Monthly Archives: September 2015

Monthly Mentions: August and September, 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.

On my blog, I wrote:

Does Technology Have a Place in our Down-time?

Lessons from my First American Summer

It’s Back to (Coding) School Time!

On my LinkedIn page, I shared:

Lessons from my First American Summer

I spoke on a panel:

Astia portfolio gathering, September 17, subject: Product – Market Fit

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 Thanks!

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.


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.