Moving Forward with Path Forward

by Janet Van Huysse.

In February, I blogged about our first rotation of Path Forward returnships and the awesome people we’ve hired as a result of the program. As a refresher, Path Forward is a nonprofit organization that aims to empower people who’ve taken time away from their careers to focus on caregiving to return to the workforce.

Cloudflare started partnering with Path Forward this past year as a way to expand our talent pool to include the best and the brightest, regardless of any gaps in their career journeys. We truly believe in a diverse group of employees, and that includes those who can bring different perspectives from their time away from the workforce.

We’ve been lucky to have three amazing candidates go through the Path Forward program this time around across our People & Places, Solutions Engineering, and Marketing teams.

Christine Winston (director of partnerships, Path Forward), Me, and Tami Forman (executive director, Path Forward)

The Cloudflare Path Forward Experience

Gigi Chiu did a returnship with the Solutions Engineering team here at Cloudflare after taking some time off to raise her children. Before taking time off, she worked at Motorola and previously worked for a telco in Canada that was helping to build out the Internet as we know it. While she initially thought about pursuing roles in other departments and explored other companies, she and I ultimately felt that her technical skills and expertise would be best utilized in an SE role at Cloudflare. And we were right. The SE team has found a great employee in Gigi and her background has been invaluable to the team. “I felt welcomed and supported from the moment I came to Cloudflare,” she says. “I’ve also noticed that there are more women on technical teams than there were just a few years ago, and that signals that the industry is moving in the right direction. ”

Vidya Ramakrishnan works on my team (People & Places) as a People Operations Analyst. She took off a few years to raise her kids and admits that it was a struggle to get back into the workforce. Although she has previous experience in software development and business analysis, she says that when she discussed the gap in her resume with recruiters, they often wouldn’t call back. That’s what I love about the Path Forward program; it ignores the stigma around resume gaps due to caregiving. At Cloudflare, she has found a role in which she works across teams and is thriving. “No one here has ever made me feel like an intern,” she says. “This role has given me the confidence I was missing and it has been so fulfilling to be back in the workforce and on a team again.”

Like Gigi and Vidya, Stephanie Won took some time away from employment to care for her children. As a member of the Marketing team, and specifically the Branding team, she is helping expand the reach of the Cloudflare brand. In her experience, getting back into the tech industry was pretty brutal. She learned about the Path Forward program at a conference for women returning to the workforce and completed a returnship at another company. After that ended, she reached out to me and we found a fit for her here at Cloudflare. Stephanie is an outspoken advocate for caregivers and she has advice for others in similar points in their careers: “Don’t doubt yourself. People always associate confidence with competence, and when you’re not feeling competent, you lose your confidence.” She adds, “It’s important to always stay connected with the people in your network, even if it’s just an occasional coffee chat. It’s crucial to keep a pulse on your industry and happenings if you’re eager to get back into the mix.”

We’re so happy to have Gigi, Vidya, and Stephanie at Cloudflare and know that their stories are just like so many others in the industry. Caregivers often have a tough time reintegrating into the workforce after years away, especially as protocols, business operations, and technologies evolve. But you don’t have to start at square one. There are so many companies (like Cloudflare) looking for smart, creative, and seasoned workers who can bring a diverse set of skills and life experience into the mix.

On August 9th, we hosted the Path Forward graduation at our headquarters in San Francisco and celebrated the work of the all the participants in the program. Guests enjoyed networking, hors d’oeuvres, and a keynote from Tami Forman, the program’s executive director.

To date, we have offered all of our Path Forward participants ongoing employment at the end of their returnships.

We offer returnships across many teams in San Francisco, including Engineering, Marketing, Sales, Operations, People & Places, and more. If you or someone you know is interested, please reach out to [email protected].

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