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Can you learn to code while on maternity leave? These impressive women sure did.

Is it humanly possible to undertake Le Wagon’s intensive full-time coding bootcamp while simultaneously being the mother of very young children?
In fall 2019, Charlotte, Chloé and Heling proved that it is. We sat down with these superhuman women two months after they started Le Wagon in Montreal, to hear their survival strategies and lessons learned from putting in the long hours, hard work, and a few all-nighters to boot.

So, who are these 21st century super women?

Heling is originally from China. Before settling in Montreal, she worked in psychology while studying design in Europe. Her son was only 16 months old when she started the bootcamp. 

Charlotte is from France and has been living in Montreal for the past six years. She works in communications and marketing and is the mother of two children: a two-year-old son and a ten-month-old daughter. 

Chloé used to work in event planning. She took advantage of her maternity leave to make a career pivot and attend Le Wagon. When she started the full-time program, her two sons were two years old and four months old respectively.  

How did you prepare for the intensive full-time bootcamp?

Heling: Before I even started the bootcamp, we registered our young son in daycare so that he could start getting used to the new rhythm. We had a whole month and a half to make this transition. 

Chloé: This was a career change for me, but I couldn’t have done it without recruiting my whole family in this adventure. I would have never been able to pull through without the help of my husband, our family, our friends, and the incredible babysitter we were lucky enough to find before I started the course. 

All chores (errands, cooking, laundry — you name it!) were scheduled for the weekend. My husband would pick up our kids twice a week and the babysitter would get them the three other nights. All our dinners were prepared in advance so that in the evenings, the only thing we had to do was reheat them.

We thought long and hard about how we’d organize ourselves in advance, and this freed me to concentrate on my classes during the week and spend at least an hour with my kids every night. Once my boys were in bed, I was able to study my flashcards and review the lessons as needed. 

Charlotte: A month before I started Le Wagon, I enrolled my seven-month-old daughter in daycare. This freed up a little bit of time to complete my prerequisite prep-work. 

I made sure that all family meals were prepared ahead of time over the duration of the bootcamp — and that includes lunches in addition to dinners!

I was in charge of morning daycare and work drop-offs, but my husband took over for the night shift. We also didn’t hesitate to recruit help from babysitters or other family members when we needed it!

Coding session travail - Le Wagon Montreal
What was your biggest challenge during the bootcamp?

Heling: The hardest part was when my son was ill. He had a high fever and couldn’t go to daycare. Luckily, my partner was able to take off from work to care for him at home. It was especially difficult when my son would cry a lot at night. 

Chloé: Without a doubt, when my sons were sick. We weren’t spared from the winter flu season and succumbed to colds, laryngitis and even pneumonia! As a mom, it wasn’t easy staying focused on my studies when I wanted to take care of my children. I was tired from interrupted sleep and early mornings, but once again, we were thankful to count on the help of our friends and babysitter who bent over backwards to help us out. This was what we signed up for, and we were prepared for it. 

“The biggest challenge was handling the intensity of the bootcamp while managing family life over these 9 weeks”

Charlotte: The biggest challenge was handling the intensity of the bootcamp while managing family life over these 9 weeks, knowing full well that giving this course my 100% was the only option. I succeeded at attending every single class, the Wednesday night Wagon Talks and even the Friday social nights!

What was your proudest accomplishment?

Heling: Making it through to the very end of this bootcamp while missing only half a day. Also, I’m proud to have been able to meet such incredible people among the other students. 

Chloé: Pitching our web application in English, which is not my first language, and in public in front of 150 people, among them my husband and friends. I was extremely proud to introduce to them what I had accomplished thanks to their support and encouragement. 

“I was very stressed but pitching was a bonus challenge for me and an opportunity to go the extra mile. It was very important to me to go all the way on this journey.” 

Charlotte: To have completed this adventure and have been able to successfully create a whole web app with my team in only 2 weeks!

What did you gain from the experience?

Heling: The process is difficult, but the experience is worth it. We learned to grow from the challenges we faced. I also realized that I enjoy a hectic and fast-paced schedule. The only question I still have is how to effectively reconcile personal life with work. 

Chloé: You could be a woman, a young mom, and still reinvent yourself. I am so proud to tell my sons that I went back to school, that I wasn’t afraid to start from scratch, and that it’s important to always believe in yourself. 

“In a field that’s still pretty male-dominated, I am proud to be a woman and a mother.”

Charlotte: I am so proud of myself!

What’s your advice to women who are eager to follow suit?

Heling: The bootcamp demands a lot of physical and mental strength. You need to be well prepared and make some sacrifices. During these two months, you might not be able to spend as much time with your children or feel as close to them, and you might miss some beautiful moments. It’s important to have the support of a loved one for the extra help, but at the end of the day, it’s totally worth it. 

Charlotte: I would encourage all mothers to embark on this adventure, provided that they want it, of course, and that they have the proper support, like from a spouse who is available to take responsibility for the children :-) Anything is possible!


“Don’t be afraid to start! With a little bit (or a lot) of planning, it’s completely doable.”

A few tips:
- On the weekends, prepare everything you’ll need during the week
- Seek help from your loved ones or hire an awesome babysitter. Knowing my children were safe with a trustworthy person allowed me to take full advantage of the bootcamp experience.
- Notify the daycare; they were a lot more flexible knowing that I wasn’t as involved in daily life. 

Thank you Heling, Chloé and Charlotte: you are an inspiration to mothers who dream of doing something similar. I appreciate your courage and tenacity.

Are you thinking of a career transition and want to learn how to code? Don’t hesitate to book an appointment to meet with us. We would be happy to discuss your goals and objectives :)


P.S. For our readers outside Quebec, undertaking Le Wagon’s intensive two-month web development bootcamp during maternity leave can seem a bit crazy (if you’re from France, for instance!), but in Quebec, we’re fortunate to live in a society that’s quite advanced in terms of women’s rights. Parents here are allowed to take leave for up to one year, shared between spouses. Hence, taking advantage of some of this time to work on one’s skills and preparing for  new career opportunities could be a good idea.

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