In the following article, I want to share my participation in 2017 Techwomen program and through my story, I’ll tell you how contributing in such programs can impact your life.
1-What is Techwomen? Techwomen is a professional mentoring program sponsored by the US Department of State. It brings women from 20 countries in Africa, Central and South Asia and the Middle East to San Francisco, California, for an exchange program. The goal is to empower emerging women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to reach their fullest potential, create social impact initiatives and inspire other girls and women in their communities.
2-How to get there? To be selected as Techwomen emerging leader, you have to apply using their platform (available in Techwomen website). Applicants must be women with at least two years of professional experience in STEM and, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree. You will need to fill in a “long” survey in order to present your personal and professional skills. If preselected, you will be invited for an interview at the US embassy where they will know more about your professional goals and motivations. Final results will announce “winning” techwomen emerging leaders for the current application. For me, receiving the confirmation email was just the start for a long adventure, let’s look back to it together!
3-Techwomen program Overview: the program took place during 5 weeks (from September, 17th to October 23rd). Except the last week spent in Washington DC, I spent all the time in the Bay Area (San Francisco) for professional mentorship, personal development and even cultural exchange:
4-Professional mentorship: I have been hosted in Synopsys, one of the most innovative Tech companies in San Francisco. I have had the privilege to be followed by 06 mentors who gave great efforts to make my short visit at Synopsys an unforgettable one. I have met very experienced VPs and directors who generously shared their skills and advices about project and team management, communication skills, work process, etc. I have had exclusive access to Synopsys internal resources for personal and professional development within the company (online training, documentations, contacts, etc.). Besides what I learnt professionally, I have spent unforgettable moments and given invaluable opportunities to meet and speak with highly qualified peers working both in industrial and academic fields.
5-Personal development: in addition to professional mentorship, techwomen team has organized workshops for all emerging leaders, mainly for personal development in leadership, entrepreneurship, team building and communication skills. Participating in all these workshops was the best opportunity to polish some of my skills and learn new ones. As workshops were held in most valuable tech companies in Silicon Valley, I had a chance to visit their workplace and be immersed inside a completely different and innovative work environment. Some of the companies I have visited are: Symantec, Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Nasa, Twitter, etc.
6-Cultural exchange: Techwomen is not only about STEM. During the program, I have had the chance to participate in many cultural activities organized by cultural mentors: volunteering day, culinary events, historical sites visits, etc. Cultural events were great experiences for discovering life in the US, contributing to help underserved local community, and meeting incredibly nice people.
7-Techwomen 5 tips for 5 weeks: If you are preparing your Techwomen application, you need to know the following:
1. Be authentic: if you want to apply for techwomen (or even other exchange programs) you have to make an effort and prepare your application by yourself. Techwomen is looking for great but genuine applications. Be honest by expressing your real skills and personal motivations.
2. Brand yourself: you need to find the best way to promote your personal and professional skills, and there is no better way than a storytelling. The judge need to remember you. Telling a story will leave a great impact on their emotions.
3. Be a learner: Techwomen aims to empower you personally and professionally. No matter your age or diploma degree, be ready to learn from all the people during the program (speakers, mentors, emerging leaders, or even people you cross in the street).
4. Ask, ask, and ask: never hesitate to ask for help or guidance. Techwomen alumnae can help you to better understand the program. Reach out with one or some of them so you will have clearer idea. They will also help you on preparing your trip or even connecting with US mentors once you’ll be selected in the program.
5. Be open-minded: it’s important to have a community-spirit. You need to be prepared to live with people you don’t know, coming from different cultures, religions and beliefs.
Looking back, I can confidently say that the program expanded my horizons, both professionally and personally. I gained invaluable skills working with mentors at most innovative tech companies in San Francisco, while experiencing life in the U.S. and creating lifelong friendships. I’m proud to be part of TechWomen’s global network of leaders in STEM, and I invite you to cease this opportunity to apply (or share it with prospective TechWomen).
I’m available to share more about my TechWomen experience and help future applicants. Let me know if you have any questions. Best of luck!
Fatima Zohra BENHAMIDA
Thank you dear sister, friend and mentor, you’re a model for Algerian Women
Wish you all the best
Good luck for algerian women applicants this year