Money & Career

Code Like A Girl CEO, Ally Watson, Shares Her Top Tech Tips For Entrepreneurs

“You don’t need to be a coder, but you need to be confident understanding technology”

To celebrate Small Business Month, we’re launching the Small Business Brilliance series, presented by Salesforce, asking Australia’s top entrepreneurs to share their trade secrets. We sat down with Ally Watson, the founder of Code Like A Girl, to get her best tech tricks… 

MC: You first launched Code Like A Girl in 2015 as a community for women in tech. How did you turn it into a social enterprise?

AW: I was working as a software developer for the first 2.5 years of Code Like A Girl, before I went full time on the business in 2017. I really immersed myself in the world of gender studies and started to question “Why is there not more women in technology?” The more I researched, the more passion I had to solve this problem. We started organically, and then at the very beginning of 2017 we became predominantly a sponsorship model, privately funded by tech companies through sponsorship. No we’re looking into finance models for some of the products we’ve created like coding camps for kids and our internship program.

MC: Our “Women In Business Survey” found that the top challenges for small business owners was acquiring customers, achieving work life balance and financial management. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced at Code Like A Girl? 

AW: I struggled with my management experience. I went from being a senior software designer, to have a team below me. The people-side of business has been such a learning curve; managing people, creating culture and scaling that culture. I also had to get comfortable with money. I come from quite a humble background, growing up with a single mum, we didn’t have much when I was younger. My relationship with money was always a bit dark, so I had to get over a wall in the sense of closing deals, knowing my worth and standing up for myself. It’s a muscle I’m still growing.


MC: As a tech company, how important has technology been to you?

AW: I think it’s one of the reasons we’ve been quite successful. Having a knowledge of technology, being comfortable with platforms, having a website and understanding code has enabled us to create a team very easily. You don’t necessarily have to be a coder or an engineer, but business is technology and technology is business. You need to be confident and understand the tools you need to build a business.

MC: What are the platforms and products you use most?

AW: We use this great tool called Notion to document our processes. It has little boards where you can manage project life cycles and is also kind of like a Wikipedia. We also use Google Calendar, Google Mail, and Google Docs. G Suite is great for us because we have four different teams and everybody can access it wherever they are.

MC: What’s one piece of advice you’d give other women wanting to get into business?

AW: This is really boring, but strong goal setting has really helped me. You have to break your ultimate horizon down into bit size, achievable, short-term goals, but make sure they’re still always aligned to your ultimate horizon. 

MC: What are you most proud of since launching Code Like A Girl?

AW: We’re now reaching about 1,000 girls a year through our coding camps and seeing 30 per cent of them returning again to the camp. I love the creativity of the camps and seeing the girls getting involved. In addition to that, we’ve placed 30 women into jobs in the software engineering industry with our internship program. Considering only 600 women are entering the industry a year, we’re contributing a lot of them. We’re making change. I’m like, “Yes, more women!”  


Join us at the marie claire Small Business Brilliance series presented by Salesforce on Wednesday October 9 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney 8:30am-10:30am, and Tuesday October 22 at TwoTonMax in Melbourne 8:30am-10:30am, $50 per person (plus booking fee):


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