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Melissa Sariffodeen

December 14, 2016
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Melissa is hands down one of the most inspiring women I have ever had the pleasure of working with and knowing. She is the type of person who makes you want to work harder and push yourself simply by just being in her presence. She leads by example. To me, she is a modern day super woman and I am constantly in awe of her as she achieves every goal she sets her mind to. When ever she commits to doing something you know you can count on her to get it done. No task is too big or small. She is a true leader, and she absolutely practices what she preaches. Melissa is helping to change the future of Canadian youth through technology education and open the doors and remove the barriers for bringing more women into Tech. She is an inspiration and a role model and I could not be more excited to share this interview with you.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

I’m the Co-Founder and CEO of Ladies Learning Code which means I wear a lot of hats all of the time. One moment I’m planning a large scale event with the Prime Minister and another I’m driving across the country in our code mobile or another I’m fundraising. My favourite parts include working with our community of Chapter Leads coast to coast – catching up on what they’re working on and planning what’s next for their communities. I also try to attend our events regularly because they really are the best part of what we do.

2. Why did you choose to start Ladies Learning Code?

The Co-Founders (there were four of us!) didn’t choose to start Ladies Learning Code per say. Ladies Learning Code started with a tweet. Heather Payne knew there had to be a better way to learn to code than struggling on her own. She wasn’t the only one. The response was immediate and enthusiastic. The founding team – Heather Payne, Laura Plant, Melissa Sariffodeen and Breanna Hughes launched our first workshop, an Introduction to JavaScript, on August 6th, 2011 and tickets sold out in a day. So they planned another workshop. And another. Now, over four years later, Ladies Learning Code operates in 29+ cities across the country and has had over 50,000 learners attend one of our workshops.

3. What inspires you?

I’m constantly inspired by our community and the ‘a-ha’ moments our programs create. Seeing someone leave a workshop with new-found confidence in themselves and a new skills is really the best feeling in the world.

4. What is your personal mantra or mission statement?

Just do you. It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to do what others are doing and following the ‘right path’ but at the end of the day you need to follow what makes you light up and own that.

5. What does happiness mean to you?

Happiness to me is really about freedom. I’m definitely a minimalist in terms of my stuff and spending so I can focus on experiences and my work. I try hard to focus and prioritize things in my life that I really want there and because of that I really feel like everything I do is because I want to – not because I have to.

6. What are your hobbies?

I love making things! I’m constantly picking up some new crafty thing like arm knitting, cross-stitch, candle making or coding – you name it. I love creating experiences too so most weekends I’m planning some friend or family activity.

7. What are a few things you do every single day to keep yourself on track?

I workout. This is absolutely critical. I like to do it first thing because it gives me energy for the entire day (way healthier than coffee or sugar) and it clears my mind. I also read the paper every morning – this gives me perspective on the world and the work we do on a more macro level. I also use a to-do list manager obsessively (basecamp) and try not to look beyond the day’s tasks. It’s easy to get pulled into a million directions but I make sure I set out priorities each Sunday night for the week (via to-do’s), schedule time for strategy, meetings and work and stick to it. I’m not a procrastinator which helps.

8. If you could give advice to someone looking to get into your field what would it be and why?

Do it! The tech industry can be intimidating but it’s actually one of the most collaborative and supportive industries I’ve ever been part of and learning to code is super accessible but you have to start to learn that 😉

9. What has been your most rewarding experience so far? Work or personal

There’s so many! I really really love being at our programs. The experience of seeing someone unlock this whole new world by learning a new skill or tool is really awesome and definitely doesn’t get old.

10. What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your life thus far? What did you learn? Are you thankful for what it taught you?

There’s setbacks all of the time – like every day. As an entrepreneur the highs are super high but the lows are super low. Behind all of the fun stuff I get to do (which is a lot and it’s a huge blessing) there’s a lot of challenges like funding, resourcing, personal and life challenges, trying to balance all my commitments, etc. But, I’m in this for the long haul and putting that into perspective – knowing that we’re working towards a 10 year (or longer) goal really helps to see everything as part of that journey and turn setbacks into learning opportunities. It also helps to surround yourself with amazing people and keep connected to your work. It’s a huge reason why I still attend programs regularly – it’s a way to keep foregrounded what I’m working for and it’s always so reinvigorating and usually gives me that little push forward I need.

11. Who is your role model/ who has been the most influential person in your life?

I’ve always been most inspired by my peers and industry leaders or some more traditional ‘role models’. I love to surround myself with people who think differently and are interested in different things. I’m always so inspired by what people are working on and how they see their work and the world. I’ve been lucky to have 3 amazing co-founders and some other great mentors in our Board of Directors at Ladies Learning Code who give candid feedback and push me to think big.

12. Why is your mission so important?

The technology we know, love, buy and sell are built by people and teams representing a dismal number of women. We need to engage more women in the creation of technology if we want to build products that will better serve all Canadians (and the world) and will help solve many of the world’s biggest problems (including those that are unique to women).

Follow Melissa
Instagram: @melsariffodeen
Twitter: @melsariffodeen

Follow Ladies Learning Code
Instagram: @learningcode
Twitter: @learningcode
Facebook: /ladieslearningcode