Women App Developers And The Mentorship Continuum

"You don't have to be the smartest person in the world to do something interesting. Figure out how to take advantage of your own smarts."
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High school girls across the country gain hands-on programming experience by building Android apps and writing business plans at Technovation Challenges held nationwide.

The 10-week program culminates in a pitch night where VCs ask tough questions -- and the girls take it well! With a strong focus on mentorship and teamwork, the girls are empowered to start projects and build teams.

Mentorship is a Continuum

Through Technovation, high school girls receive mentorship from women app developers who serve as mentors, and these women themselves get mentorship from amazing technical leaders who support the work of Technovation.

Stories of Leadership

To this point, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz hosted an event with Technovation last week featuring powerhouse women leaders.

These influential women included Padmasree Warrior (Chief Technology Officer, Cisco), Marissa Mayer (Vice President of Location & Local, Google), Freada Kapor Klein (Founder, Level Playing Field Institute), Angela Benton (Founder, NewME), and Sandy Jen (Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer, Meebo).

The women talked about their own mentors, best decisions, and advice for ambitious women.

5 Pieces of Advice From Silicon Valley Women Leaders:

Padmasree Warrior (Chief Technology Officer, Cisco)
Padma received a college degree in engineering and now leads 23,000 engineers at technology giant Cisco. "I came to the United States with $100 and a one-way ticket and literally had to make a success with what I had. The lesson I learned is you truly have to be confident as a person -- don't let your work define who you are, you define your work."

Marissa Mayer (Vice President of Location & Local Services, Google)
When she was just out of school, Marissa joined an eight-person startup with a funny name -- Google. Today she leads Google's local strategy with a team of 1,300 engineers. The best things she's done include "doing things I wasn't ready to do" for the learning experience. She places an emphasis on surrounding yourself with smart people, which she assesses via "pairwise comparisons."

Freada Kapor Klein (Founder, Level Playing Field Institute)
Freada started the Level Playing Field Institute to close the opportunity gap for low income underrepresented minority students. She reminds us, "Women-led startups aren't perfect but have a significantly lower incidence of bullying by startups led by men and large companies. Let's show new organizational models as women become successful tech entrepreneurs."

Angela Benton (Founder, NewME Accelerator)
Angela works with entrepreneurs at the NewME accelerator for minority entrepreneurs who don't want their future "made up for them." "You can't let people define who you are going to be," said Angela. Her oldest daughter was born when she was 16 and in high school, and she worked incredibly hard to accelerate her time in school and get additional degrees.

Sandy Jen (Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer, Meebo)
Sandy co-founded Meebo and manages over 50 engineers as the startup's CTO. She admits, "You may not feel as if you are qualified or confident enough ... The biggest insight in this entrepreneurial journey of mine was when I realized that someone I knew who was not super smart, who failed the same tests I did, had started a company, I realized I could do that too."

The Trick is To Keep Learning

Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior said, "A mistake is staying in the same place too long -- you don't realize you could do better somewhere else. I wish I actually had moved and done different things earlier in my career."

Marissa Mayer ran the Search team at Google for 10 years and then moved to social. And after she moved, she realized she was "really tired" -- and realized it was because she was learning so much! She warns the audience of "that moment you get to that comfort zone, and you are not learning, watch out. You have to be somewhere where you are always learning."

Meebo CTO Sandy Jen concludes, "You don't have to be the smartest person in the world to do something interesting. Figure out how to take advantage of your own smarts."

Photo credit: Thanks to Sukrutha Raman Bhadouria for the picture of the panel at Andreessen Horowitz.

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