June is the Founder of Mums in Technology, the first child-friendly coding school in the UK. She recently made the leap from the corporate world as a Tech Banker at Silicon Valley Bank after her second maternity leave, and as a mother herself, is a strong advocate for the rights of working mothers. Often described as full of energy and ever the optimist, June is passionate about empowering people to become a part of a tech world they may have once felt excluded from.
Congratulations on making the shortlist, how did it feel?
I was really surprised and truly humbled to have been put forward. I suppose I also had a bit of imposter syndrome because I saw that there had been 1000 entrants and I know so many amazing women who are just as deserving of this recognition.
How did you get into tech?
I fell into tech completely by accident. I studied economics at UCL and saw that a lot of my friends were applying to consultancies and investment banks. At that point, I was acutely aware that work-life balance was really important to me and I couldn’t picture myself working 12 hour days.
I started working at Silicon Valley Bank in 2011 and even then, the draw for me was when the recruiter said they were looking for happy people. I was intrigued, and sure enough after meeting the team and hearing the journey they were on and to have the opportunity to be part of a commercial bank being built was a no-brainer. I then had the opportunity to work with a lot of interesting technology companies on the venture debt team, structuring deals and learning about game-changing technologies. It was hard not to be curious about how it all came together. I caught the bug and wanted to learn more.
My goal is to make more resources made available to women seeking successful careers after children. We’ve seen huge success in London and can’t wait to take Mums in Tech nationwide and then global.
What drove your decision to step away from your day job and launch Mums in Technology?
It was a difficult decision to leave because I had some wonderful friends there and was working with very exciting companies. I would say it was a heart versus brain scenario and my heart definitely won.
During my second maternity leave from the bank (about 2 months in), I had a moment of reflection about what I wanted to do in the remaining 10 months, I just couldn’t get up and travel as I had an older child in school. I was very conscious that returning to work after my first child had been hard, mostly because I lacked a lot of the confidence I previously had and I felt very inadequate.
I didn’t want history to repeat itself so I knew I had to keep my brain active. I initially thought about blogging, but that wasn’t for me. I then tried to build an app but didn’t have the budget for a proper developer so taught myself coding online. It was interesting, possibly even addictive as I found myself coding until 1am most nights. I reasoned that I was up anyway feeding my daughter so I may as well. I found it hard to stay motivated and craved a classroom environment with other people around me. After exploring a few options and realising that it was going to be impossible with a 2 month old, I decided to create Mums in Technology.
Tell us about Mums in Technology? What is your ultimate goal?
My goal is to make more resources available to women seeking successful careers after having children. We have seen huge success in London and I can’t wait to take Mums in Tech nationwide and then global. I want every employer to think of a Mums in Tech graduate and think, “We know she can take on any challenge – she’s creative, collaborative and gets tech”.
Before launching Mums in Tech, I spent 2 months seeking out mentors and advisors on how to create a child-friendly coding school for mums. At the time, it didn’t click that it would also be the first ever in the UK, something I am very proud of.
The pilot ran in September 2015 with 29 mums and 1 dad. It ran for 8 weeks and we covered the building blocks of any digital business, from ideation, to product management, web development, UX and presentation. The course is unique as it delivers and runs in partnership with industry at the offices of the best technology companies. The content has evolved, staying relevant to trends and interests of students. Partners have included Thoughtworks, M&S Digital, Skype, MOO, Capco, Ministry of Justice and most recently Three UK. We have had over 150 students in 18 months.
The success stories are what keep me going and inspired. Seeing students carry on their web development training, building businesses, switching careers and fundraising makes me so proud. Their confidence boost by the end of the 7 weeks is phenomenal and the networks they build are life-changing.
I want to unleash an army of women who are fulfilling their potential and feel confident to be themselves in any situation.
What upcoming projects are you most excited about?
We are working on finding a home for Mums in Tech to run exciting programmes that will give women the edge in their careers. We want to unleash an army of women who are fulfilling their potential and who feel confident to be themselves in any situation. A huge part of our ethos is authenticity and it’s something I personally strive for.
We are also planning on expanding to other cities in the coming months and are working on a series of events to address important issues to returning mothers and provide concrete solutions to their problems.
You’ve said ‘Mums shouldn’t have to choose between their kids and up-skilling’ – was this born from your own personal experience?
Absolutely! I felt really torn about how I was going to continue to grow my network. A lot of academic institutions are not set up with the needs of parents in mind. I was unable to commit to long days in training and the costs could also be a hinderance whilst on maternity leave. I also wanted to spend quality time with the kids, to be able to do both was the dream.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Weekdays starts around 6.15am. I try to wake up just before the kids so that I can take a few deep breaths and visualise my day. I also like to listen to a Ted talk or some music whilst making my tea. I can’t start my day without a cup of tea. It’s a habit I’ve tried to break but it may be too late for me!
I then get the kids and myself ready and do the school run with my husband. When it comes to the kids we’re very much a team and take it in turns to take them to school (even the house work!) I’m an egalitarian and definitely believe both partners should help each other.
The beauty of the work I do is that I can take my daughter with me wherever I go, so on the days she’s not at nursery, she is with me at the classes or at meetings. I love being present at the classes as much as I can because I get to know my students better and this helps me to continuously improve my service.
I typically wrap up meetings by 3pm so that I can pick up the kids and settle into our evening routine. Dinner is a huge part of my day, we eat as a family and love to share stories. I love to make nutritious meals whenever I can as we often forget to appreciate what we put into our bodies.
When it’s not my turn to put the kids to bed, you’ll usually find me catching up on Grey’s Anatomy or reading a book.
A huge part of our ethos is authenticity and it’s something I personally strive for.
What do you love most about working at Mums in Technology?
That’s an easy one. I love meeting inspiring women and seeing them go from strength to strength. I love it when they figure out that they’re the only ones stopping themselves from doing anything they want to do.
Do you have a role model/mentor?
I have several role models and mentors. I have been lucky to have wonderful people in my life to encourage me to reach my potential and strive for more. I have learnt to ask for help and not suffer in silence. That sense of humility and not pretending to know it all has been what has helped me the most. My mentors have also been men and women. I like to learn and definitely feel that in order to grow as a successful leader I have to continuously listen and learn from those who I admire the most.
What resources can’t you live without?
I find myself googling a lot of things. The beauty of Google is that it really opens up a wealth of information and you can learn absolutely anything. One book that I refer to on a regular basis is The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. It’s been like a textbook and very refreshing to read. I also listen to podcasts like 20 Minute VC which I find very useful to understand the journeys of a lot of founders that I respect. It’s very practical to listen to podcasts when you haven’t got as much time to read books.
What has been the best piece of career advice you’ve received?
Stay true to yourself.
The start-up life has been glamourised by the media and often not enough light is shed on the realities of being a founder.
What advice would you offer to others considering leaving their job to launch a start-up?
Really take the time to reflect on why you’re looking to launch a start-up. The start-up life has been glamourised by the media and often not enough light is shed on the realities of being a founder.
A lot of people assume that you will be your own boss so you are able to plan your time, work where you want and it all falls into place.
The realities are that it usually takes a little bit longer than you’d like for a business to get off the ground and this can be frustrating and disheartening at times. There is a lot of emotional turmoil in most entrepreneur’s lives which isn’t always spoken about for fear of being perceived as unsuccessful. So we bottle it up and put on a smiley face for the public. If resources permit, I’d advise saving and having a good reserve to take off that financial pressure which will allow you to focus on building your product or service.
Ultimately, be sure you are truly passionate about solving this problem because that passion will get you through the tough times.
How do you like to wind-down in your free time? (If you get any!)
Good question! I do struggle to switch off because I do feel a lot of responsibility falls on me. However, hanging out with the kids and catching up on some of my favourite TV series is usually how I relax.
What was it like to be selected to feature in Lancôme’s 40 Shades campaign this year?
I was extremely honoured when I received the call. I did, at first, think it was a prank. I couldn’t imagine that Lancôme had found me. The day of the shoot was amazing, I felt like a princess with hair and makeup and the wonderful team.
I was particularly proud to be part of the whole experience, it was a significant moment for Lancôme to release 40 shades. I am passionate about diversity and inclusion and to be one of 40 strong and powerful women showing that everyone should be proud in their own skin was truly momentous.
For conferences, I like to wear dresses, nothing too fussy but it has to be flattering for my shape.
How does the way you dress influence you at work, do you have any go-to pieces in your wardrobe?
I realised from my first maternity leave that how I dressed affected how I felt. This time round I made a lot of effort to dress well as this made me feel more confident.
I usually wear a nice pair of jeans and a nice shirt or blouse. I’m not great with heels so I love to wear pretty flats. For conferences, I like to wear dresses, nothing too fussy but it has to be flattering for my shape.