Business

Women get a hand in resuming careers

Thank God for the ladies bathroom. That’s where Jackie Davis headed just before her interview at Boston Scientific Corp. to practice her Superwoman “power pose”— hands on hips, legs wide, arms crossed.

After a 14-year-career break, she was summoning up the courage to reenter the corporate world and wow them with her expertise and knowledge. Long story short, Davis got the marketing job. She attributes her success to reacHIRE, a Boston-based company dedicated to placing highly educated women like herself back onto the fast track.

These women, with MBAs from top schools, “off-ramped” from high-powered roles and then struggled to lean back in. But Addie Swartz, CEO of reacHIRE, believes that returning women have staying power; since last summer, her training programs and internships have graduated more than 100 women and placed them in companies like EMC Corp., Fidelity Investments, Constant Contact Inc., Rapid7 Inc., and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

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With $2 million in venture funding, ReacHIRE is moving into new headquarters in Concord while continuing its expansion in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. Swartz dreams of helping women across the country.

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“We are out to prove that a career break does not have to be a career-breaker. Just because you step out doesn’t mean you can’t step back in,” said Swartz.

Here are three stories of women who found their own pathway to reenter the workforce.

Een T. Tan calls her previous job incarnation Career 1.0. It was a heady Wall Street executive role; she was a vice president for a global investment bank, helping to seal multimillion-dollar deals. It was a position she knew was incompatible with having children. So when her first child, Floyd, was just about to be born, she decided to focus on being a mom.

“I decided that children were more important than my career,” said Tan, 50. But three children and 11 years later, when her youngest was in kindergarten, she had the yearning to dust off her résumé.

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But what to do about “The Gap” in her résumé that put her at a competitive disadvantage? And her confidence level was so low that “it was like looking for buried treasure.” That’s when she started reaching out to her network, and a colleague told her about reacHIRE. Tan liked the idea of a skills refresher, a chance to work with professional career coaches, and most of all, unearthing her old self-assurance. She didn’t even need to wear her trusty dragon pin on her suit lapel to bring her luck; seven months ago she landed a permanent job at Fidelity Investments as a senior business analyst.

“I’m back in the game again,” said Tan.

“Fear and the need to overcome it.” This was the subject of the presentation that Jackie Davis gave to her fellow reacHIRE trainees at the end of their training session. She wasn’t nervous at all about the required speech, and spoke with confidence and self-assurance.

Davis was accustomed to public speaking, thanks to years of marketing her interior design business, RoomScape Interiors. Design was her passion, so much so that she had left the corporate world to pursue her dream of decorating rooms for residential clients. But when she heard about reacHIRE through the Harvard Business School Women’s Alumni Association, she was intrigued. She had been dabbling in marketing for years as a necessity of promoting RoomScape, so maybe it was time to reinvent herself yet again.

“I was impressed with Addie’s unique approach to creating a partnership with corporations to help women reenter the workforce,” said Davis, 61, who was worried about fitting back into the workplace and adjusting to the new schedule and technology. But when she landed a job doing digital marketing at Boston Scientific, all the pieces of her new position fell smoothly into place.

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There’s only one thing she is still getting used to, and that’s the 43-mile commute from Wilmington to Marlborough. But it’s worth the price of finding a place back in the 9-to-5 world after 14 long years of being her own boss.

As a management consultant, Karen Monteiro worked relentless hours. Even when pregnant with her first child, she traveled almost every week to New Jersey, taking an early flight out on Monday and returning at the end of the week. So the choice was clear to her: Raising a family and her demanding job were not compatible.

She resigned, and abandoned her laptop for playdates and her business attire for yoga pants. Volunteer work, selling used baby gear on eBay, and helping her husband with a startup kept her busy as well.

But one day, while talking to another mom at a Sudbury tennis club, Monteiro, 46, heard about reacHIRE. She felt the firm would be able to help with what she called her “major blind spot.”

“I had spent most of my career at one company and my interviewing and networking skills were very undeveloped,” said Monteiro, who has an MBA from the MIT Sloan School.

She attended a reacHIRE information session and was accepted through the rigorous application process. Most helpful for her at reacHIRE was not just learning about the latest in business intelligence or project management but honing her “story”: “What values do you bring to an organization? What is your personal brand?”

She felt more confident, despite her seven-year sabbatical. When she was hired part-time at Akamai Technologies Inc. as an internal consultant in early March, Monteiro felt she had the best of both worlds. She is able to make it home in time for soccer games but still enjoys the strategic thinking and camaraderie of her job.

There is the small issue of her supervisor being 20 years younger than her, but that’s no big deal. “When exiting and reentering the workplace, there’s bound to be changes. We learn to accept and deal with them.”

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy.atoji@gmail.com