This week we celebrated ReBoot Founders Day. Yes, two years ago, five women decided to start a program at GSVlabs in Redwood City, CA that would help professional women, who had paused their careers, to update their office tech, job search, networking, social media and personal branding skills; so they could confidently return to the paid work force.
Last week, after incubating at GSVlabs in Redwood City, ReBoot Accel, Inc. spun out, incorporated, and is poised to grow nationally.
How will we do this? We spot and recruit talent from our Career Accelerators in Silicon Valley and then support these wonder women as they develop and grow their ReBoot businesses in new markets. ReBoot Seattle is one such example and Nancy McSharry Jensen, ReBoot Seattle Director, was that tremendous talent. Here is her team of five and The ReBoot Seattle Origin Story.
ReBoot Seattle’s Starting Point: I started thinking about a return to work program about a year ago. I filled out my son’s kindergarten registration form and thought “well I guess it’s time to go back to work.” After a few job interviews, a March sojourn in Redwood City at the ReBoot SV immersion accelerator, coffee chats and hikes through the arboretum with friends new and old, and illuminating concalls with the SV team, I determined the Puget Sound needed a ReBoot program. Diane Flynn at GSV Labs advised me the three key elements we needed to get off the ground was space, speakers, and marketing; and I found one more necessity, operations.
Sourcing Space: I spent the better part of March and April scouting locations in Seattle and Bellevue, accompanied by my 5 year old son (which made several of those visits efficient and brief!) Those site visits demonstrated that an academia/business mix with close-by parking, a room big enough to hold 40 people, and opportunities to tour startup activities was ideal. UW CoMotion Labs fit the bill, so I attended a Spring Forward series presentation, and met CoMotion’s associate director Elizabeth Scallon. From there, she agreed to help us get ReBoot Seattle off the ground, and CoMotion Labs became our first local sponsor.
Marketing and sponsorships: In our weekly call, ReBoot Founder Diane Flynn mentioned she had a local referral of a woman who was on a career break, possessed great biz dev chops and could I meet with her? So in April I had coffee (I had a lot of coffee last spring) with my future business partner Sarah Duenwald. Polished, energetic and brimming with ideas, it was immediately apparent that she had the same idea I did about working a job that made room for both work and family. Together we scoped out what is now ReBoot Seattle. Sarah started working the sponsor front, and quickly landed several sponsorship and marketing coups, including Expedia.
Getting the word out: In an example of “you never know where you’ll meet your next contact,” I was chatting with Cindy Harvey-Benzing at our children’s school auction, where I mentioned what we were building with ReBoot Seattle. Cindy’s eyes lit up, said she was totally on board with our mission, and offered to help us with her incredibly local PR skills.
Hot off a local startup, and like Sarah and me, wanting to balance home and work, Cindy’s mix of personal warmth, sharp awareness of local PR trends, and incredible contacts built up fantastic local awareness of our fall programs, with pieces on King 5, KOMO, MyNorthwest, and online press in Geekwire and the Seattle Times.
Speakers: ReBoot SV has a potent and proven curriculum spanning growth thinking, personal branding, social media, current technologies and tools, all designed to relaunch women back into the workplace after a career pause. The linchpin to the program is the first session on growth thinking, where a skilled counselor offers experienced, positive direction on how to scope next career steps to a vulnerable, tentative but determined cohort. I worried about who might fill this role; this isn’t my strong suit, and it’s essential to make the program work properly.
In May I got an email from a career counselor who heard ReBoot’s story on NPR’s The Takeaway, and wanted to see what she could do to help. It turns out that Jenn Youngblood’s deep background in career counseling, career transition, and resume writing, along with her compassion and sense of humor was the perfect match for our planning needs.
While busy, Jenn enthusiastically got on board as our key in-house career guru; reading the cohort’s needs on a daily and weekly basis, making adjustments to our curriculum as we went along, ensuring everyone’s career needs were addressed.
Operations: Infrastructure and processes make or break organizations, and it runs the gamut, from strategy to tactics. We needed someone to think about things like does the website reflect the branding and messaging of the organization? Do the registration tools work properly? Are the tables in the meeting room setup? How do we administer and tally in-class surveys (ReBoot Seattle is extremely data and customer response driven.)
A fortunate May coffee date with local HR legend and ReBoot Seattle advisory board member Mikaela Kiner led to a referral. She mentioned a young woman who was looking for an intern role. Jenn met with Hannah Howard, who quickly became an indispensable team member, with her combination of legal expertise, technical and product know-how, and ability to get stuff done.
ReBoot Seattle’s Key Advisors: We must give a shout out to several folks who help shape our program. ReBoot Seattle’s advisory committee provides us with strategic insights and direction on how to move our program forward, as well as critical assistance with things like space, speakers and contacts. We are incredibly grateful for their time, interest and effort as we work to help women get current, connected and confident. Think of them as our own Justice League of America.
Making it Happen: We ran the 2016 Seattle program as a proof of concept. 31 extraordinary women came through the 8 week course, impressing us completely with their backgrounds, skills, perseverance and enthusiasm to re-enter the workforce.
We’re delighted to report we’re expanding ReBoot Seattle for 2017, offering two programs to women who are looking to return to the workforce or pivoting toward a new career. A five full day immersion program (March 6-10) at Expedia HQ in Bellevue, and an eight-week/once a week program (March 29th through May 24th) at UW’s Fluke Hall in Seattle. To register and for more information click HERE.
Are you inspired? Ready to return to work? Start up your own? If you can see yourself in the ReBoot Seattle story, check out upcoming Career Accelerators in Seattle, Los Angeles (NEW!), and Silicon Valley. There are five accelerators running from March through May, in 2 Day Bootcamp, 5 Day Immersion, and 8 Week/once a week formats to meet your needs.