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Unexpected Life Changes Lead to Career Changes: How Kris Evans Bien Got Back to Paid Work

Kris Evans Bien’s career spanned hundreds of television productions at ABC, NBC, Fox, Microsoft Interactive Television; working with celebrities including presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton and first lady Barbara Bush; and managing partnerships for Microsoft with showrunners ranging from major networks, public broadcasting, emerging cable networks. Kris stepped back to raise her family, pivoting her work to arts and education

advocacy, keeping her hand in the technology and production world as a consultant.

As she looked to resume her career, Kris wanted paid work that leveraged her diverse background, and still allowed her to remain available for her teenage children. An alumna of the Fall 2019 Career Catalyst, she recently accepted a paid part-time role at the Microsoft Alumni Network, and talks here about her trajectory.

Kris, congratulations on your new role! What will you be doing with the Microsoft Alumni Network?

As Member Services Manager, I serve former Microsoft employees around the globe (48K in 51 countries). This means building relationships by serving alumni with quick turnarounds on any communication from members within a day (the range of issues, so far, has been quickly resolving technical issues to locating a special event hat which was meaningful to a former alumna). I am meeting and interacting with new Microsoft employees weekly to evangelize our business and encourage them to utilize our organization as employees. There’s an expectation I will suggest improvements and ideas for customer service processes. Another part of my job I’m looking forward to is coordinating alumni at Inside Out events with book authors/celebrities.

I’m also wrapping up a 7-month teaching artist program with ArtsWA in March and learning to write lesson plans focused on Media Arts.

You had a big, exciting MICROSOFT career. What precipitated your stepping away?

After traveling consistently for work and never really taking a break, I felt I needed to seize the moment if I wanted to have a family. I had never really planned to be the one to stay home and stop working.

When my firstborn was almost two, I had boy/girl twins (my friends joked I was always an overachiever). I quickly calculated how ridiculously expensive for daycare for three would be. It really didn't seem worthwhile to work. I also couldn’t have anticipated a bout of postpartum depression. I had no choice but to take a break.

It was far longer than I wanted. But knowing what I know now, you never know what will happen. My twins were random. So much of life is! No one told me after age 30 your chances - especially women in their late 30s – of having multiples skyrockets! How did I not know this?

What lessons from The Swing Shift helped get you into your next assignment?

Being with the women in the cohort every week increased my confidence, enabled me to set goals, and kept me accountable. Prior to this experience, I knew there had to be more women feeling and experiencing what I was: trying to get back to work.

What I learned was showing up weekly propelled me forward. From the first week, Keita Williams of Success Bully, jump-started my thinking on time management and how to (again) start thinking about taking control of my time. I also was completely pumped up and energized by the speakers. It confirmed what actions I needed to do and confirmed what I was doing right like being intentional with LinkedIn posts and devoting significant time to networking. I began to work on self-talk and surrounding myself with positive, encouraging people. I began to reframe my thinking in terms of what I really wanted, and one primary motivator was health insurance. Investing in myself by hiring a resume writer was a game changer. I had to realize no one cares as much about my future as I do, and I was worth the investment.

You’ve spent a lot of time on arts and education advocacy. What did you learn from your time on those activities that was an effective example as you looked to return?

I’ve always invested myself in new experiences to build meaningful relationships, learn skills, and new technology. When I take on a role, even as a volunteer, I tend to throw myself in 1000%. I know that relationships are the most important element. This applies across industries and especially in conducting a job search. It’s often who you know more than what you know. Having eyes and ears on the ground who inform you about job openings is a huge advantage. Someone has to be willing to look at your resume. Direct connections get you the job.

Advocacy work also reveals how important timing is; you can’t force things to happen. I have always felt that the more I heard “no,” the closer I was to “yes.” Keeping a positive attitude is critical. Moving forward I want to have a strategy to prioritize more balance between work and family and invest in planning burnout resistance skills.

For other women looking to return, what’s your insight and advice for them?

My best advice is to use your time in ways which build your confidence and reach out to your network. Don’t be afraid that it’s been too long since you talked to so and so. I contacted my previous manager, and we hadn’t talked in over 17 years! This process will look different for each person; don’t expect your path will resemble anyone else’s. (This is not a competition). Part of this process is trusting the process. Ask for introductions. Take care of yourself and reward yourself when you meet goals along the way. If I could tell you to relax, I would. I also understand it’s almost impossible to not be anxious. Last, realize that writing a resume is necessary and valuable but don’t forget to build your brand by having a professional presence on LinkedIn. If posting isn’t your thing, find a way to stand out that feels comfortable.

BONUS: Spill the tea: who was your favorite celebrity interview and why?

Since you mentioned Hillary Clinton above, I have to admit she was my favorite. It was a really big deal that she was going to be a guest when her husband was running for a second term. I asked the executive producers if I could produce Hillary’s show. They said YES. All the more senior producers were unhappy because I was one of the newest and youngest segment producers, but I had asked first. This was a great lesson for me in asking for something even when it’s scary or feels uncomfortable. She was very warm and friendly

and sent me a very personal thank you letter. I still have it. One of my greatest regrets was I never got a photo with her. I had been asked by the executive producers not to ask for any photos with her – but everyone else did!


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