Are Online Courses Worth Adding to Your Arsenal as a Woman Returning to the Workforce?

Will a certification help compensate for a career hiatus? Is it something to highlight during a job interview? Do MOOC's (Massive Online Open Courses) offer any tangible benefit to my job search? These are just some of the questions we frequently hear during our weekly PowerHour for Women Back to Work.

Most people recognize Coursera, UDemy, Udacity, and Lynda as providers of online certificates and nanodegrees. And back in 2011, most of these sites were completely free. But as interest grew and individuals began opting away from on-campus learning to online learning, the model began to change. Coursera now uses a monthly subscription model, Udacity offers paid micro-credentials known as nanodegrees, and edX provides paid courses for career advancement or professional education. These, along with most other online sources, provide a learn-at-your-own-pace experience. And while they are now paid, they cost much less than traditional degrees and certifications while providing a great learning experience. Today, over 700 universities world-wide have partnered with online learning providers to offer fully-online Masters degrees. 

As a returnee to the workforce, online courses can be a good way to keep yourself abreast of changing technology and can help get you up-to-date on current technologies. In addition, courses that offer certificates upon completion are now recognized by industry leaders such as Walmart, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, IBM, Adobe, and more. Google actually offers their own online courses that can give you a leg-up if you plan to apply there.  

When added to your resume or LinkedIn profile, these certificates demonstrate that you have built on your skillset and capabilities while on hiatus. Relevant coursework on your resume also helps you stand out during an interview and is often a conversation starter. Employers are interested in learning what drives candidates to pursue an online education and can demonstrate discipline, willingness to learn, and intellectual curiosity in a potential employee. While it may never completely compensate for a career gap, an online certification  increases the value you bring to any role you might apply for. 

(Read our complete Job Search Guide for Women Returning to the Workforce)

With so much to choose from, where do you start? 

Here are some of the popular courses that you should consider adding to your repertoire: 

Data Visualization: Part of the data mining specialization, the Data Visualization course offered through Coursera provides a foundation in elementary graphics programming, basic visualization, and human perception and cognition. Big data skills are in high demand by employers. 

Machine Learning A-Z, Hands-On Python and R in Data Science: This course will help you master Machine Learning on Python and R, learn advanced techniques like Dimensionality Reduction, and specific topics like Deep Learning and Reinforcement Learning. 

Python for Everyone Specialization, University of Michigan/Coursera: If you have no background in Python, this course is for you. This Specialization will teach you basics of one of the most in-demand programming languages, utilizing core programming tools such as functions and loops, and utilization of variables to store, retrieve and calculate information. 

Google Analytics Academy: Google's Online Learning Center gives you a thorough understanding of their measurement tools in order to help you grow your business through intelligent data collection and analysis.  

The Web Developer Bootcamp: Udemy offers this comprehensive course to learners who are completely new to web development. Expect to learn CSS, HTML, JS, Node, and employ them to create full-stack web applications from scratch. 

These are just a few of the many online resources available at your fingertips. And while it may seem daunting, certifications from online courses are viewed as a big plus by most employers when they are directly applicable to a position.  

Happy learning! 

Are You Missing Out On Exceptional Talent?

Are You Missing Out On Exceptional Talent?

Last week, a group of 50 amazing women walked into the Equinix Headquarters, ready to take control of their careers. Among them was a Data Analyst who loves Pilates, a Program Manager retired from the United States Air Force, a Senior Business Analyst who empowers women refugees from Afghanistan, an iOS Engineer who volunteers for 'Humane Eating'. These 50 women are part of a unique, underserved talent pool who are changing the way Equinix finds and hires technical talent.

A Heartfelt Woman Back to Work Story

Akraya has been leading the 'Women Back to Work' initiative for several years. Every once in a while I receive a note such as the one below that reminds me and my team on why we do this.

"Thank you is not enough for the wonderful opportunity to let me participate in the Equinix Women Back to Work event. I have been excited from the day I received the invite...

After the break - 8 tips to launch yourself into work: Part 2

After the break - 8 tips to launch yourself into work: Part 2

Getting back to work can be daunting. Are you really ready? What kind of challenges are you going to face? The best bet is to be as prepared as possible for the challenges. We dealt with some of the issues in Part 1. In this concluding post, we focus on some more key aspects that you'll need to pay attention to as you gear up for your reentry into the workforce. 

After the break - 8 tips to launch yourself into work: PART 1

After the break - 8 tips to launch yourself into work: PART 1

Many of us have been in a similar situation—taken a couple of years break from work, traveled the world (or the country), brought up children, looked after unwell parents or maybe taken a sabbatical to write a book—the reasons are many.  This break could be a few months or sometimes a few years—but now as it’s time to get back to working life again—and it can all seem a bit daunting.

While some things might have changed, others remain the same. But like you’ll find out, it’s always better to be prepared for the challenges ahead and gear up accordingly. You need to equip yourself with a positive attitude and arm yourself with a few of these tips.


Someone took a chance on me!

Sonu Ratra, Co-Founder & President of Akraya Inc. on her personal journey, and why she’s so passionate about building the “Women Back to Work” program as one of the industry’s best.

Many years ago, someone recognized my potential and enabled me to return to workforce. This break changed my life and allowed me to get back on my career path.  I am passionate about bringing more women back into the workforce.  Through the “Women Back to Work” initiative, powered by Akraya Inc., I hope to see more women empowered by leading them towards employers who are willing to give them a second chance while also contributing to their gender diversity goals.”


A beautiful baby born six weeks early!  I was intimidated and overwhelmed by the fact that I was the one responsible for this tiny little person.  I wasn't going to let anything get in the way of giving her my full attention.

My maternity leave near over, I took her to a meeting with my then manager. It didn't go well.  She hollered, tried wiggling out of her baby seat and screamed at the top of her lungs.  I was mortified and the decision was made.  I decided to spend a couple years at home to raise her.  So I resigned, leaving a job with top-of-the-line financial rewards, a great potential for growth, and some amazing colleagues.  I walked away from it all.

I knew I was going to stay home with my daughter for as long as it took.  Little did I know that that when I decided to return to the workforce, the doors would shut.  I was tired of applying to roles where employers didn't see me as an active contributor and passed up my resume for other qualified candidates. The fact that I was the best performing employee, graduated from a top university, or was recognized with the company President’s Award two years in a row didn’t seem relevant.

My story probably sounds very familiar. How many women have taken these breaks to care and raise children or support an ailing parent?  We might have been laid off work or took a sabbatical to enrich our lives.  At that time, it didn't register that by doing so, we were diminishing our chances of going back into the workforce.

Over the years, we as hiring managers, recruiters, talent acquisition experts who are responsible for hiring the best and the brightest are sometimes wary of tapping into this pool of highly talented, qualified women.  When we see a resume with a gap of a few years, we assume this individual won't fit the bill or won't be able to hit the ground running.  We often reject before we can review.

Look around us, these women happen to be our neighbors, school moms, a family member or an ex-colleague. These are professional, highly talented, successful women who have been a part of the corporate world and are remarkable in every sense of the word.  They have led teams, churned out code, and were responsible for some amazing products and services.  Now they run a PTA, lead school project teams and juggle multiple roles and projects.  

Wouldn’t these multi-tasking talented women be an asset to every company?

I urge you to have a cup of coffee with them, host them for an informational meeting, share job leads, mentor them and refer them to your network including your managers and your employers.  If you are technical, offer to help update their technology skills. They don’t need to be a part of a separate quota. All things being equal on the qualification and skill levels, they deserve a chance.   Be their advocate, mentor, and advisor!

I have much gratitude towards the manager who was willing to interview me, spent an hour with me and offered me my job after two years of my break.  He didn't reject me looking at my paper resume. Instead, he decided to make that decision after meeting with me, getting to know my background, my expertise and the value I could bring to the role.

The Women Back to Work program is a cause that is personal to so many of us.  The purpose of WBW is to connect talented, experienced, highly skilled, professional women to employers who recognize this talent. The program intends to be Bay Area’s most successful reentry program.  However, we can’t do this alone. This is a collective cause for all of us.  It’s an opportunity for those who want to contribute to empowering women by bringing them back into the workforce.  

Today, I’m eternally grateful for that one opportunity, to the hiring manager and his decision to give me a second chance.  It made a significant impact on my life and career. Women trying to reenter the workforce deserve an opportunity and a second chance.

I hope each of you will join the Women Back to Work cause. 


About Sonu Ratra:
Sonu is the Co-Founder of Akraya Inc., a woman-led and minority owned business, which has been championing the cause of women since its inception. Akraya has enabled a large number of women to return to the workforce at various customer locations, through its wide network. The effort continues to grow by leaps and bounds through the WBW program, launched with the goal of becoming a leading program for women returnees.   

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