Helping mothers, caregivers, and others glide back into the workforce
Wells Fargo’s Glide — Relaunch program helps professionals resume their careers after taking a break for a life event.
For 10 years, Karla Kaplan steadily rose through the ranks in finance, starting in deal structuring and origination, and working her way up to become a director of loan syndicate, sales, and trading for a large international bank. It was a dream job, but while on maternity leave after having her first child, Kaplan realized she wasn’t ready to go back to work once her leave ended. Like many working mothers before her, she made the tough decision to quit her job.
“It was such a hard thing to do, even for the most wonderful of reasons,” Kaplan recalled. “I had worked so hard for so long to advance my career and reach the director level. To jump off a cliff and leave and not know when or how to come back was really difficult.”
Gliding back into the workforce
Kaplan found her way back through Wells Fargo’s inaugural Glide — Relaunch program, a 10-week internship-to-full-time program that aims to bring talented professionals with at least seven years of experience back into the workforce after taking a voluntary two-year minimum break for a life event.
At Wells Fargo, Glide — Relaunch serves as an on-ramp for professionals to resume their careers and develop into future leaders, with specialized programming that includes mentoring, a skills refresh, core curriculum, and networking opportunities, along with a business assignment in their specific field.
For Kaplan, that meant working on customer accommodations with the credit administration team within Commercial Banking, as well as identifying areas for enhanced efficiencies, strategic initiatives, and process improvements with transaction review team.
“I was extremely lucky to have a manager who was very supportive of my professional development,” Kaplan said of the program. “In 10 weeks, I met with 40 senior executives throughout Commercial Banking, and everyone was more than willing to spend time with me, share their journey, and offer advice about the bank.”
A little TLC goes a long way
The first Glide — Relaunch class graduated in January 2021, with 30 out of the 34 participants joining the company full-time in areas including Wealth and Investment Management, Corporate Risk, Consumer Lending, and Finance.
The entire program took place remotely due to the pandemic, with Gliders coming together virtually for learning and development classes, as well as a speaker series with Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf, the executive sponsor of Glide — Relaunch, and other senior leaders. The program also delivered on a goal to increase diversity with an inaugural class that was 85% women, 56% racially/ethnically diverse, and 6% veterans.
“The Glide — Relaunch program is a recognition of the important fact that there is no single pathway to a successful career; we each follow a different roadmap,” said Scharf. “The members of the first Glide — Relaunch class bring to Wells Fargo a unique set of life and work experiences from which we can all benefit. As we strive to increase diverse representation, this program allows those with career interruptions a new path to reentry.”
The encouragement resonated with John Liz, a Glide — Relaunch participant who had held various roles in auditing, product control, and strategy and operations before taking a career break in 2015 to help care for a family member. Over the next five years, Liz kept his skills sharp by working on various consulting roles. He also returned to school in pursuit of an MBA, and is set to receive it in July from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Liz learned of the Glide — Relaunch program through the Association of Latino Professionals For America, and said he especially appreciated his manager at Wells Fargo, Elizabeth Chai-Chang for her support during the Glide — Relaunch program in helping him get up to speed after extended time away from a full-time role.
“Everyone involved knew we weren’t going to be all-stars right off the bat, but with a little tender love and care, we’d get there,” said Liz, now a business initiatives consultant in Custom Lending in Wealth & Investment Management.
Adding experience, talent, and diversity
Sandra Fernandes, Glide — Relaunch program manager, said she was blown away by the maturity and discipline of the participants. Not only did classmates excel professionally, but they also took the initiative to support each other’s return to the workforce through daily inspirational emails and weekly virtual coffee chats.
“Our 34 Gliders represented 12 different lines of business, 21 master’s degrees, two doctorates, and 15 different languages,” Fernandes said. “Whether they took time off to become a mother or a father, care for a family member, or take a sabbatical, there is no questioning their resiliency. We’re so proud of the experience, talent, and diversity they bring to our businesses.”
Glide — Relaunch builds on a program that Wells Fargo launched in India in 2017 that focuses on bringing women back into the workforce through a structured and supportive learning regimen. Glide — Relaunch is expanding to welcome 100 participants this year as part of Wells Fargo’s ongoing commitment to hire diverse talent.
‘I have renewed appreciation for my career’
Kaplan, whose son, Connor, is now three years old, said the program was invaluable for resetting her career trajectory, as well as the bond formed between her classmates.
“I have a renewed appreciation for my career,” said Kaplan, now a commercial relationship manager overseeing Middle Market Banking clients in the Connecticut area. “Our class saw this as an ideal time to join Wells Fargo with the bank going through so much transformation. The program shows how much they value fresh perspectives and diverse views, and hopefully our group will be able to be part of the next generation of leaders and agents of change.”
Fernandes said the feeling is mutual.
“At the end of the program, I asked participants to use one word to describe their experience,” Fernandes said. “They chose words like ‘reborn,’ ‘gratitude,’ ‘humility,’ ‘rejuvenated,’ and ‘blessed.’ They are grateful to be here, but we are also grateful to have them.”