A few weeks ago, we announced the selection of the 2014 cohort of TechWomen Emerging Leaders. With fewer than four months to go before the program begins, the TechWomen community is energized by the upcoming program in October. TechWomen alumnae have already begun to share their advice with this year’s Emerging Leaders. One message in particular captures the strong sense of community nurtured from the dynamic networks developed through the TechWomen experience.
In anticipation for October, the six South African TechWomen Alumnae from 2013 wrote a heartfelt letter to the 2014 TechWomen participants emphasizing the powerful lifelong bonds made between Emerging Leaders and their Professional and Cultural Mentors. The women also touched on the variety of life-changing opportunities, professional challenges, and breakthroughs each one of them experienced as Emerging Leaders during the 2013 program.
Dear 2014 TechWomen Emerging Leaders,
This is truly an exciting time for you! You’ve just decided to accept the opportunity to participate in the TechWomen program, and you’ve wondering whether this program is worth disrupting your lives, your family, and your work for six weeks. You’re probably wondering what it will be like to meet women from so many countries, women who have such amazing backgrounds. Will I fit in? Will I know what to do or say when I’m introduced to my mentors? What project will I work on? What should I expect? So many questions remain unanswered at this point!
As the six South African Techwomen Alumnae from last year, we know exactly what you’re going through, because we went through it, too! We left our families, our kids, husbands, and work for six weeks, and at the time that we confirmed our participation, we had no clue what we were getting ourselves into! One thing we can tell you is that the program will absolutely be worth it.
So who are we? Nomso Kana, Scientist at Necsa, Sandra Tererai, Food Scientist and Lead Auditor at Burea Veritas, Ngwana Matloa, Business Analyst and Co-founder of ABOT Technology, Makgola Makololo, Chief Director at the Department of Energy, Zimkhita Buwa, BU BI Manager at Britehouse Specialist SAP Division, and Chioniso Dube, Lecturer at Wits University. Although we are based in the same country, we had never met before the TechWomen program began. That’s one of the beautiful takeaways of the program: the lifelong friendships you’ll form with the mentors and your fellow Emerging Leaders.
Each one of us values our time spent in San Francisco! The incredible learning curve that we all experienced in Silicon Valley is something that cannot be explained. The rich culture and entrepreneurial spirit of the Bay Area is infectious! The many connections that you’ll make are still mind-boggling to us! However, what is critical is to realize from the onset that mentorship is a relationship between two participants who learn from each other. You must thus approach the mentorship proactively; your mentor is there to guide you, but you will need to put in the required work to ensure a meaningful mentorship experience.
The experience is completely dependent on you. We know it won’t be easy, but we can confirm that it has the potential of being a completely life-changing experience. So what’s our advice?
- First, cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s. Complete all the necessary steps and turn in all the materials required to confirm your participation in the TechWomen program. YOU HAVE TO. Do not miss this opportunity, and do not let fear or self-doubt get in the way!
- Reach out to TechWomen Alumnae from your country! You can easily find them on the TechWomen website. If you’re in South Africa, please reach out to us on Twitter at @STEMITForward or our Facebook Page. (By the way, we forgot to mention that one of the amazing outcomes from the program is that we were inspired to register our own nonprofit organization with the aim of lifting other women and girls in STEM. This is the impact of TechWomen!)
- Think long and hard about the type of project that you’d like to get involved with while you’re there. What are your personal and career goals? Do not limit the scope of the project to what you’re currently doing professionally. If there’s a new field in STEM that you’d like to be exposed to, GO FOR IT! This is the perfect opportunity for you to explore possibilities that you would have never had the chance to!
- Prepare your family. Talk to them about why it’s important for you to be a part of this program. Talk to them about how it will benefit you and ultimately them, and lobby for their support. If you have children, make sure that you start planning who and how they will be taken care of while you’re away.
- ASK, ASK, ASK! When people say there is no such thing as a silly question, believe them. Ask the TechWomen team, and talk to them about any concerns you may have. They are there to listen, advise you, and help you make the most of your TechWomen experience.
- Most importantly, enjoy this great opportunity. You are among the few that have been selected. That means there’s a spark in you that others can perceive!
Welcome to the TechWomen family! We hope to meet you all soon, and we wish you the best.
Nomso, Sandra, Ngwana, Makgola, Zimkhita, and Chioniso – 2013 Techwomen Alumnae based in South Africa
To learn more about the 2014 TechWomen Emerging Leaders, we encourage you to visit the Emerging Leader Profiles page.