Path Forward

Our portfolio company Return Path built a “returnship” program a few years ago to help stay at home moms and other men and women who have left the work force to take care of children, sick parents, etc figure out how to get back into the workforce. This program, which involves a 20 week paid internship and a bunch of training in new tools and technologies, has been incredibly successful at Return Path where they have run several cohorts and hired many of the interns into full time positions.

Recently Return Path started helping other tech companies start these returnship programs. They found that these companies had similar success with it.

So this week Return Path spun out the team, the systems, and the curriculum into a new non-profit called Path Forward. The Gotham Gal, who has written a lot about the challenges women face in getting back into careers they temporarily left, will be joining the Board and helping them grow this new effort. She wrote a bit about it on her blog yesterday. And Fortune has a great piece on Path Forward too.

This topic has been near and dear to our family for a long time. Our daughter Emily wrote her college thesis, Life Sequencing: A Viable Solution To Work-Life Conflict For High-Achieving Women, on this topic and her work has further encouraged us to work on this issue.

If you have a company in NY, CA, or CO (they are starting in those three states) that would like to start doing returnships, go to Path Forward and fill out this form. If you are ready to restart your career after taking time off, go to Path Forward and complete this form.

And if you think this is awesome and want to support Path Forward financially, go to Crowdrise and hit the big donate button.

#hacking education#management

Comments (Archived):

  1. TamiMForman

    Thanks for the support, Fred! I just found out today that one of our graduates got hired into an engineering role at Intel. This program really works and it changes lives and companies. It’s amazing to be a part of it.

    1. fredwilson

      On hell yes

  2. Twain Twain


  3. Kirsten Lambertsen

    So much good news from y’all lately. This isn’t just a great project, it’s smart.It’s an interesting world we live in now, where so many of us work for people who are much younger than ourselves. Humbling and enlightening.

    1. fredwilson

      If you see problems, try to fix them or at least join others who are doing that

    2. creative group

      Kirsten Lambertsen:You and the forward thinking of us may have this forward view of the world and United States but there are those who desire to take the country back to the pre-civil war thinking. The same way a similar mindset wanted to prevent the Irish from immigrating to the United States during the Great famine in 1840’s. Many forget the Irish were called Bridget’s and Biddy’s. Many forget how the Know-Nothing Party platform was created on the identical rhetoric being presented currently. So when the amazing contributions to bettering peoples life’s are created I know America has never stop being Great.

    3. creative group

      Kirsten Lambertsen:there is gunfire in that avatar establishment. I am shocked, shocked, shocked. Now where is my Glock G36 (.45)What is the this animation?

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Ha! Yeah, I noticed that after I shared it. He he.I will confess to having NO idea. Is it wrong to share gifs if you don’t know where they’ve been? 😉

    4. ShanaC


    5. Donna Brewington White

      In my case “work for people who are much younger” has meant clients. Truly love it!

  4. Mike Zamansky

    I was talking to someone yesterday about trying to set up something like this but for CS teachers. Obviously the intent wouldn’t be for them to enter the tech industry but rather a summer internship to keep them current and involved in the greater tech community.

  5. JaredMermey

    This is an absolutely amazing idea. What are the pre-reqs and process for getting into the program?

    1. TamiMForman

      For participants the requirements are 5 years of professional experience before a career break (because it’s not an out-of-college opportunity), a break of two years for caregiving — that can be a child, parent, spouse. The program is open to both women and men but we expect most participants will be women. We plan to have programs running in the fall in NY and CA. Colorado will be either fall or early 2017.The sign up form that Fred linked to will get you on the list for email updates as openings become available.For partners it’s more of a conversation. We are looking for companies in NY, CA and CO to join. You can email me at [email protected] and I’ll get you more information.

  6. William Mougayar

    It sounds like a great idea. So, there were no other government or private sector programs in the US that did this, before?I quickly googled in Canada, and the YWCA has a free program:… , and the Gov of Ontario seems to have another similar one.

    1. Pamela Lin

      you are such a google bot , 🙂

      1. William Mougayar

        you’re very observant.

  7. Tom Labus

    It’s never been easy getting hired in the US. It’s always been a weird process. Congrats to all on this one.

  8. cfrerebeau

    We have been able to do it for certain department in our group, with a lot of women getting back to work and working remotely. But it’s great to see a program and framework shared so widely. Will definitely looked into it and see if we can implement it internally.

    1. mattb2518

      We’ve had a lot of learnings from the 50+ people who have gone through the program with us and with 6 partner companies. We hope to evangelize those learnings and best practices to everyone!

  9. laurie kalmanson

    this is awesome. do it also for paid internships to help kids who don’t have parents who can buy them a condo in manhattan for an unpaid job get started

  10. pointsnfigures

    Congrats. I remember around ten years ago, my wife and I were sitting at a tennis practice watching our kids. We were speaking with other moms and we talked about how tough it was for women. One mom had been a high powered consultant with an MBA. One had been a distinguished attorney and had argued a few cases before the SCOTUS. How could those women re-integrate into the workforce post kids?A lot of the sharing economy can help them with this. But, really, for women like this it’s not just doing a lot of the jobs that are present in the current sharing economy. It’s not that they are better than that, but their opportunity costs are higher. I don’t look down at all on anyone that drives for Uber, but these women aren’t going to drive for Uber because they don’t need the money-they need the creative contact and challenge. Money is a side benefit.For men like me, it’s a massive challenge as well. I am basically unemployable by 99.9% of the companies in the US. If we don’t find our own way, we are stuck being real estate agents.I saw a tweet about this the other day and was glad something was happening. No one better than JoAnne to be a part of the leadership team.

  11. awaldstein

    This is part of a larger topic which is relevance as a worker whether it be from a time frame off to raise a family–and as large–relevance as the population ages and the world changes.Speaks to both how you define experience and wisdom as well as skills. Speaks to how you spend your time during these cycles.I’m all in that this is a great idea.I’m even further in that the concept of relevance and distributed group dynamics as the realities of today’s workforce is key.

  12. karen_e

    The Startup Institute has a similar training program, and it’s run by Diane Hessan, whom the Gotham Gal also profiled on her blog. The technical marketing track looks like a great way for veteran marketers to get caught up on newer platforms.

  13. emmastia

    I remember working with Matt about a million years ago in the mid 1990s when he was at Moviefone. It was obvious then that he was smart but also astute enough to treat women as equals at a time in the tech/advertising industry when that was definitely not the norm. This is such a great idea. Congratulations to all of you that are involved.

  14. SteveMassa

    This looks great. I’d be interested in in exploring how this program could integrate with the White House TechHire initiative which spawned 50 metros focused on building a learning network to rapidly onboard tech workers. There is a significant intern piece which would be perfect for returnships.

  15. JLM

    .This is a square blow on a nail. Well played.Why a non-profit?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. TamiMForman

      That’s the top question I get asked. Partly it’s because there a social mission we are looking to fulfill which we can do more easily as a nonprofit. It also differentiates us from niche staffing firms. And the economics work better — we can charge companies a reasonable sum, charge women nothing and still offer a robust service.

      1. ShanaC

        good idea. Do you plan on offering it to men/other genders who take breaks for other reasons?

        1. TamiMForman

          The program is open to men and we graduated a couple in our last cohort, including one who had been a stay-at-home dad for 7 years. The mission is to on ramp caregivers — so that can mean either gender and can have given care to a child, parent, spouse, etc. We believe this program will mostly serve women who’ve taken time off for childcare. We do recognize there are other reasons people find themselves out of the workforce and may have trouble getting back in, but we are focused on the caregiving aspect.

      2. Anne Libby

        Also, I know of at least one for-profit organization who ran one of these programs in house, and then felt it didn’t pay off. (Because after putting folks through the training, the hiring managers didn’t hire enough of them.)Hopefully institutions like this will become your donors — and get some training from you on how to prepare hiring managers to look at your graduates — rather than building up internal programs that they’re not fully prepared to run successfully.Brava.

      3. Matt Kruza

        Can you comment rough economics of this? I am assuming / primarily white collar / highly skilled so these were probably $75-150k type talent, now coming back making $20-25 an hour internships leading back to the higher paying full salary? I get probably can’t / won’t explicitly share, but is this the right way conceptually think of it? Appreciate any insight!

    2. TeddyBeingTeddy

      Should make it an L3C; a non for profit with the option to be for profit.

  16. Donna Brewington White

    This is wonderful!Bravo!

  17. Lawrence Brass

    Considerate people helping considerate people, people helping people that helps.. you are building a recursive good karma factory. Amazing.

  18. Mark Essel

    I dig it. Wonder if there’s a larger need for getting folks who have been out of the workforce for a while (for other reasons) back in action.

  19. TeddyBeingTeddy

    So many CEO’s decided to be moms instead. Real talk: guys with kids consider Monday morning to be the new Friday night. The multi tasking and memory skills associated with being a parent are nuts. if those moms chose to really enter back into the work force, we’re screwed fellas! Great cause, looking forward to it snowballing into something really big.