Even though I grew up in the years when landlines were still the norm and having one computer in the house was a rarity, tech has always been an important part of my relationship with my mom. As a kid, I remember her getting hooked on Sim Tower (just like I did) and teaching me how to create my first "magazines" using Microsoft WordArt.
During middle school, the paradigm shifted: Tech became a place to retaliate in typical, hormone-raging teenage fashion. My AIM account (may it RIP) was littered with away messages like "The parental unit is making me rake leaves —
AGAIN " and "Can't believe I'm only allowed on here for an hour."
Nowadays, that early equilibrium has returned. I happily field questions about how to share photos and why people on Twitter care about Kanye, and she always answers my FaceTime calls when I need a vote of confidence.
Ahead of Mother's Day, I asked 15 women working in tech what skills they've taught their moms and, in some cases, vice versa. Ahead, a look at the humorous, heartfelt moments most of us with a smartphone and base level of emoji knowledge can relate to. Click through to read — and don't forget to FaceTime your mom on Sunday.
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Katie Dill, VP of Design, Lyft
“For Christmas one year, I gave my parents a digital picture frame. I loaded it with photos of the family and had it up and running. My mom and dad
loved it. A year later I was surprised to see they didn't have it out. They said it broke. Apparently they got another one, but that one broke, too. When I went to find it in the closet, imagine my surprise when I found 6 in there! Everyone of them, as they said, broke.
"Turns out this is code for,
we don't know how to work it. Twenty minutes later I had them all up and running. While it was a bit of a pain in the butt to set them all up, it was nice to have six examples to run through so hopefully, this time, they retained the lesson." More
Sutian Dong, Partner, Female Founders Fund
"I taught my mom how to use emojis, and she now sends weekly updates of her garden with the
exact emojis of the flowers in bloom." More
Indy Prentice, Software Engineer, Pinterest
"In my house, my mom is the tech guru. When I was growing up, she taught me everything from how to use Excel to how to fix the printer. To this day, she shows my dad how to use his cell phone, keeps our internet, and my grandmother's, set up and up-to-date, and sets up group chats for her less tech-savvy friends to stay in touch. She has taught me that it’s possible for my tech skills to last a lifetime, and never to doubt the power of turning off the printer and turning it back on again."
Jyoti Sood, Product Manager, Instagram
"My mom started traveling on her own a lot to visit family. My dad and I would check her in online beforehand since she didn’t know how. But once she started flying Southwest each week, timely check-ins became a priority. Without fail, every week, exactly 24 hours and 1 minute before her flight, I would get a call from her reminding me to check her in so that she could get the coveted 'A' group seating.
"However, after a few poorly timed calls during All Hands meetings, appointments with the doctor, and visits to the loo, it was time to introduce her to the Southwest app. I showed her how to log in to the app, find her flight, and check-in at the just the right second to land herself a top boarding number. She’s been checking herself in for weeks now and has really mastered air travel. Next up is ordering an Uber from the airport!"
Erin Teague, Virtual Reality Product Lead, YouTube
"While growing up, the experience of learning math and science was always somewhat natural for me. The study of language arts, on the other hand, was a completely different story. Fortunately, this has always been my mom's expertise. As a long-time English literature educator, she was my consummate private tutor. In fact, she proofread every essay I wrote from the time I could write.
"When I left home for college, however, this became a bit of a challenge. So, out of necessity, I taught my mom all of the document editing tools within Microsoft Word, then smart editing within Google Docs. She, even more than I, appreciated the evolution of these products as real-time collaboration became increasingly easier. To this day, she proof reads much of what I write. And we both know that no matter how old I get, she'll always be my favorite editor."
Tara Lydiard-Martin, Data Science Manager, Stitch Fix
"My mom has always been pretty tech savvy. She took a community college FORTRAN coding class for fun before I was born. But I did get to teach her how to replace the RAM and hard drive of her computer. She's big on reduce-reuse-recycle, so being able to upgrade her computer instead of throwing the whole thing away was a win."
Kathleen Barrett, GM, Vimeo
"[When I introduced my mom to Instagram] she couldn’t get past the fact that she couldn’t zoom in on photos. Now, she's completely surpassed me as a power user with live stories editing. And luckily they fixed the zoom in issue. (Good product feedback, Mom!).”
Sarah Bove, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Fitbit
“I sadly live across the country from my parents, but, thankfully, we are all iPhone owners. FaceTime is a must to stay in touch. Unfortunately, my mom still hasn’t gotten a handle on operating the correct buttons. Every time I FaceTime her, more often than not, the video ends up directed at her feet. Good thing she has lovely feet.”
Anu Duggal, Founding Partner, Female Founders Fund
"I taught my mom how to actually respond to a comment on Facebook instead of making it her status."
Dayna Isom Johnson, Trend Expert, Etsy
"First, I had to teach my mom how to text, which led to me explaining the appropriate use of emojis after she recently sent me an eggplant (in the context of cooking, of course). Now, every text she sends includes at least five emojis."
Kaijen Hsiao, CTO, Mayfield Robotics
"I got a call from my mom one day, and, flustered, she said, 'I don’t know what happened to my mouse. When I move it up, it goes down, and when I move it left, it goes right.' She had the mouse upside down the entire time. It was hysterical, but I’m not sure my mom thought so."
Christine Beaubrun, Web Developer, Crew
"My mom really prides herself on being self-taught — a trait she passed down to me — so she set a goal to be more tech savvy. We, the family, decided to test her, so we installed WhatsApp on her phone and let her fend for herself. Turns out, she really didn't need our help after the install, because shortly after she was sending us videos, photos, and reminders to eat healthy. She said, and I quote, "All I did was tap around the app and read the instructions. I can figure out anything as long as I have internet. I just write down what I would like answered and just research it on the internet.' Mom: 1 Kids: 0."
Rachel Glaser, Chief Financial Officer, Etsy
"My mother, an incredibly accomplished psychoanalyst, has had a mental block learning any new technology that came after 1985 or so. That would include cable television, Roku, internet, email, cell phones, smart keys, house alarms, etc. Every member of our family has helped 'teach' her and not always successfully. For instance, she didn't understand that to send a text, a light tap on the screen does the trick. Instead, she was holding down the send button and sending all her messages with effects, or not at all, and she was baffled as to why nobody was getting her messages."
Leslie Ikemoto, Head of Machine Intelligence, Google Photos
"I taught my mom to take screenshots during video calls because she always said
take a picture! every time we talked to her. She loved that we’d be crowded together, smiling, and that my kids would do little tricks to make her laugh. Honestly though, she taught me the greatest thing I know about tech, which is that I can do it." More
Linda Findley Kozlowski, Chief Operating Officer, Etsy
"I had to teach my mom about attachments in email. She was one of the smartest people I know, but for some reason attachments were just something she couldn't get for months and months. Once it finally clicked, a whole world had opened up and she was sending them all the time. She bought a scanner and next thing you knew I was getting newspaper clippings, photos and any family paperwork flooding my account."
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