building a brighter future

laura's story

A UW Certificate scholarship paves the way for a stay-at-home mom to return to WOrk

A stay-at-home mom for more than a decade, Laura Kirch was nervous about re-entering the job market. Would her skills still be relevant? Was there any way to offset the long gap in her resume?

She found the answer to those questions in the UW Certificate in Project Management — the path to developing highly sought-after work skills along with an impressive University of Washington credential.

I’m embarking on a journey to create a new chapter for myself and my three children. I’m excited to learn new skills and to show my children what strength, bravery and determination looks like.

Laura Kirch

There was just one problem: Laura couldn’t afford to pay for the program.

“We were a one-income family with twin 8-year-old girls and a son who’s 11,” said Laura, who was working part time, parenting and caring for her very ill father at home. “It had been such a long time since I got my degree, and I wanted to go back into the workforce full time.”

Fortunately for Laura, the University recognized her potential and awarded her one of the 10 inaugural UW Certificate Scholarships.

For Laura, the UW certificate complemented her educational background — and gave her a way to explore new professional opportunities.

“The project management certificate was a really good fit with my interior design degree, and it’s applicable to a wide range of opportunities,” Laura said.

Since completing her certificate in 2018, Laura worked for furniture and building companies before landing at the real estate company Redfin, where she now works as a listing concierge. Project management has played a role in each of these positions, especially at Redfin, where Laura said she’s functionally a project manager.

“I work with set of real estate agents, and we help get homes prepped and ready for market, so I'm managing timelines and hiring different vendors to do work, and it's all project management,” she said. “It ended up serving me well to take the program.”

Laura’s been able to use both her project management skills and interior design background, which was her goal when she began the UW Certificate in Project Management.

“The interior design plays into my role a lot because I make all kinds of design choices for homes, and I’m doing some staging myself,” Laura said. “And then the project management is a huge piece of what I offer because people are often too busy to find all the different vendors. I’m getting the best return on investment for both.” 

For Laura, the certificate helped her develop the ability to communicate effectively and efficiently across multiple projects, which has been a huge professional boon, especially in 2020.

“The biggest takeaway I got from the program is that communication’s key and central, especially when you’re working remotely,” said Laura, who worked remotely before the COVID-19 pandemic but has seen her hours at home increase since its outbreak. “It’s become even less out in the field and more at home, so there’s constant communication via Zoom or Google Hangouts. That communication piece is even more important.”

Since completing her certificate, Laura has remained in contact with former classmates, who’ve become trusted friends and peers.

“The UW has been a really great experience overall — continuing to be a part of it, supporting it and being a recipient of the scholarship,” Laura said. “I’m just super grateful; it’s all been so positive. It was great thing for me in my life.”


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