Today’s Guest Liane Katz
"Liane Katz is a champion of digital literacy and diversity in tech. From her humble beginnings as a journalist, she embraced the world of coding and technology, leading to a remarkable career spanning 20 years in digital media. After a transformative 12-year stint at The Guardian, Liane took a leap of faith, left her corporate role, and ventured into the world of entrepreneurship. She co-founded MAMA.codes, an innovative coding school for children aged 3-11, designed to empower the next generation with crucial digital skills. Now, MAMA.codes has taught over 5,000 kids to code and is on a mission to widen its impact, all under Liane's dynamic leadership. As she guides MAMA.codes into its exciting digital future, Liane continues to be a passionate advocate for diversity in tech and remains committed to creating a world where every child, regardless of their circumstances, has access to coding education."
- Liane talks about her inspiration, Dame Stephanie Shirley, who had to use a man's name, Steve, to get responses to her business development letters in the 1960s. She admires how Dame Stephanie created a company of freelance programmers, mostly mums working from home, which parallels Liane's own business.
- Liane discusses her transition from a secure corporate job at The Guardian to entrepreneurship after having children. She credits her parents' entrepreneurial spirit for showing her that this path was possible and fulfilling.
- Liane continues discussing her messiness, admitting that it's a source of arguments with her partner. She's trying to cultivate tidiness to reduce these arguments and is reading books on how to declutter. This shows her commitment to embracing change in her personal life.
- Liane shares her approach to incorporating small habits into her life, like doing a 30-second sun salutation in the morning. She believes in making changes super small to make them stick.
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Matt: Welcome to Push To Be More with me, your host, Matt Edmundson. This is a show that talks about the stuff that just [00:01:00] makes life work and to help us do just that. I am chatting with today's guest, Liane Katz from MAMA codes about where she has had to push through what she does to recharge her batteries and what more looks like.
The show notes and transcript from our conversation will be available on the website. Push to be more.com. Uh, on our website you can also sign up for our newsletter, and each week we will email you the links and the notes from the conversations they get delivered automatically. Direct to your inbox. Totally. Free. So make sure you head over to Push To Be more.com and sign up for that.
Now you are listening to this episode thanks to Aurion Media. They're the experts who help busy entrepreneurs and leaders like us start their own successful podcasts. Oh yes. You know what? Starting this podcast. I have four now.
I have four podcasts. And let me tell you, they're the best things I do. Uh, in business. They [00:02:00] open doors to a whole new world filled with fantastic people, inspiring stories and opportunities to really connect with people from around the world, with my customers, my team, my suppliers. And you know what? I honestly think anyone with a passion or a business should consider hosting their own podcast because of the difference it can really make to what's going on.
But of course there's always a but isn't there? Uh, it's not always plain sailing. Getting everything set up, dealing with the tech, working out the best approach. They can all be headaches, and that's where Orien Media comes in. They're like my backstage crew handling all the bits and pieces that make the podcast work, so I can just focus on having great conversations.
So if you are wondering whether a podcast could help you reach, uh, more people with your business, well give 'em a shout. Aurion media.com is their url, A U R I O N media.com. Give 'em a shout. I think you'll enjoy it [00:03:00] now. That's the show sponsor. Let's talk about the show's amazing guest. Oh, yes. Now, Liane Katz is a champion of digital literacy and diversity.
Intact from her humble beginnings as a journalist, she embraced the world of coding and technology leading to a remarkable career, spanning 20 years in digital media after a transformative stint of 12 years at The Guardian, Liane took what can only be described as a huge leap of faith, left her corporate role and ventured into the world of entrepreneurship.
She co-founded MAMA codes, an innovative coding school for children age three through eleven. Designed to empower the next generation with crucial coding skills. I feel like I should probably sign up myself now. MAMA codes has taught over 5,000 kids to code, and it's on a mission to widen its impact all under Liane's just joy and zest for [00:04:00] life. And so as she guides the business into its exciting future, uh, she's a passionate advocate, uh, for diversity and tech remains committed to creating a world where every child, regardless of their circumstance, as access to coding education, which I feel is a massive mission.
Liane, great to have you. Thanks for joining us. Uh, that's quite an impressive bio. I enjoyed reading it.
Liane: I enjoyed listening. Thank you so much for inviting me on.
Matt: No problem at all. It's great to have you here. And uh, thanks for, thanks for joining us and uh, just as we kickstart the conversation, whereabouts in the world are you?
Liane: I am in Brixton in South London, in the uk.
Matt: So let me start out, Liane, with a opening question that I like to ask everybody. Now you are actually starting a podcast, aren't you? This is, um, something that you are quietly, secretly doing.
It's not yet out
Matt: Yeah. Which is, which is awesome. And so this show sponsored by Aurion Media, um, which helps folks [00:05:00] podcast. I like to ask this question. Now you have your podcast is coming out, and if you on that podcast could interview anybody from the past or the present that's had a massive impact on your life, who would you interview and why?
Liane: That's actually quite an easy question to answer. Um, there's this incredible woman, uh, she likes to go by a man's name, um, which I'll explain. In a minute, but her real name is Dame Stephanie Shirley. And, um, she, uh, likes to go by the name Steve. And the reason for that is because back in the 1960s when she was setting up her business, hugely inspiring business, um, she wrote letters, biz dev letters, and she didn't get any answers with her name.
So she just put Steve and saw if she would get more answers with a man's name, and she did. So it stuck and. Back in the sixties, who could imagine it. Uh, this was an era where she, herself and many other women, uh, were asked to leave the workforce when they got married, let alone had children. And she was a super brain, [00:06:00] was so advanced in maths in her secondary school that she was moved to a boys school that she could do more maths.
And then she went into early days of computing, um, I think it was the post office she worked for. So she had this incredible career ahead of her. But when she got married, you know, the dumb thing was to step, step down. So she thought, well, this isn't good enough. I'm going to scoop up all that wonderful talent sitting at home in suburban homes all around, you know, the country, and create a freelance programmers, um, company.
It was called Freelance programmers, staffed by women, mostly mums working from home. Now you might see some parallels with my business
Matt: Yeah, I'm, I'm starting to see the connection. Yeah. Yeah.
Liane: Steve Shirley was mentioned at the kind of co-founding conversation that I had with, um, my earliest business partner, um, who said, have you, have you heard of this lady, Steve?
Uh, um, um, Shirley, and she's absolutely amazing. And she sets up this business and go and look at it and, uh, added to that, she was a kinder transport refugee who didn't speak a word of [00:07:00] English at age five when she arrived with her sister. So there's an incredible story and there's a wonderful autobiography by her, um, called Let It Go, but it is kind of, it hopefully gonna be a film soon as well.
She's the most wonderful speaker. I'm a bit of a fan, I'm a bit of a groupie. Um, so follow her on Instagram, um, and you'll just never regret it. She's just incredibly inspiring, so I would love to have her on my podcast.
Matt: Okay. And do you, have you, have you actually met her? Have you connected with her?
Liane: I have been to quite a few of her talks,
Liane: and I was very fortunate enough to speak to her afterwards and hear about her work with, um, she's actually, she set up the Oxford Institute, the internet. She set up Autistica, the charity that does her research into autism because her son, um, had autism. She's a philanthropist now.
She managed to grow her business, um, with this wonderful stories in the, in the autobiography, which I'd urged everyone to read. Um, and then sold it. Uh, she gave her employees and her team lots of, uh, equity in the business. So she actually made several of her millionaires when she sold it, [00:08:00] and now she actually dedicates herself to philanthropy.
Um, absolutely incredible individual. So I'd love to ask her some of the pressing questions of the day.
Matt: Wow. That's, that's an incredible story, isn't it? And, and I mean, the sixties, I mean, I'm of a certain age, Liane, I have to be honest with you, where the sixties doesn't feel that long ago. I was born in the seventies. Um, and so it's not like it was that far removed from my life, really. And,
Liane: Another world for business business. At the time, she couldn't get a bank account without a man, uh, with her signing for her. My mum's told me that story too. She was a business woman in the seventies and, um, couldn't get a bank account without a man.
Matt: crazy. So what was the business your mum did?
Liane: Well, she had a few different things, but um, kitchen design was one of them. Um, but my parents were both entrepreneurial, which I think has definitely shown me that that is a normal thing to try and try your hand at. I think a lot of my friends who work in more corporate careers or civil service. Sort of steady jobs, uh, with more [00:09:00] security, uh, sort of, they get palpitations when they think about doing something like what I've done.
Whereas for me, it's just kind of bread and butter that we were always helping our parents out on the kitchen table, you know, filling envelopes or bags or whatever it was. And, um, I could see the fulfillment and the flexibility that they had. And I, I think that that really inspired me after quite a corporate phase in my, in my journalism career
Matt: Yeah, I was gonna say, cuz you were, you were 12 years worth of guardian, weren't you? And, and, um, so you didn't start out, or maybe you did start out in the entrepreneurial field and then you went into corporate, but it seems like the first part of your career was corporate and then you, then you took the leap.
What, what triggered that? Cause I imagine it was quite, I don't, may, I'm, maybe I'm imagining this wrong, Liane, but I imagine it was quite fun working, uh, at The Guardian.
Liane: It was fantastic. It was an amazing place to work, and I, and I'm still good friends with many of the people that I met there. Um, I suppose that you, you grow through your career, don't you? And you, and you look for different things and you look for different opportunities. And I'd, I'd been there through quite a, a lot of [00:10:00] change.
I'd done lots of different things. I'd, I'd been a travel editor, I'd worked on the politics desk, done actually quite a lot of the first podcasts and a multimedia production. I loved that. Spoke to people in war zones, it was incredible. And then I had children and, um, I was the travel editor who could send herself anywhere, but I had this baby and it was actually really stressful.
So I thought someone else can have a crack at that. I'm gonna give up this peachy role to the next person and look for something more project based. I mean, you can't hang onto that job if you don't wanna travel all the time. Um, that would be a crime, right? Um, so I, I looked for something.
Liane: I looked
me be like, I want to give it a go.
Liane: Oh yeah, no, I did, I did do it for a while and then, and then, yeah, I, I took my daughter to a couple of sort of coastal b&b reviews on the south coast and thought, yeah, I really ought to be getting a bit further afield. Um, so I moved sideways and it was actually, I mean, it was quite painful at the time cause obviously you, you'd worked all your, um, previous years to, to reach that, that kind of [00:11:00] job.
But, um, I wanted something that didn't follow the daily news agenda. That was quite stressful, trying to work part-time, trying to come back into that after a few days out and I thought, there's all this stuff going on in the basement. I've heard there's an interesting project down there. They're kind of building the new website at that time.
It's the first time it was, uh, it optimized for a mobile phone screen. I know that sounds like really weird, but back in only about 12 years ago.
Matt: In the day. Yeah.
Liane: That wasn't, that, that wasn't the default. And, um, there was a, a basement of 65 developers cooking something up down there. And, and I, and I was seconded as a sort of journalist media person to go and sit down there and, and make sure it looked and felt like the Guardian.
And it was really fascinating. It was a complete culture change. Um, it can you imagine 65 developers, how many do you think were women, even somewhere like the Guardian looking to find
Matt: I can't imagine hardly any of them were, oh,
Liane: There was one woman and 64 men, and I thought, what is going on here? [00:12:00] And it was a complete culture change. Everyone in the editorial bit was flamboyantly dressed, mostly female, very extrovert, very chatty, very sweary and, and really fun. And everyone in the basement was kind of very introvert, death metal t-shirts everywhere.
Really strange jokes.
Matt: Typical coder. Yeah.
Liane: And I just thought, wow, um, why, why is this like oil and water? Why are you guys not more integrated? Why, why can't there be more movement between the two and the collaboration? So I was kinda like the diplomat there. Anyway, long story short, um, we realized as non coders that. The developers held all the keys to the future of the business and we needed to understand their work better.
We needed to understand it to be able to commission it more effectively. And, um, we were spending huge amounts of money. And so they said, look, how about we teach you to code in your lunch hour? Um, and I thought, okay, you know, I've always thought maybe I wasn't suited to it because I didn't do a lot of STEM subjects at a level and degree, but actually I was pretty good at them at [00:13:00] school.
And I did languages, uh, mostly for my study and. I was learning a language, it was just a coding language and I realized this was actually a lot easier than I thought, and I couldn't understand why it had this kind of cache that no one else could do it. Yet to be a certain type of person, you pretty much had to have a maths background.
You to be a man, you, you had to be a certain type. And I just thought, this is nonsense and it makes the world go round. And for every career I could imagine my kids getting into, there was me sitting in journalism needing to know it. Um, I wanted them to have this literacy in coding. So really as a mum, I started looking into it and saw there was this gap in the market.
So there were lots of redundancy rounds and I sort of ignored the first few and I thought, actually, I really want to just have a new chapter. And they sort of allow me a bit of a cushion of, of securities to have that money. I'd been there quite a long time, and so the first thing I did was I left and I actually launched my own consultancy, so that was a bit safer.
Like I, I was selling what I already knew. Anyone who's done a startup or started a business will know that. It involves learning a huge amount of stuff. You don't [00:14:00] know, it can be quite uncomfortable and exhausting. Right? So I had this consultancy, I had a bit of money coming in, I got some good clients and then on the side I had a bit of time to kind of tinker with other things and that's when I had this conversation about Stephanie Shirley and, um, started to really get involved in testing out this idea that there was a different way we could engage young people and children and families, actually the adults around them in.
Understanding what coding was, putting aside their preconceptions and their fears about it. Cause you know, even now, but particularly back then, sort of six, seven years ago, Talking to parents about what, why their kids should get on a screen and do more coding was quite hard work. They were very opposed to it.
They were sort of gatekeeping and very worried about screen time, and here were these mums, not not trained teachers, not train coders, trying to say, we've got another way you should try it. So really the only way we got through that was to invite them over to our homes with iPads and get them coding themselves.
The parents hooked them up to the telly, gave them a glass of [00:15:00] wine or a coffee, depending on the time of day. And they loved it. And it was just that experience of this is what it actually is like and myth busting. And really that's kind of how I knew that there was a bit of a, a demand for this because if those parents would turn up and learn, they were keen but clueless in their own words about coding for their kids.
It was on the.
Matt: Feels like most of my life, to be fair. Keen but clueless.
Liane: Yeah. As long as we know we are right, that's fine. So they started tripping me up in the street, um, on the way to school and asking me for more of that, but for their kids. And they said, I went home. I felt so cool, I could tell my kid I'd done this thing. We coded jokes, right? So it was quite funny.
We got them coding, little knock, knock jokes,
Liane: And they went home and they, and they showed their kid and it was like, who thought coding could be like this? Well, if it's like that, then I'm all for it. And they all signed up in droves to our pilot classes. And then from there, I felt confident kind of jumping in with two feet, really running it full time, so it kind of went from side hustle to, to what I'm doing now.
Matt: Fantastic. Well, that sounds like a fascinating, [00:16:00] uh, journey and it's interesting, I always find it fascinating with entrepreneurs when you talk to them and that they, they start doing something and they see a need and there's lots of little pivots along the way. Uh, and they sort of end up in these really unique places where they never, ever thought that they would be like, you know, if you asked me 10 years ago or maybe 15 years ago, would I be where I am now?
I, I could never have predicted that and that, that for me is all part of the fun of it all, isn't it? Is this journey that you go on, but I'm kind of curious
Liane: and it feels to me that it's almost more right than ever before. It's taking little pieces of my experience and my skills. My interests from all around my career and, and before that, and just interests that I've always had. I've always loved young children, I've always loved teaching them, even though I wasn't trained, this job has allowed me to jump into primary schools and just teach and do holiday camps and, and be really silly and, you know, just really go for it.
So, yeah, I, I, I realized quite quickly once I'd made that leap, [00:17:00] that this just felt more right than anything I'd ever done before, even if I was on a massive learning curve.
Matt: It's an interesting phrase, isn't it? It felt more right in the sense that, um, listening to you talk all these all these little bits of stuff that you've learned along the way has, has sort of been almost like destined ah you, you learn this stuff on the way and here you are now, you are right for this sort of, this, this part of your life.
Um, and so it feels more like looking back then to your younger self or if you had a conversation with your younger self. Did you, did you feel that sense of it? It didn't feel right earlier on in your career, or it felt right, but this just feels even more right. It's just getting better and better.
Liane: I think with any, any role, um, you know, whether you're an employee, a founder, ceo, um, there are lots of things you enjoy in your, in your job and some that you really don't. And it's about that balance, isn't it? When things[00:18:00]
Liane: Tilted one way, then you think, well, I'm on my way to somewhere. I'm looking for promotion.
I'm looking for the next thing. This, this job will give me access to that, or this job will teach me these skills. But I think nothing really, for me, nothing really compares to being your own boss. You have ultimate flexibility. I think when I made the leap from, uh, that sort of corporate fixed timetabled, office based job into running my own consultancy. I had two tiny kids then you know my daughter, my son was two, my daughter was five, and I actually said to some of the clients I was pitching, For work from um, I have another project on a Friday. I'm not available on a Friday, and I didn't tell him that was my son. I just said, I'm just not available.
So it sort of gives you a bit of a respect for your own time that I think I didn't have as an employee. I just, I was just, you know, that sort of on the hamster wheel and I loved it for time and then I sort of stopped loving it and I think that's when you know you need a new challenge.
Matt: Need to, yeah. Need to move on. So now it feels more right. [00:19:00] Um, that's interesting. And so it sounds, listening to you talk, uh, almost idyllic, like the stars aligned along, you know, this, this beautifully calved path, but knowing a bit of the backstory, again, that's not exactly true. There were some challenges you faced along the way, right?
It's not all been sunshine and rainbows.
Liane: Absolutely. I mean, entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster. No two ways about it. And, um, You know, I think you have to hold onto the, to the, um, highlights, uh, to give yourself the energy to get through the tougher times. And there certainly have been many of those. Um, I suppose even from the outset, having the confidence that I could get into this, I could play in this space as a non-teacher, as a non coder by training all the, all the sort of, early adopter parents near me were sort of asking me, so, so what is your background?
And I kinda had to have a good answer because really I'm one of you and I, and I've got really into it and I'm about two months ahead of you on the learning curve wasn't really gonna cut it. Um, there was a journey to [00:20:00] believing my in myself. And I remember going to the bet show, the ed tech show, the biggest ed tech show in, in Europe, um, if not the world, I think, uh, Excel, uh, just finding out who else was there.
And just my mission was to understand can I play in this space? Will I be taken seriously? And I put my hand up in lots of seminars and teachers came flocking over with their pencils and their paper saying, please give me your number. We need your, we need your materials, we need you to train us in this coding business because it got added to the curriculum in 2014. Um, but with very little guidance for teachers. So kind of couple of paragraphs and no consistent training. Very, very little material. So if your ICT coordinator was passionate about teaching coding, had some knowledge then. Fantastic. But so many were given that job that you were given literacy coordinator and they didn't have that support.
So there was a huge need and I thought, I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna turn up with this crazy brand named MAMA codes and, and it'll stop them in their tracks at least to ask me, why are you called that and who's it for? [00:21:00] Funnily enough, there's a lot of teachers who are parents as well, so they were interested for their own children and actually we got loads of interest.
Um, so that was, I guess the first challenge was sort of confidence, you know, building that up and, and, and it's something I still struggle with. I really have. To work at it. I have to, I have a great coach. I do affirmations when I'm going into a difficult meeting, I really have to sort of, I, I wear a particular jacket that gives me quite a lot of confidence.
Um, and I think that that really takes, that, that confidence barrier really hits a lot of female founders I know and I find a lot of support from networks of female founders. There's a wonderful one called Hive Founders that I'm part of. It's free
Matt: Hive. Yep.
Liane: Um, and I've just, I formed some fantastic partnerships and friendships through that.
Everyone's much more sensitive to those particular challenges, the extra layer of challenge that any entrepreneur faces, finding suppliers or investors or um, marketing people. But somehow there's just this extra layer, particularly when it comes to [00:22:00] fundraising, whether it's lack of experience, lack of confidence.
Particular questions and assumptions that investors make asking around, you know, are you're about to disappear on maternity leave and things like this, it still happens. Um, and you know, traditionally, you know, there are just more men in those kind of financial background roles who then could go into a fundraise more confidently.
And I've literally had to go and learn a lot of skills and do a lot of training and reading to, to feel as confident So, I mean, I remember pitching to a room of sort of 20 something childless men and then just literally glazing over. They had no idea what my product did. No un understanding of why it was useful, but then getting into the room where it, you know, people did see the potential, it's really gonna change the whole future of work.
Um, and people who care about social impact, people who care about inclusion, whole different story. So I guess, you know, there's the confidence, the fundraising, that those are the areas.
Matt: So there, it's interesting I'm listening to you talk about that. So [00:23:00] you, here you are a few months beyond everybody else in your journey, so. I, I find it fascinating that you, you wear a certain type of jacket when you go in certain meetings and, and, and it's funny how, as humans we find these things, which, which just work for us, right?
And you can't explain it. You don't know why. Um, but there are the things that we do to help ourselves, um, and to feel, I, I remember having a conversation with my daughter. She's 16. She's just doing her GCSEs actually, uh, has an exam even as we're, as we're talking. Yeah. Yeah. God bless her because I, I didn't enjoy those days.
Um, and so I remember talking with her a couple of weeks ago and she said to me something quite profound. She said, dad, I've, I've kind of come to the conclusion, uh, watching you work that you don't really know a whole great deal, uh, but you just sound really confident when you talk. And I said, I said, you are, I think you have discovered the secret.
Uh, I said it's a lot like, um, I, I heard the analogy somewhere. I can't remember [00:24:00] where it was. I think it was in a movie. Um, the Replacements with Gene Hackman. That's where the movie
Matt: A lot of you, you're um, you're like a duck on the water. You know that everything above the surface just seems calm, but underneath your feet are pedaling at a thousand miles an hour.
Liane: That was a skill. I, I, yeah, I, I can relate to.
Matt: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Totally. And it's, it, I thought it was interesting that my daughter at 16 has figured this out cuz it, it took me years to sort of understand there's gonna be this constant tension as an entrepreneur be between feeling constantly inadequate, but also being strong enough and confident enough to inspire the team around you and the customer in front of you.
That you can do what you can do. Right. I don't know if you found that.
Liane: Yeah, I, I can really relate to that. So what you were saying about, you know, that kind of, um, That sort of serene bird on the water and then sort of flapping and uh, paddling feet underneath is definitely how a lot of my journey has felt. And, [00:25:00] um, occasionally I haven't been all that serene on the, on the surface either.
Um, I guess one other really big challenge I've had to face personally was that we, I had a very traumatic and very sudden bereavement few years ago. Massively shocking thing and it was actually a crime as a criminal aspect to it, well. So just navigating that personally and also to try and sort of help my kids who were quite small, get through it.
Liane: Was really difficult and I was, my business was quite young, my kids were quite young. There was this thing actually really messing with my wellbeing and I was, I always had this, um, You know, everyone knew knew me as the one who could cope. I had this kind of persona as the coper implacable. Um, give her the hard stuff she's the fixer she'll, she'll sort this all out. But actually I just couldn't cope, and it took me a little while to realize that and get some help. And I, I was very anxious about being vulnerable with my team, with my investors. I thought this was something I just had to hide and bury. And I think a lot of people still [00:26:00] feel like that.
So I guess I wanted to mention it because I have got through it and, um, it's really important to, to recognize that if your wellbeing isn't right front and center as an entrepreneur, it's gonna come bite you at some point because it is just so tiring. I mean, it's absolutely wonderful. As you say, I'm painting the rosy picture here.
It's all been, this stars aligned and it's all much better now, but it's incredibly challenging. I, I lose more sleep for sure as a, as a founder of my own business than I was as an employee. Um, You know, the buck stops with me. I, I worry about every individual on my team, um, both about them and will they leave?
And how will I, how will I navigate this challenge that's coming down the road? I've got three challenges in the same day. How do I deal with that? Um, you know, it is, it is lonely at the top. I'm very, very fortunate to have, uh, a wonderful co-founder of business partner who, um, has been, we've been working together, uh, for, uh, five years now.
And, um, we're very similar in many ways, but very different in others. And we just compliment each other brilliantly. So if one of us is having an awful [00:27:00] time, we can, the other can lift them up and vice versa. And, um, you know, we come at things from quite different angles, so sometimes just getting out of your head and sharing that problem, getting a different perspective can, can really help.
Matt: Yeah. That's really powerful. I mean, the, the phrase you said there, uh, about being vulnerable with the team, it's interesting, isn't it, because the sixties or seventies when Steve, you know, was setting up her business. Um, then leadership was all about, I know the right thing to do, we're gonna go this direction. You don't question what I'm saying, this command and control type thing. Um, and now I think it's different, isn't it? And leadership and entrepreneurship is, is about confidence, but confidence isn't about denial of what's going on.
And there's this real interesting phrase that you used about vulnerability. How did you, I, I assume you, did you become vulnerable with your team, and how did they respond when you did [00:28:00] that?
Liane: Yeah, I did. So I did, I certainly did with my team. Uh, we're a very small team, as you might imagine. There's basically three of us full-time, and then there's 25 in total, including all our tutors, but they're pretty, uh, part-time and we champion flexible and remote working way before the pandemic. So I don't actually see many of them day to day.
Um, So I told my two senior colleagues who, who basically are in the management team with me, and they were incredibly supportive and continue to be because it's not a one way smooth street, um, coming back from something like that. And there are still days where I feel quite wobbly. Um, but I hope that by setting that example, um, they have felt able, when they're having a tough time personally, something going on in the family, um, that they can, they can take the time they need, that they can just say, this is going on for me.
Um, can you just cut me a bit of slack? I'll make it, and I know they'll make up the time. So, I mean my, my operations and product, uh, head of ops and product. Uh, her sister had a baby last week, uh, early, [00:29:00] really early,
Matt: Oh, wow.
Liane: Unexpected and you wouldn't know from her output anything has happened, but she actually has half her family camped out at her mom's house and she's looking after them all. But because we are MAMA codes, she's working when she needs to work. It's mostly via Trello and Slack and I know exactly what she's doing and she's been super transparent saying that I'm gonna get to this on this day and this on this day I know you're waiting for it. It'll be on that day. Anything else, let me know. Otherwise just leave it to me. It'll get done. And I'm like, great. Amazing. We'll leave you alone. We'll cancel the meetings. Cause you don't need to be on a call at certain times if you're dealing with that. Um, productivity is amazing.
So. I hope that by leading by example in a way, and, and, and being really quite vulnerable, um, it, it has engendered that culture. But I do, you know, there's a limit. I still worry about oversharing the detail or sharing with investors who, who may not be quite so, you know, uh, but bought into that way of thinking that, you know, actually, what do you mean the CEO's having a wobble and needs a day off?
Um, [00:30:00] that's not really very, You know,
Matt: That's not cricket
Liane: So I think there's still a long way to go and I think, um, I, I wouldn't blame them for having a bit of a concern about that. At least they'd want a, um, a plan B if, if you were to need to step away for a while. But, you know, the long-term benefit of actually taking some time to work on problems that you've got to then show up so much stronger and so much more productive.
It's, it's, it's a no-brainer really.
Matt: Yeah it is. And I think, I mean, the, the truth and the reality of life is when you, when you lead people, a team of people, every single one of them at some point is gonna go through something. There's gonna be problems, there's gonna be obstacles, there's gonna, and most of them are gonna be unplanned. A bit like, you know, the, you, you talked about the bere, you don't plan for that.
It's not written in a script somewhere. You, you, you don't ask for it. You know, things knock you sideways. And I think how you care for people in those positions. It's really, really [00:31:00] interesting and I, and my experience here is if you personally as a leader have been through something, you don't have to have gone through what they've been through, but if you've been through something, you tend to be a bit more empathetic and a bit more helpful.
Um, compassion's a great word, isn't it? And pastoral maybe. Um, you know, that sort of caring because work is such a big part of your life. It is a big deal, you know, eight hours a day, um, if you're full-time on average I suppose. But, um, having someone that cares for you in that environment, I think is, is one of those unwritten rules of leadership that makes you actually quite remarkable. Uh, and I imagine, I mean, I don't know Steve, who you mentioned earlier, but I imagine in her life that's probably one of the things that happened, um, because she'd struggled so much and she could help people along the way. And, um, I, I think that's probably one of the secrets to her success.
I'm just guessing. I don't know.
Liane: Yeah, I, I imagine it would be, um, and I think, you know, [00:32:00] she also had a very, uh, clear mission to level the playing field for women and give them the opportunities that they were very clearly denied at that time. And things have moved on a bit now, obviously, but I still feel that's a large part of our mission.
So we actually have, um, over 70% of our tutors coding tutor teachers are female and over 40% from diverse backgrounds. So we're really trying to empower women to learn about, uh, coding and tech skills and then pass them on in their own communities, um, and give flexible working as well. So, um, that is a, a huge part of what drives me is that empowerment piece.
It's not just empowering the kids who are in our lessons is actually empowering the team and looking for other skills they want to learn so that by joining us doing one thing, they may well actually be able to do two or three different things across the business. I always look inside the business for anyone who I could bring into something that's an empty role or an empty project.
Matt: Fantastic. And so what does, what does more look like, Liane? I mean, [00:33:00] you're, you know, you're, you are here, you're on the, you know, you are, you've got three full-time employees, you've got 25 staff overall, it's growing coding's becoming a bigger and bigger deal. Um, boys and girls in the classrooms learning it, doing some great stuff.
Uh, making it accessible. So what, what does the future look like? What, what does more, what does more look like for you?
Liane: Yeah, so as you say, we've, um, we've grown our live taught lessons, so we now have, um, you know, dozens of lessons, uh, of classes a week, and, um, a fantastic kind of tribe of MAMA coded children learning, learning on average, you know, at least a couple of terms. Some of them stay with us for years because they can start at three and go all the way up to eleven different languages.
Um, but there's a limit to how much you can grow a live taught model. So you need the tutors and the kids roughly in the same time zone. It's a certain amount of money, um, per week, uh, per child. So really to take that next leap, we have built an app which is gonna allow kids to [00:34:00] self-serve. So it's aimed very boldly at the age group, three to seven.
Can't bank on them being reading, uh, fluently at that stage, so it is designed to allow them to, um, teach themselves to code, basically it's like Duolingo for coding it's, uh, voiced by kids so that they just narrate the instructions and things flash and pulse so they know what to tap. And we're super excited about it.
So we're, we're at, um, sort of alpha testing stage of that, that's called Looparoo.
Liane: It's a free element. Yeah, there's, there's a free element. It's a freemium model. So, do Google it. Uh, L O O P A R O O. Um, and it's fronted by some fantastic, um, sort of non-gendered diverse mascot characters, sort of Dora the Explorer type visuals.
And, um, super excited about engaging lots of small kids no matter their background before any bias is set in about, you know, coding and whether it's for them or what code looks like.
Liane: To enable that launch and scale. Um, UK first and [00:35:00] then international. We are doing a fundraise, so we are doing a crowdfund on Cedars, um, followed by, um, hopefully some angel investors.
So if anyone's listening wants to get in touch, I'd love to speak to you. Um, so yeah, that's gonna take up the rest of this year. And then next year's gonna all be all about scaling and launching, launching and scaling the app in. Uh, international markets, it's very easy to adapt to the local, um, language because it's not got a lot of text in it.
And, um, growing our, growing our classes and alongside our commercial classes, we actually have quite a, uh, busy and growing strand around outreach classes. So we actually work with a lot of corporate sponsors to run free clubs for children either in their local community or partner charities that they already work with as part of their CSR.
Or they fund the charity partners we already have. Um, so that is really exciting as well and it's another alternative model, particularly at times when it's been quite tough, kind of asking parents with lots of budget [00:36:00] pressures to, to shell out. And particularly in these marginalized communities where, you know, you really do see the digital divide coming in.
People don't have access to the, uh, devices at home and parents just can't stretch to it. This is a great way to make sure we're being more inclusive and, um, so we'll be ramping that up as well. So again, if, you know, if you think that the company you work for or the company that you run might be interested in, in sponsoring some of that activity, um, it's not very expensive and it can also be done through the app by sponsoring places for that.
Yeah, that's what's keeping me busy. That's what's in my in tray. Just a few bits and pieces.
Matt: Yeah. No shortage of stuff and in top of all of this, you're moving two miles down the road.
Matt: Because, you know, why would you not want that extra? Why would you not
Matt: little challenge
Want that? Extra? Yeah, yeah. Challenge to yourself. No, that's awesome. Well, yeah, listen, we've got that part of the show where I draw out from the question box the questions.
Matt: So are you ready for
Liane: making me nervous now.
Matt: Good. [00:37:00] No, not good at all. It's gonna be fun. I love this part of the show. So, uh, you are gonna say, stop. And we're gonna read that question.
Matt: It's interesting how many people wait until the end. Uh, it always intrigues me. Um, okay, so I want you to know, this is where you told me to stop.
Matt: I suppose there's two ways to answer this question.
Uh, and I'll let you answer it whichever way you like. Uh, what do you and your partner most argue about?
Liane: My mess. I'm very messy. I'm a
Matt: Straight in.
Liane: Creative, borderline ADHD kind of, you know, always distracted by the new, exciting thing and not actually putting something away or you know, tidying up. This is why this weekend's been quite stressed for me cause I've had to tidy up the whole place and declutter our entire lives.
For four people. But I'm trying to grow, I'm trying to cultivate some ocd. I'm trying to balance myself out. I'm trying to get tidy in order to reduce [00:38:00] the arguments.
Matt: How's that? How's that I
Liane: I don't blame him for arguing. I don't blame him for arguing with me over it. Um, I dunno you'd have to ask him. I think it's working quite well.
There's always, I'm always up for self-improvement. You should see the books by my bedside. How to declutter your home is at the top.
your home is
Matt: Yeah, there's a really interesting, I can't remember the name of the, the chap that wrote the book. There's an interesting book about willpower and because like you, I've read a whole bunch of books over the years and some, some things stick and then some things don't and I didn't quite understand why.
So I remember reading the, the book about willpower, which I thought was really eye-opening, um, and explained why some things stick and some things don't with me, but. interesting listening to you instantly go to my mess because I've been married this shift 25 years. Um, my wife is an absolute Yeah, well, it's awesome.
My wife is an absolute legend and it's a miracle she hasn't killed me yet. I mean, I'm gonna be straight, right? Because [00:39:00] I, don't know, I don't think I'm the easiest bloke to live with. Uh, but she somehow has found a way and over the years I have got tidier and I remember, um, I remember a few years ago, it must have been about 10 years ago because for the longest time in the house that we, we were in, Sharon and I, we didn't have a bed. We just had a mattress on the floor and we didn't, um, the reason we didn't have a bed was not, cause I didn't wanna get one because I like to make stuff part-time outta wood. I'm a bit of a woodworker, so I was gonna make this bed, but in, I was in no rush because one day I was in no rush because the kids were young and we used it as a, as like, um, a mat, a wrestling mat on the floor.
Do, you know what I mean? We could, we could fight and wrestle.. Anyway, eventually I made this bed and I just decided one day that every day when I got up, the first thing I would do is I would make the bed. Um, because we used to do this thing that the last person outta bed would make it. And I thought, no, no, no.
I'm gonna bless my wife and I'm gonna, I'm gonna [00:40:00] make the bed every day. And um, that was the start of me trying to be more tidy. I do make the bed, I have to be honest with you, I have got into that. I do make it every day. Not sure about the rest of my tidiness though.
Liane: It's a tiny habits thing. So I've been testing out the, you know, it's like a TM, tiny habits method. Um, I signed up to a new coaching program, brilliant app based coaching program called Prime Focus, really recommend it. And uh, the first thing they get you to do is think of two or three things. I think it's two habits you wanna try and add and one to lose, but it has to be like triggered by a particular moment in your day or a sensation in your day.
So mine were the minute my feet hit the ground, after I get up in the, the morning, I'm gonna do a sun salutation. Cause I love yoga, it keeps me really grounded. When I don't do it, things go wrong. I realize how valuable it is for me and it's so easy just to be on the go and rushing everywhere all day.
But if you just take that time, odds are you're gonna do more than one, you're gonna do something else as well. Five minutes. Um, but it's so easy to fit [00:41:00] that in and then you gain that confidence that you can change, you can, you can improve, you can get things going. And the other one was when I sit down for breakfast, I'm gonna have at least half a glass of water.
Cuz again, I'm just not great at drinking enough water and everything else just sets you up for the day those two things. It's also putting yourself first in a busy parenting situation. And, um, it stuck. I think I'm on week three, but I'm really not someone who finds new habits that easy because I'm so busy.
I find it really hard to kind of sustain them. So yeah, I think the tiny habits thing, just making it super, super small is really really good.
Matt: Tiny habits works really well.
Liane: Stuff about your phone. Yeah. Trying to put your phone away a bit more.
Matt: I think the science is 28 days, isn't it? Or 30 days or something like that. If you can do something for 30 days consistently, then the chances are excellent that you can actually make that stick for a long period of time. That explains why the bed thing works.
Liane: But I think it's also about making it super small. So, you know, I always thought I need to do at least 10 minutes yoga before everyone gets up in the morning. And [00:42:00] that's just not happened for years. But I can do a sun salutation that's like 30 seconds.
Matt: I'll tell you what, I don't know what that is, but Yeah, no, no, it's, I've just
Liane: First bit of yoga.
Matt: Trying to get outta the bed, trying to put my foot around the back of my head and it just going very
Liane: Nothing like that. No. No. Just a little bit of a standing stretch, then
Matt: Okay. Fair. Well, fair
Very, very quick. Very
Matt: No, absolutely. I've actually just started getting up and, um, and now I journal, uh, and write the very first thing I do, uh, before I get showered anything I just write for half an hour. Just, I don't know. I don't have an agenda when I write. There are some things that I need to do prep for, but some things I don't just get up and write.
Super helpful. Um, but yeah, fascinating. Listen, Liane, it's been brilliant, uh, having this conversation. Really enjoyed it. Super, super stoked by what you guys are doing over at MAMA codes with the kids and the coding. I think it's brilliant and well done to you and Steve for, you know, doing something in, in what is traditionally a male dominated industry.
I'm loving the stories and it's, [00:43:00] it's, it's great to hear and um, yeah, just keep, just keep inspiring because it is, it's phenomenal. It really is. It's, it's brilliant. So,
Liane: Thank you so much, and whenever I go into a class, whenever I need a bit of a pick me up, I just kind of go and watch one of the classes in action and I see these tiny kids doing the most amazing, complex things with a huge smile. And I'm like, right that's why we're doing this.
Matt: Yeah. No totally.
Liane: Yeah. It's, it's very inspiring to me as well.
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. It just funny, isn't it? And it'll just keep you going and the, the cycle perpetuates and it's amazing when you're doing something that you're inspired by how inspiring you become. Um, and I don't know what, I don't know what starts it first. I don't, I don't, I think if you're inspired by what you do, You become inspiring to others, but by inspiring others, maybe you also become inspired by what you do.
And I, it's a catch 22 anyway. I'm sure there's people out
Yeah, voucher circle
Matt: to those questions. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Uh, how do people reach you? How do they connect with you if they want to do that? What's the best way?
Liane: Fantastic. [00:44:00] So our website is a good place to start www.MAMA.Codes. Um, there's free sessions, free taster sessions for any child age, that three to 11 on there. Um, and you can find out about our new app and get free early access to that as well. Um, you can find us on all the usual places, linkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. And yeah, do get in touch. You can sign up to our free newsletter, raising Digital Kids, and in due course our podcast of the same name, where we try and really empower and educate and support parents in all the wider themes around raising kids in this digital era. You know, online safety, how to manage screen time, positive screen time options such as coding or creating books or creating videos using tech rather than passive screen staring.
So if you are interested or concerned about any of those issues, we've got lots of resources and free advice there. Love you to join our community.
Matt: Fantastic. And that's at MAMA Codes. MAMA.codes
Liane: MAMA.codes yeah, [00:45:00] www.MAMA.codes.
Matt: MAMA.Codes. Awesome. Well, Liane, listen, thank you so much for coming onto, uh, the show and sharing your story. Genuinely, really, really enjoyed it. No, it's been great. I, I've, I've loved every second of it. It's, um, I feel like I, I could keep going if I'm on with you, uh, as I do with most of I guests. I feel like I just get to start scratch, you know, start scratching the surface and there's like, oh, I could ask this question, this question.
But, um, no, genuinely,
Liane: Oh, well that's, that's always a good sign.
Matt: Absolutely. Well, thanks again to Liane for joining me. What a great conversation, uh, that was, really enjoyed it. Also, a big shout out to today's show sponsor Aurion Media. If you are wondering whether podcasting is a good marketing strategy for your business, do connect with them at aurionmedia.com.
That's A U R I O N media.com. Now, be sure to follow, Push To Be More wherever you get your podcast from. Because we've got yet more great [00:46:00] conversations lined up. I don't want you to miss any of them. And in case no one has told you yet today, you are awesome. Yes, you are created awesome. It's just a burden you have to bear.
Liane has to bear it. I have to bear it. You gotta bear it too. Now, Push To Be More is produced by Aurion Media. You can find our entire archive of episodes on your favorite podcast app. The team that makes this show possible is Sadaf Beynon, Estella Robin and Tanya Hutz Slack. Our theme music is by Josh Edmundson, and as I mentioned, if you would like to read the transcript or show notes, head over to the website, pushtobemore.com, where you can also sign up for our weekly newsletter and get all of this good stuff direct to your inbox.
Totally. For free. So that's it from me. That's it from Liane. Thank you so much for joining us. Have a fantastic week wherever you are in the world. I'll see you next time. Bye for now. [00:47:00]