Shonna Smith: Hacking Child Care So Moms Can Learn to Hack

Member Reflections
01.10.2017

written by

It was all a mistake. Shonna Smith was never supposed to learn computer science, but after an error landed her in a programming curriculum in high school she found that she enjoyed it too much to switch to anything else. Calling it the best accident that's ever happened to me she went on to earn a Bachelor's Degree in Computer and Information Science from Spelman college before entering the field and starting a career in which she has been able to become a dreamer, a visionary, and an entrepreneur.

While Shonna found success in the technology industry, working first for IBM and then Blue Collar Objects before founding her own startup, she did experience a type of gender bias which she describes as the death by 1,000 tiny cuts. Male engineers, often the majority on any project she was involved with, wouldn't give as much credence to her ideas or take her opinions serious. Luckily she was able to overcome this, growing stronger in the process while also reaching out to some excellent mentors that helped her to navigate those problems.

As she progressed through her professional journey, Shonna always made sure to recognize the tech talents of those around her, especially in people who might otherwise be overlooked. She recounted one such experience in her own words.

In one of my first Tech Lead roles, I was fortunate to have some other women on the team. They were all very junior/entry-level web developers. I made a point to be an unofficial mentor to them all teaching them whatever I could whenever they asked. When I left that team/company, I reached back and recommended that one of those women join me at my new venture. Long story short, she was hired and to this day is still working in the field as a web developer. The kicker here is that she was legally blind and the kind of talent that most companies would easily overlook. I truly enjoy the rewarding experience of recognizing and working with talent in every form.

Eventually Shonna conceived the idea that would become her startup venture, a company designed to make it easier for mothers to attend the tech events that are important to their career development. She described the circumstances and reasoning behind this move.

'I started Kid Care Anywhere a few years ago after noticing that I could no longer (easily) attend techie events/conferences after having my daughter. I also noticed that tech conferences consistently lacked significant numbers of female attendees or panelists. My company specializes in bringing on-site child care to social and corporate events. In my opinion, lack of childcare was lurking about in the root causes of the female attendance issue (amongst other factors). Kid Care Anywhere was my unconventional approach to solving the women in IT issue. I think one of my clients has summed up my approach to this problem quite aptly - she says I'm hacking child care.'

Today Shonna’s techie persona is still having fun and freelancing on projects in her theoretical free time. Check out coderighter.com for her portfolio. In 2017 her aspiration is to combine her passions and bring Kid Care Anywhere to as many tech conferences & Meetups as possible across the U.S.

When asked what advice she has for women working in the tech field, Shonna said, You might want to give up on your thick-headed male teammates ;).... but NEVER give up on yourself. If you're on a team where the cultural fit is off-balance, either have the courage to try to be a change agent OR the wisdom to know when it's best to move on. Lastly, do your best to get a mentor.

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