‘Powering Up' Mom to Return to Work

Cindy Banker of Framingham, Massachusetts, has a lot in common with a lot of professional women: She's got great experience as a marketing manager at Staples and elsewhere – but also some big gap periods on her resume.

"I have twins, and I was out for about five years" when they were very young, Banker explained. Then after her Staples unit was shut down and some family needs came up, she’s since had another six years out of the workplace.

Now, with her daughter-son twins in college, she wants to get back to the kind of high-powered job in marketing and advertising she's loved and excelled at in the past. She said she knows that "things go fast, and technology goes fast, you want to sort of do a refresh. Get back into, get more comfortable, hopefully, with the technology and what's new, what's out there, social media and so forth, and just get up to speed."

That's brought her to a unique new Boston-area job training and placement company called ReacHIRE. Its founder and CEO, Addie Swartz, describes the Concord-based company as "all about powering up women who have taken a step out of the workplace to get back in." It's a program that runs eight to 10 weeks in office technology, social media, interviewing, and contemporary business practices and policies, followed by placement in a four- to six-month paid internship at big area companies like Akamai, Boston Scientific, Costant Contact, EMC, Fidelity, Panera Bread and Putnam.

"We're placing them in an actual job assignment so they can actually prove to themselves and their corporations that they can deliver great results and have an impact on the organization," Swartz explained one day recently while her current class was doing an intensive software class at Launch Academy in Boston.

What students pay is on a sliding scale, designed to cost them no more than their first month's salary at a future job, according to Swartz. Women compete for admission to the typically 10-person ReacHIRE class. They've all got college degrees, many of them graduate degrees, and often had big jobs and six-figure salaries before becoming full-time mothers.

"The biggest issue is they lose some of their confidence," said Stephanie Crimmins, vice president of consumer packaged goods for Panera Bread, who’s hired four ReacHIRE grads as her division has posted four years of 60-percent-plus annual growth in selling Panera breads, soups and other products in supermarkets and other stores.

"They're incredibly bright, organized, creative, analytical folks who have, you know, MBA's from top schools," Crimmins said, adding that she's seen how motherhood's given them valuable skills 20-somethings don't always have. "What I've found in the women I've hired out of the ReacHIRE program is that they know how to multitask and to juggle a lot of things at once."

The demand for what ReacHIRE is offering could be huge. Studies by the Center for Talent Innovation show that three out of every 10 college-educated women will take a career break, on average 2.7 years, and there are in total 2.6 million women in the U.S. who have college, masters, or PhD degrees who are out of the workplace.

It's not just returning moms but people looking to reboot an uninterrupted career who use ReacHIRE, like Jackie Davis. She'd gone from Harvard Business School to corporate America in the 1980s and 1990s, but had moved on to running her own interior-design business when she happened to meet Addie swartz a few years ago.

"I was at a point where I wanted a change in my life," said Davis, whose business was featured frequently on Home and Garden Television (HGTV). "I had come to the conclusion that I enjoyed promoting my business and marketing it more than I enjoyed doing it."

Through ReacHIRE, she took an internship at Boston Scientific that led to her current job in digital marketing, helping BSX connect with customers for its urology and pelvic-health products.

"If I had just read Jackie's resume alone, I probably wouldn't have hired her full-time," said Mary Beth Moynihan, Boston Scientific's senior vice president of corporate strategy and marketing. "We got the chance to work with Jackie. She got the chance to test us out."

Davis agreed that "they probably would have looked at my resume and said, 'Oh, well. Some good experience,' but that good experience was so long ago that they might not have thought that it was relevant to today's marketplace."

One of Swart's guiding principles is that "a career break is not a career breaker."

Two years into ReacHIRE, Swartz has opened a second location, in the Raleigh-Durham N.C. Research Triangle area, and she’s dreaming big.

"I want ReacHIRE to be across the country," Swartz said, because all across the country, there are hundreds of thousands of women looking for an on-ramp from the Mommy track back to business leadership and booming careers.

With videographer Tony Sabato and video editor Bob Leone

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