Discovering Great Talent with Path Forward

by Janet Van Huysse.

Cloudflare's Path Forward Candidates with JanetFrom left to right, Gloria Mancu, Janet Van Huysse, and Wanda Chiu

In the fall of 2016, I was just beginning my job search. I’d been lucky to lead HR at a number of great cutting-edge technology start-ups, and I was looking for my next adventure. I wanted to find a company that wasn’t just a great business--I wanted one that was also making a positive impact on the world, and one that had a mission I felt passionately about.

During my two decades running HR/People organizations, I’ve spent a lot of time working with--and talking to--parents in the workplace. I’ve been motivated to do so for a few reasons. According to the US census, mothers are the fastest-growing segment of the US workforce. Companies struggle to retain talented workers after they’ve become parents, especially mothers. It’s been reported that 43 percent of highly qualified women with children leave their careers. Millennials (who make up the majority of the US workforce) are reporting that they want to be more engaged parents and are placing a high value on companies that allow them to parent and still get promoted. Ultimately, I’ve come to believe that the skills you acquire while parenting are extremely relevant and valuable to the workforce.

So when Path Forward announced its launch partners in 2016, I read about the participating companies with great interest. And that is where I discovered Cloudflare! It immediately went to the top of my short list as I knew a company that valued a partnership with Path Forward was aligned with my values.

Path Forward is a nonprofit organization that aims to empower women and men to return to the paid workforce after taking two or more years away from their career to focus on caregiving. This could mean taking two years off to care for a child, or taking multiple years off to care for an elderly family member. Everyone in this program has put their careers on hold to care for the ones they love.

Candidates apply for various roles, undergo a series of interviews, and if selected, participate in an 18-week returnship. The goal, for both candidates and participating companies, is to ultimately hire the candidates for full-time employment.

At Cloudflare, we’re focused on helping to build a better Internet, and do to that, we need the best and brightest. Sometimes that means hiring people who have tenure and skills in a very specific field, and other times, that means bringing in people who can adapt quickly and think critically, contributing to both our culture and our company mission.

Path Forward & Cloudflare

Gloria Mancu re-entered the workforce as a tech support engineer at Cloudflare after taking 10 years off to care for her son. She had initially applied to Cloudflare after seeing a job opening online, and was later integrated into the Path Forward program because of its emphasis on returnships. “Being an intern is a tremendous opportunity, because you get a feeling for the group, the company, and the culture, firsthand. On the other hand, the employer gets to know you, so it goes both ways.”

The Path Forward program is indeed a two-way street. Yes, it helps people return to the workforce, but participants also bring a ton of value to their respective companies. Men and women who’ve taken time off to care for their families bring the kind of maturity and professionalism that only come with life experience.

Wanda Chiu, a software engineer on our Edge team, took time off initially to care for her ailing mother. She later decided to start a family and wanted to be there to watch her kids grow up. Fifteen years later, she says that Path Forward has helped her comfortably transition back into the workforce. “I wasn’t sure I was qualified to apply for software engineering positions, because the industry has adapted so much in the last 15 years and there are so many new tools,” she says. “Cloudflare was willing to give me the time to pick up the new skills I needed to succeed in this software engineering role and contribute to the team.”

Path Forward Quote

It’s so crucial to note that a lot of people returning to the workforce think they have to start at square one. They’ll apply for entry-level positions, only to be bumped up to the next level based on their experience and age, and then finally rejected due to their employment gap. At Cloudflare, we really wanted to give people the opportunity to pick up where they left off and bring with them all of the life experience they’ve gained.

On Monday night, we hosted the Path Forward graduation at our headquarters in San Francisco and celebrated the work of the 10 participants from Demandbase, Coursera, and Zendesk, in addition to Cloudflare. Graduates snacked on hors d’oeuvres and discussed their returnship experiences, following a keynote from Tami Forman, the program’s executive director.

We’ve extended full-time offers to both Wanda and Gloria and look forward to continuing with the Path Forward program. We’re currently interviewing and plan to welcome a new group of Path Forward participants in April. We have five open returnship positions across our Marketing, Engineering, and People teams in San Francisco, so if you or someone you know is interested, please reach out to Ed Burns at [email protected].

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