Photo by Mona T. Brooks |

Tina Lee. Photo by Mona T. Brooks |

WHO SHE IS: Tina Lee, Founder of MotherCoders, a non-profit


SUCCESS STORY: Just completed a 6-week pilot program designed to help moms on-ramp to careers in tech

WORK SCHEDULE:  9-5pm while the kids are at daycare

KIDS: 2 daughters, almost 1 and almost 3

SANITY VICE: It’s quite literal and hardly a vice: I spend an hour with my therapist every week

RECENT SMART READ: Net Smart: How to Thrive Online by Howard Rheingold

BEST TIME-MANAGEMENT TIP: Ask for help. Try not to be a control freak.

GO-TO TECH: iPhone

BETTER WAY TO SAY WORK-LIFE BALANCE? Flexibility (defined as having some control over my own schedule)

5 Questions for Tina

1. Tell us about MotherCoders and your mission. Why the focus on moms?

MotherCoders is a non-profit I launched shortly after the birth of my second daughter last year. Our mission is to create a more dynamic, sustainable, and inclusive economy by on-ramping moms to technical careers.

Screen shot 2014-04-21 at 10.38.34 AM2. How does the program work?

We offer a tech orientation program that provides on-site childcare for moms who want to learn basic computer programming (html, css), expand their understanding of the technology landscape, and network with peers and industry professionals. We bring in lots of guest speakers and TAs — many of whom are women or moms themselves — in order to bring the material to life and make a career in tech feel empowering, accessible, creative, and fun.

3. How are you helping the MotherCoders after they complete the program?

We designed a customized roadmap for each of our pilot participants laying out goals and next steps. We’re also connecting the moms to people in the industry for informational interviews. In addition, we will continue supporting and building the amazing community the moms found in each other, starting with a wrap/demo party that we’re planning for May to celebrate the moms’ accomplishments with our donors, volunteers, and community supporters.

MoCoCookies4. You were the innovation liaison between the state of California and tech companies across the state. How did this inspire you to start MotherCoders?

I love this question. Thank you for asking it. I’ve been working on bridging the digital divide for quite a while now, which started in philanthropy working for ZeroDivide, a community technology foundation that invests in underserved communities. Although I’ve been particularly obsessed with the part of the digital divide that undermines civic engagement, which was what brought me back to grad school and, eventually, the California State Controller’s Office, the digital literacy piece as it relates to economic opportunity really hit home when I sat across the table from leaders in the tech industry and learned of their concerns about our STEM talent pipeline and the hiring challenges that held them back.

These meetings gave me a front-row seat to important discussions about spurring innovation in the new economy and how our laws and regulations either support or hinder it — a set of policy issues that include education and tax policy, transit and urban planning, immigration reform and workforce development. I also got to meet with community leaders outside of business and tech to discuss the growing opportunity divide, which are, not surprisingly, connected to the same set of policy issues.

Also not surprisingly, it was not unusual for me to be the only woman in the room with a tech background. In fact, when I became pregnant during my tenure at the Controller’s Office, I was always the only pregnant woman in the room, to boot!

All this, coupled with the fact that I was unable to find a resource that worked well for me after I became a mom and wanted to pick up coding again in spite of previous failed attempts, gave me the inspiration I needed to launch MotherCoders.

5. What advice do you live by as a working mom?

This isn’t so much “working mom” advice as it is my life advice: Build your community of support – and I don’t mean on social media, or only on social media. Our society’s pretty obsessed with economic capital, and even human capital to a certain extent. But one thing we don’t talk a lot about or teach people how to cultivate is social capital — the glue that keeps us connected to one another, the key ingredient to trust-building and cooperation, the magic that can help us reach our dreams. Or put another way, that old adage of “it’s who you know” is true. Whether it’s finding a babysitter, a good school, a new job, or angel investors, it’s always easier when you have a solid network you can count on. So go outside and meet somebody! Join a meetup group that’s doing something you’re interested in. Bring your baby if you need to. And if you can’t find one you like, start your own!

Learn how you can get involved with MotherCoders here and read about one pilot participant’s experience.