Last weekend, I spent a day with an amazing set of young women.
I was invited to be the judge of the chapter of the Technovation Challenge in my hometown of Calgary, Canada. Twelve teams of teenage girls worked to conceive, pitch and build a mobile application that addressed a problem in their community. Team after team of young women hit the stage to share their vision and accomplishments, and to later give demos to the judges and the crowd. What a *great* idea this whole enterprise is! While I only had to commit a weekend, there were a ton of people who put hundreds if not thousands of hours into this opportunity. For any of you who feel like it is impossible to impact the ‘pipeline problem’, take a look at getting involved! As I understand it, Technovation is global and there might be an opportunity to work with girls in your own area. I wish I could explain the sense of agency I got from these girls, they were out there getting it done. Also, I almost fell off my chair when one of the girls answered a live question about privacy of user data by noting that they could use a product like Auth0 to help! My jaw hit the floor.
I am so excited to have seen this program in action, to see the tools that were chosen and the approaches that were taken. I can’t think of a better way to teach entrepreneurship, technical fearlessness, presentation skills and teamwork. I am in personal awe of Mea Wang, who works as an associate professor in the computer science department. To pull this off is a spectacular accomplishment, thank you for paying it forward – you are making a huge difference.
The best lesson for me was a simple one. You might have thought these girls would be wowed by me! A real woman in tech! We get trained by twitter and the media to think we are rare and to be remarked upon. But no – in reality I was just a random old person. The people who are making impacts in the lives of these girls are not some fancy person with an “accomplishment”. It is the men and women they see every day, acting in local roles of knowledge and authority, encouraging and building and expanding these girls’ dreams. Kudos to all of you who act in that capacity.