Guest post by Anna Gowera, 2020-2021 fellow of Zimbabwe
Cheesy. That is how I used to imagine mentorship to be, back in the day. After all, I was young and robust (and deathly timid!), so why would I want someone lording it over me with their ideas and requests for accountability, right? WRONG! Nothing could have been further from the truth! And I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong than in my experiences with TechWomen.
My mentorship experience with Laura Cutrona is one I’ll cherish, and frequently refer to when I become a mentor too. I was very nervous before we met because the comfort of the Action Planning group was being removed; the spotlight would be on me. True to my frequently overthinking self, I prepared a whole shopping list of expectations, in case she asked what I’d like us to cover in our month together. Which she did. She was unfazed, though, as if she’d seen me prepare my crazy list and calmly (and to my surprise) distilled the one million things I said in our first meeting into five themes: project management, networking, people management, curriculum development and self-discovery. We did cover all five themes in our month together, miraculously. I especially enjoyed the self-discovery and motivational assessment exercises as they helped me understand myself better, and expand my worldview.
Armed with information about the different personalities and workplace motivations that people have, I feel better able to navigate my profession, and let the leader in me truly emerge. Overall, the main focus of my mentorship experience was on project management — everything else ties back to this broad theme. Also, it turns out that there was no need for me to be nervous; the TechWomen team paired us perfectly, and Laura and I clicked from the get-go. We even both coincidentally wore blue button-down shirts to our first meeting!
I heard somewhere that, “A mentor teaches how to think, not what to think.” I can vouch for the truth of this statement, as a frequent question Laura would ask is, “Would there be any value in…” or, “Is it helpful to…”, and help me see the bigger picture. The take-home lesson from my mentorship experience is that I ought to believe in myself; there’s an army of people believing in me! I am brilliant and have ideas worth implementing (Laura’s words). By being connected to amazing people in Laura’s fold, I effectively experienced a mind shift from the notion that knowledge must be kept as cards close to one’s chest, to the impact and value of networking. I will be, and indeed have started, actively seeking ways to make connections for people, for their own progress’ sake. You may have heard that women hate other women, but in TechWomen the narrative is,” Don’t trip the prom queen.” Untold beauty emerges in a space where women support one another. Thank you Laura, thank you TechWomen — I would wish this on everybody!
Anna Gowera is an Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) practitioner who is currently a Lecturer and acting Quality Assurance Officer at the Zimbabwe School of Mines. Anna teaches courses on environmental impact assessment, environmental education, environmental management and occupational safety and health to students and professionals in mining and allied fields. She has worked in diverse settings, including manufacturing, construction and power generation and supply. Anna is studying towards a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.