The TechGirls Blog

#TechGirls is a @StateDept exchange program to #empower teenage #girls from the Middle East and North Africa, #MENA to pursue careers in #STEM
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Ouafae Bousbaa is a 17 year old TechGirl (2014) from Zagora, Morocco. Ouafae continually blessed the TechGirls family with her precision, wit, tech skills, and drive. We can’t wait to see her community-based project come to life!

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I could write hundreds of pages about my TechGirls experience, but words would never be enough to describe how incredible it was. 

I close my eyes and hear the sounds of teenagers from different places playing symphonies with the keyboards, learning through fun at iD Tech Camps. I remember the Hackathons and leadership clinics. I hear the deep voice of Mr. Rash, the president of Legacy International, talking about values, opportunities, leadership, and humanity. He helped me to see things I hadn’t seen before.

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I remember the weekend I spent with my host family—the smell of the perfume of my American mom in the middle of her cooking party. We met her friends, cooked together, danced, shared talents, and discussed many topics during a warm summer evening.

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All the activities we did together as TechGirls made me feel for the first time a real sense of belonging.

TechGirls is more than just a coding program, it’s a life changing experience. I’m just lucky to have been a part of it. I met with female engineers from Google, Tumblr, Yahoo, Facebook, Instagram, and Girls Who Code. I have new contacts and friends who are ready to help me anytime. I am now capable of doing things I never thought I could do before. TechGirls gave me confidence in myself and what I can do with my life.

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Now I’m not just a girl. I’m a TechGirl.

The TechGirls’ skillsets are just as diverse as their personalities and the communities they come from. Joanna Arida of Jordan (2013), for example, volunteers with the Tzu Chi Foundation and is a very talented artist. Here is a series of some of her most recent drawings.

Drawing is a form of expression for me. Every human being has some sort of energy that needs to be released. I release mine through drawing. I get to capture emotions on paper and hold on to them as a reminder, connection, and a voice. A simple method of maintaining memory.

Other than drawing, I have recently joined a modeling agency to see what it is like to be a model. I think this experience would benefit me since it counts as CAS—a fundamental part of the IB Diploma Program curriculum where a student is required to do a few activities that fall under creativity, service, or action. This is my first year as an IB student so I’m quite excited for what is to come!

Looking back at TechGirls, I now realize how much it developed both my character and my English skills. It played an important role in building the character I am today. For example, I enhanced both my writing and programming skills. I feel blessed and grateful for having had the opportunity to be part of TechGirls.

Having the support of loved ones can be everything! Thank you to the brave and supportive TechGirls families who allowed us to get to know and love and be in awe of the bright countenances, minds, and futures of the 2014 TechGirls.

We’re back from New York, and wow—what a trip! New York is known for its crowds, businesses, and quick-paced lifestyle, but also for all the new opportunities that it has to offer people who have big plans for their future. Young entrepreneurs, business moguls, writers—and game changers like the TechGirls—is what New York draws in. The TechGirls left NYC more inspired than they were when they first glimpsed the city skyline.

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Despite how busy Manhattan is known to be, we arrived with our minds set on the prize and beelined our way to Google headquarters. Google New York gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “bigger on the inside.” Despite its serious golden facade between 8th and 9th avenue, it became abundantly clear obvious that Google is no stranger to the “work hard; play hard” philosophy. White boards with silly drawings, art, and game rooms lined the halls along with creative working spaces and a mini kitchen no farther than 150 steps away from each office.

At Google we met Sabrina Bektesevic and Hee Jung Ryu, who makes sure that Google is always up and running. During our meeting, Ryu acknowledged that if she had ever paid any heed to the voices that told her that computers are a man’s job, she would have never found her place in Google. 

This same message was reiterated when the girls went to Tumblr the next day—Caitlin Abber of MTV Act hosted a panel with 6 women from the Tumblr office about the importance of supporting each other in the workspace. The TechGirls got some tips on how to put together a successful pitch for their community projects and heard from Elisa Shyu of ever-supportive Yahoo!

Through the TechGirls experience, the participants learn that they are part of a larger movement of females in technology and that nothing they do is truly in isolation—this became especially apparent at our pizza mixer with the awesome and powerful Girls Who Code

While sharing a slice with girls from Girls Who Code’s Summer Immersion Program, the girls got to discussing their community projects, tech skills, and within minutes, some of them were even talking about becoming business partners! 

On our last day in NYC, we visited with Bank of America to learn about the ways that changing technologies support and affect business practices. We visited the trading floor and it was fascinating to see the ways that technology have changed the culture of the work environment. Lastly, Bank of America hosted a luncheon and panel, this time with the TechGirls on the mic. The girls shared their stories, visions, and motivations with a room full of executives, all eager to see them succeed.

When people from seemingly disparate backgrounds with shared passions share a laugh or break bread together, it can help to break down barriers, create energetic conversations, and formulate the best of plans! As learned from the tech elders, mentors, and peers the TechGirls met in NYC, nothing is impossible!

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yahoopolicy:

By Elisa Shyu, Public Relations Manager, Public Policy

check out more photos on the TechGirls Flickr!

I had the pleasure of meeting with the TechGirls at Tumblr headquarters in New York City last week to share our priorities, direction, and commitment to our users.

Thank you to the brilliant Elysa Shyu, Public Relations Manager, Yahoo! Public Policy, for coming all the way to NYC to meet with the TechGirls! For three years in a row, Yahoo! has demonstrated their commitment to engaging women in tech through meeting with TechGirls participants and continued support of community-based projects. Hurray for Yahoo!

"During the discussion, all of the young women echoed the same desire: to increase opportunities for women to interact with, benefit from, and work in tech. The theme of mentorship and commitment to engaging women in tech is a familiar theme that we at Yahoo also embrace."

As women continue to make strides in breaking the glass ceiling, powerhouses across the fields of business, technology, politics and entertainment are coming forward and voicing that women “can’t have it all.” Most recently, Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes delivered a commencement speech at Dartmouth University confessing “whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life.”

Just two years before that, Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote an awakening essay for The Atlantic, exposing how her colleagues challenged her commitment to her profession, for stepping down from her role as the State Department’s Director of Policy Planning to spend more time with her family.

While these may seem like issues which only keep high-profile career women up at night, young women too struggle with juggling career ambitions and family planning.

Last week, the TechGirls spent a full day job shadowing with an amalgam of wonderful hosts including TechChange, AT&T, Synoptos, FCC, Verizon, The National Building Museum, Echo & Co., Bully Pulpit, Corporation for Community and National Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Relief International and Precision Network. Many of the TechGirls made insightful observations about how these work environments might support their desire to build fruitful careers in tech, while providing them with a flexible schedule to maintain a healthy personal life.

This video features one reflection from superstar TechGirl Imene Khodja.

TechChange rules! The two lucky TechGirls who visited TechChange for Job Shadow day got exposure to digital animation, graphic design, web design and programming, interactive infographics, data visualization, search engine optimization, customer relationship management software, instructional design, and more—a TechGirls dream! Thank you, TechChange, for your continued support of TechGirls from the Middle East and North Africa!

Big ups to Amy Alvarez and AT&T for hosting 2 TechGirls at Job Shadow Day again this year. The TechGirls got exposure to brand new technologies, mentors, and the culture of a successful business. When asked to use one word to describe the day, the girls said it was “mind blowing!” Thank you Amy and AT&T for organizing such a brilliantly relevant day!

staff:

The TechGirls are so great. They came to Tumblr HQ yesterday and our engineers answered their questions about Tumblr, about tech, about being a woman in tech, about the future of tech, oh, all kinds of stuff. “Totally the happiest panel ever,” according to alittlespace.

Pictured, left to right: moderator everydaycaitlin; engineers reneeejp, sarahhnyc, hoenr, kiestra, and forklady42.

We would like to announce that we are in love with Tumblr. Tumblr itself and the Tumblr staff. We had a great panel there yesterday moderated by everydaycaitlin, during which we learned about what it’s like to work at Tumblr, which teams have the best snacks, how to support female allies in the workplace, how to turn off the little haters in our brains, and what it feels like to be welcomed so warmly and openly into the Tumblr world.

alittlespace:

This is totally the happiest panel ever. Welcoming statedept's thetechgirlsblog to visit tumblr HQ!

We are thrilled to be at Tumblr headquarters this afternoon at a panel of Tumblr’s bests hosted by MTV’s Caitlin Abber!