Joshua and Bekah Hawrot Weigel discuss Moms Can Code a community supporting women, particularly mothers with their journey to becoming software developers. Covering Bekah’s personal journey from teacher to developer, the incredible support she’s received from the group and some of the challenges she’s had to face along the way.
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Alright. Howdy folks. In our last episode I mentioned Moms that code, a group of software developers who also happened to be mothers. Many of them have slightly different work life balance than your typical office worker. And I asked Bekah, a mom that codes to join me today to chat about that.
Now I've purposely not mentioned your surname because when I moved to England I was informed that I was pronouncing my own surname incorrectly. Apparently I'd been saying my own name wrong for decades, so I really don't trust myself not to do the same with yours. I'll let you do that.
No, that's fine. Hi, my name is Bekah Hawrot Weigel. And thank you for having me.
Uh, thank you for joining us. So I wanted to start off with a little bit about you and just who you are and how you got into software development because I think I was reading that you were a teacher before that. So that's quite a big shift for you.
Yes. And this is a story that I am 99 percent positive. You will never hear anyone else tell. So, um, it's not the traditional way, but I was teaching college English for, um, I'd just quit in the spring, but so about nine years and I was doing it part time. I was pretty happy because I was a mom of three and I was about to have my fourth kid.
And so when I had my fourth kid two of my organs ruptured and I had all these crazy symptoms and they said, no, that's pretty typical for a mom of four, we're going to send you home. Well, I knew it wasn't typical and I ended up having major surgery about a month later and it just kind of threw my life into a state of craziness. Um, I was pretty much laid up on the couch for six weeks.
I wasn't allowed to lift anything. I couldn't lift my new baby. Um, it was just all very life changing. And so I was fighting anxiety and I was fighting PTSD from a lot of the stuff that had happened and I just couldn't get back into the swing of life and my husband is a self taught developer and he said, why don't you try coding?
And I said, are you kidding me? Like I don't have enough on my plate. You want to add one more thing? And he kept bugging me about it, like just try, try some free code camp. I'm like, finally, like fine, if you will stop asking me, I will try.
And up to that point I had been doing therapy, I was on medication and that helped with the anxiety and the depression, but nothing helped with the PTSD. So I was having this cycle of thoughts of everything that had happened to me repeat constantly all day long.
I just, I couldn't be present. I was stuck in that moment of when this happened and I found that when I coded that stopped.
So I'm so focused at this new task that I'm learning and understanding these error messages and the code that I'm putting on the screen that, that was not coming into... The trauma, wasn't coming into my brain anymore. And so initially it was something really therapeutic.
And so I kept doing it and I found the group, um, Moms Can Code through twitter and it turned out the founder, Erica Peterson, lives about 30 minutes away from me and she asked me to meet up and I thought, well, this is amazing. Like this woman is starting this great thing and she, she wants to talk to me about it.
And then I found free curriculum, um, pre boot camp curriculum with Flatiron School and the dean of Flatiron School was messaging me on Twitter and being very supportive of my journey and I thought, hey look, I'm being supported here too. And of course my husband was supporting my journey because, you know, he, he knew what it meant to me and what it was, how it was changing my life.
And so, you know, once all of those things fell into place, I kind of fell in love with it. And so, you know, I've been coding every day since January 1st of this year and I really enjoy what I'm doing.
I can certainly see that. Software development is a very immersive thing, but I can't imagine trying to deal with everything you have going on and four children at home as well.
So there's an entire community around this. Moms can code and they've actually really been supporting you, from the sounds of it.
Absolutely. I was on Twitter fairly recently. I'm always on Twitter. So, um, somebody was going back and forth about whether or not to join Moms Can Code. And they said like, I'm already doing all of these things. You know, I'm trying to learn to code. I've got a job, I'm a mom, how am I supposed to do one more thing?
And I put it this way, you know, don't think of Moms Can Code it as one more thing. You have to do. Think of it as like you're juggling all of those tasks that you have on a daily basis. Being a mom, taking care of your kids, taking care of yourself, working a job and you're trying to keep all of this going, but when you add in Moms Can Code or when you join Moms Can Code, these are moms that come in and they help you to do all of those things.
So rather than doing it by yourself, you have the support of a community and members I can say, you know what, I've been there and I've done that and here's some advice or you know, what can we do to help you get through this?
So not only are they supporting you with coding resources, but they're also supporting you in motherhood. Which for me, I felt I've been a mom for nine years and I feel the most confident now as a mom because Moms Can Code.
Yeah. And in any situation like that, the process itself and the process around the things that you're doing really makes a huge difference and having a community who can help you build that process and learn about it is invaluable. And not many people have a community like that available to them. So that's where the incredible on its own.
Now I can imagine a, certainly it's not a very traditional role for software developers. So I know when I invited you on this, I'm saw somebody or you had mentioned that you had been, had a comment from somebody talking about how great it was that you dabble with code and I know that was slightly frustrating for you. Do you and do the others in the community that, you know, run into this a lot where people think that you're just playing with it and that somehow because you're a mom and you're doing these things as well, that it's somehow lesser than what you would be doing if you were in an office?
Oh, absolutely. Um, and yeah, so somebody recently on instagram had said it's nice to see moms dabbling in code and you know, I thought I was really frustrated and hurt by that comment and I usually don't take things personally, but I've been, I've, like I said, I've been coding every day since January 1st. I've given up so much of my time. I don't have free time. I don't get to go out and do fun things because I'm coding instead and that's a choice and I really enjoy doing it so it's not terrible, but at the same time when somebody is so committed to something, um, that kind of language, it just makes it really difficult for us to establish our credibility.
And I think, you know, a lot of the moms in the group to have taken time off and they're either learning to code or they're going back into the industry and they've taken time off to raise children or to have babies. And for a lot of people they challenge the credibility of moms because they've taken time off to do that as if you're sitting on the couch all day. Not doing anything at all.
But in terms of what I've learned from being a mother, I think that that's valuable in a way that we don't nearly, um, credit as much as it needs to be valued. You learn so much from taking care of another human being, from doing house management, uh, from trying to do all of the things and balancing all of the schedules. I don't know, but I think that that any mom would make a really good project manager because of all of the things that we're expected to do on a daily basis.
Yes, certainly, my wife is the..... I get paid to be a project manager, but she's definitely the project manager in our household.
Yeah. And you know, the other thing is, um, I, I sat in on this online interview with a couple of CEOs of bootcamps and they talked about their students and I had asked a question about, you know, being a mom and being a student and one of them said the hardest working students we have our moms.
Because moms aren't there to mess around. They have a goal. Moms are not going to waste their time on something because they don't have time to waste. So when you have a mom, you're usually finding someone who finds the way to be most effective and most efficient.
And I can tell you the next 10 days I have are going to be really challenging because my husband is leaving to go speak in Germany for a week and I've got all four kids by myself and I'm working on a project right now and I'm doing this pair programming thing with someone else and I fully expect myself to be done with all of those things by the time he's back in. The way that I'm going to do that is by not sitting down ever when I don't have to because I know these are my goals, this is the amount of time I have and this is how I'm going to accomplish that. And if that means waking up at 4:30 in the morning, then I wake up at 4:30 in the morning.
Yeah, absolutely. I've certainly seen this with... My mother was a very, very driven woman and to this day still is. And just the sheer willpower behind the things that she would do just to this day astonishes and amazes me. And I would absolutely love to have somebody like that working for me who was willing to put in that sort of dedication and that sort of ability into doing things for me and it is shocking to me that companies don't recognize the value behind that.
Yeah, absolutely. Um, I think that there needs to be a shift in how we think of things and I think that the increase in remote positions is really helpful. But also I recently was talking to another mom who worked for a company and if she worked from home, her daughter was not allowed to be there with her because they said if your daughter is there, you can't possibly be working.
And I have to kind of laugh because if, if you are a parent, you know that you just don't, you can't sit around and play with your kids all day, right? There's still stuff that needs to get done and you figure out how to do it.
So I think the shift in understanding, and now I'm not saying like, well yeah, have your kids at home with you all the time. But I'm also saying you can get stuff done and have kids around you. Um, you can get stuff done and work part time. Um, you can be remote. I think that the key to finding the best team is to offer flexibility because that allows you to get a diverse set of views as well as life experiences.
Absolutely and work-life balance is extremely important. In fact I've been working from home for almost 10 years now and I initially left because I was getting sick of missing the firsts with my youngest er... well.. now eldest son because I missed first steps and I missed all these things because I was sitting in an office.
So I decided I was going to take a shot and try to work remotely. And I really struggled to find a good position for that. I got lucky and I was fortunate enough to find a company that not only was willing to let me work from home but also appreciated family values.
Certainly I know I am more loyal to this company because they gave me that opportunity than any company I've ever been with in the past and I, while, I'm not a mother, obviously I can see a parallel there because that's exactly what you're looking for. That flexibility to be a mom and to be a really great worker as well.
Right? Absolutely. I mean if you can find a company that's flexible with that or you know, for me one of the big things is my kids are home in the summer, sometimes they're sick and they have to go to the doctor. So you know, I, you need somebody to be understanding of that.
And when companies say things like, well, no, you know, we need somebody who is consistent. I think that that is really shortsighted and consistency isn't. I have to take the day off because my kid is sick. Consistency is, do you get the job done? Are you making your best effort and are you producing quality work, um over a long period of time?
And so I think for, like I said before, you know, so many moms are hard workers because they don't have time to waste and you'll find that you'll receive really amazing and quality work that usually goes above and beyond, from the moms that I've met, um, because they want to be there, but they also need, they are also proving themselves, Hey, I can have a family life and I can do this thing.
Yeah, we're not talking just people in seats. We're talking about people getting things done and, and that's certainly something that I see a lot. And even in my career when I have looked for remote roles, it was much the same. They were worried that there wouldn't be people in the seats just doing the jobs and what they wanted you on core hours. And the reality is development doesn't work like that anyway. I don't quit if 5:00 and that's it. My brain shuts off and I don't think about anything else. There are nights I'm up at 2:00 AM thinking I know the answer that! I'm going to go fix that right now!
Yeah, absolutely. I mean moms bring something to the table that's been lacking for so long just because they're, there haven't been jobs that have included moms, so you know, when we're talking about what do moms bring to the table, well, besides a really strong work ethic, work ethic, we have different viewpoints because of our life experiences.
And so I know, you know, it's interesting, I read this statistic and I wish I had it in front of me, but it said something like the, the biggest spenders in the house on average are the Moms, but the marketing doesn't correspond with, um, with, with that statistic. So they're not marketing to the moms, but the moms are spending the money and I think that that's so funny, but it's also... I guess it's not funny... but it's really telling about what's going on and how moms are overlooked.
But if you put mom's into the workplace and they can say, hey, listen, from my perspective, this is how I would approach this problem. I think that you'll also, you can also increase sales and efficiency.
I'm looking for people who will give me something new, a different point of view. And certainly you're right, there aren't.... in fact... in my career, I've only met a handful of female software developers in general, not just mothers, but females in general, which is really sad because that's a huge point of view that's completely missing from software.
Absolutely. And I, I heard this over the summer, uh, I can't remember where that was. Somebody said, if you are hiring and the only reason that you don't want to hire someone is because you don't think that they fit into your company culture. That's why you should hire them because if you have this idea of what your culture is, well only these type of people will fit in here. You're losing out on that diversity and the growth, so it's so much easier to become stagnant and what you're doing if you, if you aren't allowing for that diversity of opinion or diversity of the type of developer.
And I think, um, I recently talked to a woman who's interviewing for developer positions now and she asked the HR person... she was doing an interview... how many women are, you know, part of your development team. And she, the, the HR person who was a woman scoffed at her and answered kind of in a, in a, in a way that didn't feel welcoming, that there were none, but that didn't really matter.
And to her, she, she asked, am I asking, is this not an appropriate question to ask? But I think it's a great question to ask because it's really telling about what that company is doing.
Can it be difficult to find women developers? Absolutely. There are less women CS majors, um, and people... women in development. However, if you're not actively trying to diversify those viewpoints on your team, it's going to make it even harder, but it's also going to show that your company's not really interested in that diversity or in that growth and that doesn't really feel like a welcoming environment to women or moms.
I completely agree and actually that was one of the things that really tweaked my interest about this is because, to be honest, when we have pushed out to try to find developers, I'd say at least 99 percent of the applications we get are men and some of that is geographic problems because there aren't that many female CS majors or developers in general in any particular area.
So we were actually looking at how to recruit people online because we do remote working anyway. There's no point in looking for people in our immediate area. So in order to diversify we'd be looking online and that was one of the things that I really was interested in about the moms that code group because that's a huge group of people that are available. They're easy to find online and nobody's looking.
Absolutely, and I think Erica Peterson has been working to get jobs on the job board that really are good for moms, so she really wants to vet those companies that are putting their names on the website and so she makes sure, hey, is this a good place for moms to grow?
Because if it's not, she's not going to put it up there because she knows how precious our time is. And so always if you're looking for good female developers, posting on Moms Can Code is a really great way to do that because there's a huge network of people there.
And I think um, you know, I'm doing the Flatiron School bootcamp and they have so many scholarships for women on there and the rate of women graduating from the school is also really high.
So I know a lot of people exclude bootcamp graduates in favor of CS majors, but there are women coming out and especially moms because I feel like, you know, I have a masters in English... If someone said why don't you go back and get a CS degree? I've just been teaching at the college level for the past 10 years. I don't want to have to go back and take more core classes or other things and sit there in a classroom for the next four years.
I need to achieve my goal as fast as I can and because I can prove my ability through the projects that I'm doing, I think that that makes it perfect for moms to do a bootcamp that lasts, I don't know whether it's 14 weeks immersive or one year online. Um, that allows us to achieve our goals more quickly, but also to prove ourselves and to get more women in the field. And so, you know, Flatiron School does a really great job of placing their graduates and they also have a lot of women.
So it's nice to be involved in these groups that are so appreciative of women and who are deliberately trying to help us to grow in the field.
Moms Can Code is doing some really awesome things to help their, the moms grow. And so they're holding online summits, uh, they held their second one this fall, which brought in speakers from around the world to talk about uses of or how to be lifelong learners.
And so there are providing that education. But following the Moms Can Code virtual summit. They also had Moms Can Code hackathon, which was two weeks where teams met together online because, you know, this is one of the great things about mom mom's can code. They realized that we don't have the ability to just get up in meat for 24 hours and do a hackathon. So it was spread out over a couple of weeks and there were four or five teams working on the topic of imposter syndrome because that's something the community voted on and felt, hey, it's really important for moms to feel like what they're doing is worthwhile.
Because as we talked about before, we, we hear people say things like, it's nice to see you're dabbling in code. We're not dabbling. We're working hard and we're producing products. And that's what these moms did.
And uh, one of the, I think it was the winning group came up with an APP to help motivate you to reinforce positive thinking and help you remember the good things that you did during the day as a mom.
And so through that process, a lot of moms were learning project management. They were learning how to develop, how to teamwork, how to work remotely, how to work with people in different time zones. And so all of these things are great skills to be building, but to see these moms succeed and do this while they're also in school or taking care of kids or we actually have uh quite a few homeschool moms, so they're homeschooling their kids or they're working a job and they're still getting all of this done to be part of this community and to grow.
And you know, we have that. There's virtual coworking hours where we get together because we can't go to meetups all the time or, or me ever because the closest meetup to me is an hour away. So to leave my house for more than two hours at a time can be really difficult with little ones.
So it's, it's nice to see this growing community and all of these wonderful things that are happening and now they have, um, I think it's a 12 week develop course that's going to be starting soon to help people understand what they're undertaking, if they want to do a bootcamp or learn to code or, or to become a web developer. So there's so much going on in the community to support moms and to help the community grow and to create people... women who are ready to be part of the workforce or, or find jobs for those who are already ready. So, um, yeah, it's a very supportive and amazing community
That's really incredible. And it's proving a lot of these concepts that we've been talking about today. The fact that they can do these things, they can manage these projects and they can work remotely and successfully deliver things. Which is any.. That's what any company is actually looking for is proof that you are able to deliver. And that's exactly what they're showing there, that these teams are delivering on these things.
Alright, well I will let you get back to your day. I know you're very busy.
Yeah. Thank you.
Thank you very much for joining me today. I really do appreciate it and the information you've shared I think is really great.
Oh good, thank you so much.
Okay. Well, I will post some transcripts up at gettingappsdone.com. As usual.
Please be sure to check out my website at joshuagraham.info.
And also check out Bekah's website at bekahhw.github.io.
I'll post a link on the transcript just to make that a little bit easier for you.
And while you're doing that, please absolutely do check out momscancode.com.
If you can't find that, look it up on Google. It's really easy to find. It's an incredible group and these women really deserve some attention because the work they're doing is absolutely incredible and it's NOT... ABSOLUTELY NOT... just dabbling with code!
Anyway, do not forget to subscribe and check out our website.
If you are a mom that code or a company that does have great experience with hiring parents who want a better work-life balance, please drop us a line. I would absolutely love to hear about it.
Until next time, thanks for listening.