Guest post by Ayesha Iftikhar, 2020-2021 fellow of Pakistan
Apart from bringing a lot of difficulties in our lives, a major challenge that the COVID-19 pandemic imposed on my life was the virtual structure of one of the milestones of my life, the TechWomen program. When I realized that the program was going to be virtual, the first thoughts that came to my mind were, how will I be able to achieve all my objectives? Will the program be able to provide me an experience that I have been waiting for for three years? Things were changing, and to be honest, I was feeling sad that this opportunity might not be fruitful to me. Professional mentorship is the most exciting part of the TechWomen program that was now going to be virtual. However, since I had decided to make the best out of it, my professional mentorship started.
I chose the theme of my professional mentorship as research, leadership and business development in Cyber Security. At Veritas Technologies LLC in Santa Clara, California, I was paired with three Professional Mentors: Melanie, Niti and Chandra. During my first meeting with my mentors, I realized that they were also excited and ready to make a valuable contribution in my career journey. I put forward my objectives and goals, and reluctantly asked how I was going to achieve them virtually. They offered their support with every possible thing that they could.
My mentorship did not end up in one month; rather it has extended to a duration of a few additional months. Not only have I connected with many of the company employees in key positions and have participated in meetings, but I will also be meeting with the company leadership. Along with all these things, I will be starting a project aligned with my interests with my host company soon. During my mentorship I have been able to learn a lot more exciting stuff than I initially planned, and the process is still continuing. My mentors have been superb, and I am luckily enough that me and Mel (Melanie) are good friends now. We often talk, share pictures and discuss things apart from mentorship.
The essence of the TechWomen program is that it offers the world’s best mentors. An important aspect of my mentorship was building a strong network of people who can support my goals and objectives. Not only did my mentors help me creating a strong professional relationship in my field, but there were other people too — both the TechWomen mentors and people in their networks — who helped me a lot. They guided me, supported me, reached out to people for me, helped me to strengthen my network and connected me to leaders and opportunities in my field. A big thanks to Kira, Kevin, Jill, Brandie and Anita! I owe you guys so much. The process continues, as there is an exhaustive list of people that I have to meet to further develop professional relationships and strengthen my network.
My professional mentorship has not yet ended, and my professional goals have evolved. I now know better where I have to reach — I am able to connect the dots. I have found my career path to be really streamlined now, with concrete steps that I have to take to reach my destiny. TechWomen has provided me a ground and wings to fly, I can now think big and reach the skies knowing that there is world of endless possibilities and opportunities waiting for me! Thank you TechWomen!
Ayesha Iftikhar is a cybersecurity practitioner, researcher and activist who is an assistant professor at Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences in Pakistan. Her core research and interest areas include Cyber Security, Network Security, Information Security, Policy frameworks and Internet Governance. Besides her research and teaching, she is looking for ways to bring major reforms in Pakistan’s Cyber Security ecosystem and policy frameworks. She is looking forward to pursuing an international Ph.D. in Cyber Security and launching her own startup.