a technology training program for women with kids

2015 Google Impact Challenge | Bay Area Finalist Winner

Demo Day: School Science Fair for Moms Learning to Code

blog, demo day 2017Kriz BellComment

We’re hosting Demo Day this Saturday, February 25, 2017, from 10am-12:30pm at Google in SF, a regular event we organize to showcase MotherCoders grads. Community members and supporters will have a chance to see the products our moms built, and learn about how MotherCoders contributes to diversity and inclusion in tech.

Sharing our successes with our supporters is important. But, Demo Day is also a great opportunity for our graduates to experience what shipping software feels like. Planning and goal-setting, building and iterating, along with the thrashing and terror / excitement of presenting your work to strangers, is valuable. Demo Day as an event enables our grads to pick up a critical skill mandatory for a successful career in tech: shipping code, even if an MVP is all you’ve got.

Yes, it’s terrifying.

Coding in Context

Yet we know it’s never about code alone. Yes, it’s great that one can learn enough French (or Mandarin, or Swahili or ...) on your own to order escargot at your local French restaurant. What’s even better is actually visiting France, talking with French people,  eating French food, and experiencing French culture.

Put another way: MotherCoders is big on context. That’s why our curriculum and approach to preparing moms for careers in tech goes beyond syntax. Each class ends with a field trip to a tech company to hang out with an actual tech team.

We live in a world where the solution to almost any problem will contain a technical element, even if your goal is to trade your homemade organic kombucha scobies for a couple boxes of 100-count Lipton tea bags. (Serious.) So, we want our students to see technology through the lens of human needs, and coding as a literacy that opens the door to a world of opportunity to fill them, not an end goal in and of itself.

Code. Community. Childcare.

Among the challenges women with kids face in learning to code and breaking into tech, isolation from being time poor is a major one. Given the demands of parenthood, who has free time for regular evening meet ups and weekend long workshops? That’s why MotherCoders is an in-person program focused on fostering community and belonging. The social bonds developed between between our moms and the industry experts we engage help promote accountability, mutual support, and mentorship -- vital parts of long-term success.

Over the past 3 years we’ve helped 34 moms secure a stronger foothold in the digital economy, for themselves and their families. This is what that success represents:

  • We’ve put a STEM role model into 34 homes, affecting over 50 children.
  • We’ve launched 9 entrepreneurs, 5 of which are building tech-focused businesses.
  • We’ve provided 19 organizations with talented women, individuals with college degrees and valuable work experience who are actively contributing to innovation.

MotherCoders does a solid job removing the barriers that keep moms from advancing toward careers in tech. However, that doesn't mean the road is easy. Getting to Demo Day took grit and resilience, and we’re so proud of our moms for what they've accomplished. To ensure they get the most from this experience and proceed into the world with confidence, we hope to be cheering them on alongside you at Demo Day. Like kids at the school science fair, it makes a huge difference knowing there's a community of people supporting you.

UX-Inspired Aha Moments

reflections, fall2016Lillian Fleer1 Comment
Paper prototypes from our Design Thinking Workshop

Paper prototypes from our Design Thinking Workshop

Part of the reason I wanted to participate in MotherCoders was to gain insight into the jargon that was intimidating me from entering the tech sector. Prior to a visit to our class by Senior Product Designer Lee Howard of Good World Solutions, I didn't have a deep understanding of what User Experience (UX) was, and it wasn't until after I did the reading and heard from Lee about her role that I realized it's a critical piece what was missing from a database conversion I'd led at a small nonprofit that went sideways.  

The Dream Database We Never Got 

Guest Speaker: Lee Howard

Guest Speaker: Lee Howard

We had lots of problems with our old database, mainly because we had lots of needs that weren't being met. While the developers we'd hired did their best to listen, they led the project with their technical brain, and there wasn't anyone who took the time necessary to sit down and listen to us -- the users. That effort could have spawned a bigger discussion about our organization's actual business needs before any resources on database development was spent. Yet that process would have taken a certain kind of facilitator to lead -- a UX Designer who could synthesize everything and relay it to the developers and others charged with implementing the new system.

A New Business Idea Emerges

I'd like to start a company to help small nonprofits that don't have full-time staff dedicated to technology. For these organizations, funding usually goes to hiring web developers, database gurus, or other technical experts -- people who usually speak different languages from nonprofit professionals, often causing results to suffer.

The company I envision would be proficient in the needs of nonprofits and how tech can support those, serving as a translator. And after our visit from Lee, I’m now realizing that the UX Designer would be that translator. If funding for UX was built into each project, I'm certain it would benefit everyone. 

Lillian is the Fall 2016 recipient of the MotherCoders Solidarity Scholarship for Queer Moms. You can find Lillian on Twitter at @lillianfleer.

A Journey from Ed to EdTech: Reflections of a College Professor

summer2016, reflectionsSue HomerComment
Summer 2016 MotherCoders Solidarity Scholarship Winner Sue Homer, and MotherCoders alum and Course Manager Natalie Low.

Summer 2016 MotherCoders Solidarity Scholarship Winner Sue Homer, and MotherCoders alum and Course Manager Natalie Low.

My kids have two moms, and they are proud of their family.  My 10 year old daughter wears “LOVE WINS” on her school t-shirts, and is the kid in her class who breaks it down when anyone says ignorant things about same sex marriage.

At camp earlier this summer she learned to code in JavaScript to customize weapons and food in Minecraft, her favorite game. In my house, I’m the mom who loves helping with math homework and asks every day what cool things my kids learned in math and science at school. I’m also determined that my daughter, especially, will not fall victim to gender bias in her education. But when she came home from her weeklong camp motivated and full of questions, I realized I wasn’t prepared to help her answer them. That’s when I decided to get my act together so I could keep up.

Enter MotherCoders

I’ve had a growing interest in tech over the last few years not only as a parent of a tech savvy kid, but also as a college educator keenly interested in the ways that learning is being transformed by the digital revolution. While I had applied to MotherCoders because I knew it would be a supportive environment to learn tech skills, I had no idea how much of an impact it would have on my life.

My experience in MotherCoders this summer has been transformative for many reasons – not only because of the skills I’ve acquired – but more significantly because of the insight and wisdom that Tina and our guest speakers brought to our conversations. Every week, they demystified the tech industry, led us through the process of learning to code, and helped us envision the creation of our dream projects. Their experiences and their stories were living proof that all moms -- including queer moms -- -- belong in the industry, and they gently (sometimes not so gently) encouraged us to take our place by their side.

Key Takeaways

I can’t say enough about the impact this experience has had and will continue to have on my life and my kids’ lives.  Now that I’ve gained insider knowledge on the tech industry and realize  how accessible tech can be, it’s only a matter of time before I make my mark in EdTech and make a difference in the lives of kids from other families.

And to all my fellow MotherCoders: Keep coding, keep dreaming, and pretty soon we’ll be changing the world, with our kids and our families by our side.

Sue is one of 2 recipients of our Solidarity Scholarship for queer moms for Summer 2016. She can be found on Twitter @PoliSciSue

a special thank you to Awesome Without Borders

MotherCoders is extremely grateful to the generosity of Awesome Without Borders, who helped fund the Solidarity Scholarship for Summer 2016 through a $1,000 grant. Thank you also to Ruth Ann Harnisch of Awesome Without Borders and The Harnisch Foundation for her unwavering commitment to uplifting women and believing in us from the very start.

Thinking differently

summer2016Rebecca ChienComment

There’s no other way to put it - This is Hard.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the opportunity to meet the interesting speakers coming to talk to us about user experience and design thinking.  On a more personal level, however, I find it unsettling to discover how disconnected I feel from thinking differently and less conventionally.   I feel like we’ve been trained to bring our experience and expertise into working towards a specific outcome for so long that learning to be OK without knowing is a very hard habit/behavior to change.  How do you wade through all the research and ensure that you don’t bring your own biases or baggage to the table?  How do you stay focused and committed to the discovery process to define an accurate persona without knowing where you will end up?  

Mental Exercise   

After today’s exercise of coming up with a few ideas for which to create user personas and then putting pen to paper to draw something, I felt extremely exhausted.  It wasn’t the regular physical exhaustion that comes with having a young child, but a mental exhaustion of my brain just needing a rest.

Problem Solving From A different Angle  

Having said all that, what I find fascinating is knowing that being exposed to these new ideas and concepts can be so interesting and exciting. When I first joined MotherCoders I thought it was the coding that was going to be the most challenging part to learn.  After a brief introduction to HTML and CSS I can see that it will take a lot of hard work but it’s actually thinking about fresh ways of problem solving from different angles that can be more challenging.  Some of my classmates have very concrete ideas of a product or app they want to build and it’s great to hear their ideas. I’m still not sure what my project will be, but having a group of women to help brainstorm and break it down with me step by step is one of the most valuable parts of this experience.

Designing A Solution

blog, summer2016Margaret LeeComment
The Mothercoders group shoot with Anna!

The Mothercoders group shoot with Anna!

Connecting with my peers

Working with my team partner Paula, I had the opportunity to really understand her needs and challenges instead of making assumptions about an abstract theoretical audience. She humanized the issue(s).  By asking clarifying questions, I received real time feedback, noticed her emotional ups and downs regarding the topic, sensed when she was really excited, when we were making positive progress.

Reflecting on my work

Showing unfinished work to a human being was scary, but ultimately confidence building. We were able to collaborate on solutions and brainstorm ideas, address real problems. Showing unfinished work also allowed me to iterate quickly, to not fall in love with any specific aspects of my work. The process was actually fun and addictive. Shifted my perfectionist tendencies and altered my perspective on how to get from idea to real application.

The pace was intense, but it was great to feel so productive in such a short period of time. I’ve spent so many years in highly matrixed, highly collaborative, consensus-building corporate cultures that it was pretty empowering to feel so accomplished in such a short span of time.  Felt like a blood transfusion.

If I could do it again

If I had to do it all over again, I would continue asking for feedback, iterating, and seeing how feasibly the prototype could be built.

The one thing I want to try next is apply the model/framework to the app concept(s) I’ve been kicking around my head for months… see if I can do a design sprint over the next few days with people I know.

Hello World from the Summer Class of 2016

blog, summer2016Winnie FungComment
MotherCoders alum Natalie Low debuts as a Course Manager. #killinit

MotherCoders alum Natalie Low debuts as a Course Manager. #killinit

Hello World!

Day One of MotherCoders was jam packed and left me with so many ideas, thoughts and questions.  Is it normal to feel uneasy AND excited about MotherCoders? :)

From a technical perspective, I was thrilled to get behind the scenes of web development, starting with understanding the quirks of a text editor, organizing files and seeing my demo codes on the web. This basic introduction provided a calming, credible and systematic approach that I was lacking in my own haphazard foray in updating my uncle’s real estate website.  

From another self-reflective perspective, Day One had me thinking about where I was before Mother Coders and how I arrived here.  

How did I get here?

It’s always been important to me to find ways to contribute to creating a just and equitable society. I was mainly inspired by working side by side with disenfranchised youth who felt the same way because of their passion and energy. These same youth and their stories have guided many of my life decisions, priorities and moral views.

Since embarking on the journey of motherhood, my world view took on this crazy laser-like focus on ensuring the survival of this tiny little person that her dad and I were responsible for. Motherhood became this new perspective or way of life that changed my day-to-day routine, shopping patterns, priorities and even politics. However, the readings and the class discussions have reminded me of the larger world view that I temporarily shifted to the back of my mind.

Bringing my life experience to tech

MotherCoders embraces my new filter as a mom and seeks to bring this voice and experience into the tech world. I was and am super excited to have found this opportunity to contribute a ‘mommy- and baby- friendly” perspective into the tech world.  

Day One provided an excellent reminder for me to think about how I will utilize the information learned through this tech orientation program.  What ‘value’ does this provide? For whom, does it benefit and just how accessible is it?

HELLO MotherCoders! There’s still so much more to learn. 

You can find Winner on Twitter @wfung00.

An Antidote to Hate: The MotherCoders Solidarity Scholarship Fund

blog, fundraising, scholarshipsTina LeeComment
Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

This is not how we’d imagined rolling out a scholarship to help queer moms onramp to careers in technology. Prior to the shootings at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, we had envisioned the announcement to be wholly celebratory, not mournful and defiant.

Yet here we are, 50 people dead and 53 more injured due to the cancer that is homophobia steeped in bigotry, and a lack of sensible laws to curb the gun violence that has resulted in a full-blown crisis and epidemic.

The toll in death and injury in Orlando represents the worst mass shooting in history to date, outnumbering that of Virginia Tech, Newtown, and San Bernardino. And we say ‘to date’ because we’ve already had 1,000 mass shootings in the last 1,260 days.

This is not the world we want for ourselves, nor our children. We are so much better than this.

So with tears in our eyes and hurt in our hearts, we present to you the MotherCoders Solidarity Scholarship Fund, one small but powerful way we are honoring the victims of the Orlando massacre.

Scholarship Details

Money raised for the MotherCoders Solidarity Scholarship Fund will go toward supporting one queer mom in each MotherCoders class session going forward. Our goal is to make this a fully-funded scholarship that offsets the $3,000 nominal cost to participate in our signature tech orientation program so that a queer mom can attend for free.

The purpose of this scholarship is to help queer moms thrive in the digital economy by providing them with an opportunity to gain the technical skills, industry knowledge, and peer and professional support needed to successfully onramp to a career in tech.

The first scholarship to be awarded will be for our Summer 2016 session in San Francisco, which begins on Monday, July 18. Scholarship applications for this round will be due at midnight on Thursday, June 30. (Apply now)

How you can help

  1. Attend this event. Catalyst Conversations with Tina Lee. Thurs, June 16, 2016 at 6:30pm. Location: General Assembly in San Francisco. Cost: $16/person. All ticket sales will go toward funding the MotherCoders Solidarity Scholarship Fund.

  2. Contribute to the MotherCoders Solidarity Scholarship Fund.

  3. Tell a queer mom (or 2 or 3) about this scholarship and encourage her to apply here.

To Queer Moms

If you, yourself, are queer and identify as being a woman in a way that’s significant to you, we highly encourage to apply. In this darkness, we need you to shine your light. We see you. We love you. We want you. And your kids, too.

You can learn more about our upcoming sessions here, and we hope you’ll apply.

Love is love is love is love.

In solidarity,

Tina Lee, MotherCoders

Leanne Pittsford, Lesbians Who Tech

Lindsay Jean Thomson and Kim Hunter, Women Catalysts

You got questions? We've got answers.

blog, summer2016, fall2016Tina LeeComment

We want to make sure you get answers to all your burning questions about our upcoming sessions, especially with the application deadline for the summer one fast approaching on Sunday, June 5.

Things you're wondering might include:

      - Is the MotherCoders program right for me?

      - What will I learn?

      - How does the on-site childcare work?

      - How is MotherCoders different from other technical training courses?

      - What's the scholarship situation? 

      - Yeah, but is it fun? 

So grab a seat -- either at an in-person Q&A session or a virtual one, and spend some time hanging with me and a few of our MotherCoders alums and mentors.

  • (Online) Wed, June 1, 2016, noon-1pm (PST) -- Twitter Chat (Please follow us @MotherCoders use hashtag '#MoCoQ&A'.)
  • Thur, June 9, 2016, 10-11am (PST) -- Play Haven, San Francisco, CA 94116
  • Fri, July 22, 2016, 11am-noon (PST) -- The Rec Room, Berkeley, CA 94703

For those joining us in person, we hope you like coffee and bagels!


Applications Open for New Sessions!

blog, summer2016, fall2016Tina Lee4 Comments

Our Mother's Day gift to the world -- 4 new class sessions for 2016!

We've been working fast and furious to pull together ALL.THE.THINGS. needed to launch an awesome new series of MotherCoders classes, and I'm thrilled (and relieved) to report that we've done it just in time for Mother's Day!

Yay for us! And yay for moms in the SF Bay Area who have been yearning for a way to break into tech!

And we're so excited about the improvements we've made to the program -- changes driven by what we've learned from past sessions. These include:

  • Adding a field trip to meet a tech team at a local company.
  • Partnering with Degreed to put our collection of learning resources onto one platform where courses completed and articles read can be tracked, thereby enabling students to show a learning portfolio to potential employers.
  • Adding weekday sessions.
  • Partnering with PlayHaven and several YMCAs to offer facilities that can accommodate on-site childcare for a wider range of ages.
  • Partnering with YMakers to provide STEAM programming for the kids of moms participating in the Fall 2016 session at the Mission YMCA. (Because a family that hacks together, stays together. Or something like that.)

You can check out the details here, as well as find information on dates and locations, eligibility requirements, and instructions on how to apply.

So in honor of Mother's Day, we hope you'll share this post with all the moms you know. Or better yet -- apply for the program yourself if you're a mom! And as always, please reach out if you have feedback or questions by emailing or tweeting us @mothercoders.

Tina Lee, Founder/CEO of MotherCoders

A Mom-Led Crowdfund Campaign for MotherCoders

blog, fundraisingSarah DoczyComment

Hi, I'm Sarah Doczy, a MotherCoders graduate and board member. Today, I, along with my fellow MotherCoders grads, launched a crowdfund campaign on Indiegogo to raise $10,000 to help sustain program operations. We're doing this because we want to give back to MotherCoders, and so they can continue helping women like me.

Here's my story. I hope you'll support our campaign after reading it.

How I went from Stay at home Mom to Web Development

Like so many women, I chose to put my career on hold to care for my baby. Shortly after she was born, I knew I needed to upgrade my skills for when I was ready to go back to work. I wanted to be able to provide for my daughter, but at the same time have a career that I could possibly work flexible hours, when needed. That is when I was introduced to web development. The world of programming offers many high paying jobs, but programmers don’t always have work “traditional” hours. They can have more flexibility in choosing their own schedule.

I picked up my first HTML book and realized that I actually liked doing this and couldn’t wait to learn more. However, I didn’t have the luxury of putting my daughter in daycare while I ramped up my skills. I would find myself trying to stay awake late, or forcing myself to wake up early, but there is only so much learning I could do when I already wasn’t getting enough sleep due to do my baby waking up at all hours of the night. I had to ask myself “how was I going to pick up the important tech skills I need to compete in today’s economy?”

And then I found MotherCoders.

MotherCoders offered me the ability to improve my skill-set and confidence, all while having my baby close by in a nurturing space staffed with professional caregivers. This program paid off for me in more ways that I could ask. Shortly after the program ended, I landed a job in downtown San Francisco as a web developer. I now feel immensely more comfortable knowing that I have a set of skills that will be in demand, and that I have a career I enjoy!

Please support MotherCoders so they can help more women like me obtain a meaningful career with work-life balance.

You can learn more about our crowdfund campaign, including the great perks we've lined up for you, by visiting our campaign page. We hope we can count on your support!