When you’ve been out of the workforce for a few years, coming back is hard. But it doesn’t have to be. In 2017, we adapted a program available in Redmond to create new opportunities for engineers, designers, and VFX artists in Vancouver. Called LEAP, it immerses candidates into our teams and helps them refresh their skills.

Aline Caillaud and her husband Cedric moved to Canada in 2010. Having worked as a software engineer in Singapore and in her home country of France, she wrestled with a big decision – look for work or stay home and help her young family adjust to a new country with a new language.

“My kids spoke a little bit of English, but I wanted to be there for them in the beginning. Then one year became two, and before I knew it, eight years had passed.”

Starting with a few online courses, Aline began thinking about returning to work. Studying at home offered flexibility, but it was harder to focus. There were always other things around the house that needed to get done and there was nobody to ask if you had a question. So, when her husband learned about a new program at work, she applied.

“It was the right time for me,” she explained. “It was hard. But, being around people who want to help you, and being completely immersed in something instead of alone at home made all the difference.”

LEAP candidates are matched to a team and assigned a buddy.

“Having someone to guide you, it’s super important,” noted Aline. “When I came onto the team, I wasn’t like any other engineer. I wasn’t just coming to work at a different company, I was starting over with a new programming language.”

After completing her contract, Aline learned that she’d landed a full-time permanent position with her team.

The success of the first candidate provided a springboard for growth. This year, there were three new LEAP positions available and Roberta Albuquerque snagged one of them. Having been out of the workforce for eighteen months, she’d been dropping in to industry events to meet people and explore opportunities in Vancouver. At a WomenHack event early in the year, Roberta made a connection that would eventually lead her to apply for LEAP.

“It was hard in the beginning, but I’m more comfortable now. I know more about the company and the job and the team,” she shared. “I just want to learn everything that I can.”

Roberta joined a team in transition, which eased her return to engineering.

“The project I’m working on is very different from the work I’ve done in the past, but it was new for everyone on the team, so we’re learning together. I think it was good, because I didn’t feel so lost.”

And while she completes the LEAP program in February, Roberta isn’t thinking about what comes next.

“I’m not concerned about the end. I’m focused on doing my best. When it’s over, I’d definitely like to stay here, but right now, I’m concerned only with being comfortable in the environment.”

Aline, Roberta and the other LEAP candidates meet every month to share tips and resources and talk about the challenges they’re having. They also attend events and networking sessions to connect more broadly with others in the industry.

“Coming back, you’re facing issues that the others around you may not necessarily have,” explained Aline. “When you get an opportunity to talk to the others in the program, it’s good. When I was struggling, they were having the same challenges, and it was nice to know I wasn’t the only one.”

New LEAP positions will be available in 2019.
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