When I learned about the TechWomen Program of the US Department of State I knew immediately I wanted to be involved. Readers of this blog know of my early career goal to be a diplomat. I have long been interested in the Middle East and have visited Israel, Egypt and Jordan. While I love what I’m doing now and the international experiences my career has afforded me (I’m writing this post from my hotel room in Seoul) I do sometimes find myself missing the work I thought I would do in the international development field so when “extracurricular” opportunities to be involved pop up I’m thrilled.
The goal of the TechWomen program is to empower high-potential technical. The program “brings emerging women leaders in technology sectors from the Middle East and North Africa together with their American counterparts for a professional mentorship and exchange program at leading companies in the United States”.
I applied to be a professional mentor several months ago and was thrilled to learn in July that I was matched with Rola Issa from Amman, Jordan. Rola works in a software company as a database expert and had traveled throughout the Gulf states for her company on key projects. She was interested in focusing her internship, however, more on the business and marketing side of Silicon Valley. I assured her we had plenty of potential projects. Entry into the program is highly competitive for the TechWomen so I was not surprised at Rola’s competence and initiative.
Rola arrived last Wednesday. After several days of training they had Sunday free. I invited Rola to join me for my usual Sunday morning hike with friends. We enjoyed a gorgeous morning at Hidden Villa then lunch and some errands in downtown Los Altos. Monday was the first day of work as part of our marketing team on a project.
In addition to the internship, the TechWomen are paired with a cultural mentor and participate in several formal training programs. They will all be attending the Grace Hopper Conference in Baltimore as well as educational programs in Washington, DC. The program culminates with a visit to the State Department and meeting with Secretary Clinton who is the program sponsor. I’m looking forward to a fun few weeks!