ReBoot Seattle, which borrows techniques from coding boot camps and tech accelerators, offers an eight-week program designed to get women ready to re-enter the workforce after taking a break in their careers.
Nancy Jensen excused herself during a job interview at a tech startup to go to the washroom, where she frantically Googled the various technologies the interviewers had brought up.
Jensen is no newbie to the tech world. She led part of the SharePoint team at Microsoft, helping it grow from the ground up to more than $360 million in revenue. She worked at the Redmond company for nearly 13 years and later opened her own consulting firm, helping companies and nonprofits plan proposals and events.
But in late 2015, when she dashed to the washroom during her job interview, she had been out of the workforce for four years as she raised her two kids. And technology moves fast.
Slack had become a common workplace tool. Microsoft had added a slate of new features to its products. Mobile apps had evolved from distractions to necessities.
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“Technology shifts so rapidly,” Jensen says now. “And when you’ve been out of the workforce, your connections often get dusty.”
Jensen heard through a friend about a program called ReBoot Career Accelerator in Redwood City, California. She joined the 8-week program and quickly brought her technical skills up to date.
The accelerator helped her so much, she decided to launch a branch for women in Seattle.
Jensen now leads ReBoot Seattle, a company that offers an eight-week program — meeting once a week — designed to get women ready to re-enter the workforce after leaving it to raise children, take care of elderly parents or take a break in their careers.
ReBoot borrows techniques from the recently popular coding boot camps, which teach people computer code in a couple months, and tech accelerators, which provide resources to get startups off the ground.
“It can take a long time (to re-enter the workforce),” Jensen said. “Our goal is to compress that time frame so that women can get back out there faster.”
ReBoot’s intensive workshops help women set up LinkedIn profiles, learn salary-negotiation tactics and perhaps most important, plan for what they want to do next.
For Jensen, that turned out to be a part-time job where she could work about 25 hours a week. Jensen now works as an account director at the Seattle office of Sterling Communications in addition to running ReBoot Seattle.
ReBoot is getting ready to start its second full cohort at the University of Washington’s CoMotion space on March 29, after completing an eight-week program last fall and a one-week immersion course this winter. Tuition for the program is $995. ReBoot has given out six scholarships for the upcoming cohort, some full and some partial, with funding from Expedia.
ReBoot focuses on getting its students up to speed on the latest workplace technology tools, but the program is designed for women in any field. Many students in the first cohort of 30 women worked in tech, legal or finance industries, Jensen said.
For Debbie Collins, ReBoot provided the push she needed to get the job process rolling. A former aQuantive executive, Collins left the workforce about 12 years ago to get a bachelor’s degree, then to raise her twin sons.
She and a friend in Seattle had been talking about starting a business for months but kept putting off the first steps. After a chance conversation with Jensen, Collins signed up for ReBoot.
“It got us out of the house and focused on ourselves,” she said of herself and business partner Barcy Fisher. The pair started Better Together Ventures to invest in women-led companies.
The firm made an early investment in a woman-focused workspace, The Riveter, after Fisher and Collins met its founders at a startup event during ReBoot.
The Riveter is opening soon on Capitol Hill, and Collins and Fisher now job-share a position planning programming at the workspace as they continue to run their investment company.
Erika Price, of Edmonds, joined ReBoot last fall to start her hunt for full-time work.
Price, who spent years working as a program and product manager at companies including Microsoft and Intel, left those corporate circles to write novels while raising her two kids. She recently decided to step back into the workforce, in part to earn income as she becomes her family’s primary breadwinner.
When she updated her LinkedIn profile during ReBoot, suggesting she was open to marketing-consulting work, she was surprised by how many people reached out with potential jobs. Networking, she found, is a big part of stepping back in.
“I’ve had coffee with everyone on Earth,” she joked.
Restarting or pivoting a career in a new direction isn’t an instant success. Price had applied for several jobs that she was qualified for before ReBoot and heard nothing back.
But the program helped her find a way to get started.
“There is so much talent out there in women who are returning,” Price said. “And we didn’t lose our brains when we went home.”