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Heather Payne

Technology can serve a broader population if more people—and more women—learn how to code.

Founder of Ladies Learning Code and HackerYou

Contact Heather For Booking
Heather  Payne | Founder of Ladies Learning Code and HackerYou
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Why should we care about how technology really works? Why aren’t more women and youth learning how to code? Heather Payne is asking—and answering—these essential questions. Payne is the founder of Ladies Learning Code, a national not-for-profit organization that runs popular workshops for women and girls, a traditionally underrepresented demographic in the programming world. Named one of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network, she is revolutionizing our approach to technology, education, and entrepreneurship. 

“If software is created only by a small portion of the population—typically white dudes in their 20s—how is it going to be reflective of society’s needs, and an entire population’s needs?” says Heather Payne. It’s a powerful question that inspired Payne, a business school grad, to encourage thousands of women and girls to learn how to code. To a growing legion of fans, students, and media attention, Heather Payne is transforming the world of tech, startups, and nonprofits.


Since 2011, Payne has quickly expanded Ladies Learning Code from its Toronto headquarters to 11 cities; she also started Girls Learning Code and Kids Learning Code. Her latest venture, the for-profit HackerYou, offers courses taught by industry-leading professionals. She is also the founding director of Toronto’s Mozilla-backed youth digital literacy initiative. Payne has spoken at many conferences, including 99U in New York, meshmarketing, and EdInnovation, and has been featured on CBC’s The National and in The Globe and Mail. She was recently named one of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network. She is a graduate of the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University and has worked in corporate marketing and at startups for her entire career so far.   


“Heather was absolutely amazing! The content of her presentation was terrific and everyone commented on how great a speaker she was and how much they learned. We are very pleased with the event, and would certainly recommend Heather as a speaker.”

YWCA Hamilton

Speech Topics

How to Start Things Stop Dreaming and Start Executing, Flawlessly
 Today, everyone has a great new idea for an app, or a start-up, or how to grow their social media following. But we have enough ideas, and we have enough dreamers. What we need are people who can execute. Heather Payne has built her career on taking other people’s ideas and executing them, flawlessly. Now, Payne shares the techniques that have helped her (and others) stop dreaming, and start doing. In this keynote, she teaches us to:

· Embrace a hustle-first, low-tech approach. It’s unwise and expensive to dive into new projects and tech without testing functionality, doing proper research, and whetting the appetite of your customers. Doing so means that by the time you’re ready to launch, you’ll be on much safer ground—and you’ll probably have more cash to spend.
·  Manufacture deadlines. As Payne has done with Ladies Learning Code and HackerYou, create public commitments and hard deadlines to get things done.
·  Put in the hours. Even if you can’t spend the 10,000 hours necessary for becoming an expert, make sure you can commit to a certain number of hours to become proficient (and you don’t simply give up when the excitement wears off).

There’s no such thing as a perfect idea, so there’s no point waiting, or dreaming, until one comes along. Thankfully, Heather Payne is here to inspire us to start today, without trepidation, and with a much better chance at finding success.
For Educators The Importance of Being Bad at Things

From personal experience, Heather Payne knows that starting projects can be tough. It takes a lot of effort up-front and a long time before anyone notices. Once the initial energy fades, we’re faced with hours of hard, thankless work, and many instances of failure.

At HackerYou, Payne’s staff trains approximately 600 students per year—500 full-time, and another 100 part-time. What they’re teaching these students isn’t easy; starting can be extremely intimidating. But inspired by the book The Talent Code by Daniel Coyne, and seen in practice through thousands of students transformed by their training, Payne no longer believes success is innate. We can make it through countless hours and natural mistakes to come out on the other side to mastery, proficiency, and pleasure.

In this keynote, Payne relates the value of doing things outside our comfort zones. By empathizing with beginners—and by plunging into new projects herself—Payne offers practical strategies for educators, offering key insights into developing talent, managing time and energy constructively, and instilling the right attitude for lasting success. When you’re still learning something, the only direction you can go is up—all you have to do is keep going.

Digital Literacy Why We Need to Know How to Make Tech
In this keynote, Heather Payne focuses on technology education, entrepreneurship, and women in tech. She addresses major issues such as why children aren’t learning about technology from making and maker perspectives at school, and why women are still underrepresented in the tech industry. She draws on her experience with Ladies Learning Code to give real-life examples of teaching methods that inspire students and provide innovative, hands-on learning. She tells young people and recent graduates how learning how to code can make you a more valuable and desirable employee. And, she gives us insight into how we can work to create technology that will serve us individually, as well as the much broader population. With grace, optimism, and experience seemingly beyond her years, Payne not only changes the way we view our relationship to technology and the web, but she inspires us to see what each of us is truly capable of.