Conversations with TechWomen

By Nafisa Hussain, Girls Innovate! 

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(TechWomen Emerging Leaders bringing laughter and sunshine to Girls Innovate!’s picnic)

I met some emerging leaders from TechWomen on 13 Oct 2013 at the Girls Innovate! event at Pioneer Park, Mountain View. It was a wonderful experience meeting these accomplished women from Africa and the Middle East. Uyen Kry and Megan Dean Farah did an awesome job introducing everyone to the TechWomen group.

Here are some of the interesting notes from my conversations with three of the TechWomen:

Bih Janet Shufor from Cameroon – Educationist

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(Bih Janet Shufor)

Q: What is your area of expertise?

Janet: I am an Electrical Engineer by profession, and run my own educational institute in Cameroon. I love to bring innovation into the classroom.

Q: How was it when you studied back in school and college?

Janet: I did my initial schooling in an all-girls school. Then in high school there were very few girls and it was intimidating to ask or answer questions in the classroom. The boys would boo when someone gathered the courage to do so. But I hung in there and over the course of the study, things got better and I could confidently go about my work. Again in college, I found just one or two girls in each of our classes in Engineering and I took pride in competing to make it to the successful completion of my graduation.

Q: Why did you chose to pursue education as your career?

Janet: I want to promote and mentor more girls into STEM and want them to fearlessly pursue higher education in these fields. This vision enabled me to open my own institute ‘Tassah Academic Complex’, which is having enormous response. I teach, counsel and mentor young girls like you to pursue engineering professions. I take pride in seeing these women succeed and accomplish their dreams.

Q: How has your trip been so far to the U.S.?

Janet: I consider myself very fortunate to be in the United States and being a guest of the State Department. I was one of the 17 delegates chosen from our region amongst more than 1700. The trip has been very interesting and informative. I have met great cultural ambassadors and industry leaders in Silicon Valley. I am very happy to meet all you children here in this Girls Innovate picnic. I would love to have you make pen pals with my students back in Cameroon. Someday I would love to arrange a visit for you to visit my institute in Cameroon.

Hanan Youssef from Egypt – Technology Investor

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Hanan Youssef (on right)

Q: What is your area of expertise?

Hanan: I am a Technology Investor by profession. I am interested in understanding and promoting technology startups in Egypt.

Q: Why did you choose being a Technology Investor?

Hanan: I believe in technology shaping the future of my country. I want to be part of this process to attract and promote technology startups to make Egypt their home. I would want more women to be part of these startups and make great strides in the future of my country.

Q: How are the recent political changes in Egypt impacting your efforts?

Hanan: Everything about a free democracy is great. It is chaotic as we grow thru this new phase in our country and will be doing just fine. We continue to work on making our democracy stronger and pursue our work. These events have short term impact on my work like devaluation of our currency and funding from investors. But in the long term these are small blips.

Q: How has your trip been so far to the U.S.?

Hanan: I have been enjoying my trip so far. The Silicon Valley visit has been particularly very informative for the profession I pursue. I am able to first hand see all these successful startups, incubators and ecosystems work very closely. I hope to use this experience to do something of this kind in Egypt.

Q: What is your dream that you want to pursue?

Hanan: I have a dream to run a successful incubator in Egypt to support and promote technology startups. I am working towards it and this trip has really strengthened my resolve to achieve this.

Josette Tejan-Cole from Sierra Leone – Petroleum Engineering Executive

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(Josette Tejan-Cole)

Q: What is your area of expertise?

Josette: I am a Petroleum Engineer by profession. I studied Mechanical Engineering. I work for the company, Total Sierra Leone Ltd. I love my work as a Petroleum Engineer.

Q: What is the work for a Petroleum Engineer at your company?

Josette: I work in the downstream sector of the oil and natural gas industry. Our work is mostly involved with laying pipes to transport the extracted petroleum to refineries. I would love to work in midstream and upstream sectors in the future to understand the whole process.

Q: What is a piece of advice you would like to give me and other girls around the world?

Josette: I really appreciate you asking me these questions. Just the fact you attended today’s meeting with TechWomen makes me believe you are on the right track. I hope all young girls and women should pursue STEM subjects and pursue challenging careers.

Q: How has your trip been so far to the U.S. and what do you take away from this trip?

Josette: I am enjoying every bit of the trip. It is a great privilege to be here and learn all about the technological advancements in my area of expertise which is mechanical engineering, automobile engineering and petroleum engineering. I look forward to the East Coast visit coming up. The weather has been unpredictable, but still very enjoyable. Meeting you has been a great pleasure and hope to keep in touch with you. I wish you good luck with your future endeavors.