In Bustle’s Quick Question, we ask women leaders all about advice — from the best guidance they’ve ever gotten, to what they’re still figuring out. Here, model and Kode With Klossy founder Karlie Kloss tells Bustle about the importance of leaning into your curiosities, the biggest misconceptions about coding, and what she learned from her super famous mentor.
Though Karlie Kloss might have achieved supermodel status before many people got their first internship, her professional and philanthropic footprint is still expanding. From mastering Swift, iOS’s developer program, to creating Kode With Klossy, a scholarship coding program for girls, Kloss is redefining what it means to be a role model and a woman in code.
“I love a challenge, but I was intimidated by how difficult code was perceived to be and how male-dominated it was,” Kloss tells Bustle. According to data from the 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 26% of people employed in computer and mathematical occupations were women.
But that didn’t stop her. With statistics like that, and a father who taught her not to shy away from math or science just because boys were into them, Kloss had confidence she could drive change in the field. In 2015, she launched a scholarship program, Kode With Klossy, that provides a free education in coding for a select group of girls ages 13-18 across the country. The program grew from just 21 students to 2,500 students in five years.
“Coding is the language of not only the future but the now. Young women in our community recognize that," Kloss says, adding that she doesn’t want to just educate girls in computer sciences, she wants to give them the confidence to pursue them, too.
With Kode with Klossy “camper” applications now available for Summer 2020, and modeling partnerships with Estee Lauder, Adidas, Express, and Carolina Herrera, Kloss has her hands full. Bustle caught up with her to learn how she built a new career out of coding, the art of balancing online and offline time, and what apps help her keep it together.
How did you go from being curious about code to signing up for classes?
KK: I have always loved math and science. I was meeting all of these brilliant entrepreneurs who were building these companies to transform the world, and I wanted to understand what they knew that I didn’t, what this skill set was that they had that most people don’t. It was an abstract concept to me. When I had some time off I signed up for classes at The Flatiron School and was so blown away by how powerful these skills are and how creative they can be — all the different ways to use code to problem-solve, to build any idea you have, to build a business or make a social impact. Coding can be a really valuable skill set.
How do you stay organized?
KK: I have a notebook that comes everywhere with me, it has tons of notes and lists and drafts for ideas — I have stacks of these notebooks. But I also love apps. My team and I use Slack to talk to each other throughout the day, and Wunderlist to stay organized. And then on the personal side, especially when I’m traveling and looking for mental balance, I love the meditation app Headspace. It’s been a powerful tool for me. I also use Wishi to style my looks. It’s like the Clueless closet, a virtual way to catalog your looks, and it’s a great travel and life hack.
How do you balance your life online and offline?
KK: My dad, an ER doctor who always took the night shift, has always been an inspiration in my life. He’s one of the hardest working people I know, and I inherited this ethic. But starting my career at 15, and in an intense industry, there have been times that I’ve teetered on the edge of burnout. It’s from those moments that I’ve learned my boundaries and how to create balance in my life.
I realized that working smart and not just harder actually serves me. It’s important to take time for my physical and mental wellness. I used to feel guilty asking to take time off — for Mother’s Day, or when I was exhausted — I felt bad taking time for myself and now it’s something I prioritize because it allows me to be so much better at my job. When I show up, I make sure I show up fully. And when I am offline, which for me is every Friday night to Saturday night, I unplug fully. I turn my phone off and don’t reply to emails and am fully present with myself and my loved ones and it’s the greatest gift I give myself.
What’s one way you’ve learned to work smarter, not harder?
KK: I’m working smarter by not being afraid of failure. A friend of mine always poses the question, "What would you do if you weren’t afraid?" Not letting fear hold you back is a really powerful way to work smarter.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? The worst?
KK: Throughout my career, I’ve had many amazing mentors, including Christy Turlington, who is a role model for me in so many ways. She has always told me to invest in myself, my relationships and my education. I carry that advice with me, and it was a big reason I decided to continue learning and took up coding. One of the worst pieces of advice I’ve heard is, "Wait and see." You have to go for it! I truly believe that inspiration, passion and drive lead to success.
What’s your best advice for a young woman who’s starting off a career in coding?
KK: The best advice I can give our young scholars and others starting a career in coding is to take things one step at a time and set attainable goals as you go. I’m also a firm believer that you should never stop learning. Code and tech are constantly changing in really exciting and innovative ways — don’t be afraid to take on new challenges along the way!
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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