Michelle Glauser is inspiring low-income women and non-binary adults to become software engineers by getting them the right training. She is the founder and CEO of Techtonica, and has helped spearhead the #ILookLikeAnEngineer ad campaigns. We meet at The Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center in San Francisco, CA where she shared me her story.
How did you start Techtonica? And where did the idea come from?
“Techtonica is a nonprofit where we do free tech training and job placement for low-income women and non-binary adults. We supply them with a living stipend through sponsoring tech companies that they then work at later. The way I ended up starting Techtonica is that I went to coding boot camp in 2012 and the price then was just six thousand dollars, but it was still really hard for me to pay for that. Now the price of coding boot camps has tripled. So I kept thinking — well, how are people supposed to pay for this if they couldn’t pay for college in the first place. It’s supposed to be a non-traditional path but it’s still catering to the same people who can afford college. Then I saw a lot of social issues in San Francisco, such as the income inequality which is worse than Rwanda in some parts. I just thought we’re displacing people and causing a lot of gentrification with all of our tech industry stuff in San Francisco. Why don’t we provide that training to the people who need it? Then companies can have more diverse teams from the locals and prices won’t go up as much because we’ll be hiring people who are here already. So that’s why started Techtonica.”
Why are you focusing on women and non-binary adults?
“I saw a real need for it. For most of my life, I’ve been one of those people that believed, if no one else is going to do it, I’ll just do it.”
What has been the hardest part of starting Techtonica?
“One hard part has been feeling like tiny tasks take much more time than expected. Another is that even though I can’t always find data-backed best practices on many things, I have to just move forward anyway and hope for the best.”
Where were you before Techtonica?
“I was doing software engineering, and I worked at several different places. They were all startups. I started with Get Satisfaction and then a place in Shanghai called, Chishen.ma and then Zana. While I was working there I organized the #ilooklikeanengineer ad campaign. It ended up being basically a full-time job and it was really difficult, but it was really rewarding. At the end, I realized I can do hard things. Maybe I can do that other school idea I had? So that’s when I shifted from software engineering to founding a nonprofit.”
What are you spring fashion must-haves?
“Well San Francisco’s pretty chilly in the spring or anytime really, so I always have a cardigan with me to keep warm. Also there are these amazing ponte pants from Athleta that are nice and stretchy. They can be dressed up or down. I almost wear them every day. I just bought a few pairs of them. They’re black and super plain, and have a pocket that will fit my phone. Most pants don’t [have pockets that fit my phone] so that’s really great, especially because I bike to most places.”
What’s your spirit animal?
“Bernese Mountain Dog—because they’re so huggable and friendly and can work hard.”
What are you currently reading?
“I love getting a big pile of books from the library and working my way through them! Prayers for Sale was a recent favorite.”
— Silky Pond (@silkypond) March 30, 2017
— Michelle Glauser (@MichelleGlauser) August 3, 2015