Shopify launches re-training program for developers who took extended leaves of absence

Shopify Inc. is putting out the welcome mat for software developers who’ve taken leave from work with its new training program.

The three-month paid program will help senior developers re-join the workforce after leaves of absence by bringing them up to speed on any technical developments in their field and training them on the Shopify technology stack, a collection of developer tools the company uses.

“[We’ve] always been focused on engaging with the best talent, and in many cases what you have is people who have been in the workforce, take a leave of absence and find it hard to re-integrate,” says Farhan Thawar, Shopify’s vice-president of engineering. “So we’re missing all these great folks who have a great background, who have the necessary experience, but have been out of the workforce for a while. We want to make sure we can engage with the full community.”

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Thawar, a father of three, says the idea for the program came from several colleagues’ experiences of returning to work after leave. “I’ve taken off various amounts of time for each kid — and watching my wife, who’s taken much more time off — and having a technical background, it’s hard to re-integrate into the workforce,” he says. “This type of program . . . can help people feel like there’s a way to leverage the fundamentals they already have and then jump ahead with the latest technology stack.”

He says the company hopes the program will lead to greater diversity in its workforce and the technology sector more broadly. “If there’s a fit between the candidate and us, we’d love for them to come to Shopify,” he says. “If there’s not a fit, I think it’s valuable for both sides either way.”

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Industries like the tech sector experience an “extreme” rate of change, making re-entry programs for people who’ve taken extended leaves from work particularly valuable, says Nora Spinks, chief executive officer of the Vanier Institute of the Family.

Referring specifically to Shopify’s program, Spinks commends the “effort the employer is making to recognize life outside of work, to recognize diverse career paths and to reach out to a talent pool that in the past . . . may have been forgotten or left out.”

She says during tight labour markets, employers should get creative in how they attract talent, including connecting with people who’ve temporarily left the workforce. “These types of adaptations and innovative ways of investing in your future workforce will become more the norm, and those human resources professionals that are more creative will be the ones that will capture the attention of the shrinking labour pool.”

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