It’s back to (coding) school time!

 

The start of a new school year can be so exciting for any family, and, these days, that excitement isn’t reserved just for kids. Many parents are heading back to school themselves, discovering coding academies and boot camps as a way to shift their careers into high-tech fields.

Is coding school for you? I read an article in the New York Times earlier this year about a waiter with a college degree in math who became a data scientist after three months in coding school. His salary leapt from $20,000 to $100,000 per year! The coursework at these schools – schools that didn’t even exist five years ago — offer an on-ramp to careers in technology. As the Times piece points out, in a time when over 7,000 software engineer jobs are open at any given time, these schools and the people attending them are filling an important void in the landscape.

For women, the picture coming out of these coding schools is yet brighter: as the Times piece cites, only 18% of computer science college grads were women in 2013, but 35% of these specialized coding schools are female. Google has offered free coding classes to women and minorities in the past.. It is a great time for women to be entering technical fields, with resources like Google’s and like these schools available to those who decide to career-shift a while after college. Bloomberg Business profiled an Ivy League graduate, Katy Feng, who, finding that she couldn’t secure a job after college graduation, dove into coding school right away through a Boston-based boot camp. According to the Bloomberg piece, 70% of students flocking to coding schools already have college degrees, pouring nearly $60 million per year into the coding school business. The schools are lucrative, and so are the careers they offer their graduates, who finish these sessions with portfolios that are concrete examples of their work — something attractive to future employers like me.

If you’re interested in coding either out of curiosity or as a career move, I found a list on Quora of such places. The Bay Area has many, and there are even more online. Coding schools are a great way to gain experience to enter this booming knowledge economy. Lifelong learning is an important thing, and it’s not just for grades K-12 or college anymore.

Lessons from My First American Summer

 

image010As this summer rapidly draws to a close, I’m reminded of the lessons I learned during my first summer in the U.S. Still a shrimpy kid of 13, I learned that I would spend a couple of weeks at a sleep-away camp called Tawonga. It was in a place called Yosemite. I had no idea what that meant or what to expect.

Only a few months earlier, I had arrived in San Francisco with my parents from Ukraine, which was still under the influence and control of the former Soviet Union. My family was part of a large wave of Jews who were allowed to leave Russia following pressure from an international movement in the1970s to free Soviet Jewry. Ultimately, some 1.6 million Jews left for the U.S., Israel, Canada, Germany and Australia, including many who became successful tech entrepreneurs, founding companies like Google, PayPal, WhatsApp, and RingCentral, where I currently work with CEO/Founder Vlad Shmunis.

A few weeks before camp started, I got this incredibly detailed packing list. It said things like: 6 shorts, 6 t-shirts, 2 bathing suits, 2 pair jeans, flashlight. It was insane. As new immigrants, my parents were just trying to find work, and I didn’t have much. In Ukraine, we would wear the same t-shirt for days. That’s what everyone did. You never needed six of anything.

Before camp, I managed to pick some second-hand clothes out of a bag of donations that came from members of the local Jewish community, facilitated by the San Francisco Jewish Family and Children Services, who had also paid for me to attend the camp. I packed all my things in a small suitcase that I carried in one hand.

When I got to camp, the other girls were bringing giant crates they called trunks. The trunks were filled with stuff and clothing of every sort. I had brought some shampoo, a toothbrush and hairbrush. These girls had entire bags just to carry their personal items – shampoos, conditioners, makeup.

I was still learning English, but I quickly noticed the other girls were giggling at my expense. They asked me why I wore my hair in a long braid, and why I wore the same t-shirt several days in a row. I was almost 14, but the other girls were far ahead of me in physical development. That was the summer I first heard the phrase “birth control.”

Back then, Ukraine was about as different from San Francisco as could be. I might as well have come from the moon.

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Gary, Russian, left; Kevin, American, right

Pretty soon, it was time for us to go to the pool. There were two boys working as lifeguards who were 17 and quite good looking. One of them was a Russian immigrant like me. He introduced himself in Russian and said he’d heard I could play chess.

“Can you play?” he asked.

“Yes, I can play,” I said.

“Are you good?” he asked.

“I’m okay,” I said.

I quickly beat him at the first game. His friend, the American, took an interest in me. The three of us became fast friends, and, before long, I became more popular with the other girls, too.

By the end of the two weeks, I had gained self-esteem and assurance that I would be able to make my way in this new, strange and wonderful world called America. I may have still been a shrimpy kid of 13, but I returned to San Francisco much happier and more confident ever.

Thinking back on that time even now, I’m reminded of the strength that emerges from being faced with challenging situations. My background as an immigrant has given me the mindset that perseverance leads to success, and what doesn’t break you can make you stronger.

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Does Technology Have a Place in our Down-time?

 

For many of us, summertime means taking some vacation time away from work, especially some time off from being always-on. For some of my friends, that means leaving technology behind, and they return to old-school paperback books while sitting poolside without cell phones handy. For me, I don’t go to these extremes, both because I really can’t be truly “off” because of my company leadership role but also because I believe that technology has an important place in my down-time.

To plan for my own upcoming vacation, I relied heavily on online tools to find exactly what suits my family’s preferences and budget as well as to be more prepared for our travels. This removed a lot of stress from vacation planning. So many tools at our fingertips helped us to compare options that fit within our budget! I don’t doubt that the web’s many travel sites have helped the travel market to become a lot more competitive and families to be able to manage expenses better.

An upside of staying in luxury hotels is the service of a concierge to book things like theater tickets and dinner reservations. But thanks to the internet, people at all budget levels have ubiquitous access to these services. When my family wants to book tickets to local attractions, we do it ourselves via our cell phones over wifi if not on an iPad or a laptop.

Speaking of removing stress, good connectivity can be key to relaxation as well. Once, I was somewhere in Europe on a business trip, and I needed to download my e-mails. My room had no connection, so I had to sit in the lobby and dial-up via a phone line, which took hours just to get some basic e-mails back and forth. I actually had to call my assistant back on my office to get her to read some e-mails to me over the phone! This negative experience made the few days of sightseeing that I’d tacked on at the end of that trip a lot more stressful. I don’t need to be always-on, but I do need to always have easy access to e-mail if I want to be able to relax and enjoy myself. By staying even loosely connected, I can monitor things and jump in if necessary. That way, my trips away are more flexible if I am in a new place and want to sightsee or to incorporate family time, too. Since technology has increased our flexibility location-wise, I like to take maximum advantage of that via a good internet connection.

Fortunately, in part thanks to products that my company, RingCentral, offers, telephone connectivity is no longer an issue for folks on the go. With consumer apps or apps like RingCentral for business use, it’s possible to stay connected without incurring huge roaming charges. With RingCentral’s tools, people can use their business identities; colleagues and customers call the number or extension on which they always reach you, videoconferences happen as usual, etc. Again, the flexibility that technology offers facilitates the rest of our lives, which I’ve found is key to having a relaxing travel schedule whether for business or for pleasure.

Lastly, my favorite way to use technology while traveling is to share my experiences with friends and family by sharing photos, stories, and experiences. This helps us all to stay better connected with each others’ hectic lives.

How do you view using technology for or during your vacation? Do you leave it all behind, or is it central to your time away? I’d like to hear from you!

Monthly Mentions: July 2015

 

Monthly Mentions recaps my publications, citations, and appearances for the month. My goal is to share broadly my thoughts on women in technology leadership, cloud technology, entrepreneurship, and more.

In the press this month, I published:

 Getting to 50%: Where Women-Founded Companies Are Gaining Ground on the Huffington Post

On my blog this month, I wrote:

How I Use Precious Downtime to Recharge

On my LinkedIn page this month, I shared:

Sustaining a Thriving Corporate Culture, cross-posted on the RingCentral blog

Steer Clear of that Glass Cliff

Holding a Position within Your Startup, from Start to Outcome

On the RingCentral blog this month, I wrote:

It’s All about the Team

If you are interested in inviting Kira Makagon to guest-author a piece on your site or to speak to your organization, please contact Evie Goldstein, RingCentral’s public relations manager,  via e-mail, evelin.goldstein at ringcentral.com. Thanks!

This Month on HuffPo: Getting to 50%: Where Women-Founded Companies Are Gaining Ground

 

This month on the Huffington Post, I share some good news regarding the future of women in tech.  Sometimes, it can feel like there’s a nonstop barrage of news about the challenges that female tech entrepreneurs face. Recently, I moderated a panel of women tech leaders who feel differently. We used our airtime on that panel to focus on the positive, sharing the gains and strategies that have helped us to become successful.

In that vein, I’m happy to have come across some good news: a Crunchbase study recently indicated that companies led by women founders are trending upward, noting that 17.91% of companies seeking funding in 2014 were women-led, up from 9.52% in 2009. The Crunchbase study also showed where these founders are most likely to be located — and, much to my surprise, the answer: not in Silicon Valley!

To learn more about where women-founded companies are gaining ground, please click here to read my piece on HuffPo.

How do you view the future of women-founded companies? What do you think needs to happen for it to be yet more promising?

 

How I Use Precious Downtime to Recharge

 

On the heels of my recent LinkedIn post about corporate culture and how companies can focus on creating good office lives for their employees, there is a flip-side to share on the importance of downtime. Here, another summer weekend is at hand, and I am really looking forward to some time spent relaxing outdoors, especially. What do you do when you’re not at work?

Recently, I’ve spent so much time traveling that I really look forward to weekends at home as a way to rest, relax, and recharge. When I am in the office, my weekdays run late, and I often come home too late to eat a real dinner, even. The only true time to myself is the time I allocate to staying in shape, which I believe is critical for both health and productivity reasons. So when the weekend arrives, my husband and I follow a lovely, casual routine in which we take walks together, cook homemade meals with fresh produce from the farmers’ market, play some chess, maybe see a movie, and also bask in some time to ourselves to read, just to “be,” or to catch up on work and related publications. I try to restrict myself to no more than one social activity on these weekends, sometimes not even that, because it is really important to me to have obligation-free time in contrast to my obligation-heavy work schedule – and I also want to always have time to visit family. When I talk with friends who are successful executives and entrepreneurs, they share that they, too, value and protect their weekend time in similar ways.

When you are on the leadership team at a successful tech company, the idea of taking a true vacation away from it all is pretty unrealistic. Our environment is too fast-paced to afford much of a break! So I always have my phone and e-mail available when there is connectivity, and I’m usually connected. Fortunately, even vacations have luxurious weekends! During these times when we travel for pleasure, my family likes to go to places where we can experience a balance of culture, great food, and being pampered a bit during the summer, and, in the winter, we ski with our kids. I have friends who love cruising and those who prefer active, extreme travel. We all rejuvenate in different ways. Even if going on vacation isn’t a perfect break from all work, not being in the office, enjoying a different setting, and not having back-to-back meetings goes a long way to helping all of us to re-energize.

I’d love to hear your summer plans and what you do in your cherished personal time.

Monthly Mentions: June 2015

 

Monthly Mentions recaps my publications, citations, and appearances for the month. My goal is to share broadly my thoughts on women in technology leadership, cloud technology, entrepreneurship, and more.

In the press this month, I published:

Three Ways to Innovate at Your Company on the Huffington Post

On my blog this month, I wrote:

Survive and Thrive in Tech: Takeaways from a Women’s Panel, which I cross-posted on LinkedIn and on the RingCentral blog

Women of Inspiration

On my LinkedIn page this month, I shared:

Heralding the Intelligence Age, which I cross-posted on the RingCentral blog

My Gender-Neutral Childhood: Lessons in Raising Girls who Succeed in Tech

I received an award:

Most Influential Women in Business 

I spoke at:

Silicon Valley Open Doors: Women in Tech Panel

If you are interested in inviting Kira Makagon to guest-author a piece on your site or to speak to your organization, please contact Evie Goldstein, RingCentral’s public relations manager,  via e-mail, evelin.goldstein at ringcentral.com. Thanks!