The whole world is clueing in to the struggles of mothers balancing childcare and professional duties since WFH (work from home) has become necessary. Many moms experience challenges when considering re-entering the workforce after they have kids, even more so in the male-dominated tech industry.
Ellen Twomey has been in their shoes, and now she’s empowering women to join the tech field with skills-based coaching and classes. A mother of four with past experience in UX (user experience) design and consulting, Twomey is CEO and owner of Cary-based You are techY.
The name comes from interactions with women Twomey says were inspiring but who lacked confidence to enter or re-enter the tech workforce.
“They had 25 years of tech experience, or a Masters degree in computer science, and they would say things like, ‘I’m not really that tech-y,’” Twomey said. “I would stand up and shout across the table, ‘You are tech-y!’”
Twomey began You are techY as a Raleigh Meetup for moms learning design and technology. The bootstrapped company officially launched in January 2019 and Twomey says she has been iterating since then, with the Facebook group and email list seeing 10x growth in the past months.
The UX Portfolio course is the newest You are techY offering, which provides mentors, learning materials, a guide to the UX process and opportunities to create assets that help form a job-ready portfolio for $247. At the moment, Twomey offers one free month of coaching with this program.
The portfolio course lets people complete the training on their own time. Twice a year, Twomey also offers a structured 12-week coaching program. She has already completed two sessions, with the third set to start in a few months.
Twomey also hosts the You are techY podcast in which she explores conversations with successful tech figures and topics surrounding getting hired and earning more money in the tech field.
Moms get into the mix
The tech gender gap is clear. Twomey cites a study from the National Center for Women & Information Technology that finds only 28% of people in STEM fields are women, and the number decreases to about 20% when looking at women in tech specifically.
Twomey says she believes this discrepancy is due to a communication problem: Women often don’t understand what tech jobs are available, how they’re qualified, or that they are, in fact, well-suited to the environment.
“If moms really understood that there is a tech job for them—anything you’re interested in doing, there’s an area in tech that you could get into,” she said.
Though Twomey targets moms for You are techY programs, she says the message resonates with a lot of people, such as those taking care of older parents or changing the field they work in.
Twomey herself experienced a lack of professional confidence after the birth of her second child. She says she had always been confident from a young age, but she then saw herself as a mother first and didn’t know how to apply her 20-year-old undergrad degree in computer science to the workforce.
She ended up getting a Masters degree in Learning, Design & Technology and went back to work as a freelance UX Designer. Twomey says that despite the barriers to entry, moms are actually some of the best candidates for UX design.
“There’s really just one word that exemplifies why moms are good at UX, which is empathy,” Twomey said. “Empathy is severely lacking in technology design, and I really got to learn those skills when I was staying home developing my own skills.”
You are techY has seen such success stories as women getting hired in two weeks; women getting hired in elevated positions; and women transitioning from staying at home, without any tech experience, to a UX designer role.
“We’ve had a lot of amazing success stories,” Twomey said, “where I think that there’s definitely indications that if you’re willing to put in the work and you’re ready to commit, you have a great chance of really changing the trajectory of your life.”