What Technovation Taught Us
By: Kristina Weise and Karly Bolton
At Salesforce, giving back has always been an essential part of our company since its inception. We have an integrated philanthropy model called, the 1-1-1 model, that has guided our giving across product, financial resources and employee time since inception in 1999. Late last year, Salesforce employees watched a special screening of CodeGirl. Our company was inspired by Technovation, the global technology entrepreneurship competition for girls ages 10 to 18, and offered to become mentors to local Bay Area students.
Mentor requirements were simple: female professionals in science, engineering, business or academia who help to guide a team of girls through the Technovation curriculum. As public-relations professionals, the biggest lesson learned from this experience was that qualified mentors did not need programming or mobile app experience. Instead, we were able to have an immediate impact by brainstorming community problems and app ideas that could offer solutions, develop business plans, discuss the pros and cons of app revenue models, devise marketing strategies and demonstrate the importance of professional poise when shooting video interviews. Trying to teach the girls the basics of App Inventor, a block-based coding program, wasn’t one of our strongest moments, but we still managed to submit our entries by the deadline so it didn’t hold us back.
During our volunteer days with the girls, we saw multiple lightbulbs turning on and the experience ran parallel to something our company reinforces everyday—the importance of always embracing a beginner’s mindset. Being a mentor in Technovation offered new challenges and opportunities that made us better people, and smarter employees. The most valuable experience was living and breathing what we read about all the time in the press—that exposing young girls to science and engineering early on makes a huge difference in sparking creativity and passion in those fields for a lifetime. As we went through the App Inventor journey, even the non-technical mentors (e.g. us), learned along the way.
By the end of the 12 weeks, our girls were talking about how they wanted to be engineers when they grow up—and quite a few of them asked us to keep them in mind for future Salesforce job openings. In total, 14 Salesforce employees volunteered to mentor 20 teams culminating in 840 hours of volunteer time to Technovation. We also had some really tremendous program results. Out of the 19 teams that entered in the San Francisco area, we had two teams move onto the semi-finals.
Outside of the competition, we invited the girls into Salesforce to meet some of our female executives and ask them questions about their own career paths. Equality is one of our core values and Salesforce empowers women across the company through mentoring and career development programs. Technovation allowed us to extend this empowerment to our local communities and show the girls what is possible today. In return, they’ll push tomorrow’s boundaries.
Thank you for inspiring us, Technovation.
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