A note from Sarah: I’m really excited to announce that we’ve added another badass to the Chairman Mom team: Jana Kleitsch, an amazing UX designer who is joining our almost all-female developer team. We met Jana via another Chairman Mom member and she lives in one of our favorites cities, Seattle. She’s also a former founder. That puts her in good company at Chairman Mom: So far half of our team are former founders. So you know we’re a resilient AF bunch.

If you start notice everything becoming way more usable around here, that’s Jana. You’ll hopefully get to know her through the community as well. And you’ll definitely meet her and the rest of our team if you come to the Chairman Mom Flee in September.

I asked her to come up with a few thoughts about her new gig…here’s what she had to say.

The first message I saw in Slack on Day 1 at Chairman Mom was this from my new boss: “No one read my answer on the ‘what you wish you knew before you got pregnant’ thread unless you have a high TMI tolerance.”

And I knew, “Oh, it’s going to be this kind of place.” I’m going to know more gory details of my boss’ life than probably some of my closest friends.

I LOVE IT ALREADY.

Back in my tech days I would have to promise not to talk too much Oprah or about cute shoes, or anything too girly…and then I’d try to extract similar promises from my co-workers to not talk too much about AJAX or load balancing or anything with robots. I always felt out of place in the tech world, even though I loved the challenge of designing interfaces, and I most likely would be the only female in the room.

With Chairman Mom I feel that all of my worlds have merged: Tech and female power and entrepreneurship. The last few years I’ve spent trying to create my own startup, mainly so I could dictate the environment I wanted to work in—one that felt like my family was not a liability.

Back in my days as a UX designer at Amazon when I found out I was pregnant, I was told by HR to fill out a form for short-term disability because that is how they treated maternity leave. Hearing the term “disability” really rattled me, but I continued working there. I even moved to part-time work, which was perfect, although frowned upon by most everyone in the company.

After one re-org it was finally “convert to full-time or leave” so I left. My husband was running a startup that took him all over the globe. I was burned out and really couldn’t see how I could pull off working full-time while also being a “single mother.” When I left Amazon, the director above me said, “I don’t know how you parents do it, that’s why I opted not to have kids.” Wow, that sent a powerful message. They saw me as a mom and therefore less valuable.  

During the time of running my startup, Wanderlust Society, I actively sought out other female founders. I knew I didn’t have the “big swinging d*ck” energy investors like to see. I knew investors tended to ask female entrepreneurs questions regarding mitigating risk, while asking male entrepreneurs about growth opportunities. I wondered how other females dealt with this. When I realized my company wasn’t going to be able to make it, I wondered how I could keep this tribe of women I had met…

Enter Chairman Mom. A mainly female team, a product I love, and my family not being seen as a disability.

* * * *