TechWomen End Jordan Delegation with Faith & Technology

Let me be sure to tell you that I am writing this blog from the paradisiacal setting of The Dead Sea in Jordan. It feels like a reward on top of the reward I feel in my heart due to the volunteer work I’ve been graced to share with the rest of the TechWomen and Jordanian community since Monday.

Students from Jubilee School settle in at Princess Sumaya University for Technology before the start of the TechWomen Networking Conference

Today was especially delightful as the full day was set aside for the TechWomen Networking Conference presented at Princess Sumaya University for Technology. Her Royal Highness was in attendance of the conference which showed her great support for young women to pursue STEM & ICT. I’m sure the young girls attending were delighted to be there and know how much their Princess supports their efforts to study hard and become innovators.

The conference featured sessions facilitated by TechWomen Mentors and Emerging Leaders from the 2011 and 2012 season. Session topics ranged from Entrepreneurship, to How to Land a Software Engineer Job, to Faith and Technology and featured speeches delivered by Deputy Secretary of State Lee Satterfield, of US Department of State and Her Royal Highness Princess Sumaya herself.

Her Royal Highness Princess Sumaya poses for photos with TechWomen Mentors from the United States and Emerging Leaders from MENA regions

Satterfield’s address highlighted TechWomen as a critical program because people to people relationships form the foundation for more productive global relationships. Princess Sumaya remarked that TechWomen represent smart power and took pause to recognize the young students in the room. I imaged what it must feel like to be one of these young girls and have your nation’s Princess show pride in you. I look at the young girls attending the conference as the future leaders of a more brave and better world. Their experience is vastly different from my experience growing up as a young woman in tech precisely due to the efforts of advocates and sponsors like Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

TechWomen connect with Networking Conference attendees on the topic of Faith and Technology

I heard positive things from the girls about all the sessions. I was honored to facilitate one of the final breakout sessions on the topic of Faith and Technology along with Akiko K. Takashima, Amy Miller, Maryann Hrichak, Ramziyeh Jaayssa, and Neeti Gowda. The session had the best attendance of all breakout sessions and the participation from the girls showed this was a topic that was important to them and they were fully engaged. This session was very personal and interactive with discussion ranging from faith to family, technology, innovation, and the pros and cons of technology. The closing remarks of the session tied faith to ones own destiny in life and technology as a part of delivering that destiny. Martin Luther King Jr. said “faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase”, tying the very act of innovation to faith. One of the young girls bravely stood before everyone in the auditorium as the final speaker to deliver personal testimony that the conference and discussions on Faith and Technology was “just what I needed” with a great beaming smile. I felt the same way.

Before I return to enjoying the amazing attraction of the Dead Sea I want to give a shot out to Heather Ramsey, Arezoo Miot and Lexi Curtice for arranging all these incredible visits. Kudos to Sheila Casey and Lee Satterfield for supporting cultural exchanges that change lives. This was an experience of a lifetime!


GHC is Social: Two ladies break down steps to “building your professional network”

The Grace Hopper Conference initiated its trade mark marathon celebration of Women in Technology today at 7AM for many hoppers, namely volunteers, including myself. Grace Hopper is known for being a bedrock of female tech talent, but also for dishing out the tough advice to young women that “working hard and being smart isn’t enough to get you ahead”. Its a lesson that new hoppers must learn quickly and for that reason Day 1 of GHC had no shortage of lessons on the importance of Mentors, Sponsors and Professional Networking. If you want to meet new hoppers to support, inspire or be inspired by, these types of sessions are a goldmine.

I selected which sessions to attend based mostly on WHO was delivering the session, which led me to attend “Building Your Professional Network” presented by Elizabeth Bautista of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Lamia Youseff of University of California, Santa Barbara. Elizabeth inspired me days before during a visit I made to LBNL with Emerging Leaders and fellow Mentors participating in the TechWomen program. I was excited to see what else I could learn from her and was not disappointed by the duo that she and Lamia presented. The lesson included reasons to network, practical tips for better networking, what NOT to do, and something that Allen Iverson knows a lot about, that little thing called “practice”!

This session is in my opinion was one of the most critical for new hoppers because it sets the stage for being able to take full advantage of what GHC has to offer. GHC isnt just a technical conference, it’s one of the most open conferences one can attend to get personal access to industry and academic leaders, in three words, GHC is Social. If you dont get social very quickly you will miss out on the majority of value from the entire conference. Beware, I’m about to make a broad generalization- men who are the majority of other top tech conferences i.e f8, Dreamforce and SXSW etc. know that they didn’t come half way across the country to learn “what” was being talked about (they can read that in the blogs), but to better understand and be able to leverage or collaborate with the “who” that said the “what”.

If hoopers learn one thing this year it should be that GHC is Social and so should you. The hallmark first day of the Grace Hopper Conference is peppered with hints hitting you in the head like a bag of nickles to remind us that the saying “if you work hard and are really really smart, you will get ahead in your career” is a lie. Day 1 hosts a flurry of sessions on mentors, sponsors, and the importance of that scary little thing called networking to reiterate this fact over and over not only for new hoppers, but also for the returning hoppers who have relaxed into the cruise control that says “just keep swimming, just keep swimming!” It is not enough to just swim, you’ve got to swim with the right fish and thats what GHC is here to help you find; not just fish, but dolphins to be exact.

Socializing at GHC is not only safe, it is the perfect place to practice so you can step up your game when you return to the real world where women are the minority, and frat boys are still loud and obnixious well into their 40s. By the end of Bautista and Youseff’s session hoppers both old and new were flexing their social muscles and exchanging their expertise, career aspirations and business cards along with the promise to “follow-up”, “connect again” or “stay in touch”.

This is great, but it’s only just a start. A wise man who inspires me frequently by the name of Harry Belefante once shared a morsel that struck me to my core, he said “Do I know who you are? Do you know who I am? Do we care about each other? Because if we do, we can turn the world around.” The tips and tools to networking are not going to help us change the world if they are not supported by a foundation of genuine interest, appreciation and caring – lets be honest, women are the better sex at building THAT foundation. So don’t just network to network! Find a space where you can be genuine, engage your passion and make an impact with other amazing people while you are at GHC and if you take nothing else, take that back home with you.