A sense of excitement and anticipation has been growing in the TechWomen office in San Francisco for the past several months. We have been preparing for what will be the five most important weeks of our year. We have facilitated the selection of 78 emerging women leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) from 16 different countries in Africa and the Middle East. We have recruited twice as many Professional and Cultural Mentors from the Bay Area’s top public institutions and private companies. In preparation for the 2013 program, all international flights have been booked, visa interviews are underway and housing in San Francisco and Silicon Valley has been confirmed. We could not have done it without countless cups of coffee! Here is a closer look at what goes on behind the scenes:
Right now we are hard at work pairing Emerging Leaders with exceptional female professionals at companies all over the Bay Area. Matches are made by carefully analyzing the core competencies and expertise of each Emerging Leader and identifying a Professional Mentor with the skills and experience to best serve as a coach during the mentorship. The process also includes taking into account the participant’s professional goals and entrepreneurial ambitions. We have matched a geophysicist from Kenya with a lighting program coordinator from PG&E and a telecommunications expert from Tunisia with a software engineer from Ericsson. These are just two of many arranged matches so far. The best part of the process is notifying each participant of her match and receiving the positive feedback!
At the tail end of Professional Mentor matching, Cultural Mentor matching begins. Cultural Mentors serve as guides, help the Emerging Leaders acclimate to their local communities, and expose them to attractions, community service opportunities, and cultural events. In the final week of August, we will carefully select one Cultural Mentor per Emerging Leader, based on mentorship location and common interests, to complete the team of three that will work together for the duration of the program.
Prior to their arrival to the United States, both Mentors and Emerging Leaders participate in a pre-program webinar to give them insight into what to expect during the program. Mentors discuss program workshops and mentorship project ideas. Participants learn about everything from networking opportunities and arrival day logistics to the futility of trying to predict Bay Area fall weather. They are shown a tentative calendar of events and their many questions are answered. Everyone is excited and anxiously awaiting what they know will be a life changing experience.
There is plenty more to take care of before the 2013 cohort arrives: detailed planning of orientation day, arranging transportation schedules, designing workshops, and making, of course, a lot more coffee! Anticipation continues to grow as we count down the days until the Emerging Leaders arrive (less than 50!), and the five weeks we have all been preparing for begins.