During their busy first week of TechWomen 2019, Emerging Leaders (ELs) had the opportunity to meet the mentors who would be supporting them over the next five weeks. At the Cultural Kickoff, ELs had the chance to speak in-person with their mentors for the first time; at Action Plan Workshop 1, they brainstormed and iterated alongside their Impact Coaches. And, on their first well-deserved weekend, ELs were able to explore the Bay Area, participating in diverse cultural activities hosted by their Cultural Mentors themed on the outdoors, arts, culinary and professional enrichment.
Last Monday, ELs began day one of their professional mentorships at 40 leading Bay Area companies, receiving a warm welcome from their Professional Mentors and kicking off 15 days of learning and development. This year, over 200 Professional Mentors play a pivotal role in the TechWomen experience, working closely with ELs to support a mentorship project in addition to introducing them to a new professional network. Within a few short days, ELs had already been exposed to new technologies and best practices; many even had the opportunity to be inspired by company CEO’s and founders who took time to learn about their backgrounds and work. “There are moments when I still cannot believe this is happening, right now, and I am in Silicon Valley, fully exposed to the environment, people and facilities to learn more, to develop professionally and to enrich humanity,” said Gunesh, an EL from Turkmenistan mentored at LinkedIn. “I am one of 106. We are drops of billions, and we are chosen to bring back the acquired knowledge and values to our homelands and own community.” While at Adobe, Farah of Lebanon wrote, “Motto of the day: be genuine, exceptional, innovative, involved! That’s the spirit we need to evolve.”
Diving deeper into social impact
After the first week of their mentorships, ELs gathered at LinkedIn for Action Plan Workshop 2. The day was themed on turning ideas into action, providing ELs additional tools to further develop their social impact projects alongside their Impact Coaches. After a fun introductory game of “networking bingo,” the day began with an introduction from Meg Garlinghouse, the head of social impact at LinkedIn. Addressing the ELs, she shared the power of what LinkedIn calls the “Plus One” movement: if each of us reaches out to people outside of our network, we work to eliminate networking bias and bring more opportunities to more people.
Next, TechWomen Impact Coach Rekha Pai-Kamath, lead partner for Silicon Valley Social Ventures, presented on real-world tools and best practices for designing sustainable initiatives. The session that followed explored impact models for change, featuring Technovation Founder and CEO Tara Chklovski, Dost Education CEO and co-founder Sneha Sheth, LinkedIn REACH’s Shalini Agarwal and TechWomen’s strategic partnerships advisor Anar Simpson. Each speaker introduced replicable impact models for change, inspiring ELs to bring values of sustainability and scalability to their action plan projects.
The remainder of the day was spent in country team groups, further developing action plans and gaining new ideas and insights through Impact Coach speed mentoring. In their group, Lebanon reviewed their six-month milestones, developing a basic roadmap for their clean water initiative. Team South Africa narrowed in on their goals and deliverables for their initiative that will seek to reduce gender-based violence through early intervention and education of the country’s young men. Presenting to rotating Impact Coaches, team Kazakhstan gathered feedback on their solution to the STEM education gap within their country: a science museum that they hope will foster innovation and spark interest in STEM fields among youth.
As a productive day and an impactful week of mentorship came to a close, ELs gathered briefly to celebrate International Day of the Girl Child, a day that highlights the needs and challenges girls face while promoting their empowerment globally. After country teams had spent the day bringing innovative solutions to their communities — with many of their projects addressing critical needs of women and girls — each woman in the room had new tools and a renewed resolve to impact the next generation. At the conclusion of a week with their Professional Mentors, Cultural Mentors and Impact Coaches, it was clear that ELs had become a part of a powerful network of women, creating endless possibilities for collaboration, innovation and global impact.