If you’re a Pittsburgh mom who wants to learn to code, this group is for you

“There are support groups for moms for everything.” Why not this?

4 Erica Peterson
Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline
MJ Slaby

Erica Peterson has seen the ads and said you likely have, too: “Work from home. Make a lot of money. Learn to code while your kids are sleeping.”

But the 30-year-old Robinson woman, nonprofit founder and Who’s Next: Education honoree knows the realities of life while working and having two kids. Those advertised timelines are difficult to meet and the salaries of $60,000 or $70,000 don’t always happen right away, she said.

For Peterson, who had some experience with coding (thanks to editing her MySpace page), she wanted to brush up on her HTML and CSS skills.

At Science Tots, the nonprofit she founded to help families and educators with resources for early childhood learning in STEAM, Peterson said she tells parents about games where they can learn to code with their children. She wanted to be able to play the games, too, with sons Hesher, 5, and Halford, 1.

So she looked online and the results — workshops, boot campus, college courses — were overwhelming. Next, she tried searching for support groups for moms who are learning to code or wanted to learn to code.

“There are support groups for moms for everything,” she laughed. “I couldn’t find one, so decided to make it.”

Moms Can Code is a new membership-based network that connects moms who are learning to code or who are thinking about learning to code both online and through in-person meet ups across the country. The official launch is next week.

Moms Can Code launch party + info session

Learn more about Moms Can Code including details about the website, membership, company goals and how to get involved. To request childcare at this event, email [email protected]

Where:Alloy 26 at 100 South Commons Suite 102 (Allegheny Center)

When:August 3, 2017 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

How much:Free

The network will give moms the needed support to find the coding education that’s best for them, Peterson said. In Pittsburgh, she also hopes to partner with local tech companies for various resources such as in-person intro to coding classes.

Moms Can Code also has a newsletter that profiles women working in tech or who’ve started tech companies. Their stories can help others decide what path they want to use to learn to code and get a sense of the job opportunities, Peterson said.

“I want women to be able to decide what works for them,” she said. For some moms, she said, they can learn to code on a smartphone app during a commute or their child’s nap. For others, their kids go to bed early enough that a nighttime online degree is realistic. Some programs are based on an hour per day, but for Peterson, she said it’s more like 15 minutes at a time before her toddler shuts her laptop.

One of the biggest barriers to learning to code is finding the time to dedicate to it, said Josh Lucas, an organizer of Academy Pittsburgh, which offers a 12-week coding bootcamp that’s about 50 hours a week and focuses on helping those who are underrepresented in tech. There, each bootcamp gets applicants that range from people with related skills to complete novices. Job placement is the only metric of success that matters, Lucas said, and from the first cohort, about 85 percent are employed.

While learning to code is an opportunity for economic advancement, it’s also a skill that women can add for multiple reasons, Peterson said, adding that she credits the current political climate as the reason more women are becoming active in and speaking up about the issues in the industry.

Personally, Peterson said she wants to learn to code to set an example for her sons. And she’s planning to tweet her journey, both in coding — and motherhood.

Hopefully the journey will be less isolating with women around who understand the day-to-day, Peterson said.

Moms are just “under a different constraint,” she said. “We’re not incapable of doing great things, it’s just not going to happen on your timeline.”