By: Natalie Au
“You’re not even an engineer — why are you so involved in the movement to advance women in tech?” This is a question I’ve been asked multiple times since starting the Hong Kong chapter of the global nonprofit Girls in Tech earlier this year. The answer is simple: I’m not an engineer, true, but what I am is an advocate for gender equality and sustainable development across different issues and industries in the world.
The international lack of women in tech is one of the issues I’ve chosen to dedicate my time to, because it’s a problem both intrinsically and instrumentally: the fact that women aren’t in tech merely because of their gender is a problem in itself, and its negative effects bring another problem as equal opportunities to access and shape technology are essential to further equality in other areas. When solved, its impact also has the potential to snowball into immense benefits to technological innovation, which I believe would in turn advance international development.
As I spoke with more and more people working on this issue, it became increasingly clear that providing mentorship for women in tech is crucial as one of the solutions. However, not everyone will have access to mentorship programs or be able to get in touch with someone they wish to be mentored by, especially people who are just beginning their tech career in college. That’s why I decided to talk with some amazing women in tech whom I look up to — engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists — and to ask them, looking back, what advice would they give to their to their college selves. I hope their answers can provide a little online mentorship and inspire you the way they have inspired me!
“Don’t be held back by stereotypes. If it’s something you’re passionate about and you believe you can do it, go for it. So many times I’ve said to myself, ‘Is this something I can do? I don’t know, just try!’ And every time I try, I realize that anything can be done. It’s a matter of time, effort, and attitude.”
-Advice from Jenny Lee, Managing Partner, GGV Capital to her college self (BS and MS in Engineering at Cornell in 1995, and an MBA at the Kellogg School of Management in 2001)
“Take the time to explore as much possible. You have a unique opportunity to try out different disciplines, activities, and classes to discover interests you didn’t even know you had. Don’t worry so much about what it means for your ‘career’ — this exploration will ultimately open doors, not close them. By knowing what’s possible and what excites you, you’ll be able to forge your own path.”
– Advice from Avni Shah, VP of Product Management, Google to her college self (BS in Computer Science & Electrical Engineering at MIT in 2003)
“Collaborate to learn. Join different organizations that are representative of different industries and obtain positions that will help you learn different skill sets in each. For example, become the editor for your school newspaper but also become a producer for your school musical. This will help you learn much earlier on in life what you are passionate about and what you are good at. Keep an open mind, and have fun all along the way. The friends you make today will become your greatest business collaborates tomorrow, and looking back, you will be grateful for your ongoing relationship built on a history of trust and friendship.”
– Advice from Tiffany Pham, Founder and CEO, Mogul, Inc. to her college self (BA in Economics and International Studies at Yale in 2008 and MBA at Harvard Business School in 2012)
Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.