Guest post by Katy Dickinson, founder of Mentoring Standard and Impact Advisor
In May 2016, Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church held its annual women’s retreat. The retreat organizers asked me to be one of the speakers to the 40 attendees in San Juan Bautista, California. My talk on “Muslim Women in the Tech World” followed that of Maha Elgenaidi of the Islamic Networks Group (ING), whose topic was “Getting to Know American Muslims and their Faith.”
I introduced the retreat attendees to the TechWomen program and described my involvement since the program’s inception. All of the mentees who have been formally assigned to me have been Muslim or are from countries that are primarily Muslim in faith. In addition, I have traveled widely in the Middle East, both as a member of the TechWomen delegations and on family trips. Many of the TechWomen fellows with whom I have become close with over the years have also been Muslim.
I presented the “mentors are role models” concept, using the playing cards and posters from the Notable Women in Computing and Emerging Leaders project as visual examples. “A role model is a person whose behavior, example or success can be emulated by others,” I said and talked about how women have been leaders in technology from the start, but not enough of our contributions are remembered.
I also spoke about how faith in God and religion are often a topic for discussion when a mentor and mentee are getting to know one another. My presentation included images from each year of the TechWomen program, starting in 2011. I pointed to some of the Emerging Leaders who have become dear friends and whose lives have become connected to mine. In particular, I spoke about Sukaina Al-Nasrawi, 2011 fellow of Lebanon, and Maysoun Ibrahim, 2011 fellow of the Palestinian Territories, who were included in photos from many years. I met Sukaina and Maysoun in 2011, and although neither was my formally-assigned mentee, we have formed a mentoring relationship and worked together on a variety of professional projects in the years since. Both joined the South Africa delegation trip in 2014.
Sukaina and Maysoun are examples of the long-term friendships and professional relationships among TechWomen. They also demonstrate a trend among my own mentees: to enter graduate school after becoming fellows. At least four of my mentees are now in graduate school:
- Sukaina and Maysoun are PhD candidates at the American University in Beirut.
- Seham Al-Jaafreh, 2014 fellow of Jordan, is a PhD candidate at Uludağ University in Bursa, Turkey.
- Mai Temraz, 2014 fellow of the Palestinian Territories, is a Fulbright Fellow and MBA candidate at California State University in San Bernardino.
I am of course very proud of the accomplishments of my mentees who are focused on their professional careers:
- Adla Chatila, 2012 fellow of Lebanon, was promoted last year to Chief Operating Officer of the Al-Makassed Association of Beirut.
- Imen Rahal, 2013 fellow of Algeria, is a Mozilla French Locale Leader volunteer contributor, in addition to her regular job.
I told the retreat attendees a story from 2014 of when Sukaina, Maysoun and I were in Cape Town together. A very tall craft vendor wanted to sell Maysoun a Zulu drum, but he really wanted to give us his Christian evangelism tracts. He also wanted to know if we three were Christian. The three of us looked at each other, then I said, “Same God, different religion,” which satisfied all of us. I took the tract, Maysoun bought the drum and he went away. My short answer in Cape Town summarizes how as a devout Episcopalian Christian I have come to understand my interfaith discussions with my Muslim friends and colleagues. We are all children of Abraham, sharing common values and our love of God – and of technology!
In addition to my mentees, I have also been a company host for eight Emerging Leaders: three in 2011, three in 2012 and two in 2014. Being a company host includes preparation of my coworkers and management for the TechWomen participants, answering questions on etiquette (is shaking hands or bowing more courteous?) and modesty (where can the devout TechWomen pray in private?) and related topics. The six Emerging Leaders who were hosted by Huawei in 2011 and 2012 had the advantage that Huawei’s campus in Santa Clara, California, is very close to the Muslim Community Association (MCA) campus that includes a mosque, school, halal cafeteria and a shop. MCA was very generous to TechWomen, hosting two dinners plus tours.
My daughter Jessica Dickinson Goodman was able to join the 2012 Jordan delegation trip, has participated in some cultural activities with the Emerging Leaders and also went with four of us mentors to Gaza City this year to visit our fellows and their friends. Jessica speaks Arabic, lending us great help from time to time. She writes in her blog biography, “My name is Jessica Dickinson Goodman and my ethnicity is geek.” I think that all of the TechWomen share the ethnicity of geek regardless of what country we come from. Our fascination with technology and the details of its implementation are a continuing topic of discussion.
This year, I served as an Impact Advisor for Tunisia. I am also working with one of my 2014 mentees, Mai, who has started her Fulbright Fellowship in California. Several months ago, she and her family moved from Gaza City to California for the duration of her studies. My family and I are hosting the family during Mai’s orientation at the University of California at Davis. We are having a delightful time getting to know each other better – and the women of Saint Andrew’s were delighted to meet the family when they visited.
Images Copyright 2011-2016 by Katy Dickinson
About the author
Katy Dickinson, founder of Mentoring Standard, makes mentors shine. She has designed and managed successful mentoring programs in the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia – while holding senior executive roles at Everwise, People to People, MentorCloud, Huawei and Sun Microsystems. At Sun, she created and managed the global engineering mentoring programs for 10 years, among other large corporate infrastructure programs. Katy is an accredited mentor by the University of the South, was the process architect for the first class of TechWomen, a member of the Anita Borg Institute Advisory Board and a lecturer for 12 years for a University of California at Berkeley engineering class on entrepreneurship. She is part of the team that created the Notable Technical Women cards and posters. She is an author, speaker and blogger on katysblog.wordpress.com.