Staff Spotlight: Nicole Kelner



Tell us about yourself, Nicole.

I developed a passion for empowering young women to be leaders in the world of STEAM after my first company SmartPurse was acquired by BetaBrand. I was the winner of the Alibaba Women Empowerment Award, a finalist for Shark Tank, and a writer for The Huffington Post.

I have worked at Popexpert, an education startup in San Francisco. In my free time, I lead Lemonaid, a community for women focused on mental health & human rights.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Being able to work with young girls between the ages of 8-13 and get them excited about coding has been life-changing. I love the feeling that I know I am personally helping solve the problem of the gender gap in tech.

It is even more rewarding working with our Girlcode Gap Semester students because they are at such a pivotal time in their lives. It is a great period to try out computer science and see if they like it, without feeling pressured to pursue it as a career.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Before coming to the GirlCode Gap Semester Program, one of our students had no idea what she wanted to study in college. She came to us, learned how to code and now as a Freshman in college she has been able to get a job working as a Web Master for a local business.

She also studies Computer Science and Politics and plans to bridge her love for government with the newest technology.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

We are a very small program, so each student that comes to us gets an entirely individualized plan. We work with them to set personal goals and make sure that they are able to achieve them with our support and mentorship.

I also love the events that our girls go to. New York is filled with incredibly high-quality women in tech events. We curate a list for our students each week and encourage them to attend one per week. Just last week, we went to an event with Ellen Pao, former CEO of Reddit. We talked to her individually and she even signed our books!

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Passion for making a positive change world and balancing mental health with productivity. Our entire team is formed with change makers who want to make the world a better place.

We also have a strong emphasis on flexible hours and taking breaks during the day. My co-founder and I rock climb almost every afternoon to take a screen break and we've found it boosts our productivity!