The COVID-19 pandemic and its effects cast a shadow over 2020 and 2021. But even in the middle of so much uncertainty and upheaval, the Technovation community stood together to meet challenge after challenge. We feel so much pride and gratitude towards everyone who is part of this community and so moved by the stories of how you fought to keep girls learning, engaged, and supported. As we wind down the 2021 season of Technovation Girls, we want to share some of your amazing stories of collaboration.

Today we’re highlighting some of our incredible online volunteers—corporate mentors from Cadence and local community partners in Vietnam. 

Virtual volunteers: Supporting girls in Vietnamese orphanages to build tech solutions to community problems 

In 2021, Cadence, a computational software leader, partnered with Kidspire Vietnam, a nonprofit that brings STEAM classrooms and learning opportunities to Vietnamese orphanages, to support several teams through the Technovation Girls program.

12 Cadence employees stepped up to the challenge of mentoring teams in a virtual environment with substantial language barriers. With the guidance of Kidspire educators (including Technovation Chapter Ambassador Tra My Nguyen) and Team4Tech volunteers who helped project manage, these Cadence volunteers helped their teams bring their technology ideas to life. The girls built apps that included a community-sourced tool to warn people about polluted drinking water, an app to help young people safely and privately connect with qualified mental health experts, an app that allows users to exchange books with people in their community for free—and more.

Several Cadence employees shared their experiences mentoring girls virtually for six weeks. Thank you to Vidhi Bansal, Mansi Joshi, Alice Lin, Paul McLellan, Tram Nguyen, Gaelle Passeron, Irfan Qayyum, and Peter Shepherd for being so open with your stories, and so generous with your time and skills.

To give a richer sense of this incredible global, cross-organization collaboration, here are four excerpts from Cadence employees about their experiences supporting young students at a distance despite time differences, language barriers, and tech limitations.

Tram Nguyen, Program Manager, Culture and Engagement at Cadence Design Systems

“This March, I volunteered with 11 of my coworkers to virtually support a group of girls going through the Technovation Girls program where they learn[ed] to build an app using MIT App Inventor. Due to these unprecedented times, my team and I are mentoring the girls in a virtual environment. While it has its challenges, I’m super excited because these are the same girls I met when I went to Vietnam in 2019! This opportunity has been a complete full-circle moment for me, and it has been so great to see how much they’ve grown!

The girls came up with an amazing idea for an app that we hope will solve a problem they are facing. They have limited access to different types of books while living in their orphanage and are only able to read the books that the orphanage carries, with no way to get new books on their own. The app will allow them to exchange books with people who live in the same area for free.”

> Read Tram’s full story about volunteering as an online mentor (and translator!) for her team


Vidhi Bansal, Principal Software Engineer at Cadence Design Systems

“We mentored two groups of girls from an orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City. I was very excited, but at the same time, I felt overwhelmed and confused in the beginning. Since I don’t speak Vietnamese, the language difference was the biggest hurdle. My specific role as a mentor was to help these girls build the app, which required [learning] how to use MIT App Inventor myself! At that point, I expected that teaching the girls to code in a virtual environment where we spoke different languages was going to be an uphill climb.

In the end, both groups of girls successfully submitted their applications to the Technovation challenge. I could see that there was a sense of pride and joy in their eyes. This was a big feat, and the big smiles on their faces gave me a deep sense of personal fulfillment.”

> Read Vidhi’s full story about what she—and the girls—accomplished in a short amount of time


Alice Ling, China Staffing Manager at Cadence Design Systems 

“I was paired with one Kidspire teacher and one Cadence colleague from India to mentor two teams of girls through the global Technovation Girls program. We were tasked with helping the girls create an app, and along the way, learn new skills like programming, creating a business model, and marketing. […]This whole experience seemed so outside-the-box and completely out of my comfort zone.

Life is all about experiences. I could not have imagined how wonderful this experience would be. It turned out to be so incredibly meaningful—despite being in a virtual setting [and] having to step outside my professional comfort zone. It was so rewarding to meet new challenges and overcome them, and it also felt amazing to complete such an unusual project.”

> Read Alice’s full story about learning to support teams virtually, long-distance, and across language barriers 


Mansi Joshi, Application Engineer Intern at Cadence Design Systems

“At first, it was fair to say it seemed unrealistic to build an app in six weeks, especially considering the girls only had access to laptops for a few hours each Saturday. After the third session with the girls, now midway through the project, it was clear that we were falling behind schedule. But the next week, we received an update which included a detailed analysis of competitor apps on the market, their strengths and weaknesses, and how the girls’ app differed from those that already existed. This was a huge milestone for the project! With the added incentive of bubble tea to help the girls across the finish line, they submitted their project.

This was a great real-life experience for the girls to gain some practical knowledge and develop an international outlook. For me, this experience broadened my understanding of how different cultures and backgrounds bring diverse, valuable perspectives. ”

> Read Mansi’s full account of the journey she, Gaelle, and their team took together this year


The power of volunteering

As Mansi put it—”taking part in this invaluable program has opened my eyes to a new culture, enabled me to connect with colleagues from all over the world and undoubtedly made me truly appreciate what the world has to offer. For anyone who is reading this, I would highly recommend volunteering, whether that be through your employer, other organisations or even locally. I can’t guarantee that it will change your life, but I know that you will receive just as much as you wholeheartedly give to others.”

We are so grateful for everything our volunteers give, year after year. Thank you for fighting so hard to make sure girls kept learning and did not slip out of educational pipelines during this past year. And thank you for your commitment to empowering girls to become confident leaders and problem solvers.

Mentoring students virtually during the 2021 Technovation Girls Season (Photo Credit: Tram Nguyen)

Learn more about how you can engage your company’s employees in Technovation Girls, and join us at World Summit to meet girls around the world who are building tech to solve the problems they face every day.