Giving Back

A few years into my professional career as a business journalist in Long Beach, Calif., I found myself connecting with the budding local tech community. One fateful night at a gathering in a coworking space downtown, I met two ambitious, entrepreneurial women who would change my life.

Alexa Fleur, co-founder of CritiqueIt, Inc., never worked a corporate job in her career. Independent and passionate, Alexa had 100% control of her work. She’s a talented graphic artist, storyteller, and design thinker adept in business development and community building.

Kelsey O’Neill has lived all over the U.S. When we met, she was working as a geotechnical research associate. But her dreams were bigger, and she was brave enough to pursue them. She’s now a data scientist with Glidewell Laboratories and leads a growing team of software engineers.

Together, we hatched a plan to create community. Kelsey and I were learning basic HTML for our respective jobs at the time, and we had both started using Codecademy. But we neither of us could commit in our solo pursuits; we needed an “accountability buddy.”

The idea sparked: what if we could bring together women who wanted to learn basic coding skills, giving them an edge in their careers?

Alexa kindly lended her cartoon “Chick & Rat” to the concept, and Chicks Can Code was born.

We started out as a community group evolved into a nonprofit project. Alexa stepped away when CritiqueIt received a significant round of funding, so Kelsey and I carried the torch. We formed a 501c3 umbrella organization for Chicks Can Code, and recruited three other women to help us expand.

Attracting more than 300 women to join our Meetup group, we held many successful in-person training sessions in Long Beach and Irvine. We were overjoyed by the impact we had on so many second-career women, entry-level corporate employees, and fresh-out-of-college entrepreneurs.

After six years building our nonprofit and our careers, Kelsey and I found ourselves in a place of incredible abundance. She was leading her own team at Glidewell as a data scientist, and I was onboarding new clients as co-founder of full-service digital marketing agency Scalable Tactics.

We got together and decided it was time to acknowledge that we were choosing other paths for creating community. So we identified another organization with a similar mission—Girl, Develop It—and donated the remainder of our funds to their nonprofit.

So, what’s next?

I can’t say exactly, but here are a copule of organizations pursuing causes I care about:

The Mama Bear Effect

Operation Underground Railroad