Guest post by Mai Abualkas Temraz, 2014 Emerging Leader from Palestinian Territories
Arriving at San Francisco Airport after many challenges was a great relief. I had to leave my home in Gaza City before my visa arrived, which processed just hours before my flight. I had to go to Cairo not knowing if the visa would be issued in time for me to fly to San Francisco. It felt like a dream coming true to see that United States visa in my Palestinian Territory passport at that moment.
I applied to the TechWomen program because I wanted to be surrounded by unique, intelligent and powerful women. The program allowed us to exchange experiences with each other, and have this life-changing experience together.
Upon arrival, I had another last moment experience during the program: my original Professional Mentor suddenly became very ill so I was switched to a new Professional Mentor, Katy Dickinson, VP of Mentoring at Everwise. I joined Seham Jaafreh, an Emerging Leader from Jordan, at Everwise on the second work day. Working with the Everwise team made me feel like I was where I was supposed to be from the beginning. It was a great opportunity to represent myself and my country. How great that my own mentoring experience has been with a company whose primary mission is mentorship!
My project at Everwise was to develop a series of short YouTube-appropriate videos to help people understand what mentoring is, using very simple words. Making these videos in different languages will help people from other cultures feel, not just understand, the message and how they can benefit from mentoring. My goal was to show that mentoring for a relatively short period of time provides long-term benefits. You can watch the video series here.
“Done is better than perfect” is the key phrase of success that I got from my Professional Mentor. I’ve been introduced to many new resources, as well as techniques and tips I needed.
During my TechWomen experience in October 2014, I learned how to communicate with people from different cultures and to express myself in a good way. In addition to working, I visited Twitter, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Twilio and Microsoft which was incredibly motivating. Participating in discussions and workshops showed me again the reason why I chose to work in STEM: because it opens young minds on new technologies, challenges them to think creatively, and encourages them to dream big.
During my stay in San Francisco, I attended Pacificon, an event for Amateur Radio Operators. After that, I applied to get the American Amateur Radio License and I passed two exam levels (with 100% perfect answers!) at the San Francisco Radio Club. I already received my new callsign, so that I can now operate from any radio station in the United States. I’m planning to apply to be a volunteer examiner for the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) very soon as well.
At the end of the program, it was an honor to meet the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan. I had the chance to be one of the the panelist at the Luncheon held in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the U.S. Department of State, describing my overall TechWomen mentoring Experience.
My experience living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley prove that you can be working in STEM and have fun at the same time. I was surprised by the cultural diversity in San Francisco, and particularly how Disabled people can live a normal life, and have all this accessibility, to be able to use any kind of transportation, go to work and much, much more here. I hope that this same accessibility will come to Gaza City someday! TechWomen is a once in a lifetime experience with unforgettable memories to take back home. It was worth every last minute event to be able to participate!
Dedicated to improving access to quality education in the Palestinian Territories, Mai is part engineer, part CEO, and part entrepreneur. She hopes to see basic electronics and technology education incorporated into school curriculum in her country. Having founded the Amateur Club Training Center, which provides technical STEM training to youth, Mai has already made great strides toward her mission. Prior to starting her own business, Mai held many different job titles and responsibilities, from tech support, to technical training, to engineering. Collectively, these experiences help ensure each student she works with at Amateur Club gains dynamic and practical skills in technology. Not one to stay in her comfort zone, Mai is energized by challenges and complex problems. One of Mai’s proudest accomplishments is becoming the first Palestinian female Amateur Radio Operator.