The official 2020-2021 program may have ended, but last week fellows convened for the Capstone, a culminating event that brought together fellows, mentors and Peer Advisors for four days of goal setting, skills workshops, elevator pitch practice and action planning. With a mission to facilitate both past reflection and future thinking, the Capstone provided TechWomen’s newest cohort of fellows the opportunity to share, brainstorm and strategize in a small group setting.
Day 1: Discovering your Strengths and Goal Setting
The Capstone kicked off with a fellows-only event, inviting Impact Coach Samantha Raniere of Raniere Consulting to facilitate an interactive session helping fellows understand — and harness the power of — their unique strengths. Using the StrengthsFinder assessment, Samantha showed fellows how to optimize their natural talents and natural strengths for success. “If we try to be good at everything, we end up being great at nothing,” she said, showing fellows that naming and claiming their strengths can be transformational in both their personal and professional lives. In breakout sessions, fellows had a chance to share the results of their StrengthsFinder assessment and begin to set goals based on their learnings. “When we are intentional, thoughtful and aware, we can take that forward into everything we do,” Sam said.
Day 2: Peer Mentoring and Skills Sharing
Day two brought together fellows, mentors and Peer Advisors, allowing fellows share their strengths, goals and progress towards their professional roadmaps in small groups. 2020-2021 fellow of Kenya Joan Nabusoba welcomed the group with a keynote on her TechWomen experience, sharing how she has already implemented learnings from her Professional Mentorship through a curriculum delivered to over 500 girls at her organization, Pwani Tecknowgalz. After, three 2020-2021 fellows shared their insights and expertise in a series of lightning talks, starting with Fatmata Kamara of Sierra Leone who spoke about self-confidence and the importance of believing in your abilities. “Failing is not the worst thing that could happen,” she told the fellows. “The worst thing is not maximizing your potential. Speak up your mind, even if your voice shakes.”
Next, Marwa Morgom of Libya delivered a talk on successful leadership styles, speaking about the importance of loyalty, patience and resilience and how talking to smart and successful women during TechWomen 2020-2021 helped her develop as a leader: “TechWomen always gave me hope that I can do more,” she said. Nida Shehzad Farooqui of Pakistan closed out the lighting talks, speaking about her own journey with leadership and the need to be an adaptive problem-solver. “You can either be a boss, or you can be a leader,” she said, emphasizing that those in leadership roles must lead with compassion.
In the breakout rooms that followed, 2020-2021 fellows share their strengths, goals and progress towards their professional roadmaps in small groups of other fellows, mentors and Peer Advisors. Together, the groups generated ideas on how to achieve the fellows’ goals, sharing guidance and feedback as they move forward in their personal and professional journeys. Next, it was time for skills-building workshops led by mentors and alumnae on entrepreneurship, management skills, public speaking and strategic planning. In the room themed on entrepreneurship, 2019 fellow of Egypt Nevien Magdy told the group that a successful entrepreneur must take risks while also maintaining vision, creativity and communication skills: “You have to understand how to solve problems, and how to be a quick decision-maker,” she said.
The day concluded with an elevator pitch training delivered by 2013 fellow of Lebanon Nisreen Deeb. In her training, Nisreen reviewed the basic components of an elevator pitch and shared how to deliver a successful pitch: “Elevator pitches aren’t always about investment,” she said. “They’re also about connection — you don’t know where it may lead you.” Nisreen concluded with advice for the 2020-2021 cohort: “We as women underestimate ourselves. Do not underestimate a single idea you have. Shed light on it,” she said.
Day 3: Action Plan Summit
Since the conclusion of TechWomen 2020-2021, country teams have been hard at work further developing and debuting their social impact projects, creating initiatives that address the needs of their communities. The fellows in Pakistan launched Rehnumaa, a telementoring platform for women who are struggling to enter or re-join the workforce, providing them with a space to network, seek mentorship and learn new skills. In South Africa, the fellows are developing Letsatsi STEM Kits, a kit of educational tools they hope to make available to young learners throughout the country. Day three of the Capstone was all about further developing their action plans alongside Peer Advisors and Impact Coaches who were ready to review their projects and work on the next steps for success. In small groups, the teams shared updates on their progress as Impact Coaches and Peer Advisors helped them identify challenges, solutions and strategies moving forward.
2020-2021 fellow of Pakistan Kiran Jamil delivered a lightning talk on team building, collaboration and managing diverse teams, sharing about Rehnumaa’s challenges, growth points and successes as the team navigates collaboration from different parts of the country. “Having a successful team means that you need to appreciate others’ ideas, even you disagree,” she said. “And you need to enjoy your work. You need to cherish the small moments you have. When you enjoy your work, you can make a perfect team that can achieve anything.”
Day 4: Professional Roadmap and Elevator Pitches
The final day of the Capstone aimed to set the stage for the future, providing fellows an opportunity for mentorship, group discussion on their professional goals and the chance to deliver an effective elevator pitch. 2020-2021 fellow Ryma Khemiri Moussaoui began the day, sharing her experiences as a woman engineer in Tunisia, her commitment to personal and professional learning and her dreams for the future. In the professional interest breakout rooms that followed, fellows and mentors explored the topics of renewable/sustainable energy, business, entrepreneurship, digital media, EdTech, AI/machine learning, product/software design, civil engineering/construction and social media/communications, discussing their professional roadmaps and reflecting on how they can use their TechWomen experience to reach their goals. During the discussions, TechWomen mentors provided feedback, shared helpful resources and supported the fellows in navigating their individual challenges. In a final session on elevator pitches, fellows put Nisreen’s training to practice, delivering elevator pitches to a small group of mentors and fellows.
The Capstone concluded with a group reflection where the fellows shared out their takeaways from the day — and the entire Capstone — as they move forward with their goals. “I want to share with a quote that is certainly well-known to members of the TechWomen community, but it remains important and true,” said director Katie Zee. “‘Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back.’ This is a community that stands ready to support you.”