I love mentoring in tech. Last month, I became an industry mentor with SheTech and had the opportunity to mentor a group of 9 girls who attended SheTech Explorer Day. This hands-on conference teaches high school girls new skills in a workshop setting. As a mentor, I helped guide them while they solved a real-world problem and pitched their idea to a judge. Hopefully, this event helped expand their perspective of what they can do in tech.
Mentoring at SheTech
SheTech inspires high school girls to pursue STEM degrees and successful careers. According to the SheTech website, 95% of high school girls say that they don’t know a woman in tech. These same girls also say they’ve never met a female role model. As someone working in tech, I hoped to be that role model for them.
Last year, as part of my List of 50 Things, I added #20 “Become a mentor.” Although I volunteered as a mentor with Amazon Web Services when I joined them, I wanted to mentor individuals who weren’t in tech. SheTech interested me because I’m passionate about education and helping under-represented groups. Since we need more women in tech, this seemed like a perfect match.
Mentoring helps girls see themselves in tech
Opportunities in tech begin with education. However, if girls cannot see themselves in tech, they won’t pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education. Mentoring plays an important supporting role. According to research, only 28.8% of women are technologists. This means that at the current rate, it will take at least 12 years before women achieve equal representation in tech.
When I was young, my parents bought an Apple IIe computer. Back then, home computers were not yet mainstream. My brothers loved the computer, but I don’t recall ever getting on it to do anything other than play the video strategy game, Oregon Trail. I wasn’t any good at it and usually died of dysentery.
A career in tech
Interestingly enough, of my five brothers, only one of them went on to do anything in tech (he’s a principal UX designer for 3M). Even more interesting is that although I had no interest in tech as a teenager, I now work for (AWS) Amazon Web Services. I promote cloud fluency (understanding the capabilities of the cloud) across the U.S. and Canada. Because I love tech, I enjoy teaching others about the cloud skills needed in today’s workplace. Perhaps if I’d had a mentor when I was younger, I would have landed in tech sooner.
Mentoring at SheTech wasn’t quite as rewarding as I’d hoped it would be—there just wasn’t a lot of time to interact with the students. After just a few hours, the girls were back on the buses and headed back to their respective schools. Unless the event changes, I’m not sure if I’ll be a SheTech mentor again.
Luckily, I’m still a mentor with Amazon. I often get the chance to coach individuals new to AWS and others who are trying to learn new skills. I get to share tools that will help them grow in their career. Mentoring in tech can be very rewarding.
Mentoring is never over
A couple of weeks ago, an administrator at Utah Valley University asked if I’d help mentor a student forced to leave Ukraine. I felt honored she’d thought of me. Of course, I said “yes.” I can’t wait to help her. Who would have guessed I’d go from dying of dysentery in a video game to helping someone build a new life in the United States? I love being a mentor.