Guest post by Cora Lam and Claudia Galván, TechWomen Cultural Mentors
Cora Lam: My First Epic TechWomen Journey
When I first learned about TechWomen from a colleague last year, I was hooked. Born in Hong Kong, I consider myself very fortunate to have more freedom and equality compared to some other women across the globe. I wanted to try my best to help foster good memories for Emerging Leaders while they are in this country.
I was so excited to be accepted as Cultural Mentor for TechWomen 2018 and knew I wanted to facilitate impeccable outdoor events to showcase as much natural beauty of the Bay Area as possible in the shortest time frame. I set a goal to experience the TechWomen program by organizing and participating in as many activities and events as possible. Now that the program has concluded, I can say it was a busy, fulfilling, touching, eye-opening and life-changing experience.
- Busy: Within five weeks, I attended formal TechWomen events, organized and/or participated in 11 cultural events and joined the Washington DC delegation trip. I had little free time, but I was in such high spirits.
- Fulfilling: I have never been so fulfilled as I was taking the Emerging Leaders around the Bay Area. Their joy and excitement was contagious whether they were having fun in Shoreline Park, hiking around the majestic redwood trees or on Pacifica and Santa Cruz beaches. On Facebook, Madina from Tajikistan posted, “Now I know the meaning of ocean breeze.”
- Touching: Pitch Day was unforgettable. Seeing the passion when teams presented their solutions to their countries’ issues, especially when some of them were very personal, was really touching. It reminded me how lucky I am and made me think about how I can contribute more.
- Eye-opening: The Washington, D.C. trip was the absolute highlight of the whole program for me. We visited the Pakistan Embassy with the Pakistani action plan team to introduce the TechWomen program and the Emerging Leaders’ project, learned from women leaders in both private and public sectors while sitting in in historic D.C. buildings, and had the joy of listening to Emerging Leaders singing after they “graduated” and received their TechWomen certificates. I believe the world will be much better with TechWomen alumnae.
- Life-changing: For me, TechWomen 2018 was a life-changing journey. Back in August when I walked into the meeting room for the first Cultural Mentor Orientation, I was a total stranger who knew no one in the program. By the end of October, I had connected with more than 100 wonderful women, taken more than 2,400 photos and treasured every encounter I had. I am so proud of all the TechWomen alumnae, and I’m grateful to be one of them now.
Claudia Galván: Mentoring TechWomen on the Beach
We are hiking along the Devil’s Slide Trail in Pacifica, CA with almost 20 TechWomen Emerging Leaders. Our mentor group had spent hours planning the logistics of pick-up, transport and location. This is the first of several outdoor activities that we have planned during the month-long program, from camping in Yosemite to kayaking in Shoreline Park in Mountain View to sharing a homemade meal at an American home. As the Emerging Leaders see the Pacific Ocean for the first time, they can’t contain their enthusiasm. Cora and Gauri, two of the newer TechWomen Cultural Mentors, lead in the front, and Linda, Audrey and I, all longtime mentors, stay behind to keep the group moving. We all spend the day sharing our professional experiences, discussing how to handle difficult workplace dynamics and talking about the benefits of power posing.
For Erin, a longtime mentor, the TechWomen program is about forming relationships: it’s an opportunity to understand and appreciate different cultures and recognize our many common bonds. It can be a life-changing experience for the Emerging Leaders, as well. Amaal, a young energetic Jordanian reflects, “For me, cultural events with mentors were a great personal and professional experience. It was a great opportunity to do activities with different people from different cultural backgrounds and share ideas and personal stories. I learned a lot. It has opened my mind to different perspectives.” Nabila, a seasoned leader and mother of two, enjoyed the mentorship while hiking. “We enjoyed the beautiful nature of this phenomenal place. Being surrounded by inspiring people encouraged us to keep on. We had mentorship tips and advice during our hiking trip which made it even more interesting.”
I have been leading global product development teams for over 20 years, working on the intersection of technology and culture. Through a solid career in Silicon Valley, I have learned career strategies that I can share. Being part of the TechWomen program allows me to pass on my skills to other women in countries on the other side of the world. The best part is that the TechWomen community does not end when the Emerging Leaders go home: mentors in Silicon Valley form a tight network where we help each other, and together we support Emerging Leaders kick off impact projects when they return home.
Being a Cultural Mentor is about building bridges and relationships and learning about each other’s cultures, dreams and challenges. It’s about breaking down stereotypes and realizing that we all are people trying to live the best lives we can live with our families and loved ones.
Cora Lam is a Senior Staff CAD Engineer at Marvell Semiconductor Inc. Cora joined Marvell 17 years ago when she first came to Silicon Valley. She loves outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, snowboarding and diving. However, travelling is her number one passion, as she is fascinated with various cultures and scenery around the world.
Claudia Galván is a Technical Advisor to startups in Silicon Valley. She is a community leader empowering women and Latinos in technical fields around the world. She has been a TechWomen mentor for seven years.