Interview with Heather Payne, Founder of Ladies Learning Code – Canadian Millennials to Watch

June is Millennial month at Abacus Data and we are celebrating everything that is the Millennial Generation (or Gen Y).  The good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between. A lot of our analysis on marketing, business, and politics related to Millennials is rooted in an understanding of the challenges facing people our age.

In the spirit of celebrating Canadian Millennials over the month of June, our team at Abacus Data have been conducting a series of interviews that spotlight individuals we consider to be Canadian Millennials to Watch.

We’re kicking off the summer with some inspiring Millennial stories told by change leaders across industries. We see Millennial industry leaders creating positive change for the future of business in Canada and its about time someone reports on their accomplishments, successes and passions.

Previous research have argued that Millennials think business leaders are too focused on short-term rather than long-term solutions and are driven by pursuit of profit. However, we don’t see this as being the case. Millennials share a concern about business leaders’ lack of commitment to sustainable business and lack of innovative thinking. Through our own qualitative research (one on one interviews) we wanted to share how some Canadian Millennial business leaders are doing things differently.

Meet Heather Payne, Founder of Ladies Learning Code and hackerYou

Heather PayneOur first interview was with Heather Payne, the Founder of Ladies Learning Code, a Toronto-based not-for-profit that has been running since 2011, providing workshops for women (and men) who want to learn beginner-friendly computer programming and other technical skills in a social and collaborative way.

She also founded hackerYou, a Toronto-based organization that offers full courses on how to code. hackerYou had its one-year anniversary the day we had our interview.

Heather understands how the work that her and her team does is different from the way most large companies work. Their integration of online tools, and flexible work schedule make her day different from most people working in a CEO-type role.

Heather sees the realities facing the Millennial generation today and she is actively making change in her community and growing across the country to help young people to be competitive in the job market.

Five BIG Lessons from Heather Payne:

1.       Use technology to do your work better
2.       Flexibility and work-life blending can be your advantage
3.       I am my own security net
4.       School doesn’t end when you leave university
5.       Millennials are hybrid employees, use all of your skill sets

Here are some of the highlights from my interview with Heather.

What sets you apart as a Millennial leader in the tech education industry?

I think a few things set me, as a Millennial leader, apart from a non-Millennial leader.

One of them is my comfort with technology.

I use technology every single day for a lot of different things, like managing courses and workshops, planning event invitations online, communicating and collaborating with my team, and sending out email updates. We wouldn’t have the man power to build everything from scratch and it’s one of the reasons why Ladies Learning Code is able to run.

The second thing I think that makes me really different I guess, as a Millennial leader, is that my personal life and my work life are just completely blended together. I don’t know how many hours I work because my work life and personal life are completely blended. I’m friends with the people I work with, and I work from home a lot of the time. I’m working completely outside of society’s sort of traditional understanding of what work-life balance looks like or even what a traditional work place looks like.

What is the one thing that makes Millennials most different from other generations?

The main difference between Millennials and the people that I talk to from other generations is the fact that we as Millennials have really realized and owned up to the fact that we don’t have a safety net. We don’t have an employer willing to keep us around for our entire careers and give us 3% raises every year. We don’t have a government that is going to have pensions for all of us when we need them. We don’t have training on the job the way they used to, companies now expect you to already have the skills you need when they hire you, and they’re more likely to hire someone who is over qualified for a job rather than bringing someone on and then training them. Of course there are always exceptions to these things, but these are pretty much the realities of today which is one of the reasons why I’m excited to have HackerYou in existence because we give people the chance to re-skill and land a job as a skilled employee and be paid properly in a very competitive environment.

Compared to my parents I think I am in a completely different situation.  I am really aware that I have to take care of myself. I don’t believe that there is a safety net for me; I believe that the money that is going to get me through my retirement is all going to be earned by me. And it’s a big thing to live up to. Anyone who is older and looks at our generation with confusion about you know, what are we doing? or why on earth are so many people unemployed? I think they need to take a look around at the environment. We were promised – unnecessarily promised – that if you got a degree everything would work out fine, but we have entered into an economy where that is just not the case.

I can’t thank Heather enough for this fantastic interview! Come back next week for another interview with a Canadian Millennial to Watch!


The Canadian Millennials Research Project

In 2011 Abacus Data launched its Canadian Millennial Research Practice to help Canadian businesses, associations and government ask the questions they need answered about my generation, the right way.


Jaime is an Analyst at Abacus Data and a thought leader for its Canadian Millennials research practice.

Contact Jaime Morrison:

T: 613-232-2806



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