TechWomen week one: introduction, ideation and innovation — TechWomen

“There are many kinds of leaders. Which leader will you be?” – Eileen Brewer, Symantec

It has been a whirlwind week for TechWomen as we welcomed almost 100 women, kicking off a week of programming that took Emerging Leaders all over the Bay Area. Last Monday morning, the 2018 cohort came together for the first time at Symantec for their Welcome Orientation.  Eileen Brewer, longtime TechWomen mentor and Director of Program Management at Symantec, opened the day with a call to action. Addressing Emerging Leaders, she spoke about the spectrum of leadership qualities—some that inspire and others that discourage collaboration and growth—and asked the women to make a choice: what kind of leader will you be? Later, Eileen was joined on stage by the 2018 Symantec mentors, many of them also from across the globe, each sharing their journeys to the United States from countries such as India and Turkey. Additional distinguished speakers included Symantec’s CEO Greg Clark, Senior Vice President Ken Schneider and Vice President Cecily Joseph.

In addition to receiving important logistics and information for their stay in the Bay Area, Emerging Leaders had the opportunity to expand their knowledge about networking, learning practical approaches from Jennine Heller. Through tips and tricks, Jennine showed the group that networking can happen anywhere. And, as Emerging Leaders embark on five weeks of interfacing with their cohort, mentors and their host companies, Jennine introduced them to the “power bracelet,” an imaginary confidence tool that they can “put on” when they are lacking self-confidence or faced with an intimidating networking opportunity. The rules: take a deep breath, put on your power bracelet and say to yourself, “I’m awesome.”

Emerging Leaders come together for the first time at Symantec, kicking off TechWomen 2018.

“When our experiences transcend borders, it opens minds.” – Jillian Scott, IIE

Emerging Leaders literally got the star treatment the following evening at Juniper Networks.  Arriving in traditional dress for the much-anticipated Cultural Kickoff, they were greeted by a red carpet, “paparazzi” and personalized stars on a walk of fame. Country teams had been preparing for weeks: the event was an opportunity to showcase their countries, with each team preparing dances, presentations and videos transporting the audience and introducing them to their customs and cultures. Many Emerging Leaders were also able to meet their mentors for the first time, coming together to discuss their professional mentorship, action plans and the cultural activities they’ll enjoy in the Bay Area during the program.

Pictured below, top: Team Kyrgyzstan; Bottom; Team Jordan; Right: Sierra Leone.

Rene Hadjigeorgalis, representing the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, began the evening reflecting on such exchange: “We know that countries are more stable, peaceful and prosperous when women have equal opportunity in all fields,” she said. Jillian Scott, Director of TechWomen, Rami Rahim, Juniper Networks’ CEO and Christina Thyyring-Jackson, HR Manager of Global Operations also at Juniper, delivered remarks, leading into an evening of song, dance and celebration. Attendees learned about powerful women in Egyptian history, were introduced to tribes in Nigeria and witnessed each country’s values and traditions through slides, music and dance. As the evening concluded and the room was full of cross-cultural exchange and conversation, opening remarks from Rene Hadjigeorgalis rang true: “Each one of you here tonight is doing your part to advance the cause of peace and understanding in the world.”

Pictured below, clockwise from the top left: Team South Africa, Egypt, and Rwanda. Bottom right: Emerging Leaders take a group photo with their mentors

“When you love something, roll up your sleeves and do it.”  Sara Clemens, Twitch

Wednesday’s Program Orientation, hosted by Twitch, took a deeper dive into the TechWomen program. The TechWomen team introduced this year’s programming and events, answering questions from Emerging Leaders and setting the stage for the month’s activities. Katie Penn, TechWomen Professional Mentor and Director of Developer Marketing at Twitch, moderated a mentor panel that featured Diana Macias of Twitter, Maile Smith of Northgate Environmental Management and Queen Denchukwu of Autodesk. There, mentors shared their guidance on how to have an enriching mentorship experience. As the end of the day neared, Emerging Leaders were visited by Sara Clemens, COO of Twitch, who shared her perspective as a woman in tech. She spoke about confidence, authentic leadership and how to forge your own career path, challenging Emerging Leaders to pursue their passions and take risks. “Women have a tendency to doubt themselves in professional environments,” she said. “Be yourself. Don’t apologize for it.”

“What’s the difference between a group and a team?”­ – Kerry Seitz, Linkage

After program logistics were covered, it was time for Emerging Leaders to come together as country teams and lay the groundwork for their social impact projects. At Thursday’s Action Plan Workshop 1 at Synopsys, Emerging Leaders began to think strategically about their action plan, a project that will address a socioeconomic issue in their home country. The day was led by Briana Goldman and Kerry Seitz of Linkage, who introduced a framework for building off personal strengths, thinking critically and maximizing teamwork. The beginning of the day was spent evaluating leadership strengths and challenges through core competencies.Then, using systems thinking, each country team began mapping an issue they want to address in their home countries.

Joined by their Impact Coaches, country teams spent the afternoon learning about the importance of communication and teamwork. Group cohesiveness was put to the test with the Marshmallow Challenge, where teams had the opportunity to understand and navigate group dynamics.

To end the day, country teams and their Impact Coaches created a Blueprint for Change, identifying concrete and specific actions to better develop their action plans. Team Jordan formulated their idea on narrowing the digital divide in their country, empowering rural women through skill building. Team Kyrgyzstan recognized a lack of environmental awareness in their country and hopes to implement eco-friendly initiatives. Team Cameroon, addressing their country’s migration crisis, wants to create a safe environment for migrants using innovative tools. Linkage fostered an environment of free exchange, global thinking and the beginnings of projects that have the power to transform communities.

“With every failure there is an opportunity to learn.”  Lynelle Cameron, Autodesk

Week one concluded at Autodesk, which facilitated a day of creativity, innovation and design thinking at the Impact Design Workshop. Through breakout sessions, social impact panels and maker workshops, Emerging Leaders were challenged to focus on innovation through a global perspective. Lynelle Cameron, Vice President of Sustainability and the CEO of the Autodesk Foundation and Arezoo Riahi, Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Business Partner, addressed Emerging Leaders, speaking about the power of using design thinking in tackling global issues. Throughout the day, Emerging Leaders created their own virtual reality goggles, participated in workshops using the LUMA framework and heard from local changemakers positively impacting their communities. They also had an opportunity to explore the Autodesk Gallery, which showcases compelling examples of exceptional design and engineering around the globe. Emerging Leaders saw the concept cars of the future, viewed the latest innovations in prosthetics and watched 3D printers in action.

The day’s programming left Emerging Leaders feeling inspired and ready to take action. Jo Opot of Acumen concluded the day with parting words for the cohort: “If people see your hunger, they will champion it.”

Vice President of Sustainability and CEO of the Autodesk Foundation Lynelle Cameron and the TechWomen 2018 cohort

I can feel a difference between me last week when I was coming, and me now.-Theodora Guiadem, Emerging Leader of Cameroon

In one short week, Emerging Leaders went from being individual participants to becoming a cohort, unified by the shared values of curiosity, tenacity and innovation. Whether it was through breakout sessions, exercises in networking or long bus rides to events, Emerging Leaders laid the foundation for lasting bonds and lasting impact. They began their first weekend in the Bay Area feeling energized and ready to embrace week two: “I’m so excited that I can hardly sleep,” said Salma of Algeria. The 2018 cohort will surely need some much-deserved rest, however, as they began yesterday their professional mentorships at 34 companies throughout the Bay Area. 

Emerging Leaders with MH McQuiston of Autodesk

Stay up to date on the TechWomen blog as we provide weekly program updates, and follow along on Instagram, and Facebook for daily content.