When Erica Bowman left her career in financial services to become a stay-at-home mother, she understood the challenges ahead. Bowman in that time filed for divorce and became a single parent with a baby and knew that she would need to recommit to full-time work, both for the financial stability and as a role model to her young daughter.
She also knew finding success again in the high-powered world of asset management wasn’t a given. But she wasn’t about to let that daunt her. “I’ve been working since I was 14 years old,” says this first-generation daughter of a Korean immigrant and who was also the first in her family to go to college. “Haven taken a career break and, given my circumstances, I was resolved to return to work, both for me and for my daughter.”
Deciding to Leave…and to Return
Bowman began her career in 2006 at a large financial services firm, eventually relocating to London to work in global institutional client strategy within asset management. She then worked in hedge funds before leaving the corporate world to start a family.
When she decided to chart her next steps, she explored a few options, before discovering through an online search Morgan Stanley’s Return to Work initiative, a 12-week program for professionals who have taken an extended break and want to reenter the workforce. The program offers training and hands-on work experience—and the opportunity for a full-time job offer from the firm once the program ends.
The process of finding the right role and company took time.
“There’s an inherent intensity to finance,” Bowman says. “And there’s incredible competition for your seat. As open and evolved as corporations try to be, when you leave finance to take a break, you’re often judged about that decision, especially when it involves caring for your family.”
Why She Chose the Return to Work Program
Once Bowman learned more about Morgan Stanley’s culture, that concern disappeared. “This isn’t a bastion-of-privilege type of place, which is what many finance companies usually are,” she says. “No one asked me uncomfortable questions about why I took a break. They didn’t ask for details. Instead, I was assessed on my qualifications and reputation. They understood the reasons why people take time away, and the incredible thing is that this program allows people like to me to come back into the field—without judgment.”
Her initial phone call with Chuck Burke, Head of Global Marketing for Investment Management and now her boss, sealed the deal. “I instantly knew this program and team would be right for me,” says Bowman. “I was really pleased to learn that I’d be diving right into meaningful work while being able to balance and prioritize my role as a single mother.”
Discovering the Program’s Benefits
Bowman began the program virtually this year. “We were immediately set up with a tech resource to help us brush up on our skillsets, such as PowerPoint refreshers, and we were also matched with a peer advisor and our own senior sponsor,” she says. “The fact that we had this breadth of support during the program made a huge difference in acclimating to the job and the firm as a whole.” Her internship ended with a full-time offer.
Today, Bowman is a Vice President in Investment Management and Burke’s COO, supporting global marketing efforts and overseeing multiple strategic business initiatives, roles that keep her busy. “This job can be demanding,” she says. “To succeed, you need to have conversations with the right stakeholders, create a strategy so everyone involved can weigh in, then devise a follow-up plan and procedures so that you can execute every initiative. But above all, I love that the work and culture allow me to focus on my most important priority: my daughter.”
What She Brings to the Role
Bowman says her years at home with no help gave her the necessary perspective and ability to multitask. “When you’re a single mom, every minute counts. I don’t have any time to dawdle around. I have to focus, and I bring that focus to my job, approaching every meeting and task systematically.”
In fact, Bowman believes that this ability to juggle competing priorities is one of the greatest benefits of hiring former stay-at-home parents. “Efficiency is really the name of the game for us,” she says.
Giving Back and Sharing Her Experience
Despite the demands on Bowman’s time, she remains committed to volunteering in her local community. She’s been an active member of a number of youth mentorship programs for disadvantaged youth for over 15 years, such as Minds Matter, Junior Achievement of New York and the Children’s Aid Society. “I’ve always been passionate about underserved children and mentorship, and volunteering in this way also aligns with Morgan Stanley’s value to giving back,” she says. “I’m from the blue-collar town of Secaucus, New Jersey, and I know that I could have benefitted from these programs and having a mentor when I was growing up.”
Bowman is just as committed to telling others who have taken time off from their careers about all the ways the Return to Work program has changed her life. “If you’re a single professional parent looking to get back in the game, this is a program that can be the answer for you,” she says. “I have felt so supported here—this program has meant the world to me and has allowed me to regain my independence and support myself and my daughter.”