Guest post by Clara Njeru, 2023 Fellow from Kenya.
Editor’s note: Clara Njeru is a 2023 Techwomen fellow who has been invited as guest blogger to share her voice, perspective and experiences with the program and community.
They say that the best views come after the hardest climb, and I know this quite well because I have summitted several mountains. Getting accepted to the TechWomen program feels like one of the best views in my life journey. The good thing about summiting mountains and great views is that they lead to a quest for more mountains, and even better views! This is my journey to the TechWomen experience.
In April 2021, I received a call from Dr. Pauline, a fellow volunteer from the Kusoma Tu literacy program. She excitedly shared an opportunity she believed would be a perfect fit for me. Through her connection, I was introduced to Angeline, a Physicist and TechWomen alumna who not only shared with me about the TechWomen program but also offered to guide me through the application process. Interestingly, this wasn’t my first encounter with TechWomen; I had attempted to apply back in 2014. However, with Angeline’s invaluable support, I felt encouraged to give it another shot, considering the wealth of experience I had accumulated over the years. During a call with Angeline, she helped me articulate my work more effectively, and she graciously recommended me for the program.
With bated breath, I awaited a response after submitting my application. Soon enough, I received an email inviting me to an online interview. In 2020 and 2021, my primary focus was on a STEAM-inspired animated series for children. This series gained considerable popularity and remains an outstanding production. Surprisingly (or perhaps serendipitously), it appeared that my work at the time did not quite align with the program’s objectives. Nevertheless, our project was so esteemed and we received other opportunities, including a visit from the US Secretary of State, and one of my colleagues even had the chance to participate in an Animation Masterclass.
Fast forward to January 2023, when I stumbled upon a post about the upcoming application deadline for the 2023 Fall TechWomen program, and I committed myself to submitting another application. Despite my prior setback in 2021, the opportunities that arose from that experience had been nothing short of amazing. I based my new application on the work I had been engaged in throughout 2022: research and product design focused on supporting the effective integration of technology in the public education system. A few months later, I received an invitation for an interview, and about a month after that, I received the long-awaited email: “Congratulations…”
An abundance of women in STEM
The first communication from the incredible program staff noted that “the 5-week program in the US is just the beginning.” I can’t help but be awestruck by the opportunities that lie ahead. What was most awe-inspiring about the program thus far was the opportunity to connect with my fellow Emerging Leaders (ELs). The abundance of greatness within this cohort is remarkable. Each time I read the profile of one of my fellow ELs, I was filled with admiration. The group encompasses a wide spectrum of professionals in the STEM field, from research scientists and engineers to technology experts, medical professionals, and entrepreneurs.
Although I’ve always been aware that many women work in STEM, I’ve never had an opportunity to interact with so many of them and at close enough range to truly grasp their identities, beliefs, and visions for positive change in both their communities and the broader world. Seeing it all in writing and knowing that I will have the privilege to meet these remarkable women who share my passion for gender equity in STEM, and who effortlessly normalize being a woman in STEM, is nothing short of amazing. I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to get to know them, learn alongside them, and be inspired by their journeys.
As I reflect on my TechWomen experience, I am certain that the people I have met — the emerging leaders (now, fellows) and mentors — have undoubtedly been the highlight of my journey, and I look forward to deepening my networks across Africa, Middle East, Asia and in the U.S. As I embarked on this adventure, I was filled with gratitude for the opportunity and I look forward to the boundless possibilities that lie ahead. Here’s to a future filled with shared knowledge, collaboration, and the collective strength of women in STEM, making our world a better place for all.