The Power of 'The Ask' -- Career Roadmapping with Karen Catlin


Because all good things must come to an end, we, alas, wrapped up our Fall 2014 session right before Thanksgiving, on-ramping 7 more ah-mazing moms into technical careers.

Karen Catlin

Karen Catlin

Prior to launching them out of the MotherCoders nest, we called on career coach Karen Catlin, an extraordinary technologist and mother who's now helping other women succeed in tech after having her own illustrious career in the software industry. Being a software engineer and tech entrepreneur and executive who's held leadership roles at Adobe and Athentica -- an early-stage startup in online learning -- while raising 2 kids(!!!), Karen was the PERFECT person to help our moms create a roadmap toward new careers in tech.

Just ask -- and other tips from Karen


Karen gave the class a bunch of practical tips, including many on goal-setting, showing success, and overcoming imposter syndrome. (Her idea on keeping a "brag-a-log" -- a tool for demonstrating impact that can be shared with managers and clients -- kinda blew our minds.)

The BIGGEST takeaway that the moms walked away with, however, was the power of the ask. Here's what some of the moms had to say about it:

"Only 30 minutes with Karen and I was able to get a clear, realistic career path that has already yielded results!  Karen's steps for career advancement are easy to follow, intuitive and simple. The biggest piece of advice that paid off was to ASK.  I always knew that if you wanted something in life you have to ask for it, however my pride would often  prevent me from completing the task. Now I am asking and receiving an abundance of referrals, job opportunities all while expanding my network. Thanks Karen!" -- Colleen George

"I really liked the discussion about the 'power of the ask'. It wasn't exactly a new concept for me, but I liked that she pushed it and showed many personal/real life examples of when and how to do it. I am often very uncomfortable with asking so it was good to get the push. "          -- Mikel Blake

""Don't be afraid to ask." That's really stayed with me." -- Carmen Diaz Echauri

"At first I was skeptical about the power of "The Ask". It seemed too simple to be effective, but Karen helped breakdown my resistance. I learned how and whom is important; and to ask everyone I know, at least twice. The connection may come from an unusual and not so obvious place. Most people want to help, and if you give them a good reason, they will.  Karen also talked about keeping a Brag-a-Log. I started recording a daily accomplishment or praise using the Evernote Journal app. At my next review or (cross my fingers) interview, I'll have a steadfast confidence, and my best achievements on hand to back it up." -- Prisca Ekkens

We're immensely grateful for Karen for trekking up to SF from the South Bay to coach our moms through their transition into technical roles. Karen was effective and inspirational, and her advice accessible and implementable. Kimberly summed it up best:

"For the last couple years, women in tech have been told to lean in.  Although this is a great idea, it is still overwhelming and hard to know where to start.  I like how Karen took this approach but broke it down into manageable steps.  She gave us tools that are easy to execute and as someone who is starting out in the tech field I appreciate being able to take small steps that will lead to bigger results."

We're also very grateful that Karen waived her speaking fee, as we are to all the other speakers and coaches that voluntarily visit our classroom. If your career is stuck in a rut, you should definitely hit her up at You can also find her on Twitter at @kecatlin.

Charging Ahead

As we close out the Fall 2014 session, you'll be thrilled to know that out of our 7 graduates, 2 want to become web developers (Mikel and Zane), while 4 want to get into user experience (Colleen, Kimberly, Prisca, and Robin). Because Carmen was already a back-end web developer with deep expertise in Ruby on Rails and database prior to joining our class, she wants to take her newly rounded-out knowledge-base and skill-set, which now includes front-end dev and design, to a family-friendly company that can benefit from her talents. (Get at her if you're hiring! She's also fluent in Spanish, y'all!)  And I'd be remiss if didn't congratulate Kimberly on her acceptance to General Assembly's User Experience Design Immersive in the spring. (Yaaaaay, Kimberly!)

I'm so proud of what these moms have accomplished in such a short time -- how much they've grown in their understanding of tech and how to thoughtfully consume and make it, and how they can leverage their experience as moms coming from diverse backgrounds to enrich the field. (If you haven't seen their bios, you can check them out here.)

I'm certain the moms from Fall 2014 will make great contributions to the tech industries, joining the likes of Sarah Doczy, who's working as a web developer at Sephora; Angela Cordon, who's thriving as a freelancer through her and her husband's web development shop, A Vivid Visual; and Natalie Low, who's teaching at Railsbridge workshops while 7 months pregnant.

We're also planning a wrap/demo party in January 2015 to showcase the moms from our Fall 2014 class and the websites they built, so please look out for the invite.