Learning To Code

Three Mothers Find Work-Life Integration Through Programming

Erin Farber / 5 May 2016

Prospective employees look for more than a great salary and room to grow when scouting potential career moves. Nowadays, people care about how their time in the office will affect their time outside it—and they’re factoring it into their career choices.

This is particularly true for parents, who are juggling the needs of their family with the demands of their careers. Only 74% of professional women come back to the workforce at all, after having children – often because of a lack of flexibility and opportunity to integrate work with life. And less than half go back to full-time jobs. According to Sheryl Sandberg, “For many women, the assumption is that trying to do both is difficult at best and impossible at worst.” 

As an editor for Elevated Resumes, a team that also whips resumes into shape for The Muse’s Coach Connect, I’ve seen many parents looking to rejoin the workforce after time away. Professionals with family-related resume gaps are concerned with the same things: maintaining technical relevancy and securing work-life integration once they do return.

Almost every time I’ve edited a resume for a mother re-entering the workforce, she’s mentioned the struggle to maintain a technical edge. Though volunteer experience and project-based involvement certainly help position a candidate to take on a role in tech, flexible learning options, such as Flatiron School’s online campus, Learn, cut right to the chase.

In fact, immersive coding programs are skyrocketing in popularity for their ability to prepare people for new careers faster and more effectively than traditional learning methods. For mothers especially, these programs offer another door to life with, or after, raising children. And often times, it’s a rewarding (and profitable) door to choose.

For three mothers, two of whom are now Flatiron School alumnae, learning to program was the first step toward a future that had room for both work and life.

Natacha Springer, a former Biotech Production Manager at a nutritional supplement company, left the busy 9-to-5 after experiencing exactly what Sandberg mentioned. So, she chose to spend days with her children and nights tinkering around with basic coding tutorials online.

As her kids prepped to start school, Springer was ready to return to a day job. But she was only offered entry-level positions for a fraction of her previous pay. That’s when she realized it was time to turn her coding foundation into a career and enrolled in Flatiron School. After graduating, Springer had the skills needed to thrive as a software developer in the field—without being stuck in an office all the time. “After ‘showing them what I could do’ I renegotiated my schedule with my employer and was able to spend more time working from home as a result. I recently started to work for Kickstarter and they have been incredibly understanding and offered me a flexible schedule from day one.”

Julie Heyd, currently enrolled in Flatiron School’s online campus, Learn, was drawn to the program for similar reasons as Springer. Rather than attend an in-person program, which would require childcare and a significant time commitment, she opted for an online program. Even with a master’s degree in biostatistics, she felt she needed to brush up on her tech skills before working after a 15-year break. Luckily, Heyd loved the immediacy of programming and seeing her hard work appear before her eyes. So, with a little help from the flexible online curriculum, she’s pivoted toward a future in software development.  

For Heyd, the Learn program’s flexible, self paced schedule perfectly suited her other full-time job of being a mother. This was a challenge alumna Margaret Lee also knew well. Before ideating and launching her startup, aParently, Lee powered through the curriculum at Flatiron School’s NYC campus.

Like the women before her, she struggled with finding a position in her corporate banking office that allowed her to “be an involved parent.” It was after volunteering at her children’s nursing school that Lee saw the opportunity to build her own business using skills she learned at the Flatiron School. Now, she heads a parent-to-parent communications platform that gives her the power to “work around her needs, rather than her clients’.”

There’s no conventional way to break into tech. And as shown by these professional mothers, there’s no one way to get back to work while raising a family. However, their stories do show that picking up programming is a viable and enticing option when it comes to finding the golden job perk of work-life integration.

This post was written by Kaysie Garza who covers career development, productivity, marketing, and a bit of everything else. Reach out on Twitter or take a peek at her website.


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