We sat down with Hana Harencarova, founder of Moms learn to code to talk about her life, motherhood & passion.
brandbuch: How did you become a web developer/programmer?
Hana: My programming and web development path actually started when I was doing my PhD in psychology and I needed to learn R (a statistical programming language) to analyze data. I became more and more intrigued and decided to learn how to code in the following years. This played well with my recent life changes.
I fully moved to Zürich in 2015 and two years later my first daughter was born. This was a great time to switch careers and start my freelance web developer business. I’m constantly learning new skills, so it is a never ending process. Regarding the process of learning, I used all available means to make it effective and fast. I combined different learning methods like on-line and in-person courses, books, podcasts, mentoring, working on my own projects and teaching skills I already mastered. Especially the last two ones really accelerated my learning curve.
brandbuch: Was it challenging for a woman to study programming?
Hana: To be honest, I was very lucky with the community and people around me. The most challenging thing for me was, and still is, bringing together all the roles I currently have: being a mother, work and study at the same time. My husband is very flexible so we share all the responsibilities, which makes it possible for me to focus also on working and studying. I joined the ‘Ruby Monstas’ initiative where I learned Ruby. It’s a free program for women teaching basic programming skills in Ruby with a great bunch of dedicated coaches. I continued my own path afterwards learning Ruby on Rails and I currently coach at Ruby Monstas too. I think now it’s really a great time for women to dive into programming as there are a lot of materials available, initiatives supporting women who want to enter the tech industry and plenty of motivated mentors. So, for me, the biggest challenge was balancing all my responsibilities and goals.
brandbuch: What did you do before founding “Moms learn to code”?
Hana: My biggest focus in recent years was twofold. First one was creating easy to navigate and actionable websites for my clients and help them to emphasise the value they bring to their clients under my ‘Sei Online’ label. The second one was teaching people to fly, as we run a paragliding school with my husband. After the birth of my daughter I decided to focus more on the website business as it gives me more flexibility and it’s very varied. My background in psychology helps me in all these fields. My understanding of how people make decisions and how they learn, makes it possible for me to create materials promoting fast learning and also structure the content in a clear, motivational and actionable way.
brandbuch: Why did you create this initiative? How did you come up with the idea?
Hana: When I became a mother I was looking for things I could do and skills I could learn with the baby. There were many baby related courses but almost none focusing on adults with babies. I wanted to learn and do something for me, but not having to give my child away. As we don’t have family here, it’s more tricky to arrange the time without the kids.
I really believe this time when the baby is still small is a great opportunity to also do something for yourself. You can rethink your life, decide what are your priorities and learn new skills or even totally change your career path.
It’s a shame that the offer of courses for parents with little children is almost non-existing. So, two years later, I decided to change that and started ‘Moms learn to code’. Being a web developer I was also missing direct contact with others. I always enjoyed teaching during my PhD years at the university, at our paragliding school and at the Ruby Monstas. So creating courses focused on mothers with young kids was a very logical step for me as it connected many things I loved: programming, teaching and supporting women.
Being a mother is more than 100% a job but it doesn’t mean all women need to feel fulfilled. Most parents I know need some kind of realisation in addition to being mothers and fathers. Creating a welcoming environment where it’s possible to learn with the kids, gives them an opportunity to achieve this fulfilment.
brandbuch: Why do you think it’s important for moms/ women to learn coding?
Hana: Well, the short answer is that it’s fun, it’s a very demanded skill, and it proves to themselves and others that they’re able to excel in tech fields. My longer answer is that I don’t think it’s important for all women to learn coding but it brings a lot of benefits. We are all different people, we enjoy various things and thrive in different fields. Women should feel supported and up to the task if they decide to learn coding. Programming is still mostly male dominated and often also regarded as more suitable for men. Bringing in more women means better solutions for everyone. Also, we need more role models for our daughters. The world is more and more digitised and speaking the ‘computer’ language is becoming more and more important if you want to understand today's world. It can help you bring your own ideas to life.
We need to understand the digital side of the world to stay relevant and be able to influence where our society is heading.
brandbuch: How does the course work and what do you do? Women come with their children?
Hana: I launched ‘Moms learn to code’ in 2019 doing in-person courses. The main distinction was that mothers could bring their babies or kids to the course with them. There was a play corner where the children could play. I didn’t offer childcare as I believe that parents know best and if they want childcare they have the solution that works best for them. The kids often sleep during part of the course and when they are awake they either stay with the mother, or play or eat. It was important to me to create the environment for the mothers which wouldn't force them to choose between caring for the baby or learning. So the participants are always encouraged to be free in fulfilling theirs or their babies needs. The course is also structured accordingly. That means the lecture includes a lot of hands-on examples and participants work on their own projects basically from the first lesson. This makes the course more self-paced and it makes it possible to tailor the learning to the current situation.
At the moment I’m launching an online version of the courses. Even though women came from different cities to attend, even from Lausanne to Zürich, I want to make the courses accessible independent of the location so that more women can benefit from them. Moreover, due to the pandemic, less women feel comfortable visiting the courses in person. Unlike most online courses where there’s no direct contact between participants and the lecturer, I designed the courses in a way to preserve this personal contact. As fast feedback on your own code and knowledge makes your learning skyrocket, I work with the participants on their projects, help them to solve their problems and answer their specific questions. Being a new mother poses different challenges and one of them is a limited time to study. By providing the materials in various forms (as a webinar or video, written exercises and code samples), applying the principles of effective learning, making smaller chunks of materials to learn, working on the projects and giving fast feedback the participants make most of this precious asset - their free time.
brandbuch: What can your students expect after finishing the course? What are they able to do?
Hana: All the courses are focused on creating your own project at the end. So in the web development courses, they’ll create a website which would be used as their online CV, personal website or a simple company website. In the Wordpress course they create a website with this CMS framework depending on their needs. The SEO course teaches them how to create and improve their websites rank in search engines. So all these skills are applicable in the real world. The upcoming Ruby course teaches programming basics, understanding the core concepts, how to solve problems you encounter in your life. You can make your life easier by writing your own little programs and it’s fun. Plus, learning in a group gives you commitment, encouragement and accountability. All these things make you progress faster.
There are different reasons why women attend these courses. Some want to see if they like coding and embark on a career change, others want to understand technology better to help them with their daily interaction in their workplace when they communicate with IT people. Others want to prove to themselves and their husbands that they can do it, and some just want to have fun and learn something new. But in any case, building new skills makes them feel more empowered and they can use it as a stepping stone to their new career path or building the projects and products they want.
brandbuch: You are a mother yourself, how do you manage your time between work and family?
Hana: I think becoming a mother really improves a lot of your skills, like prioritising, being organised and effective, being focused. Because you have no time to lose.
It’s challenging, but accepting the change makes it easier. My husband and I are both self-employed so we are flexible in planning our time and taking care of kids. For me, personally, it means that my working time is more distributed during the days and weeks, like we also work during the weekends sometimes but we have free time during the working days, I do shorter stretches of work during the day. I still manage to get work done, spend time with my kids when they need me, have some free time and learn. Focusing on one thing helps a lot. I also divide my tasks by those that I can do with kids around, like the short or administrative ones, and those that I need more uninterrupted time. Especially to create content, I use my paper notebook to write down my ideas when I feel inspired even if I’m not around the computer. When I have time later I can get back to them.
brandbuch: Is it possible to be purpose-driven and still manage to make profit?
Hana: Definitely. Being purpose driven clearly communicates your values and vision to attract clients who share those values with you. You’re clear about what you are offering and why it is relevant. Being smart with expenses and starting small helps to be profitable. I started these courses three weeks after I realised I wanted to combine coding and teaching, the two things I’m really passionate about. To test the idea, I just put together a logo, flyer and website. I was really overwhelmed by the interest it created taking into account how little marketing I did.
brandbuch: Last question. What does the future of “Moms learn to code” look like? What can we expect in 5 years from now?
Hana: Well, the first big step, which is now happening, is to turn the in-person courses to online ones to make it possible for women to join independent of the distance and learn from the comfort of their own homes. Next step is to widen the portfolio of courses and skills we teach and involve more teachers and supporters. We are also always open to cooperate with people who share our vision and would like to support our cause. I’d be happy to hear from people who’d be willing to invest their time and knowledge to make Moms learn to code better and reach a wider audience. The goal is also to build a strong and supportive community which will empower and lift each other to make the tech world more diverse. Because together we can change the world.