Guest post by Mariam Keriakos, 2015 Emerging Leader, Egypt
As children, we have many dreams, aspirations, and a tremendous capacity to absorb knowledge and be amazed at every new exposure we encounter in our lives. However, as we grow up and continue to pursue our dreams, we face life, hard obstacles, discouraging events or people, and failures and bit by bit, we lose our childlike excitement and willingness to learn and be astonished every day.
The past month in TechWomen has been a life changing experience for me. The program unleashed the child inside me and made me see all kinds of brand new things and perspectives. I joined this program expecting to learn more about top trends in field of technology, visit and get knowledge about how the top world technology companies operate, and meet top innovators. What I experienced far exceeded my expectations.
I met women who overcame all types of obstacles and life ordeals and got up to make the world a better place through science and technology. One great example is Elizabeth Holmes, the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire and the founder and CEO of Theranos. She overcame the painful experience of the sudden death of her uncle by creating new technology for blood analysis and early disease detection.
As I went to meet her, I had in mind a certain image of a female billionaire. Instead, I met an iron woman, who called upon the Emerging Leaders to be iron sisters and support women in the countries we come from. She was a very down to earth person purely dedicated to the mission of democratization of healthcare through technology and giving her all to this noble mission.
I also met men like Sal Khan, who gave up his career to start Khan Academy to provide better access to education for children through technology. These encounters are just examples of the meetings I had, life experiences, and humanitarian aspects I touched on during my participation in TechWomen. To share all that I learned and absorbed, I almost feel like I need a whole book to write about my experience – and I am sure I will write this book someday.
A Perfect Match at Salesforce
The more special educational experience from this program comes from the one-to-one matching with professional mentors at top companies in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. I was matched with Martha Galley, Customer Success Vice President at Salesforce and at first I thought, “What is Customer Success and how will I benefit at Salesforce?” I knew nothing about this area and given my aspirations are related to technology consultancy, I didn’t know how to think about this match. Yet, as I got deeper into reading my mentor profile and knowing more about my host company, I realized they both offered all the resources and experience I want to have in my career.
On my on-boarding day of my mentorship, I realized this saying rings true: “Those who are without mentors shall fall like tree leaves in the fall.” The professional mentorship experience was a rigorous transfer-experience process, where my mentor worked to transfer to me all the knowledge and experience she had that were relevant to my areas of interest. It was a process not only about my mentor’s experiences, but about all her connections, as she opened all the gates through her wide circle of contacts in and outside my host company so that I can absorb as much knowledge related to my future aspirations in career, as well as my dream action plan to transform my community through technology education outreach to rural children. I will always remember her phrase “If it is important to you then we will do it.” I was astonished by her giving spirit and the supportive hand she gave me at all times despite all her responsibilities.
The Lasting Connections Built Through Cultural Exchange
Last but not least, the intense cultural experience I had through mingling with 99 mighty women emerging leaders from 19 different countries in Africa, Central Asia and Middle East left a lasting impression. Today, I realize how rich the world’s cultures are and how many similarities we have and obstacles we need as women face, especially in the field of STEM. We shall only overcome these challenges by having synergy between us and supporting each other as iron sisters, changing our countries and the world’s future through the impact each one of us can make. What unites us is definitely much more than what separates us and a better future relies on the action of each one of us.
In a nutshell, the TechWomen program restored the child mode in me, made me excited and astonished every day with new technological, cultural, humanitarian and personal experiences I was exposed to. And to all TechWmen, past, present and future, this is my message: “You can achieve your dreams. Tomorrow is eagerly waiting for you to make a positive impact in your community. Make the world a better place as you are here for a great purpose – to be iron sisters together.”
Mariam Keriakos is a business consultancy manager at Link Development and a researcher in the domain of context-aware business process modeling at the American University in Cairo (AUC). Mariam works with clients from a variety of business sectors and has nine years of experience in business development, business and technology consultancy, business analysis and software engineering. She is passionate about the role of technology in innovation and entrepreneurship, digital presence consultancy and business analysis for strategic accounts. Mariam studied computer science at AUC and graduated in 2007. She completed her master’s degree from AUC in May 2012, and she is continuing research in the field of business process modeling. In addition, she is an active member in the student chapter of the Association of Information Systems at AUC.