Interview with “Geek Girls” Nancy Lyons and Meghan Wilker #MothersDay


Co-founders of The Geek Girls Guide and good pals Nancy Lyons and Meghan Wilker took the time to answer some of our questions about being moms and all-around cool, inspiring women!


Besides being an awesome mom, what do you do on the side?

Nancy: I’m an entrepreneur, I guess. I’m co-founder and President/CEO of Clockwork Active Media, a digital agency based in Minneapolis and specializing in business applications for web, mobile and environments. It’s a pretty swell little company with some great clients like PepsiCo, 3M, and The Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

I’m cofounder of The Geek Girls Guide, a podcast series dedicated to creating an empowered movement of technology-enabled humans. And co-author of Interactive Project Management: People, Pixels and Process (New Riders, 2012).

I serve on the Board of Trustees for Minnesota Public Radio and the national Board of Directors for the Family Equality Council.

This is actually getting nauseating. I do stuff. I like my kid, my partner, technology, business, the arts and social justice. The things I do pretty much center around all of that.

Meghan: I’m COO at Clockwork, the other founder of Geek Girls Guide, and the other author of Interactive Project Management.

I’m in a dance group (Bollywood Dance Scene – Twin Cities), which is something I’m proud of because I wasn’t a dancer growing up. It’s something I’ve stumbled into in the last four years. Learning how to do something outside of my comfort zone, and my skill set, has been fun. I’m using a different part of my brain than I do at work, or as a mom — flexing a new muscle (literally and figuratively).

I try to volunteer when I can, usually with organizations that work with kids in some way, and often with some connection to technology. I’ve done some work over the past year for my kids’ school district, for the Digital Empowerment Academy, and events like Achieve Mpls’ Entrepreneurs in Training Day.

How did you get to where you are now? Did you experience any struggles along the way? Were there people who helped push you?

Nancy: I had a lot of help. I worked hard. I taught myself things. I fell in love with technology. I learned how to speak the language and make it accessible and exciting. I learned how to herd nerds. But mostly, I had a lot of help from people who got there first and saw something in me that I barely saw in myself. I received help from people I met and with whom I got to collaborate — teachers and technologists and mentors and entrepreneurs. I count my current business partners and some of my dearest friends among the biggest influences in my life.

Of course I had struggles. But I think anyone who would say otherwise about any career path or professional journey is fibbing.

Meghan: A lot of seemingly random experiences and occurrences led me here. I dropped out of college and moved out of my parents’ house at 18. I learned, relatively early on, how to be on my own. I worked hard. I sampled a lot of career paths. I went back to college in my mid-20s, working full-time and with a different focus. I followed my gut. I was true to myself — which often meant sticking out like a sore thumb in gray corporate environments. I asked for what I wanted. I screwed up. A lot. All of that is to say, I’ve busted my ass and have been lucky to meet people who mentored and supported and helped me get to whatever was next for me. But, I never really had a “plan” — my career path has been intuitive, experiential, and experimental.

My biggest struggles have occurred when I wasn’t listening to my gut, or being true to myself or my values. I’m not good at faking it, and I’m a terrible liar. So, if I don’t like what I’m doing — or where I’m doing it — I’m bad at acting like I’m okay. If I’m in a situation where I have to do that, I struggle. I’ve also been unemployed and that was hard for me. I went through a period where I felt really useless and unmotivated.

I was able to work through those situations with the help of people who encouraged, challenged and pushed me. At different times in your life, you need all of those things. When I’m pushing myself too hard I need someone to tell me to chill the hell out. When I think I can’t do something I need someone to tell me to, in the words of my mom, “Get in there and be a woman.”

Who inspires you?

Nancy: Scrappy entrepreneurs I get to meet. Community members. Women leaders. Accomplished folks. Artists. Teachers. Like really — my kid’s teachers and the people who care enough to pick that profession. Young people with big dreams.

I get inspired by my son. My partner. And art and music and quiet and my friends and big thinkers and visionaries and failures and fear.

Meghan: I come from a family of strong women, who all inspire me. My grandma was a big influence on my life; she was the kind of person who did what she wanted, and didn’t take any crap. She never lost her enthusiasm for learning new things and being alive. My mom is a no-nonsense ass-kicker who showed me how to be a working mom. My sister is a brilliant writer with razor-sharp wit who teaches me how to appreciate the things in life that I tend to overlook in my desire to get to the next thing.

I’m also really inspired by people who make things happen; who come up with crazy ideas, and then see them through. Divya Maiya — the artistic director of Bollywood Dance Scene – Twin Cities — is a person like that, and I find it invigorating to be around people like that. People who back up their talk with action.

I’m inspired by Nancy, too. She’s honest, intelligent, fearless, and caring. Our friendship is a huge asset in the work that we do together at Clockwork and Geek Girls Guide, and it’s a privilege to work so closely with a human being that I like so much.

How do you try to inspire others, especially your kids?

Nancy: I don’t know. Mostly by telling the truth. I don’t really try to inspire. I try to encourage. I try to be honest. I try to be available. I try to be authentic.

Meghan: I’m just trying to be the best version of myself that I can be. Some days are better than others. I hope that I’m showing my kids how be a person who’s kind, comfortable with who they are, and always does their best.

Describe one cool tech/craft project you worked on with your kids.

Nancy: I’m not crafty at all. And my son’s tech/screen time is really limited. We like to spend time outside. We use tech (GPS) to geocache–something we enjoy together. We bird watch. We collect/identify rocks.

Meghan: My husband (who is a kickass dad) does most of the cool projects in our house. My activities with the kids usually aren’t “projects” — crafts, tech, or otherwise (though my daughter and I have been having fun messing around with Scratch in the last couple of months). I do a lot of reading with them (currently Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), and we’ve just started experimenting with having the kids ride their bikes with me when I go running (which is SO FUN but really messes up my pace). My absolute favorite thing is when we all pile on couch and read books on a Sunday afternoon. Bonus points if it’s a rainy day outside.

What is the most memorable Mother’s Day gift you received from your kids?

Nancy: I can’t remember a single gift. But I will say — it took us a long time to have a kid. And we made it through a lot of disappointment. When we finally found our way to our son, it was after we had given up hope. So, in all honesty, the very idea that I get to celebrate Mother’s Day is the greatest gift.

Meghan: Same here; I can’t remember a gift I’ve gotten. Worst mom ever! But, my favorite Mother’s Day tradition is our family dinner at The Anchor Fish & Chips. Family time with good food, and a nice pint of Guinness.

More than anything, I appreciate having time with my kids where we don’t have to be anywhere, or do anything. We can just hang out and enjoy each other.

You can follow Nancy and Meghan on Twitter at @geekgirlsguide, @Nylons and @irishgirl.

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