Guest blog by Fabiola Addamo–Reflections of a TechWoman Mentor from Catania
Reflections of a TechWoman Mentor from Catania
I believe in courage. And, I believe that everything is possible in life.
In the city of Catania I was an unemployed girl, full of dreams. I finished my degree in piano performance at the Vincenzo Bellini Musical Institute in 1996. Despite the fact that I was a young, award winning, talented pianist, I was never able to secure concrete job opportunities. I also attended law school and completed 11 out of 22 exams required to finish the degree. This was before I took off on a trip to the United States.
In my household I am the first person who attended university. I was never exposed to professional career options at home. My dad worked in a bank and my mom was a housewife. We were an average Sicilian family. During my youth, I often felt like a bird with clipped wings. I was never able to understand the reason why life was predictably flat.
My future looked like this: Become a lawyer or marry a man to provide me with support. Because I did not know the right people, if I went into law, I would have ended up either underpaid or unemployed. If I became a lawyer, I could have aspired, at best, to buy an apartment one day. I elected to do neither. Instead, one day, I decided to start an English program based on The Callan Method. I completed the first Cambridge level examination. The exam opened the way to the beautiful option of an, “Unpredictable future.”
With a luggage full of dreams, I arrived in San Francisco, CA in April 2001. I worked in a pastry shop in North Beach. I attended San Francisco State University (SFSU) and paid my own way through my studies. One day, in 2003, I received a life altering phone call from Italy informing me that my father had suddenly passed. The news transformed me into a focused and determined woman. I developed a plan to finish a quick B.A. and start Law School. But I soon learned that plans don’t always go the way you want them.
In 2005, I obtained a degree in Italian with a minor in Anthropology. At this time, I was also hired into my first tech job in Silicon Valley. At first I worked as a translator. I was soon able to join the marketing team. On weekends, I also worked as a quality rater for Google. Soon after, I started working at Google as a contractor. There, I completed my first great work experience. At Google, I was finally part of big structured company with innovative ideas. The environment was perfect for my ambitious mind. I worked there at different intervals for 1-2 years. Through this job, I was introduced to another brief opportunity in Europe where I worked for company called Lionbridge.
After I felt I had gained adequate on-the-job experience, I elected to leave Google. In 2007 I started working at Yahoo! For 5-years, Yahoo! Provided me with full professional growth. I gained experience many receive when they attend a high-priced MBA program. I turned myself into an expert of corporate tech. My ambitious and curious mind was exposed to the most innovative products and business contacts. At Yahoo! I met people I deeply admire and formed long lasting friendships. Yahoo! allowed me to discover a world of opportunities that I never found in my hometown. It provided me with options I have always sought. These were opportunities based on a culture of meritocracy.
In 2010, I joined the TechWomen as a mentor. This experience changed my life. I learned and listened to the success stories of other women—women that have the ability to improve the diplomatic interaction between countries. I found myself intertwined in a wonderful network of professional women, mentees and mentors.
Briefly following my mentorship, Yahoo! provided me the opportunity to be a speaker in the city of Cairo, Egypt, for the Yahoo! Business and Human Rights Conference on Women where I met incredible and inspiring women.
In August 2010 I had an unusual and unexpected dream. My dad visited me during my sleep and told me to sketch and paint. When I woke up, I sketched the dream in my secret diary. I was surprised to notice the beauty and uniqueness of this sketch. I have never stopped sketching and painting since then. Following the dream, I started painting lessons a few blocks away from my home in San Francisco.
In 2012 I lost my job at Yahoo!. I was part of a big wave of layoffs. This experience gave me the courage to try one more change in life. I decided to show my paintings to an art gallery in Saratoga, and after being juried, my art became exposed there.
At this juncture in my life, I decided to follow my dreams to the fullest.
In 2012, I found the need to assist others. I wanted to give back. As a result, I joined the San Francisco chapter of the United Nations Associations where I met amazing people. Through the United Nations Association, I was given the opportunity to visit Washington, DC for their national annual meeting. In DC, I connected with minds as curious as mine. I made new friends and discussed initiatives for women with the American political representatives.
I found myself talking about other career options—options that I always wanted to have for myself in my country. I talked about original solutions for our society that would start welcoming women as equal to men. A woman listened to my ideas and shared with me the opportunity to join a program at Santa Clara University called Women Leaders for the World. I applied and got a scholarship. Last summer I completed the GWLN program.
I continued painting and a gallery of fine arts in Saratoga offered me to have a monthly exhibit. This group of strangers provided me with the opportunity to make my art known.
At the end of Summer 2012, I received a phone call from an old friend from when I was working in the pastry shop 2001. He proposed to create the website for my art free of charge. As a result, I was able to have my first art exhibit and my first website.
After my art exhibit, I took off for another visit to Washington, DC as part of the 2012 TechWomen program. There another opportunity appeared. A fellow mentor shared the chance to join a group, Geeks on a Plane. I applied and I was accepted to join a new adventure that allowed me to meet start-ups, investors, and executives to learn about technology markets worldwide. In Washington, DC I was also introduced to the Cherie Blair Foundation where I had the valuable opportunity to join their program.
In mid-October I received the opportunity to have my art displayed as part of the San Francisco open studios in an art gallery in North Beach. While traveling with the Geeks on a Plane initiative, I received an email from an English woman that informed me that their art curator liked my art. The curator gave me the opportunity to have my art exhibited in New York City and Miami.
The Middle East brought me good luck. It was there that I also signed a 6-month contract with an art gallery in Scottsdale and had the opportunity to have my art exposed at Calvin Charles Gallery for an exhibit. They became my first exclusive agents in Arizona.
I am now writing this blog post from Italy. I am writing this to tell the TechWomen community that I create and continue to create the life of my dreams. My story is the story of a woman who is ready to reinvent herself, and to create an unpredictable future. As a result of my experience, I am conceptualizing a mentorship program for women called, “Mentorship Without Borders”.
Dreams do not die at sunrise. That is when they become reality.