TechWomen: Partnership Focused on Global Impact for Women in Tech
November 20, 2018
Co-authors: Parul Jain, Sigal Traister, and Sree Rao
How often do you get to connect with female leaders from across the globe and, at the same time, make an impact on their professional growth? Thanks to LinkedIn’s partnership with TechWomen for past six years, we are able to connect and inspire women leaders in STEM from 20 different countries and make a true global impact. This partnership has been growing and has been extremely valuable, humbling, and transformational.
For those who may be unfamiliar, TechWomen is an initiative run by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that empowers, connects, and supports the next generation of women leaders in STEM. In this program, these women leaders, also known as Emerging Leaders (ELs), come to United States for an exchange and project-based mentorship program with leading companies in the Bay Area for five weeks. LinkedIn is one of the participating companies from Silicon Valley, and we hosted 6 of the 100 ELs this year.
When our partnership first started several years ago, we hosted just one EL, who had a single Professional Mentor at LinkedIn. Seeing the transformation this program has inspired in both the ELs and the mentors, we have been expanding our engagement year after year. In 2018, we had the most involvement ever, with 18 Professional Mentors mentoring 6 ELs, 5 Cultural Mentors, and 4 Impact Coaches. We also hosted a Leadership Day and “Rock Your Profile” session and sponsored a D.C. delegation trip for 9 mentors. Everyone involved enjoyed the opportunity to inspire and be inspired by meeting and working closely with various ELs and mentors. One of the most valuable experiences for LinkedIn was understanding how much women in STEM fields have in common, no matter which country they are from. There are similar struggles, frustrations, and concerns that all women can relate to. Through this program, we are building an international community and lifelong connections, which perfectly ties into our mission of “connecting professionals to make them more productive and successful.” LinkedIn truly believes in the culture of transformation and TechWomen provides us an opportunity of two-way transformation through mentorship.
Dream big, embrace obstacles and changes, and be authentic
That was the key message from the Leadership Day that LinkedIn hosted on Oct. 5 for all 100 ELs in this year’s program. To provide the best value for the ELs, we galvanized inspiring LinkedIn leaders and organized empowering workshops on the Leadership Day. Attendees heard about identifying strengths, authentic leadership, and the power of networking from Maria Zhang, VP of Engineering, Kiran Prasad, VP of Product, and Erica Lockheimer, Head of Engineering for LinkedIn Learning. Cherisse Gill, who is a senior learning and development partner at LinkedIn, conducted a workshop on the importance of embracing a growth mindset.
Leadership Day workshop at LinkedIn for the 100 Emerging Leaders
The Leadership Day concluded with a networking reception in a table discussion format where ELs, mentors from various companies, and LinkedIn leaders, serving as the facilitators, had meaningful conversations in a safe and constructive space. This networking time was one of the highlights of the day.
LinkedIn facilitators were awestruck by the ELs’ aspirations and goals, and also learned a lot from the ELs and other mentors at the table. The main themes at the table discussions were around the topics of leadership, training programs to improve leadership skills, networking, and building relationships.
Networking table discussion with LinkedIn facilitators and Mentors
Involvement at various levels
LinkedIn employees were involved as Professional Mentors, Impact Coaches, and Cultural Mentors with TechWomen 2018 Mentorship Program.
As part of the Professional Mentorship program, LinkedIn hosted six amazing ELs with diverse backgrounds and from different countries for three weeks. The ELs had their own learning objectives and LinkedIn partnered them with three mentors each, with all mentors bringing their unique experience to the table. ELs worked closely with various teams and developed both technical and soft skills crucial for their long-term success. They were also inspired by the “pay it forward” culture at LinkedIn.
2018 ELs hosted by LinkedIn: Nuha, Lucie, Zhama, Ameni, Yulia, and Madina (from left to right)
Another aspect of the TechWomen program is Impact Coaching. ELs from each country form an action plan group, and an Impact Coach is assigned to each group to guide, coach, and provide resources to come up with an actionable plan that can solve socio-economic challenges in their countries. We had four impact coaches for our ELs, who hailed from Turkmenistan, Zimbabwe, Egypt, and Jordan. Team Zimbabwe’s Impact Coach, Ranjit Dhaman, helped her team leverage their skills and network to develop an action plan, and they eventually won a seed grant. Priyanka Gariba supported Team Turkmenistan to create an action plan that would build a platform connecting employers and NGOs to disabled people and provide them job opportunities.
Cultural Mentors help ELs adapt to the life in the Bay Area. Our LinkedIn Cultural Mentors organized a “Rock Your Profile” session for all 100 ELs and mentors and had participation from 40 ELs. This session focused on creating the best LinkedIn profile and leveraging that profile to achieve desired professional results.
For the program’s concluding week, LinkedIn sponsored nine mentors to join the ELs in Washington, D.C., where they learned about various initiatives run by the U.S. Department of State and discussed how the technology and public sectors are intersecting.
Emerging Leaders at LinkedIn
Ameni joined us from Tunisia, and is the CEO of fashion startup Dabchy.com, which she helped co-found two years ago. She was looking to improve operations for her company and to figure out how she could leverage the data that she is capturing from her users. She learned the importance of empowering her team, particularly by setting up and tracking objectives and key results for her company. Shalini Agarwal, one of Ameni’s mentors, said it was very rewarding to see this young CEO’s eyes light up with every new learning to improve her business and realize her dream.
Lucie, a senior software engineer from Rwanda, shared that her key takeaways from this mentorship were the importance of project management, the power of spreadsheets, and the keys to relationship building. She is most proud of her communication and presentation skill improvements. Elizabeth Double, one of Lucie’s mentors, shared her equally-fulfilling experience, saying, “It was amazing to see the women grow and how everyone at LinkedIn is eager to support—a wonderful reminder that LinkedIn truly follows on one of its core values: Relationships Matter.”
Madina is the first Scrum master and Agile coach in Tajikistan. She said her mentorship at LinkedIn was a “dream come true.” After working with various teams, she was inspired to transition into product management to influence the vision of products in her company. Nicole Li, one Madina’s mentors, provided her support to learn about Agile methodology by engaging her in various product planning meetings.
Nuha, a senior software engineer from Palestine, said her most important learning was about building key metrics and then verifying and collecting the necessary data for these metrics. She was thrilled to learn about automated testing, key value databases, and progressive web applications, and used her newfound skills to build web apps. One of Nuha’s mentors, Vasanthi Renganathan, is committed to continue working with Nuha over the next year to develop the application Nuha has been working on.
Yulia is the Chief Operating Officer of Golden Minds in Uzbekistan. Golden Minds is a creative agency that focuses on creative marketing, web production, and internet marketing. Learning about heuristic evaluations, surveys, and user journey maps was very valuable to her. She plans to integrate agile into her business, and will continue to learn UX design and product management on LinkedIn Learning. According to Renee Reid, who mentored Yulia, “I saw how Yulia was able to take the learnings from all of us and grow. It really does take a village.”
Zhama, from Kyrgyzstan, is one of the coordinators of the first hackerspaces in Central Asia. She supervises 250 young developers, and organizes both online and offline training sessions in programming that have engaged more than 2,500 people. She wants to create a startup accelerator in Kyrgyzstan with a mission to build a healthy competitive environment for innovative ideas. At LinkedIn, she learned about various patterns used by full stack engineers and how to develop leadership skills. Swetha Surapaneni and Stephanie Lucas, two of Zhama’s mentors, called out that mentorship is a two-way street and that the relationship with her will last forever!
LinkedIn ELs and Mentors
We are very excited about the value and impact this program brings and are looking for opportunities to expand our partnership next year. Large global impact requires collaboration, motivation, and enthusiasm from more and more companies. It’s our hope that more groups will join us to work together to make a difference across the globe. If you are interested in this partnership, connect with us on LinkedIn.
We would like to thank all the Professional Mentors, Impact Coaches, Cultural Mentors, LinkedIn leaders, volunteers, and the TechWomen team for their endless contributions during this TechWomen 2018 program. Your contributions made a significant impact on the Emerging Leaders and the overall success of the program. Your dedication and commitment to empowering and developing female leaders are greatly appreciated. Thanks to LinkedIn’s leadership team for empowering us and providing all the support we need to make TechWomen an amazing experience for all the mentors and ELs! We are so glad we are all #InItTogether to #ChangeTheWorld.