The Tech Women Opportunity
In September 2019 I had the privilege to be selected as part of Tech Women, a cohort of over 100 ladies in STEM from 21 countries, to spend five weeks in Silicon Valley. Tech Women is a professional exchange program run by the US State Department which convenes women who are emerging leaders in the different STEM fields from 21 countries across Africa, Middle East and Central Asia. I went into this exchange program with very high expectations of how it was going to impact my life, career and generally my view of how women fit into this world of technology. Past participants of the program that I had interacted with also made sure that I knew what an awesome experience I had signed up for. However in spite of all the hype I received and my heightened expectations, the Tech Women program managed to exceed all my expectations and I’m forever grateful to have had that experience.
On the first day of the program I had many opportunities to network with the ladies who had come from various countries and convened in the Bay Area to participate in the program. That experience alone left me feeling inspired and encouraged by all the hard work that they were all doing in their country. All the Tech Women participants were not only working to further their careers or businesses, but were all making very impressive social impact in their communities.
South Africa had sent a very impressive group of women to represent us in this cohort of Tech Women 2019. The diverse group came from the tech industry, aviation, academia and engineering. These impressive women who remain my good friends are: Dr Reshma Subbaye, Samista Jugwanth, Pamela Mkhize, Refilwe Ledwaba and Dr Nosipho Ngqwala.
In my opinion a big success factor of Tech Women is the strong community of Mentors from the Bay Area who go above and beyond to make the experience a fruitful and memorable one for every woman that arrives on this program. The Tech Women Mentors volunteer their time and use their personal and professional networks to support the Tech Women participants in achieving their goals and developing their careers while they are in Silicon Valley. Many of them also remain in touch after the ladies have left the US and find ways to support them where they need it.
As part of this exchange program I was placed at Veritas Technologies, which is a company that focuses mostly on on-prem data backups and related analytics. I couldn’t have asked for a better match between what I was looking for in a professional exchange program and what Veritas offered me. I spent a very productive couple of weeks at Veritas and met most of their senior executives including the CEO Greg Hughes. The mentors I had went out of their way to help me and other fellow Tech Women participants who were also on the program achieve our professional objectives. My mentors were Madeleine McNally, Vidya Deshmukh, Neha Mehra. Above this I was also supported by (and continue to be supported by) Niti Trimbake, Melanie Greene, Ramya Mula, Shweta Bansal and Chandra Chezhian. I’m very grateful for all their time and consistent support. I interacted with too many people at Veritas to mention, but special mention would definitely go to Greg Hughes (CEO), Rick Clark (Vice President APTARE), Sophie Ames (Senior Vice President), Deepak Mohan (Senior Vice President), John Abel (Senior Vice President), Ben Hill (Senior Director), Misha Vaughan (Senior Director), Tim Burlowski (Senior Director), Sunita Kuna (Senior Manager), Cameron Bahar (Senior Vice President), Sarah Byrne (Senior Director), Claire Verrot (Corporate Social Responsibility) and last (but definitely not least) Cassandra Anderson (Program Manager) who invited me to meet her church family during my last weekend in the Bay Area. Other mentors that I spent a great deal of time with were Eileen Brewer, Janice Campbell, Ivonne Mejiab, Bharathy Srinivasan. To all these people and more especially to the Tech Women Team and support staff, thank you for making this program such an impactful and memorable one.
By: Nobukhosi Dlamini