Since 2011, more than 500 women and men from the Bay Area and Silicon Valley have mentored with TechWomen. Mentors have made meaningful connections and impacted the lives of emerging women leaders around the world. At the Silicon Valley Experts Symposium in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in February 2017, TechWomen mentor Jill Finlayson of Singularity University shared the mentor’s perspective of TechWomen and why she mentors. Jill has been a TechWomen mentor since 2011. TechWomen will open mentor applications for the 2017 program in June. Stay tuned to our social media, and sign up for our mailing list to receive the announcement.
TechWomen is a U.S. State Department initiative that connects and supports the next generation of women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is a five-week professional mentorship and exchange program that brings talented women from around the globe to Silicon Valley, but it is much more than that.
- Building bridges between different countries, cultures and generations;
- Connecting people and discovering similar interests, challenges and goals;
- Learning how to be better employees, leaders and companies;
- Inspiring more women to go into tech and being inspired by what women in tech can do, not only for their careers, their companies, but for their countries.
And that is why I have been a TechWomen mentor since the program started in 2011. I have worked with technology leaders from Algeria, Kenya, Egypt, Kyrgyzstan and many others from the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. Last September, I had the privilege to work with the Kyrgyzstan TechWomen on their impact projects, which focused on bridging the skills gap between university education and the practical job skills employers need.
As the U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Sheila Gwaltney mentioned, the Kyrgyz fellows are making huge strides and delivering phenomenal impact from their efforts, including launching Lean-In Circles, Startup Tuesdays, Maker Spaces and much more.
You might ask why I sign up to mentor year after year, and I will tell you, but first, let me talk about who can mentor.
The answer is you. The answer is everyone.
- If you are a university student, you can mentor a high school student.
- If you have only been in your job three years, you can mentor someone who has just started.
- If you are an executive, you can mentor someone working into a leadership role.
- If you have retired, you can help a founder of a new company get started.
- Women mentors are great role models, but guess what, men championing women leaders are great, too! We need more men as allies to promote women in their organizations.
It is also important to remember that you are never too old to be mentored. You are never too expert or too smart to learn something new or to gain another perspective. Mentoring is a way of seeing the world and embracing lifelong learning.
And all it takes to mentor is a willingness to listen, to guide and to connect people to resources and others who can help.
So back to the question of why – why would you want to mentor? Why do I mentor?
There are three answers:
- For them: Give back, be the role model, help tip the scales for someone else, and be there to support their growth. Help someone else reach their potential.
- For yourself: You will learn more than you ever imagined and laugh more than you thought possible. You will figure out hard problems and meet amazing people – not just the people you mentor but your fellow mentors who are equally amazing people.
- For the world (and I’m not exaggerating): Mentoring allows you to help talented people make companies, create jobs, inspire others, and literally make a difference in people’s lives and communities. To illustrate that point, I encourage you to become a mentor and see for yourself. I have no doubt that once you start, just like me, you won’t stop.