Guest post by Annika Holmlund
Unlike most people, I enjoy meetings. They are a great way to share information, interact with colleagues and flesh out new ideas. One of the first meetings I attended as a TechWomen intern has left a lasting impression: as part of our efforts to re-brand the program, we were trying to decide on a new Facebook banner and I was expected, even required, to have an opinion. This was a welcome surprise. While the topic of Facebook might seem trivial, I will remember the excitement that I felt, knowing that the ideas shared in that meeting were contributing to this innovative program’s mission to create an immersive experience for Emerging Leaders from Africa and the Middle East and their Bay Area mentors in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
When I applied to be a TechWomen intern, I was open to doing whichever tasks needed to be done. From finding appropriate picnic venues for the welcome potluck in October to editing 78 Emerging Leader bios to include in orientation materials for mentors, I gained a greater understanding of what it means to be a part of the TechWomen world. While the program advocates for the empowerment of women in Africa and the Middle East through mentorship and exchange, those core themes start here at home in San Francisco.
On the TechWomen team, everyone pitches in to make sure things get done effectively, on time, and well. It is empowering to work in such a completely collaborative environment, especially when such inspiring things are being accomplished. Of course, we also have fun. From trips to Curry Up Now with staff (a Mexican-Indian fusion food truck) to attending a San Francisco Giants baseball game (go Giants!) with previous TechWomen mentors, these women know when it is time to be serious and when it is time to explore our wonderful city, just as the Emerging Leaders will when they arrive on October 1 for the start of the 2013 program.
Trying to figure out what I want to do when I “grow up” is extremely difficult, all I know is that I enjoy meeting new people, traveling and experiencing new adventures. This internship was the perfect way for me to expand on my pre-existing knowledge and passions while learning new skills. I analyzed social media metrics to increase visibility, coordinated visa applications and flights for 78 people across 16 different countries, and prepared program materials for large-scale events. TechWomen has shown me that it is possible to truly enjoy going to work every day, especially when the outcome is so worthwhile and rewarding.
Having spent the summer working on program logistics, reading up on the 2013 mentors and Emerging Leaders, and even meeting a few of the mentor alumnae, I am not ready to leave. I know that the 78 Emerging Leaders and their mentors have amazing life stories to share and will have great adventures come October. But I am off on my own adventure. Starting this September, I will be spending the next year studying Arabic in Amman, Jordan, one of TechWomen’s program countries. So, while I might not be connecting directly with the 2013 TechWomen during the program, by participating in my own global exchange, I will continue to foster international relationships between the U.S., the Middle East, and the rest of the TechWomen network. After all, as my TechWomen experience has taught me, it’s the people to people connections that make the greatest impact and the most unforgettable memories.
Annika Holmlund is a junior at Middlebury College in Vermont. She grew up in the Bay Area and has spent a significant amount of time traveling the world, improving her French and Spanish, and meeting new people. Next year she will be studying at the C.V. Starr School in Amman, Jordan. She hopes to become fluent in Arabic, eat delicious food, and not get too lost.