By Kate Daly | Special to the Almanac
Now that Wendy Petersmeyer of Atherton has reinvented herself as a professional life coach, she is helping others reinvent themselves, especially women like her who have launched their children and wonder how to restart their own careers.
Ms. Petersmeyer took a series of ReBoot Career Accelerator for Women courses in Redwood City last fall to explore what she wanted to do outside of her former life as an advertising executive and more recent part-time job as a ski instructor. That spurred her on to get a counseling license, which then led to teaching a Women's StrengthFinders Workshop for the program, and picking up new clients there, too.
She's one of the success stories the feAmale founders of Reboot Career Accelerator for Women like to share when they reflect on how business is going on their first anniversary. They celebrated the occasion in May by having former Atherton resident and Napa Valley winemaker Sharon Harris give a workshop called "Demystify the Wine List."
Ms. Harris serves on the founding committee of ReBoot along with Beth Kawasaki of Atherton and Chrissie Kremer and Kristin Vais of Menlo Park. Diane Flynn of Menlo Park and Patty White of Portola Valley are the co-founders. They all met through connections either as students at Stanford and Harvard Business School, or as parents at Sacred Heart Prep.
Ms. Flynn says she was vice president of marketing at Electronic Arts with two toddlers at home when she decided "to take a pause for about 15 years."
When she reentered the workforce not quite two years ago to become chief marketing officer at GSVlabs, an incubator in Redwood City, she experienced firsthand the technological changes that have happened over time. She proposed starting a program there to make it easier for women like herself to "onramp," to update their skills in a supportive, safe environment, where they can gain confidence, feel connected, and find a job if they wish.
Her co-founder, Ms. White, was formerly with IBM, Goldman Sachs and Hewlett Packard, and is now a marketing consultant at GSVlabs. Together with their founding committee and advisers, the women have developed 30 hours of curriculum "to expose you to what you need to know to go back to work, a growth mindset around technology and design thinking (and) how to think creatively about possibilities," Ms. Flynn explained.
They first offered the classes to local women one morning a week for eight weeks, and found requests coming in from outside the area, so added another one-week immersion session for out-of-towners.
This spring they put on a one-day seminar in New York, and expanded to Chicago with an eight-week session. Plans are to offer another session in Chicago this fall and start one in Seattle.
In Redwood City all three options are available, plus continuing education workshops that are open to members of the relatively new Club ReBoot. Topics range from giving effective pitches to mastering LinkedIn.
So far about 300 women have gone through the ReBoot program. The regular price for each session is $1,295. There are early bird discounts and scholarships.
The job-placement part is still growing, with more positions being posted on ReBoot's job board every day. Some openings are called "returnships."
Ms. Flynn says it's hard to say how many ReBoot alums have gotten jobs because some choose to continue to do volunteer work while "some go back full-time and need the pay and benefits, and some want part-time and flexible jobs."
She gives the example of alum Dana Posey of Redwood City who was out of the workforce for 15 years. Ms. Posey became an intern at GVSlabs and now is the office manager at JetBlue Technology Ventures based in the same building at 425 Broadway in Redwood City. Ms. Posey says she's using her "wisdom, maturity, negotiation, event management skills" she developed in her off years.
Ms. Flynn's advice to women who have done volunteer work for the PTA or a charity auction, for example, is to "own the gap talk about all the skills you developed during the gap."
Amy Friedman of Menlo Park finished her ReBoot session in May. She has an MBA from Yale and worked for a nonprofit until she opted to be a stay-at-home mom. She's now divorced, her kids are in college, and she has been in private practice as a psychotherapist for two years.
"I came to the program to strengthen my technology know-how in broader groups and organizations," she says, thinking she might give the corporate world a try.
She came away, she says, valuing the experience of getting to know her fellow 30 or so classmates. "I've certainly opened a network, and it does shift your mindset into, 'I can do this.'"
When asked about ReBoot's competition, Ms. Flynn says: "Around here we have no one; people have one-day conferences, there are ways to get the skills training," including online, and in other parts of the country she has heard of programs focused on job placement.
Go to rebootaccel.com for more information.