Two years ago, Nancy Jensen was ready to head back to work after taking five years off to care for her family. Having previously held high impact roles at Microsoft as a product manager, and then a continuing education professor teaching product and strategic planning for a certificate course at the University of Washington, going back to work should have seemed easy. Yet Nancy felt her technology skills were outdated, and she was unsure of being able to find meaningful work after five years away. She decided to invest in a five-day immersion accelerator program through GSV Labs in the Silicon Valley called ReBoot. Reboot is a career accelerator program designed to provide professional women who have stepped away from their careers with the technology skills, career counseling, and training, professional connections and confidence to return to the workforce. After completing the program herself, she knew women in the greater Seattle area would also benefit from this curriculum. She pitched the idea of starting a ReBoot program locally. GSV agreed, and Seattle ReBoot was born.
Nancy was introduced to Sarah Duenwald and quickly partnered with her to create ReBoot Seattle. Sarah, whose background is in enterprise level business development and account management, with technology companies, was also on a career pause, staying at home with her two small children. ReBoot gave her the opportunity to get back into the workforce in a flexible way, doing something she was passionate about. As co-founders, Nancy is responsible for the accelerator programming, overall content and company direction. Sarah is responsible for corporate and sponsor relations as well as company direction and their continuing education program.
ReBoot Seattle launched its first eight-week accelerator program in the fall of 2016 with a cohort of 30 women. Since then, Nancy and Sarah haven’t looked back. In January of 2017, they incorporated ReBoot Seattle, allowing them to expand their offerings and create additional opportunities for women who are looking to get back to work. They still partner with Silicon Valley’s leadership team and benefit from national PR, social media, and guidance on trends. I recently spoke to Nancy and Sarah about the ReBoot program, their observations and where they’re headed next.
You’ve now graduated three cohorts: How many women have completed the program in total?
So far, 80 women have graduated from the ReBoot Seattle program, and we’re already registering folks for our Fall 2017 eight-week accelerator. By the end of 2017, it will be over 100 women.
What are some of your observations of the women who come through your program?
ReBoot Seattle women are professionally diverse. We’ve met former senior leaders, executive administration professionals, freelancers and mid-level managers, from multiple industries. Regardless of background, they all want the same thing: to reconnect with the professional world; be conversant with current tools and trends needed to navigate the professional world, and need an entree back to work. And work may look different for them as their life circumstances have changed. They’ve got great professional track records: ReBoot Seattle’s cohorts are highly educated, with significant career success in the past. They’re also motivated, focused and industrious. We’re continually impressed with our growing ReBoot Seattle community.
How many women find jobs after completing the program – and in what time-frame?
95% of the women that complete ReBoot report they’re prepared, confident, and energized to re-enter the workforce as a direct result of taking our program. And they’re landing jobs. Over 55% of ReBoot Seattle cohorts have found meaningful work within 3 months upon completion of the accelerator, and another 40% are in the process of actively interviewing. Given that the US Department of Labor reports that the average job search can run up to 18 months and longer for mid-career job seekers, we’re incredibly excited and encouraged by this traction in the Seattle market.
What are your future plans for ReBoot Seattle? Will you continue with three cohorts a year? What other things are you thinking about?
In 2017 we’re working on three things:
- We’re running our Fall 8-week Accelerator Sept 20-Nov 15 over at UW CoMotion Labs.
- We’re working on Connect Programs to make sure the relationships our cohorts make in their program get sustained. We have Club ReBoot, which runs the third Thursday of each month here at The Riveter! We’re also introducing Circles, where our cohort accountability teams transition to periodic meetings where they stay on task.
- We’re introducing Corporate Programs to local companies looking to integrate ReBoot Seattle grads into their hiring process. Local employers are actively looking to diversify their workforces, and need more women in Leadership roles. ReBoot Seattle provides the exact demographic they need to accomplish this.
In 2018, we’re also thinking about:
- We’re looking at a one-day Career Pivot Conference in early winter, designed to introduce local women leaders to learning opportunities and experiences. Women leaders face unique perceptions, behaviors, stereotypes, and criticisms that are unique to them as they move through their careers.
- A Resource Guide: There are so many coaches, programs and other career opportunities in the market. We’re working on a tool that provides ReBoot Seattle focused vetting and recommendations. Think of it as Avvo for midcareer returnees!
- A Job Board, designed specifically for ReBoot returnees and local employers
How big is your team?
In addition to us, Hannah Howard oversees our operations as well as marketing and our online strategy. Jenn Youngblood and Cindy Benzing are both on our steering committee. Jenn owns Write Life Design and teaches ReBoot Seattle’s design thinking section. Cindy Benzing owns Mood Ring Media and is responsible our local PR strategy and execution.
And now ReBoot Seattle is working out of The Riveter! Why did you choose us?
We’re completely mission aligned. ReBoot Seattle empowers women to take control of their careers and gives them the confidence, connections, and tools to achieve that. The Riveter provides women a space to define their own success with a professional, supportive environment. ReBoot Seattle surround ourselves with partners that believe what we believe. The Riveter does that and more. Incidentally, there are several Reboot Alums who work here, both on staff and as members!
How has your experience been so far?
Every time we walk through the door, we feel incredibly motivated! The Riveter offers an on-point mix of stimulating events and conversation. And we’re surrounded by the most talented and innovative women Seattle has to offer. We’re looking forward to meeting and learning about the other members.
Thank you, Nancy and Sarah. The work you are doing to help professional women get back to work is so important. We’re thrilled to have here at The Riveter!