Guest post by Mercy Sosanya, 2015 Emerging Leader from Nigeria
Being selected as one of 98 women from 19 countries to participate in this life-transforming, paradigm-changing TechWomen program is a major milestone on my journey in professionalism and leadership. Oh, yes, I was excited! Really! This was like no other feat – I’m going to the U.S., fully sponsored by the U.S. government, for a five-week program that will connect me with the best of tech, tech companies and the women behind them. I would be visiting and interacting with the planet’s best companies and leaders – people and places you only get to see in the media! My husband, kids (three girls), colleagues, friends, staff – all were excited for me.
A few days/weeks after being selected, I found myself slowly descending from that peak of elation toward an abyss of despondency. I quickly apprehended it. Myriads of questions were welling up within me. These are the tech rulers of the world, what do you know? What do you have to offer? And then there would be mentoring. Some can be so top-to-bottom in practice. I have met with a few tech guys who could hardly teach you a thing or two without referring to how little you knew.
As the weeks went by, emails, webinars and a host of other excellent information tools provided by the TechWomen team helped to moderate my concerns. However, I still landed in California with at least a tinge of anxiety and uncertainty.
However, my whole experience during this program is so succinctly expressed by the legendary American author and humorist, Mark Twain, who counsels us to “keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
In TechWomen, you are integrated into a network of TechWomen staff, leaders, mentors and professionals who not only encourage you to be great but expect you to model and mentor greatness back in your home country. TechWomen seems to challenge the saying, “Actions speak louder than words” – actions and words here are equally loud and complementary. U.S. Embassy officials, professional and cultural mentors, and participating companies have been remarkably kind and excellent.
In TechWomen, the U.S, Department of State brought together nearly 100 women from countries – many of which have policies and systems of government that are diametrically opposed to what the U.S. stands for and fosters. For example, with regards to democracy, many of these countries range from nascent to moribund, and most of these countries outlaw gay rights with sentences ranging from imprisonment to capital punishment. Yet, the U.S. has brought us all together with a clear process that exposes us to the ‘innards’ of the country’s best. Now, that is what I call greatness – magnanimous greatness!
It is obvious that TechWomen is a very powerful strategy – it puts “stones” in the hands of intercontinental “Davids” for their local and national “Goliaths.” This is formidable empowerment, which always trumps the charity of consumables. Let the U.S. rest assured that these investments cannot be in vain. We return to our countries with knowledge, resources and networks to slay local and national Goliaths in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and other areas. We shall also address families’ issues, economic issues, security issues and justice issues, as the U.S. Secretary of State expects. And, we, our communities and our nations will not forget the kindness and hospitality of this great nation.
In closing, permit me to express my deep appreciation to the President of the United States of America, the Secretary of State, the Institute of International Education, the TechWomen office, our mentors and participating professionals and their respective corporations in my country’s unofficial lingua franca: America! Una do well o! (It means, America! You have done very well!)
About the author
Mercy Sosanya earned her bachelor’s and master’s in human nutrition at University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She lectures in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Federal Polytechnic in Bauchi, Nigeria. She is a member of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, American Society for Nutrition and Asia Pacific Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering Society. She has published articles in and is a reviewer for scientific journals and has presented scientific papers in local and international conferences. She is documenting the nutritional status of vulnerable populations in northeastern Nigeria and implementing low-cost, high-impact interventions to reduce malnutrition, using indigenous foods and methods. Mercy is a recipient of a Youth With Innovation in Nigeria (YouWiN!) business grant. She used this grant to set up a food manufacturing company, NutriHeal Integrated Concept, where she is the CEO. Her formulated products “ChubbyMeal” and “Toreo Gold” have been displayed at national exhibitions. During the 2015 program, she was hosted at 500 Startups.