Launching the TechWomen Initiative – Week One

I am deeply honored to be participating as a technical mentor for the TechWomen project this summer. TechWomen is a project born out of President Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech, where he called for greater collaboration in technology between the United States and countries with majority Muslim populations.

TechWomen is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), managed by the Institute of International Education (IIE), and implemented in partnership with the Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology (ABI).

38 women, selected from a group of several hundred applicants from the Middle East and North Africa, have now been in the San Francisco Bay Area for one week. They are engaged in mentorships at a host of companies, and mentored by a group of highly capable and intelligent women, who I was honored to meet week before last at a mentoring training. I was quite struck at the level of passion in the room – rivaling my own. I suppose our desire to share what we have learned as technical women – and to learn from others who struggle in similar ways – is a strong motivator to give our time to this project.

At ISC, we have one mentee working with us. Our menthe, Sanae Baatti, is from Rabat, Morocco, and has a background in training Moroccan women to use technology for self-empowerment, as well as in multiple Moroccan technical companies, and holds a masters degree in computer science. She is working closely with me, learning the ropes of product management, with specific emphasis on software lifecycle process, customer test programs and gathering the voice of the customer, with a secondary emphasis on test driven development and scrum methodology. I hope that with the able assistance of her cultural mentor, my colleague Johanna Mansor, we can also show her culture and beauty of our area – from the DeYoung museum to the Santa Cruz redwoods and ocean I call home. We only get one month!

I have had a great many “mentors” in my life. In technical and other areas, I have been blessed to be surrounded by strong women who helped me to express myself, to learn needed skills, to trust in my own potential. From my elementary school science teacher through my college professors and beyond, women in my field and others have inspired me. But this is more than giving back – I know I will “get” at least as much as I give, in fact probably much more. My expectations even after one short week are already exceeded.

I will do my best to write one blog every week during the project, Sanae’s four weeks at our offices, our trip to Washington DC with all of the other mentors and mentees to visit the State Department and other government offices, and my possible trip to Morocco for further mentoring work later this year.

The future of technical innovation does not necessarily look as one might expect. The future includes TechWomen from around the world. For ISC’s mission to succeed, we need to expand our vision beyond the places we find comfortable – and embrace a wider sense of technology leadership in community. Through the TechWomen project, I hope in a small way, to participate in empowering women globally to become autonomous global internet citizens – and more importantly, world citizens.

For more information on the TechWomen project please visit
http://www.techwomen.org
http://exchanges.state.gov/programs/professionals/techwomen.html

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