By: Jean Weiss, Regional Ambassador for Technovation [MN]

In celebration of a new Technovation Girls season, we’re reflecting on what we’ve learned over the last ten years. We recently interviewed Jean Weiss, a Regional Ambassador who has been working with Technovation Girls in Minnesota since 2014. We took the opportunity to ask her about her experience running Technovation [MN], what she’s learned, how she wants the program to grow, and what makes her hopeful for the future. 

What does it feel like to have helped run a girls’ technology and entrepreneurship program for more than 6 years now?

It has been an uplifting and rewarding experience. The need for women in the technology sector is still critical. This program gets girls interested in technology and entrepreneurship when they are young and unafraid to try something that is perceived to be just for the boys. To see the girls’ faces when they download their first app to a device is priceless. And our pitch event, Appapalooza, is a wonderful way to celebrate all that the girls have accomplished over what seems like a really short 12 weeks. The opportunity to pitch for the judges, family, and friends is something that is not often provided to girls as young as 10 and to see them “knock it out of the park” is amazing. Each year our girls have left Appapalooza with a new confidence in making a difference in the world with their own ingenuity, perseverance, teamwork, and commitment.

Has your thinking shifted since you started running Technovation Girls on how to best teach girls and young women technical and business skills? 

I’m not sure my thinking has changed that much but the program reinforces that the best way to learn is to have something that the learners can be passionate about and then have a pathway to make that vision come to fruition. Project based learning helps students see that they are learning something that has real world applicability and realize – “this is what it must be like in the business world.”

Some members of the the Technovation [MN] Board

A few members of the Technovation [MN] Board, including Jean Weiss, lower right.

What are your hopes for Technovation [MN] – and Technovation participants everywhere! – in the next 10 years?

We have been and will continue to bring new technologies and programs to the girls we serve. There are many new opportunities like AI, drones, voice controlled intelligent assistants, etc. that could make mobile phones and apps obsolete. We need to encourage curiosity in the girls so that they will try new and different things.

We would like to make better headway in the under-served, diverse, and rural communities in MN. Expanding, particularly outside the Twin Cities and the Rochester area of MN has been difficult. To keep our program growing we will need to do more outreach.

If you could go back in time to tell the 2012 version of yourself 3 things, what would they be?

  1. Make sure that everyone knows that they are all winners. Yes, it is a competition, but the result is not winning and losing, but what they have learned and how they apply what they learned to their future.
  2. To do this program well, you need a great group of volunteers to support the program, particularly as the program grows in your community/region. It truly takes a village to bring the best program to the girls and nothing less than the best will do.
  3. This is hard work. It is fun and rewarding, but to manage a successful program it takes dedication, perseverance, moxie, and a community that wants to support your efforts.

We’re facing a lot of uncertainty, and a lot of big challenges as a global community right now – what makes you hopeful when thinking about 2030?

That we are encouraging and fostering girls to take their rightful place among the entrepreneurs and technologists in the world.

Beyond that, we are teaching girls that they can do anything they are passionate about. Just maybe one of our Technovation girls will be the next Fortune 500 CEO or the inventor of an innovative new medical device, or maybe the next astronaut to explore space beyond where we have been before, or maybe even another woman world leader. All of this is possible and we teach what is possible.

Thank you so much to Jean for reflecting on her years with Technovation and sharing her advice with the Technovation community! Learn how you can mentor a Technovation team or run Technovation Girls in your community.