five returners at Collective Health, we check in weekly to share our experience and help each other throughout the program.
What are you focusing on in your role as a product manager?
Right now I’m working on market research where I’m taking an in-depth look at our competitors from the reporting and analytics landscape. We want to develop product opportunities, and as we are driving growth, we want to understand our customers and competitors. I’m also involved in various data integrity projects.
How would you describe your experience at Collective Health so far?
I’ve been outside of the workforce for two-and-a-half years, right now I’m relearning how to be in the workforce again. This returnship is opening the door for me, it’s helping me to be more confident and comfortable in my job. And the thing is, I’m learning every day. The healthcare industry is fascinating and complicated.
What’s a fun fact about you?
I have acrophobia and did skydiving for my thirtieth birthday, crazy right? Planning to visit an insectarium at the end of the next decade to get rid of arachnophobia.