Guest post by Samera Edwards
I am two months in to my new position on the TechWomen program at IIE’s Center for Women’s Leadership Initiatives. TechWomen combines my favorite things: women’s empowerment, cross-cultural exchanges, U.S. foreign policy, and contribution to international development. My finance and admin role fits me perfectly, and everyone in the office is rad! Basically, I am ecstatic about joining the team.
A few things stood out to me in my first couple of weeks. First, the women who are applying for the program are really impressive. They are intelligent, ambitious, and dedicated. Secondly, I have seen that the U.S. State Department plays an integral role in each program component. Embassies support outreach, and they are one of the first points of contact with potential Emerging leaders by conducting interviews and analyzing the semi-finalist applicants. Third, I have noticed the program timeline really packs a punch. The women may only be in the U.S. for a short time, but the activities are high impact. It’s no wonder so many of them have said the program is life-changing. Lastly, I have been blown away by the passion and commitment the mentors have for the program.
Meeting the mentors and experiencing the TechWomen community has definitely been the highlight in my first couple months. During my first TechWomen event – a delegation trip reunion with some of the mentors – I looked around the room and realized that I was surrounded by incredible women who are part of this community to network, build strong bonds with other women in the field, and especially because they are committed to making a difference for women in other countries.
I felt like I had a sense of the mentorship before I started, but now that I am on the inside, I can really see that the mentor contribution is on a whole other level. When I started, I knew mentors worked one-on-one with the Emerging Leaders during their time in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. I quickly learned Professional and Cultural Mentors volunteer their time in so many more ways, not just during the program, but throughout the entire year!
Mentors also volunteer their time by travelling to Washington, DC to meet with the Department of State, participating in delegation trips to get involved in program countries, reviewing EL applications and taking part in selection committees, organizing events, educating other mentors about the program countries and how to mentor, and facilitating building connections. When I read through the list, all I can say is…wow! Just WOW! So far, I have been inspired by TechWomen in many ways. However, the dedication and positive energy from the mentors is especially motivating! I cannot wait to meet the Emerging Leaders when they come in September. I’m sure I’ll be blown away all over again.
Samera comes to TechWomen with experience living and working in Uganda and Ethiopia, a deep appreciation for global citizenship, and a BS in International Relations. Samera has a background in coordinating international internships and service learning programs as well as developing cultural immersion curriculum. When she’s not in the office, you can find her enjoying different San Francisco restaurants and traversing the city on foot. Samera supports program operations, administration, and finance.