Guest post by Linda Mahnken, Professional Mentor, and Amel Ghouila, 2014 Emerging Leader from Tunisia
In a traditional TechWomen mentorship, an Emerging Leader is matched with a Professional Mentor and works on a project at the host company. However, TechWomen pair Amel Ghouila (scientist and Emerging leader From Tunisia) and Linda Mahnken (Professional Mentor in the eLearning field) added a dimension to the mentorship — instead of mentoring Amel on a project solely at host company Esurance, Linda opened doors for Amel by identifying additional specialists at other companies for Amel to meet with.
The Mentorship Match
With a PhD in Computer Science, Amel works as a bioinformatician at the Pasteur Institute in Tunis. Since one of her professional objectives is to set up eLearning courses for a pan-African bioinformatics network, she was matched up with professional mentor Linda Mahnken, the senior eLearning instructional designer at Esurance with experience in a wide range of eLearning sectors including K-12, academia, and corporate training.
A Super-Connector Orientation
As they corresponded about Amel’s professional goals, Linda realized the mentorship would be enhanced by having Amel speak with experts in specialized areas within bioinformatics and eLearning most relevant to Amel. Amel was very enthusiastic, saying, “I love exchanging ideas with people from different of backgrounds, so I was very happy with this way of structuring the mentorship.”
During the 16 business days of her mentorship, Amel had 12 meetings with experts – most of them onsite at labs and offices in the San Francisco Bay Area. Amel says, “It was very beneficial to meet different experts in my research field and I learned a lot from them. Each of the meetings gave me a dose of enthusiasm and energy. I not only learned about eLearning tools and platforms but also gained knowledge directly related to my research field.”
Several of these meetings also led to discussions of future projects or collaborations together. When Linda reflects on this experience, she comments, “As I sought people with the right specializations for Amel to speak with, I was pleased to find that most people were happy to meet Amel and share their expertise with her.”
Corporate Culture & Cultural Outings
Host company Esurance was an important anchor in Amel’s mentorship as well. With corporate values championing women in technology and leadership, Esurance was proud to be a TechWomen host company. Amel says, “My first day at Esurance was very special. I was extremely happy when I saw the desk that Esurance prepared for me and that an ice cream social was organized to welcome me. I felt so lucky. It was one of the happiest days of my life. The people at Esurance were very warm and friendly. I had very enriching discussions with women working in different departments and who are involved in raising awareness of women’s issues in work environments.”
Amel’s experience was rounded out by her TechWomen cultural mentor, Elizabeth M. Rojo, who not only planned culturally enriching outings, but also facilitated contacts with researchers for Amel’s professional development.
A Good Choice with Lifelong Impact
Amel feels the contacts she has made will continue to help her professional development in the years to come. She says, “As I look back on the whole experience, I realized that I made a good choice. I expanded my professional network and got a lot of new opportunities for launching new collaborations and ideas. TechWomen was an extraordinary experience that will impact both my professional and personal life forever.”
Linda Mahnken is the senior eLearning instructional designer for Esurance. Linda has worked in the eLearning instructional design field for over 10 years and is passionate about learning new theories, exploring technologies, and creating engaging content. She holds a master’s degree in instructional technologies and has applied her knowledge to solve training challenges in a wide range of sectors including corporate training, university-level cyber courses, and K-12 educational software. @eternallearner
Amel is a Research Assistant at the Laboratory of Transmission, Control and Immunobiology of Infections (LTCII), Institut Pasteur de Tunis. She is currently working on the NIH-funded“H3ABionet” project, for which she develops predictive data mining tools that are becoming essential instruments in clinical medicine. Also involved with education and training activities within this project, she aims to build capacities in bioinformatics in Africa. Amel has a background in informatics and taught the subject for several years at the Computer Sciences Department of the Faculty of Sciences of Bizerte, Tunisia. She then moved to the LIRMM Laboratory in Montpellier for her PhD studies in Bioinformatics, focusing on the development of new methods for pathogens annotation. Her main areas of interest include functional annotation, data mining techniques, and innovative methods in teaching and learning. @AmelGhouila