Natalie Taylor was at the beginning of a major life jolt, ending a marriage and looking to a future where she would need to provide for her children. She came across an article on Tech-Moms thinking she wouldn’t be eligible. Second guessing her capabilities, she still applied for the WSU cohort. “It was kind of a hail Mary, like why not,” explains Taylor. “I had no idea what I was getting into with this, but I figured if it was geared towards women, and it could be a possibility. I was willing to jump at any opportunity to make my life and my daughters’ lives better.”
Things got better in large part to the skills Taylor picked up in class, saying, “It paid off one thousand percent. It’s continuing to pay off. It gave me something to look forward to, something else to focus on when there was so much turmoil. It also got my brain churning again. It allowed me to use my brain in a way that I’d never used it before.”
After graduating from Tech-Moms, Taylor continues to volunteer during the WSU classes, but she also went on to get more education in tech. “Tech jobs tend to pay more than what you can get without a degree. There are better benefits. There are more options for remote work. Tech jobs are mom jobs,” says Taylor. She was recently certified as a software and web developer through those next levels of education. “This is what I’ve been working for all this time.”
Tech-Moms was originally started by Trina Limpert, Mikel Blake, and Robbyn Scribner as they navigated the tech industry, finding it was a good fit for women looking for a flexible, challenging career. From there, they partnered with colleges and universities, including WSU. Beth Rhoades, the Executive Director of Programs for WSU’s Division of Online & Continuing Education, views programs like Tech-Moms as a way to deepen the talent pool saying, “The intent was absolutely focus on women moving into the tech sector and technology fields.” She says a program like Tech-Moms makes it easier for women to navigate everyday life while getting an education. “One of my goals is to look at some of those areas and to see where we can fill in those gaps. Can we provide short-term, intensive training for these areas? Can we provide stackable credentials so students can move through the process of education at a pace that allows them to work at the same time? This is how we can help fill the gap,” says Rhoades.
Tech-Moms isn’t the only program that strengthens Northern Utah’s workforce. The Rosie Project, cofounded by Rhoades along with Aniza Brown and Amanda McCrea of Catalyst Campus, targets tech training for military spouses. Rhoades sees this program as a missing piece in a growing partnership, “There is a budding ecosystem, a partnership between higher education and the Department of Defense. Any time Weber State can support the DoD’s needs, whether it be workforce, training, or allies in the mission of security, defense, engineering, and entrepreneurship—we want to be that ally.”
Both programs have a clear effect on the workforce in Northern Utah. Sara Meess, Ogden City’s Business Development Manager, keeps a close eye on workforce statistics and knows the outcomes firsthand. “These programs have a significant impact on our local community and economy. They help residents to develop the knowledge and skills needed to access high-quality jobs, thus supporting new economic opportunities for local families. Likewise, they ensure that employers have access to a well-educated and diverse workforce ready to fill technology careers that are in high demand,” says Meess.
KeeNan Engstrom applied for Tech-Moms in 2021 after taking a 20-year hiatus to raise her seven daughters. She had a background in tech, working as a database programmer at the now defunct Matrixx Marketing in Roy and America Online in Ogden. Tech Moms was an opportunity to refresh some skills and learn all new ones. Engstrom says, “I just jumped on board. At the same time, I enrolled in some classes at Weber State through the Learn and Work in Utah program.” It was a busy time in Engstrom’s life, attending Tech-Moms and WSU classes all while being a single mother. The support she found through the other women in Tech-Moms brought along a community she wasn’t expecting. She explains, “Once you become a Tech Mom, you’re always a Tech Mom. You do the nine-week program with them, but then it’s a community. We stay connected.”
“These programs are not just about the technical training, it’s about a cohort of people who understand what you’re going through,” says WSU’s Rhoades. Both Tech-Moms at WSU and The Rosie Project are accepting applications for their Fall cohorts. To apply check out General 6 — Rosie Project and Home | Tech-Moms.