Fusing technology with efforts to empower womenOn Wednesday 5th February 2014, 30 mentors from TechWomen visited Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda (CMU-R). The mentors were at CMU-R to collaborate, connect and pair emerging African women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics with mentors from the Greater Silicon Valley area.
An initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, TechWomen is a professional mentorship and exchange program developed in response to President Obama’s efforts to strengthen relations between the US, the Middle East and Africa.
The visiting mentors represented 23 companies which included: Blackberry; Calix; Citrix; Cisco; EMC; Ericsson; Fairrer Samani Group Ventures; Families Without Borders; Genentech; Intel Corp; Juniper Networks; Katy Dickinson Consulting; Law Offices of Patricia Bovan; NestGSV; Nisum Technologies; Salesforce.com; Santa Clara University; Sf.citi; Shakour Marketing; Sun Run; Symantec and Twitter.
The visit began with a tour of CMU-R. During the question and answer session that followed, Director Bruce Krogh explained CMU-R’s mission, vision and why CMU was in Rwanda. The Associate Director Michel Bezy stressed the importance of integration with local industry and CMU-R’s contribution so far with internships and practicums.
“In Rwanda, which is sometimes called the land of women, everything is wireless, everything is mobile, everything is social”, Prof. Hedda Schmidtke said of the growth potential in technology. She also spoke about how CMU-R students are being prepared to become leaders and entrepreneurs in Rwanda and the wider region.
Heather Ramsey, Senior Director of TechWomen, introduced the mentors and spoke about the 2014 Emerging Leaders program. The program targets women in technology that are citizens or permanent residents of Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa among others. The 5-week program offers successful candidates the opportunity to shadow a mentor in Silicon Valley.
CMU-R’s Master’s in Information Technology (MSIT) students spoke briefly with the mentors and opened channels of further communication. “It was inspirational to interact with women leaders in technology and to learn about the initiatives set up for African women within the field. I look forward to the opportunities that will come out of the visit,” said Jean Pierre Niyodusenga an MSIT student who will be graduating this summer.
“Meeting and talking with the TechWomen mentors at CMU-R was even more exciting, having met them at the Speed Geek Session earlier that week. I feel driven after receiving guidance from professionals that actually work in the Valley, a dream job location for many of us. It was such a great opportunity,” added Josephine Mukesha an MSIT student in her first year. view photographs of the visit