I fell in love with coding and it changed my life
How I got started
I am a proud mother of three amazing kids. It is my greatest calling and I am honored to invest in three little lives and watch them grow. As my second career, I work as a software engineer for Volusion. When I tell people what I do for a living, I get a lot of raised eyebrows. Do motherhood and coding even go together? Based on their reactions, you would think I were a unicorn. Well, minus the mystical part, it’s not that far from the truth. When I look up from my desk, I am surrounded by teams of very talented, amazing developers… who are all guys. Great guys.
Volusion has more than 400 employees, or Volusioneers, working hard every day. Many Volusioneers are mothers, but I am one of only two mothers who code. So yes, I’m in the minority. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, there’s poor representation of women in STEM roles across the board. But we are looking to change that. I know it can be difficult to make the connection between raising children and creating technology with a purpose. And finding a work environment that supports those aspects can be a challenge.
But I’m here to tell my story and say it can totally be done and it is awesome! We hope to reverse the downward trend of women in technology because we need more mothers who code in the workforce. So how does a mom become a developer? Well, for me, it wasn’t exactly on purpose. Years ago, if you told me I would be a developer, I probably would have raised some eyebrows myself.
I am not special
In the days before I had kids, I was a quirky creative artist. I played three different instruments. Before I entered college, I wrote and published an orchestral piece which was performed. I wrote articles for newspapers, started my own photography business and also began freelancing design work. I knew a tiny bit of HTML. Well, let’s just say I was proud if I could get a link to open in a different tab. Now, I am a big fan of science and math came easily to me, but beyond that, nerdy coding stuff never appealed to me as a career opportunity.
After I had kids, I began to freelance small design projects while the kids napped because we needed the extra income. It was a great gig and I enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom while still meeting the needs of my clients. Over time, my clients would request small web projects such as splash pages. What started off as a few one-off web development requests turned into a big demand. It didn’t take me long to realize most design gigs required some serious coding know-how.
Then it hit me. I had to learn code if I were to keep my customers happy. The career change seemed sudden, but I began to hustle anyway. I dove headfirst in any resource I could find: books, online tutorials, code-alongs, meet ups and code mentors. Even though it seemed intimidating at first, I was instantly hooked. I found a new family in the coding community. I initially thought my creative background wouldn’t translate at all, but I was totally wrong. Before I knew it, I was creating tools and apps that communicated information, solved problems and touched others. I didn’t know I had it in me.
A rude awakening
By this time, my freelance work was blowing up and it was hard to contain in the two hours when my kids slept. I made the tough decision to make web development my (second) full-time career and launched myself into the tech world. My first few jobs gave me a rude awakening as to how a mother who codes is often treated.
Between the mansplaining and patronizing, I found myself in a stereotypical brogrammer work environment. Because I have a (very important) life outside of work, it was easy for my managers to see me as a weaker team member. Sixty-hour work weeks and long weekends on short notice was standard. Not only was this high-octane performance the norm, it was rewarded. No mother can possibly keep up with that demand. It took a lot of courage to clock out at 5 p.m. to be with my family. And if the technology changed, I had to learn it on my own limited time.
Despite my talents and best efforts, I was never going to be the employee of the month in any of these places. It didn’t take long to see the burnout in everyone and also in myself. Creative ideas dried up and these companies struggled to put out a good product. This was not what I signed up for. I felt unwelcome and it was made very clear why most women want nothing to do with jobs like this.
Thankfully, there are wonderful places where a unicorn like myself can thrive. When I first stepped foot in Volusion I instantly knew this company was the real deal. For one, they have a wonderful work/life balance policy. Volusioneers believe in working hard, kicking butt and having fun doing it.
For a mom who codes, it means everything when a company shows great respect to both the professional and personal spaces in my life. For example, opening emails over the weekend is frowned upon. And there’s never any fuss when one of my kids fall sick. Simple concepts like this give me the freedom to be the best mom I can be which in turn increases my performance at work. While focusing on work, the opportunities to grow professionally are everywhere. We are challenged and stretched beyond our comfort zone. We improve our weakest skills through hack time, tech talks, meet-ups, coding competitions and mixing teams with different skill sets. Something I could never accomplish with limited time outside of work.
Where are my moms at?
One of the great privileges I have is being a part of one of Volusion’s biggest software milestones. We are leading the charge and making incredible improvements to our platform. Our engineering team cannot wait for our customers to see the amazing changes! Our leadership gives us autonomy and creative license to innovate and test some of the best technology today. As a mom, I often tend to think in terms of legacy, how my choices will affect my family for generations. As a mom who codes, I love how creating great technology can relate to customers and make a positive impact. Mothers who code bring a completely unique and valuable perspective to the table. We need more mothers to represent!
You are more qualified than you think!
I think coding is essential. Even if you think learning a coding language may not be your jam, I would dare say that you will be amazed at what it will bring out in you. By nature, mothers are creators. Writing code is just an extension of that creativity. Even if it may not lead to a career, the logic woven through coding produces great thinkers and influencers in society. Some of the most useful tools we use every day are a result of great programming.
Imagine if the creative force behind motherhood could also drive positive change in the programming world. We can use that technology to solve some of the world’s worst issues: homelessness, poverty, slavery, starvation, and disease. I am teaching my children how to code because I believe when they are older, coding will be as basic of a skill as sending an email is for us today. For my daughter, I especially want to stress that a coding language isn’t just a boy’s game and that it can empower her to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. For moms who are looking for ways to build a great career, earn a great income or just have fun, the coding community welcomes you.