Expanding Networks and Creating Friendships

Maryann and Afnan

“This group of women—hands down, all of the women I came into close contact with —know who they are as women,” Maryann explains in describing her impression of the TechWomen 2011 Mentees. “They know who they are as Muslim women. They know who they are professionally. And there’s no conflict.” She found this both admirable and eye-opening.

Maryann knew she wanted to be a TechWomen Cultural Mentor when she first saw the notice pop up on her Google alerts. “I knew it was perfect” she says, because she loves getting to know people from different cultures and has a lot of experience playing tour guide in the many different places she has lived around the world.

Maryann and her Mentee from Jordan, Afnan, connected not over a similar cultural background but through what Maryann describes as their “quirkiness.” Afnan appeared to be one of the more conservative of the Mentees, but she had what Maryann called “a funky bone,” constantly seeking to do things in ways no one else would think of. “And I tend to be like that too,” Maryann reflects.

Despite her extensive world experience, Maryann was amazed by the VIP treatment and exposure that the program afforded. Traveling with Afnan to Washington, DC, she attended a luncheon with Secretary Hillary Clinton and then watched fireworks from the State Department balcony on July 4—incidentally Maryann’s birthday. She also marveled at TechWomen’s access to top Bay Area companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo!, which welcomed the women and gave them incredible professional access.

Amidst all of the adventure and hard work, the TechWomen Mentees also knew how to slow down. Maryann noted that in the United States, it always feels like we have a time deficiency, “we’re always running from one thing to the next.” But when she spent time with these women—sharp and ambitious as they are—they could just sit down, drink coffee and talk. And sitting together, appreciating life in that way, “time kind of expands,” Maryann says, “and I love that feeling.”

Maryann describes her relationship with Afnan as one that came to feel like sisters. Now she has met Afnan’s mother and sister over Skype and looks forward to visiting them in Jordan.

When asked what she would say to other women considering becoming a TechWomen Mentor, Maryann says, “Do it! There’s no reason not to! You will learn so much. It’s a totally enriching experience for anyone involved,” she explains “and if there are stumbling blocks, you know, you work it out. But I’m really glad I saw that little Google alert and said “yes.”

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