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December 27 will mark my one-year anniversary at Schneider Electric. Coming here was a complete career change and a big risk for me, but I could not be happier to be where I am now. When I look back at my career path, I recognize how fortunate I was to have people looking out for me along the way.
My College Experience
Many of us begin college having some idea of what we want to do, and for me, I was certain that I wanted to be a businesswoman in France. Having done an exchange program in High School, I became fluent in French and fell in love with the culture. Before college, I took both economics and French courses at Vanderbilt because my dad was a professor there and I went to High School across the street. I felt privileged that I got to explore both passions of mine.
Just as I was finishing up my economics major, I completed an internship at Merrill Lynch in Paris and realized that path wasn’t for me. I was incredibly fortunate to have one of my French professors unofficially mentor me. I was head of the French hall in my dorm and kept taking French courses – leading to frequent interactions with this professor. She was determined to give me a taste of teaching.
An Opportunity to Teach
During my senior year, the department was short one graduate student to teach a lower-level French course and my professor offered the opportunity to me. I taught basic grammar and conversation to freshmen both semesters. Turned out she was right! I loved being in front of the class and seeing the transformation in the students. Instead of getting my MBA after college, I went to graduate school for French.
My first year out of graduate school, I moved to Connecticut to get married. The timing for applying to teaching positions had been off, so I took a position as an HR assistant at a company called Telecel. At the time, their headquarters was a small office in Connecticut. They sold cell phone service in francophone Africa and hired me because I could speak French. Three months into that job, I attended a meeting in South Africa with the leaders of the different francophone countries to explain the new HR handbook to them in French. Although filled with the excitement of new beginnings and travel, all I could think about was that I wanted to be a French teacher.
Returning to the Classroom
Funny enough, my dad called me that spring to tell me that there was a position open at my old High School and that I should expect a phone call about an interview. If it weren’t for my dad’s colleague knowing that I was on the hunt for a teaching position, my career path could have looked very different. I got the job and was hired as a French teacher and Department Chair. I was ecstatic! This became a 24-year career at the University School of Nashville. While always a French teacher, I took on various leadership roles as well. I started as Department Chair, later became a Grade Level Dean, and then soon before leaving, a Learning Specialist.
So, how did I end up at Schneider Electric? My journey starts with Kim Varga, VP Services Consulting. She put a thought in my head that eventually took root, and once it did, she helped me make it happen. I got to know Kim through a small “Girls Night Out” group that a mutual friend started. At one girl’s night dinner, I distinctly remember Kim suggesting that I would be a good fit at Schneider Electric, specifically mentioning the company’s French roots. At the time, I wasn’t interested. Changing careers had never crossed my mind. I loved being on the same schedule as my daughter. Fast forward a couple of years, I started to think more seriously about finding a new challenge and making a career change.
A New Challenge: My Schneider Electric Career
The group finally got together again in the summer of 2021, after a pause for the pandemic, and I happened to sit next to Kim. She asked me if I had given Schneider more thought and my immediate, unplanned, response was yes, I was ready to move forward. That set everything in motion!
She connected me to a couple of people, so that I could do some information gathering. She helped me turn my educationally-oriented profile into a corporate version of a resume. And when a spot opened that fit my skill set, she connected me to my now manager, Jerry DeSouza. I do not have the words to express how grateful I am to Kim.
Now I am a Service Sales Training Specialist who onboards new hires and runs a Sales Development Program. My first year at Schneider has been incredible and I am thankful to have found a position that suits me so well and a manager that is supportive. I love that Schneider’s values align with my past employer but now, I get to learn new things, work with new people, and expand my horizons.
Advice to Others Thinking About a Career Change
If you are thinking about making a big career change, one of the most valuable things you can do is to use your network. Reach out to friends, family, and professional contacts who are in or know about the field you are interested in. Ask for informational interviews, advice, and introductions to other people who can help you learn more about the industry and potential job opportunities. By leveraging your relationships, you can gain valuable insights and connections that can help you make a successful transition to a new career.
It is safe to say that I took a big risk starting over and leaving a career where I had so much experience, but the change has been such a welcome one. I cannot wait to see where this new career path takes me! Maybe there will be some French again in my future?
About the Author
Robin Lynn Clinard is a Service Sales Training Specialist for Schneider Electric, North America. Based in Nashville, TN, Robin Lynn is responsible for onboarding new hires in Service Sales and also leads the Services Sales Development Program. In addition to being a Well-Being Champion and a North America Ambassador for Schneider Electric, she has started a French Club for the Nashville Hub. In her free time, Robin Lynn enjoys time with friends and family, travel, and reading. She can often be found walking in Percy Warner Park near her house.
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