EDCUtah is highlighting a Utah community organization or multicultural resource group each month. This is part of an effort to inform our investors about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) best practices and resources in Utah.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting an organization that’s building Utah’s tech talent future. We spoke with Mikel Blake, co-founder and executive director of Tech Moms. Blake was recently named to Utah Business Magazine’s 2022 40 Under 40 list. Tech Moms helps women find the support they need to have fulfilling careers in the tech industry. The program is also designed to help women understand the wide variety of roles within the industry, and to find the one that’s best for them.
What are Tech Moms' services and programs?
We have a few different types of programs and services that we offer. The primary program is our Tech Moms course. The course is a nine-week, part-time program, where women learn basic coding skills and apply them by building a basic website by the end of those nine weeks. The course also includes a career exploration component. Throughout the program, we invite women who are currently working in the industry as guest speakers to speak to our students. We want our students to understand the various roles in the industry and that there is a fit for them that aligns with their skill and interest sets. Tech is more than software development.
We also run a program called Better Ways Thursdays. This program is separate from the Tech Moms program, but we run the two concurrently. Currently, we host the weekly session as a lunch-and-learn style program so that more people will be able to attend on their lunch break. These sessions are more broadly focused on career development and are not just specific to tech. We offer presentations on resumes, LinkedIn profiles, building your personal brand, building a network, imposter syndrome, and more.
You know, the more I do this, the more I believe that the biggest barrier to women getting into tech isn’t the skills, which are becoming more accessible, but rather the feeling of belonging in the industry and feeling like they have the support they need. We like to say, “once a Tech Mom, always a Tech Mom,” and a big part of what we do is to create that career long community of support for women. It’s great that more and more companies are offering employee resource groups, but once you leave a company you lose that support. Our goal is to be that broader community of support as women move in and out of training and in and out of jobs throughout their careers. We’re starting to see this more now that we’re in our third year, with just about thirteen graduated classes and an active alumnae network, where previous grads are coming to us looking to help each other out; potential hires, etc.
How can EDCUtah’s investors participate or support your programs?
As a nonprofit I feel like we are always beggars asking people for support. We run on lots of volunteer hours and people who are helping out in many different ways and so we are always looking for volunteers. There are a couple of different things we always need and appreciate help with.
We are also always looking for women working in tech to be guest speakers in our classes and to assist with the career exploration. Guest speakers share what their job is, the skills required, the various pathways to the role, and more generally, they serve as role models for our students.
Another volunteer position we are constantly looking to fill is Coding Coach. These coaches come in for an hour, or even a couple of hours, to help the women with the actual coding when they get stuck or if their code breaks. There is no real time commitment with this role, it’s more of a come when you can role. Our coding coaches can be men or women with coding experience. We even have recent Tech Mom grads who come back as Coding Coaches. I deeply believe in having men invested in what we are doing and that it is important to invite men to help here. We’re not going to make real progress without men also investing in our mission.
Further, we’re consistently looking for volunteers to speak at our Better Ways Thursdays events. In this case we’re looking for people who can speak to broader career development. We also get a lot of people who want to serve as general mentors and it’s somewhere I want to see the organization and our community grow because good mentors are important, too. But right now, we just don’t have the bandwidth or funding to build a full mentorship program.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Oh, there are a couple of ways I could answer that. One thing we are floored by time and time again is how much this is more than just a career transition for women, it’s also a life transformation for many of these women and their families. More than 200 women have graduated from our program since we started, and we have heard dozens of stories of just how impactful Tech Moms has been. We’ve had women who have come from very difficult backgrounds and situations who have significantly improved their lives.
The ability for us to see these transformations firsthand is just incredible. It brings us to tears that this simple part-time program has such a big impact. When you change a woman’s life, you’re also changing the lives of their partners and children, and even their communities. What we’re doing really has a cascading effect. Our first ever semester had almost 30 moms but about 70 children.
For more information visit https://www.tech-moms.org/.