Mentors make Technovation Girls possible. They help their teams set and achieve goals, resolve conflicts, and tackle big community problems. Over time, this support and encouragement helps mentees develop greater confidence in themselves and their work. For young people especially, mentors can act as role models, modeling skills like problem solving, time management, empathy, and resilience. Plus, mentors can give their young mentees a sense of what it’s like to work in their field.

This year in particular, mentors who volunteer their time to support Technovation Girls teams go above and beyond. They’re balancing families, careers, community work and Technovation Girls in the middle of the ongoing pandemic. We think they’re extraordinary, and we’re so grateful to them.

Get ready to meet five amazing women making a difference in the lives of girls as online mentors this year. We think you’ll be just as blown away as we are.

Britta, Technovation Girls mentor in Canada 

Britta is an iOS developer at Shopify, and a two-time mentor with Technovation Girls. As a kid, she was interested in science and technology, but was never encouraged to pursue a career in those fields. Instead, Britta became an artist, and used technology to explore how language can be translated between different mediums (one of her projects translated spoken word to braille). Eventually, Britta went back to school to pursue a second degree in computer science with a minor in mathematics. When she later asked her dad why he never encouraged her to pursue technology, he told her “girls just weren’t into it then.” But Britta knew differently — so when she heard about Technovation from her own mentor at Shopify, she was intrigued. Not only would it be an opportunity to develop her leadership skills, but she could support girls who were interested in tech, and learning to code for the first time.

Britta began mentoring in 2020, and has returned (with two of her former mentees!) for the 2021 season. Talking to girls about their ideas rejuvenated her love for computer science and helped her become a better developer at work. This year, Technovation Girls is running remotely, which brings plenty of challenges. Britta is nervous about building relationships with her team — but she’s focusing on listening and supporting them beyond just this program and making sure the team has time to discuss mental health and what’s happening in their lives. For instance, one of Britta’s students has been separated from her parents for over a year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. The support that Britta and the rest of the girls can offer goes beyond technical expertise and becomes about creating a support network and community.

Being a mentor isn’t just helping girls learn to code. It’s also listening to them and helping them accomplish something difficult, both of which build confidence. For Britta, mentoring in Technovation Girls is a top priority — she’s seen the effect it has on the girls, and on her.

Joan and Zalia, Technovation Girls mentors in Kenya

Joan and Zalia are both multi-year Technovation Girls mentors, and both work at Pwani Teknowgalz — a women-led, community-based organization that equips girls and young women in marginalized communities in Kenya with practical skills in STEM.

Joan is the Director of Professional Development at Pwani Teknowgalz, as well as a software developer. She loves coding, nature, cooking, and working out (she was a captain on her university TaeKwonDo team!). Joan has been part of Technovation since 2013 — first as a student at the university level, where she and her team coded an app that provided tips on providing quick medical aid in case of an emergency. The following year, Joan came back to support teams as a mentor, and has continued to mentor teams ever since. Two of the teams she has supported have reached semifinals, but more importantly, many of the girls have continued to pursue STEM in their academic and professional careers.When thinking about what she wants to accomplish through Technovation, Joan told us she wants to make sure that the girls she mentors keep working on their app ideas and develop them into full businesses that benefit the community.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic brings immense challenges to running the program this year — 80% of schools in Kenya don’t have access to e-learning. But Joan is supporting two teams who are able to participate. She wants to make sure they can keep building their apps even after the program finishes, and is excited that Pwani Teknowgalz has a new space that provides girls with access to technology and support.

Joan has words of encouragement for everyone participating this year too — “congratulations for having the courage to be among those who are willing to make change. Keep on innovating with your community in mind. You are the change that the community needs.”

Zalia works with Joan, as the Director of Events Management at Pwani Teknowgalz! She is also a web developer, and she loves singing, mobile games, giving back to her community, and TikTok. We love Zalia’s story because she began her Technovation Girls journey as a student, and returned to mentor and support girls the way her mentors had supported her.

Zalia’s teams were not able to submit to Technovation Girls in 2020 — they had started the program but everything went into lockdown in the middle of the season, and the girls weren’t able to plan or film their pitch video. It was too difficult to organize the girls when they were spread apart and unable to come together last year, but this year Zalia is feeling excited and motivated. She fits mentoring and supporting her teams around her family, work, and community obligations, and is looking forward to supporting her teams.

Zalia advises other mentors to really try to understand each individual member of their team. “Everyone is different and has different skills and interests — try to assign tasks by interest and ability, and above all be patient and supportive.”

Laura and Claudia, Technovation Girls Mentors in Mexico

Meet Laura and Claudia, co-mentors sharing the responsibility of mentoring a team in Mexico. Laura is a software engineer at Oracle, and the technical mentor for the team. Claudia is a teacher and provides non-technical support to the team.

Laura is a first-year Technovation Girls mentor, and supports the girls as they code their app, helping them troubleshoot and explaining key technical concepts as they go. Laura signed up to mentor because she knows how few women are in technology fields and wants to empower girls to study science and technology.

So far, it has been a challenge to juggle all of her responsibilities with her family, work, and Technovation, but Laura also really enjoys collaborating with the team and seeing them work together to build their app. She is feeling proud and excited for the rest of the 2021 season. Laura also has a powerful message for all of the girls building their projects around the world: “follow your dreams. Never give up. You are strong, and special. Be yourself, and always believe in yourself.”

Claudia is a teacher and a multi-year Technovation Girls mentor. She signed up to mentor after a coworker invited her to join the program and sees mentoring as a fantastic opportunity to help others and learn new things. She hopes others have access to mentoring no matter their interests or careers — “I hope there are more projects like this in the world in other fields, not only technology.”

Like many of the other mentors we talked to, Claudia finds it challenging to manage all of her responsibilities, Technovation included, particularly when working from home. But she has great advice for her fellow mentors. “Be there for them, be organized and help them be organized. If you have meetings, take notes and make sure you everyone knows what they have to do before the next meeting.” Claudia also emphasized the importance of getting to know your team. Make time and space to get to know the girls by understanding what’s important to them, what’s interesting to them, what’s going on in their lives, work, family and with their friends. It comes down to listening to the girls, and giving them freedom to talk about anything so team members can get to know each other, and their mentor. It’s easier to work together when you have empathy for each other, and it makes it easier to overcome conflict and disagreement.

We are so grateful to these wonderful mentors for taking time to share their stories and their Technovation journeys with us. We have four more amazing mentors we want you to meet later this month, and we’ll be following up with them throughout the season. Keep an eye on our twitter, instagram, and facebook for more stories from Britta, Joan, Zalia, Laura, and Claudia.

Registration for the 2021 Technovation Girls season is closed for students and mentors, but if you’re interested in being a judge, you can learn morehere.