FIND YOUR PURPOSE
The walls of the conference room at the corporate offices of NerdWallet in San Francisco were filled with poster-sized paper. The brightly colored drawings on each one looked like complex mazes filled with images of cars and houses and stick figure humans. At the front of the room a seven-year-old girl named Athena shared details about her team’s new strategy for saving money. She and the twenty or so other elementary school-aged children were here to learn how to problem solve using design thinking. While the kids were being trained to unleash new ways of thinking, their mothers were being introduced to the basics of coding. The day was hosted by MotherCoders, the brainchild of postpause Warrior Tina Lee.
Tina spent the first half of her career working to support Fortune 500 companies, government entities, philanthropic foundations, and nonprofits in their efforts to integrate technology in their business systems. She also worked as a recruiter, helping companies find great technical talent to solve their business problems. Tina was often frustrated by the lack of women in technology, but she did not actively work to change it. And then she had children.
Medical Careers Working With Children Photo Gallery
While she was making good money as a recruiter, according to Tina, the work was less than inspiring. She felt strongly she was supposed to do something else, so she decided to pause her career after her first child was born to figure out what that was. Tina enrolled in a one-year master’s program that allowed her to integrate her love of technology with education. After that, she worked with governmental agencies to assist them in their efforts to innovate and empower citizens through technology. She was working in the California State Controller’s office on policy issues regarding technology and innovation at the governmental level when her second child was born. Again, Tina decided to take a pause. Her reason was the same as before: She didn’t feel she was doing the work that she was meant to do.
Tina realized that rather than analyze technology and innovation, she wanted to be part of the booming technology economy. She enrolled in a coding bootcamp and was dismayed to find she was the only woman in the group and the only parent. While the young, eager men gathered at lunch to talk about what they’d learned, Tina hid in the unheated women’s bathroom and pumped breast milk for her baby. For Tina it was an epiphany.
“I realized we’re never going to change the ratio of women in the tech industry if we don’t figure out a way to make it more mother friendly,” she told me when I met her at the MotherCoders event at NerdWallet. “Coding seemed like a great way to tackle the issue. First, the demand for coders is huge. Building the skills and knowledge of coding offers solutions for mothers who want to change careers. Plus, coding is also a perfect way for mothers who want flexibility to do part-time work until they are ready to onramp to full-time work. But the coding eco-system is oriented to young men who generally don’t have children. I wanted to create a program for mothers like me.”
In the fall of 2013, Tina launched a nonprofit dedicated to creating a more inclusive tech economy by expanding the talent pool to include mothers. She donated her time and managed to raise enough money to design the MotherCoders training program. The nine-week Saturday-only course with onsite child care introduces moms to the coding ecosystem so they can decide which coding language and career they would like to pursue. After being trained at MotherCoders, they can then move on to a full software-training program like Hackbright Academy.
In 2015, MotherCoders participated in the Points of Light Foundation Civic Accelerator and was the winner of a $100,000 grant from Google Impact Challenge. After hosting two training programs,
Tina has refined the curriculum and is now offering an additional course specifically designed for returning female military veterans who are looking to relaunch into the civilian economy.
“Thanks to my children, I am finally doing what I was meant to do,” Tina told me recently. “Being a mother and having a chance to realize the challenges other mothers face has finally enabled me to find my path.”
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