Guest post by Laura Messerschmitt, TechWomen Professional Mentor
On the TechWomen delegation trip to Uzbekistan, I met an amazing future entrepreneur. At just 18, she has received a full scholarship to attend a university in Arizona to study computer science. We talked at length about how to prepare, how to start her own side gig as an aspiring entrepreneur and how to think about future career possibilities. My company GoDaddy is headquartered in Arizona, so I exchanged numbers with her to continue the relationship.
This was my first TechWomen delegation trip, where I had the opportunity to meet with established career women all the way down to elementary school girls. I was blown away by the deepness of the connections and the impact that could be made in just one week.
Our events fell into two main categories – sessions in schools and sessions at conferences. For the latter, we participated en masse at the first Central Asia Women in Tech and Science Week in Tashkent. Each of the 16 mentors ran sessions, and I was a panelist on the opening panel themed on careers in STEM and skills needed for jobs in the 21st century. There, I spoke about how you need to be a great communicator and collaborator in addition to being a strong technologist in order to have a successful career in tech. I also explained that you can’t possibly know where your career in tech will take you, and that most of the jobs that I have held since college – in social media, mobile apps and more – didn’t even exist when I was in college. I also ran a session on hot trends in technology with a fellow mentor, speaking about GoDaddy and the technologies that we are implementing to make things better for our customers. We got lots of questions from the audience leading to discussions on how Uzbekistan can encourage more tech investment.
The other events that we participated in were aimed at school-aged and university students, focusing on direct people-to-people connections. Our first experience with school-aged children was coaching teams from Technovation, a program that challenges girls from around the world to create mobile apps that solve real-world issues. We alternated between coaching sessions and having the girls present; it was impressive to see girls as young as seven presenting mobile apps in front of a crowd of over 100!
My group comprised three 14-year-olds who had started coding an app for community organizing. The girls explained that in regions of Uzbekistan, local governments still need to go door-to-door to collect information about when electricity and water are out, among other problems. The girls were addressing this inefficiency through an app that allows people to report issues from their homes, helping the government to consolidate information and address community needs more efficiently.
Another highlight of the school visits was our stop at the Nest School for Entrepreneurship in Tashkent. I was surprised to see a crowd of younger children, some as young as 10. I was even more surprised when one of those younger kids piped up to tell us about a bad decision he made in purchasing inventory for his small business before orders came in!
We’ve returned from our trip and are thrilled by the impact that we made. Certainly though, while we are physically back in San Francisco, we left our hearts in Tashkent.
Laura Messerschmitt is the vice president of global customer experience for GoDaddy, where she leads customer insights and experience strategy for GoDaddy’s eighteen million small business customers. She has also held roles leading social media and customer marketing at GoDaddy. Laura has her MBA from Stanford University and graduated Summa Cum Laude from UCLA with a degree in mathematics. She has been a Professional Mentor with the TechWomen program for two years, mentoring women from Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco and Cameroon.