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My normal work history was I started as a software engineer and then eventually became a software (or "technical") architect. My wife runs her own business and some years ago she took what she thought was a simple legal case that started out as a small civil matter (tort law) but unfortunately it "grew legs" and blew up into a legal nightmare that was in danger of wiping her out financially and my wife was completely overwhelmed and she needed my help to get through it.

It was a dire situation for her and I quit my job to deal with it so my wife could focus on keeping her business going as she could not manage both. Regrettably it took several years to clear up, during which my time was split between working with our legal people to resolve the case and also assisting my wife to run her business in a backoffice role, handling tasks such as marketing, hr, accounts, admin etc. The legal battle had to be fought through a number of courts, taking several years before it concluded (successfully thankfully). I cannot overstate how much stress & pressure was involved

But it is finally over and I am now ready to go back to my normal career in software. The reason I'm giving some history is, I'm trying to figure out what should I say in my CV, LinkedIn profile and at job interviews to explain why I dropped out of my software career and what I have been doing the last number of years?

Part of my challenge is the final settlement included a gagging clause that the events are not to be disclosed to any 3rd party so I can't discuss the events and that is on my mind: how to describe this period without breaking that clause? Plus I'm concerned an employer could misconstrue events if I mention in my resume or LinkedIn that I've been embroiled in a massive legal battle for several years? Would that be off putting to employers? Should I ignore it as if it never happened and only discuss my backoffice roles? But then does it also look detrimental to go from being a software architect to a small business backoffice role without explanation why? I am feeling a bit stuck as to how I should explain this career gap so I would appreciate some advice as to what I should say.
 

I think its unlikely I could expect to go back in as a software architect after so long out of the field, so I probably need to go back to coding to reacquire technical skills again first. But how can I make my last few years of interest to software companies on a CV or at interview?

A lot of the skills I gained as a software architect were successfully redeployed: I can say that my written communication skills have massively improved as a result of my legal experiences, having had to draft innumerable documents to simplify and explain complex issues for the courts. I would say I have become exceptional in the skills of reducing complex issues to simple concepts and explaining things logically. And in doing this under pressure to tight court deadlines.

Document management and being highly organised was also something I became exceptionally good at, and I'd say I was superior at that even than the attorneys due to my ability with computers, every document and scrap of paper in our lives was scanned to searchable pdfs and organised in a way so that anytime someone claimed something was done or said in the past I could pull up our information instantly (you have no idea how much this confounded & frustrated the other side...)

In the backoffice role, I was doing things like setting up a new website, branding, social media, SEO. I also organised a new windows server & workstations & network, setting up IT systems. I reorganised the accounts, and handled staff HR, set up written policies & procedures and various other admin. I'm debating what job title to give myself, its my wife's business so I can give myself whatever job title I want, would giving myself the title of "business manager" be appropriate?

  • @JoeStrazzere Am I embarrassed about it? my reluctance stems more from that the final settlement included a gagging clause that the events are not to be disclosed to any 3rd party so I can't discuss the events and that is on my mind: how to describe this period without breaking that clause. I should have said that rather than "it doesn't seem appropriate", I will correct that in the question. And yes I was employed by my wife in the backoffice role at the same time it was going on. – abc123 May 30 '17 at 11:48
  • To the folks that are voting to close: could you add a comment to indicate why, so I can figure out what I need to address. – abc123 May 30 '17 at 11:49
  • The gag order doesn't apply unless you were actually a party named on the case. – Xavier J May 30 '17 at 15:14
  • @JoeStrazzere as raised by others in the comments to DevNull's answer, mentioning legal troubles in my cv could be misconstrued and that is also part of my reluctance that I was unsure about. So opinion at the moment seems to be I should not mention such legal issues in a CV. I can explain at interview if asked. Explaining to my next employer why I won't quit to help my wife out again is easy I think: the case is finished. – abc123 May 30 '17 at 19:01
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    Dont mention legal trouble or drama in your resume. I personally would put down the firm, I would take a term like Technical Manager or something. Architect roles are hard to get into and almost all of them are rewards for seniors that stick it out with a company. But you should be able to get back into a senior Dev role, though I expect you may have some catching up to do with the advances in technology over the last couple years. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 30 '17 at 19:16
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Two key points:

I think its unlikely I could expect to go back in as a software architect after so long out of the field

Baloney! I've known several women who became full-time moms and then returned to industry later in full swing. Bringing some rusty skills up-to-speed is trivial with a solid effort and work ethic.

... I quit my job to deal with it so my wife could focus on keeping her business going as she could not manage both

That's very admirable of you. Nothing wrong with that. I've interviewed very talented individuals that had career gaps due to a new (unexpected) child, having to move to his/her home country to take care of ailing parents that couldn't immigrate, even one fellow who dropped what he was doing to serve in the military for 4 years.

Just be honest, and note that you had to take time off of work to help your family. You don't have to go into the gory details. Taking time off for a family commitment is a non-issue, unless you just dropped everything (no notice, shirked your fiduciary duties, etc).

  • @DevNull "Just be honest, and note that you had to take time off of work to help your family" - so do you think it would be better in my resume to be specific about what the nature of the family issue was or not? Is it better to 1st mention "legal case" in the resume or leave it unspecified until asked at interview? – abc123 May 30 '17 at 17:52
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    @abc123 I would avoid the mention of any legal troubles in your CV. It might be misconstrued as you being on trial for criminal activity, tax evasion or something along those lines. They might wonder whether you were actually fired. – Llewellyn May 30 '17 at 18:07
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    @abc123 Just mention that you took time off to help your family. Word it however you like. Mentioning "legal troubles" sounds like you were guilty of something, when your description is more a case of tort law as opposed to a crime. – DevNull May 30 '17 at 18:18
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This is a bit more explicit than just helping your family:

My wife's business had a really unusual situation that required an extra person to handle it. That is now fully resolved, and is unlikely to happen in the future. While I was working on it, I used skills in reducing complex issues to simple concepts, explaining things logically, and document organization. I was working to tight deadlines.

The idea is to say what you were doing, reassure them that you are unlikely to quit for the same reason in the future, and then quickly pivot to a discussion of skills that would be extremely valuable in a software architect.

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