The Mom Advantage: Why Tech Needs Mommies
Think supermoms can’t be super-coders? Think again. As we get ready to celebrate Mother’s Day and all of the inspiring moms across the country, we want to share one boot camp grad’s words (inspired by the formidable FDR) far and wide:
“BRAVERY ISN’T THE ABSENCE OF FEAR. IT’S BEING AFRAID AND DOING THE THING ANYWAY.”
Last month, newly minted Georgia Tech Coding Boot Camp Graduate Valarie Regas took the stage at the WWCode Atlanta 3rd Annual International Women’s Day Celebration to discuss how it feels to become a mom in tech and why others should follow in her footsteps. She argues that moms are logistical ninjas that have the technical ability, soft skills, and resolve to tackle any challenge. And they might even bring you homemade cookies to boot.
We couldn’t agree more! Read Valarie’s empowering speech (edited for length) below, watch the video, and forward it to all the tech mamas in your life.
The Mom Advantage: Why Tech Needs Mommies
I’ve been a stay at home mom for the last few years, but not by choice. I got a useless undergraduate degree, lots of student loan debt, and I couldn’t find a job that made enough money to rationalize the expense of daycare. So for the good of my family, I stayed home.
I was not a “good” stay at home mom. I’m not particularly maternal, and I’m not domestic at all. I’ve known for a while that I wanted to get back to work, but I didn’t want a job. I had a job when I was 14. I wanted a career! A passion, something I could be proud of. I just had no idea what that might be, and clearly being a ballerina or jockey was off the list.
About a year ago, my husband, who’s a software architect, was up late at the laptop trying to deal with a problem at work. I wanted to help, but I knew nothing about how the magic box that holds email works. “Well okay,” I thought, “I’m logical. I’ll ask him questions and see if my words can help him remember something he knows but is just too deep into the problem to remember.”
Sure enough, about 10 minutes later, I asked the right question! He had a light-bulb moment, and I was elated. I know now that it was my first time experiencing the exquisite joy of successful debugging. I didn’t know what it was at the time. I just knew it felt good and I wanted more. So I jumped in head first.
I enrolled at the Georgia Tech Coding Boot Camp, and I was terrified y’all. Terrified. Not just of failure but of taking on that much work when I already had two tiny humans to raise. But I just constantly reminded myself that bravery isn’t the absence of fear. It’s being afraid and doing the thing anyway. So I did the thing! And not long ago, I graduated.
Since then, I’ve been looking for my dream position. And as I’ve been searching, I’ve realized many people don’t want to hire moms. They feel like we’re liabilities somehow, and they are so wrong!
It’s not just that mommies are “good enough” for tech, but that tech needs what we bring. From a technical aspect, we approach problem-solving differently. I would watch my classmates sit down to psuedo-code a new application and they could do so very linearly. As a mom, that’s not how my brain is allowed to work. I don’t get to look at my schedule and say, “First I have brunch, then I have a doctor’s appointment.” Instead, I look at it and think, “Alright first up is brunch. What could go wrong? Well, the toddler could spill stuff all over me again. So, I’m gonna pack up some clothes. What’s next? What could go wrong?” When we got to the units on testing in the boot camp, oh how my soul just rejoiced. This was what I was waiting for.
I fell in love with Docker halfway through my boot camp. It made perfect sense. If my home is my development environment and I am raising these two little applications, then my home with all their dependencies are going to behave in the way I expect. But if I try to deploy them to my child-free friend’s house, they are not going to act right. So I’m going to containerize all their dependencies and port that on over. Right?
Obviously, it’s not just technical ability. Plenty of people can learn to code. It’s the soft skills that count. You don’t know conflict resolution until you have two five-year-olds, and you have to get them to compromise in a manner where both parties feel like they were the victor. And you won’t understand the phrase “allocation of assets” until you have four children, each of whom is in two different sports, with music lessons, one car and a gas budget. We’re good at that! We are logistical ninjas.
In a basic way, we will work hard for a company, because we are always ever-aware we are not working for ourselves. We have tiny humans at home that count on us to feed and clothe and house them and we will bring that sense of responsibility to a company.
So, how are we going to get some more mommies in tech? First of all, I’d like to issue a challenge. I want everyone in this room at some point in the next few weeks, find a stay at home mom you know and ask her, “Do you love being a stay at home mom?” If she says “Oh my gosh yes! Let me tell you about my newest Pinterest creation!” Leave her alone, she’s happy!
But if she says, “Well, you know, um, it’s frustrating sometimes, but uh, at the end of the day…. it’s worth it?” If she cannot maintain eye contact while telling you it’s worth it, then it’s not worth it. Help her! Tell her what you do for a living. Show her. Tell her what roles in technology exist that she might not even know about. Help her find educational resources. I’d never heard of Dev Ops. I’ve been wasting 20 years.
I’m going to close by pointing out that that’s not enough. We can have a cavalcade of intelligent, educated mommies ready to enter tech and it won’t matter. So I’m going to issue another challenge to anyone in a position to hire. The next time a resume crosses your desk with the telltale signs of a former stay at home mom, don’t just write it off. Really read it. When you see “boot camp certificate,” don’t see “lack of professional experience.” See that as proof positive that the candidate is a nimble learner. If she’s gone from no technical knowledge to developing full stack applications in 6 months, imagine what you can train her to do in 6 weeks. She’s clearly a hard worker because I can guarantee you that mommy did all of her regular stuff while she took on that challenge.
People are afraid to hire mommies and to them I say, be brave! Be brave like we had to be when we enrolled in that boot camp. Let us bring our work ethic, our unique perspective, our soft skills and potentially homemade cookies to your team. Be brave with us, and together, we can make tech a more rich, diverse, and wonderful place to be.