“Find ‘your people,’ and you’ll have more fun and more support. Don’t see a community you want to join? Start one.”
Tina Lee, 43 is the founder and CEO of MotherCoders, a non-profit based in San Francisco, CA that’s expanding the tech talent pool by providing mothers with the skills, industry knowledge, and community support they need to advance towards careers in technology. MotherCoders was a finalist in the 2015 Google Impact Challenge.
Years in industry?
12+. I’ve worked as a management consultant implementing enterprise IT solutions, a tech recruiter, and a tech consultant for nonprofits. After I got my masters degree in EdTech, I worked as Director of Innovation for a philanthropic foundation that focused on bridging the digital divide and then in government.
Who or what inspired your career in tech?
I stumbled into tech by happenstance. My first job out of college at Accenture showed me how tech is central to business in a global environment. I knew it was just a matter for time before the transformation hit all facets of society. After that, it was all about wayfinding and connecting my skill set to passions and opportunities where I felt I could make a difference.
What’s been your best hack ever?
I’d say that my best hack to date has been MotherCoders, which is basically a giant workaround for moms who lack child care, or the financial, professional or social support, to get tech skills. On a personal level, my life would definitely be harder to manage without Google Apps and Amazon Prime (for home and office use), my new Instant Pot, plus a jaunt to my neighborhood farmer’s market every Sunday to pick-up fresh, affordable seasonal produce for the week, which works best when done alone.
What has been your greatest career challenge and how have you handled it?
Transitioning into being a mom has been very challenging for me. I just don’t have enough time or energy to do all the things I want to do professionally anymore. Both my husband and I have demanding careers and hardly any family support on the child care front, so I must manage the time and energy I spend outside of my family very carefully so I have enough left for over for my girls, who, at ages 3 and 5, still need a lot of attention.
What is your biggest career success to date?
Being invited to the White House by the Obama Administration to talk about building our nation’s future tech workforce.
What are the top 3 pieces of advice for women in tech?
First, connect to a problem you want to solve. Tech is merely a tool for solving problems. Tools change. Approaches to problem-solving will vary. Second, build or find a community of support. Find “your people” and you’ll have more fun and more support. Cultivate authentic relationships, even if they’re weak ties. Don’t see a community you want to join? Start one. Third, be courageous. Keep an open mind. Get out of your comfort zone. Have moral courage to go a different way. Check your privilege.
If you could go back in time, what’s one tip you’d give your teenage self?
It’s not your fault. You’re going to figure a way out of this because you’re creative and resilient. Find a good therapist.
Who are your role models?
I admire different people for different reasons. But in general I’d say I admire: Hillary Clinton for being kind but tough, smart and determined, effective and resilient, courageous and courageously unapologetic; Barack and Michelle Obama, for their humor, grace, and thoughtfulness, for being inspirational and brilliant but down to earth, for modeling great parenting and being disciplined and cool under pressure; my husband, for all of the above, plus being incredibly earnest, patient, perceptive, easy-going and hilarious.
What do you do when you’re not kicking butt at work?
The typical stuff: hanging out with my family, taking care of household matters, trying to squeeze in some high-intensity interval training– or a nap!
Flats, heels or kicks?
I stopped wearing high heels regularly after I became a mom, partly because I was terrified of dropping my babies. Nowadays, I do flats, running shoes, or something with a stacked, low heel.
Who are the women in tech that you most admire and why?
Wow, there would be too many to list, plus it’d be unfair to those I admire who are outside of tech. What I will say is this: in general, I love tortured people — survivors and underdogs, people who have overcome adversity and lead with empathy, creativity, and moral courage. Mission-oriented people who are changing the world. In terms of women in tech, right now I’m girl crushing on some founders, designers, and Diversity and Inclusion leaders.
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