It has been an incredible week for TechWomen! In just seven days, Emerging Leaders (ELs) developed their leadership skills at Salesforce, celebrated 21 cultures at Airbnb, laid the groundwork for their social impact projects at Synopsys, learned about innovation at Autodesk and much more. Despite the busy schedule, 2019’s 106 women in STEM fields have immersed themselves in each event, bringing their strengths, curiosity and energy to each workshop, session and team building activity.
“You are made for greatness. The world will change because of you, because of your contribution.” – Natsai Mutezo, 2018 fellow of Zimbabwe
After arrival day, TechWomen 2019 officially kicked off during a Welcome Orientation overlooking the San Francisco Bay. The orientation was hosted by TechWomen host company Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, and Professional Mentors Emily Crawford and Renu Kumar began the day sharing words of advice with the ELs. Emily reminded them to share their expertise with their host companies: “We learn as much from you as you do from us,” she said. Joe DeRisi, co-president of the Biohub, welcomed the group, encouraging each EL to be bold, engage with their mentors and build their social networks. He stressed that innovation occurs when people from diverse backgrounds — and people you might not otherwise put together — work together on problems.
In addition to receiving important logistics and information for their time in the Bay Area, ELs spent the day learning about the foundations of successful networking and had the opportunity to put their learnings into practice through expanding their own network. In a session on communicating goals, Sudha Krishnamurthy of Gladstone Institutes shared the NOW framework: Name, Organization, and Why, What, When. She spoke about identifying your goal when networking, and finding your USP, or your Unique Selling Point. The afternoon was spent in a networking masterclass with executive coach Jennine Heller, who acknowledged that although networking might not come naturally to everyone, we each can create meaningful, deliberate interactions. “While you’re here in the U.S., every interaction is a potential opportunity,” she said. “Know your purpose, know your outcome.” In the spirit of teaching ELs that networking is a conversation, not a monologue, Jennine introduced networking activities where ELs practiced speaking to one another using the two-question rule: asking two follow-up questions before bringing it back to yourself.
As the day concluded and ELs reached across countries to meet new people in the group with whom they’ll spend the next five weeks, the words of 2018 fellow Natsai Mutezo rang true: “Dear #TW19 fellow,” she wrote. “You will feel lost, you will feel in awe of the other women surrounding you…Come out of your shell, embrace yourself, live in the moment and do great things, every day.”
“Our mission is to create a world where anyone can be long anywhere.” – Melissa Thomas-Hunt, Airbnb
The following day, it was time to celebrate a yearly TechWomen favorite: the 2019 Cultural Kickoff. Hosted by Airbnb, the Cultural Kickoff was an opportunity for all 21 teams showcase their countries with each team preparing dances, presentations and videos transporting the audience and introducing them to their customs and cultures.
Melissa Thomas-Hunt, head of global diversity and belonging at Airbnb, opened the evening, expressing the company’s support for supporting women both locally and globally. Her sentiments were echoed by Rene Hadjigeorgalis, Deputy Director from the Office of Citizen Exchanges at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, who came to support ELs for the first week of TechWomen. “You are here because you’re the best of the best,” she said. “Spread this experience to other women and girls.”
The remainder of the evening was full of festivity, celebration and learning as each country team took the stage to share their cultures, customs and traditional dress. In Nigeria’s presentation, they explained that no story of Nigeria is complete without the story of their women. “An empowered Nigerian woman empowers others,” they said. Kazakhstan brought the audience through a story of what it’s like to be a Kazakh girl, speaking about traditional ceremonies, education, challenges and opportunities.
The evening was a true celebration of diversity, serving as proof that when country teams come together and share their cultures, we create more opportunities for connection, understanding and exchange.
“Never apologize for being ambitious.” – Sheila Jordan, Symantec
Tuesday’s Program Orientation, hosted by Symantec, provided even more context and information about the TechWomen program, introducing each event and setting the stage for successful mentorships and collaboration. During a mentorship panel, mentors Julia Lovin, Rae Marnmukh, Maya Bisineer and Elaina Tia shared insights and advice for maximizing the mentorship experience. Elaina urged ELs to never be afraid to ask questions; Rae encouraged them to be ready to explain who they are — their specialty, their goals for their mentorship and their values.
ELs also had the chance to get inspired by Sheila Jordan of Symantec, learning about authentic leadership during her keynote presentation. Sheila, Symantec’s Chief Information Officer, told stories from her personal journey in tech and shared real-world tips and best practices on how to develop a personal brand. When addressing career goals, Sheila reminded ELs to remain ambitious, despite their career paths. “Don’t let your education or your degree define you,” she said.
After more networking and taking a deeper look into their TechWomen mentorships and social impact projects, the day ended with a favorite TechWomen reminder: Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back.
“A leader is only as good as their team.” – Andrew Anagnost, CEO of Autodesk
Wednesday was all about creativity and innovating with purpose at Autodesk, where ELs engaged in sessions and Q&A’s with CMO Lisa Campbell, CEO Andrew Anagnost and VP of design and creation JoAnna Cook. In breakout sessions on human centered design principles and small group meetings with Autodesk executives, ELs were challenged to apply a design-centered mindset to real-world issues. During her keynote, Deanna Van Burren of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces showed ELs how they could harness the power of community and design to develop spaces that promote justice, inclusion and peace. “We physically build our values and beliefs into our cities,” she explained.
In smaller group sessions themed on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, ELs and Autodesk employees discussed topics like education and sustainability, sharing how technology can be applied to solving leading challenges in their communities. ELs left Autodesk ready to play their part in imagining, designing and creating a better world. As JoAnna Cook shared in her session, “If I don’t do it, who else will?”
“I always take being ‘the only’ as a challenge.” – Ebony Beckwith, EVP and chief philanthropy officer at Salesforce
Salesforce hosted Thursday’s Leadership Workshop, a day full of identifying personal strengths and exploring how ELs can grow as leaders in their companies and communities. Ebony Beckwith of Salesforce kicked off the day, sharing wisdom and insights on leadership with the group. “Be direct, be transparent, be authentic and be a fearless female,” she said.
ELs were also introduced to Susie Kelleher of Linkage Inc, who led ELs in finding their purpose statements. Through exploring core values, ELs further refined their leadership goals and made strides in, as Susie said, “finding what gets you up in the morning.” The group also explored gender differences in leadership, learning that women are promoted on past performance while men are promoted based on their potential. Together, the group discussed how to advance as women leaders — and lift others up along the way — despite the odds.
Samantha Raniere, TechWomen Impact Coach and president of Raniere Consulting, spent the afternoon guiding ELs in identifying their strengths, talents and team dynamics through Gallup’s StrengthsFinder. “All talents have the ability to show up well, and they all have the ability to show up poorly,” Samantha explained. “Our greatest weaknesses can be our greatest strengths overplayed.” Through a series of interactive exercises, ELs learned how to best show up for themselves, and one another, in a team environment.
“The difference between a regular team and a high performing team is the extent to which team members are deeply committed to one another’s growth and success.” – Linkage Inc
Armed with key principles on establishing communicative and successful teams, ELs gathered for Action Plan 1. Country teams spent the day at Synopsys learning about the foundations of social impact projects and working together as a team to solve leading challenges. Through iteration, systems thinking and blueprint mapping, ELs slowly distilled ideas into problem statements, narrowing in on their theme for their social impact projects. Susie Kelleher of Linkage returned to lead the day, introducing ways each EL could show up as active listeners and work together to have powerful, productive conversations. In the spirit of encouraging productive teamwork, ELs practiced mindful listening with other members of their teams, identifying common goals and ways to ensure each voice is heard and valued. Together, each country team created a team pledge, committing to working together as a unified team. Team cohesion was put to the test in the Marshmallow Challenge that followed, where teams had the opportunity to understand and navigate group dynamics while building a structure using limited materials and enforced rules.
Joined by their Impact Coaches, country teams spent the remainder of the day identifying a problem — or an opportunity — they wanted to solve. Teams were tasked with creating a causal map, identifying the underlying issues beneath the themes they were brainstorming in order to clarify approach. Teams also had the opportunity to present their impact maps, sharing the projects they’d brainstormed over the course of the day. In just a few hours, teams had narrowed in their problem statements, addressing issues such as bridging the digital divide for girls with disabilities, addressing menstrual hygiene access and educating women about mental health. At the final blueprint gallery walk, ELs traded off presenting their issue statement and framework to other ELs and Impact Coaches, gathering feedback and answering questions in to further refining their goals.
“I feel so much energy, so much power.” – Nevien Magdy, Emerging Leader of Egypt
In just one week, ELs went from arriving in the U.S. as strangers to learning together — and most importantly, learning from one another. The week’s activities brought meaningful exchange, joyful celebration and the connection felt from shared experiences, regardless of region or culture. And we’ve only just begun: we’re off to another exciting week of #techwomen19, as ELs begin their mentorships at 40 companies throughout the Bay Area. As each EL sets out on a busy week apart from the cohort, a quote shared during the Welcome Orientation rings true: Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back.
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