Earlier this year we connected with Janice Sherman, a long-time Technovation Girls mentor and judge in Toronto. Janice took time out of her busy mentoring schedule to share lessons from her 6 years of mentoring. In those 6 years, Janice has worked closely with about 30 girls from her community, supporting them throughout the Technovation season. Janice also tells us about the impact that volunteering as a mentor and judge has had on her, what skills she thinks are most helpful to teach high school students, and why this volunteer work is so meaningful to her. We’re so grateful to Janice for sharing her time and expertise with us, and with the girls in her community for the past 6 years.
How have you seen the Technovation program impact the students you’ve mentored?
It has certainly helped them decide whether they are interested in pursuing a career in Technology. They learn about lots of opportunities that they may not have thought about.Also, the girls learn about opportunities for students at companies in Ottawa and many of them have taken advantage of this. So it definitely impacts their career decisions going forward. It also gives them a lot of confidence. I am always amazed at the confidence and poise that they have when they give their final pitches.
What impact has mentoring Technovation participants had on you?
It has given me a purpose in my retirement. I feel that I am making a contribution to society in a small way and it is based on what I have learned throughout my career. I have met a lot of mentors from other companies and learned from them as well. I have also learned a lot about the tech field today and mobile apps than I would have learned otherwise. Also, through judging submissions internationally, I have learned about problems in other countries.
Why is mentorship important?
It is very important for people to share their experience and knowledge with others. This is a key method of learning throughout life.
Do you have a background in STEM/computer science? If not, what drew you to Technovation?
I have an Co-op Math degree from the University of Waterloo. I worked in the IT field in my co-op work terms and then for my entire career. I learned to code (Cobol and Fortran) in university and on my co-op work terms, but did not code during my career. I provided mainframe technical support for the first 10 years of my career and then switched to the business side. I managed large business proposals for many years and also was a first line manager.
I was drawn to Technovation when I was getting ready to retire. I was looking for volunteer opportunities. Technovation appealed to me because my business experience preparing large proposals fit very well with the business aspect of Technovation and I also had my early computer experience to draw on. I thought it would be fun to get back to some coding.
What trends have you seen in the people you mentor over the last few years?
Most of the girls who sign up for Technovation are very busy in many activities – sports, music, art, and other tech projects such as robotics. Time management is one of the most important skills that we have to help them with. Also, their computer skills have improved. The first team I mentored did not have strong computer skills. Now many of the girls come in with coding experience.
What advice would you have for a non-technical person who would like to get involved with something like Technovation?
I would encourage anyone who has business experience to consider mentoring. I find that this is one of the areas where the girls need the most mentoring. They also need help in project planning, decision making, etc. In general, the students of today are very capable technically. They pick up the coding faster than I do. They know how to create videos better than I do. They need time management and planning guidance more than anything.
What do we as adults have to do to help prepare students for the workforce of the future?
I think it is very important to provide them with knowledge about what to expect when they are working. They don’t get this knowledge from school unless they participate in a co-op program. I think the Technovation program helps them with this too because it is not a school project and provides more exposure to a real working environment.
If you are interested in volunteering as a Technovation judge like Janice, learn more about the remote volunteer opportunity for the 2020 season and sign up today!