In a hot yoga class, students endure 40-plus-degree temperatures for more than 90 minutes. “It’s hard,” admits Bronwyn Ayres-Munro, who led classes at a Singapore studio she owned for six years. “No one likes it at first but it’s so rewarding.”

Ms Ayres-Munro’s newest job takes her out of a hot yoga studio and into Commonwealth Bank’s Sydney offices, where she has a role in monitoring and surveillance. It seems like an unusual move until you learn that, before becoming an instructor, she spent several years working in financial markets — an industry she’s returned to via the CBA institutional bank’s Career Comeback Program.

The initiative is designed for experienced professionals who are keen to return to the workforce after a career break lasting at least two years. Now taking applications for its third year, the institutional bank program brings people with diverse backgrounds and skills into CBA.

Joining Ms Ayres-Munro in the program this year is Pooja Sharma, who stepped away from her trade finance career in 2017 to care for her young son after her family moved to Australia from India. Despite working in the banking industry for more than a decade, she struggled to get a look-in from potential employers when she decided to return to work post-Covid.

“Having no local experience in Australia was a big showstopper,” she says. “Nobody was willing to look at my career before the career break. That was becoming a big hindrance.”

Thanks to the Career Comeback Program, Ms Sharma is now thriving in a transaction banking role in CBA’s Institutional Banking & Markets division.

“Every day I'm learning more and more,” she says. “This job has given me a lot of that self-confidence which comes when you are back on your feet.”

Ms Ayres-Munro says one of the most daunting challenges of returning to a corporate workplace was learning about new ways-of-working technologies and IT systems introduced in her absence. That difficulty was lightened by “fantastic” support and opportunities to learn from her CBA colleagues.

“They kept encouraging us to meet new people, get to know everyone,” she says. “The way the program was run, all the heads of departments came in and explained from the top all the way down, you don't get that when you start a regular job.”

“People are amazing in CBA,” adds Ms Sharma, who’s received similar guidance. “They're ready to help you.”

Pooja Sharma and her son Pooja Sharma and her son

Both also appreciate the flexibility available in their new roles. Ms Sharma works from home some days to stay close to her family, while Ms Ayres-Munro still teaches hot yoga on top of her work at CBA. “The two jobs complement each other,” she says.

Applications are now open for the 2023 Career Comeback Program [insert media release link], and 2022’s cohort say anyone thinking about applying should “go for it”.

“I couldn't speak highly enough of it if I tried. CBA have been great,” says Marion Zalk, who stepped away from her IT career to start a family and complete a PhD in Information Systems, which led to working as a lecturer at the University of Melbourne.

She’s now in IB&M’s Quant, Data, Analytics and Technology (QDAT) division, which joins the business and tech sides of CBA.

“I could not have imagined ever merging what I've learned in academia and in my previous experience together in my new role,” says Ms Zalk. “What makes the program so good is that it’s okay to say, ‘I’ve had a career break and I’m not so sure on this — can you go through it again?’”

Ms Sharma agrees the Career Comeback Program helps her appreciate her time out of the workplace as a strength.

“This career break has made me more resilient or more organised,” she says. “Everyone has their own experience and I think you can learn a lot from those things.”

To learn more about the Career Comeback Program, visit: