“Anyone can be great in the world and do great things. It’s hard work that counts.” – Girls in STEM student
Last week was our final week of external activities for #twcameroon, wrapping up a month of engagement, learning and exchange. The week began with a Girls in STEM event, where delegates met with young girls to introduce them to diverse local and global opportunities in STEM! The event was organized by fellows Axelle Tchadjet (2015) and Danielle Akini (2017), who also facilitated the day’s breakout rooms and worked to engage students in the classroom. The session began with mentors introducing the students to the diverse careers within STEM fields: Suzette Shipp, life sciences technologist at Stanford, introduced students to her career and the skills she uses on the job. Emily Crawford, scientific advisor at The Production Board, told the students about biochemistry: “Why should you study biochemistry? You get to spend your day solving puzzles, and you can use biochemistry to solve important problems like COVID-19, Ebola, influenza and more.” Katie O’Brien Penn, head of global marketing at Twitter, emphasized the possibilities within STEM fields: “When you get into technology, you can try lots of different things. In technology, there is always something to learn.” Mimi Hills, principal at Hillstra Associates, showed the students that they could combine their passions — in her case, mathematics and writing — to form a career path.
Next, the group went to breakout rooms for group mentoring, where mentors shared their careers and asked students about subjects in school they enjoy. The mentors had an opportunity to hear about what the girls wanted to be when they grow up — doctors, engineers, dentists and more — and the girls asked mentors about the challenges they’ve faced in their careers and how to succeed in STEM. Mentors encouraged them to always be curious, have patience and work hard. While moderating the closing share-out, mentor Rekha Pai Kamath reminded students to always remain open-minded to new possibilities.
Designing your Future: Building Skills for the Next Stage
In the final event, delegates met with women graduate students as they prepare to enter the workforce, delivering sessions on entrepreneurship, creating work/life balance and more. Angela Woods of ECA opened the session, speaking about the importance of exchange programs and bringing up the next generation of women leaders in STEM fields.
Mentor Katie Penn delivered a lightning talk on emerging tech trends, sharing exciting technology and innovation happening on the African continent around drone delivery, AI, cryptocurrency and mobile payments. “What’s hot in tech? Africa is hot in tech,” said Katie, encouraging the students to always keep up with technology in order to grow their job skills.
In breakout rooms, mentors and fellows led sessions on applying skills to a career in hardware, project management for engineers, perfecting interview skills and more, creating discussion and exchange around best practices. In mentor Rekha Pai-Kamath’s session on entrepreneurship, she emphasized accessibility, stressing that anybody can become an entrepreneur: “Entrepreneurship is for anyone who has passion,” she said. “Entrepreneurship is for anyone who cares enough to figure out how to solve a problem.” In her session, mentor Shachi Patel focused on answering the students’ questions about work/life balance, giving them input on time management, priority management and their current challenges. Emily Crawford shared her learnings from leading a COVID-19 lab during crisis, stressing the importance of often-overlooked but necessary elements during challenging times: leading with empathy, finding time for 1:1 meetings and creating a sense of belonging and team spirit.