Last week was most inspiring: I met technical leaders from Cameroon, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe right here in Sunnyvale, on the Juniper campus.
For the past three years, Juniper Networks has partnered with TechWomen, an organization that empowers, connects, and supports the next generation of women leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from Africa and the Middle East. Earlier this month, the 2013 TechWomen program was kicked off on Juniper’s Sunnyvale campus.
These women are spending about 3 weeks at Juniper to learn and network. What struck me was each individual’s commitment to drive change within their own country and also break down stereo types spanning across three paradigms:-women; women from Africa; and women in technology. I was really inspired by these young leaders; collectively, they changed my outdated views about women in technology in Africa.
During our meetings, my basic career message was this: it is easier to get a job than do it. So commit yourself to a life time of preparation and when you do get that job, you won’t be overwhelmed and can instead execute. There’s no shortcut to working hard---trust me, I have looked very hard but haven’t found any shortcuts! Put in hard work from day one. And commit to life of learning.
When answering questions around the CIO role, I cautioned that information technology (IT), unlike most other functions, changes every day. You blink, and you are obsolete. So you must have a passion and interest in technology. This does not mean knowing the latest device and gadgets but rather how trends in computing evolve and where the technological puck is going and how it can create business value for your business operations. If you like constant change then IT is FUN; if you don't like change, then IT can appear as a big chore and a lot of pressure.
Two key ingredients of Techwomen include mentorship and exchange. I was eager to introduce these women to other professional women in technology that I admire to act as their models and mentors, including my wife Mala, a former Bell Labs distinguished member of technical services (DMTS), and an entrepreneur with a strong preference to social entrepreneurship. I am delighted to share that Mala now serves as mentor to one of these TechWomen.
When it comes to the leadership ranks of the tech world and Silicon Valley, fortunately, many opportunities exist today for women to lead and change the world. For example, Katie Stanton at Twitter understood the value of moving quickly and connecting people digitally. After the earthquake in Haiti, she suggested partnering with start-up Mobile Accord, to provide a simple mobile platform, texting “HAITI”. Subsequently $40M in aid was raised via $10 mobile donations to the Red Cross. Today’s female leaders in technology are admired and even celebrated, including Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM; Meg Whitman, CEO of HP; Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook; Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo; and others.
I am confident the TechWomen I met will change the world, one country at a time, one child at a time.
I encourage these TechWomen to carry the flame forward.