The Magic of Cultural Exchange

Guest post by Arezoo Miot

20130208_180105

After a rich and memorable week of professional meetings, I came home and reflected on my time in Jordan with the TechWomen delegation. As a Program Officer for the program, I was honored and fortunate to participate alongside mentors from the United States and emerging leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa on a ten-day adventure in Jordan, including Amman, Irbid, Koura, the Dead Sea, and Petra.

With a packed schedule, each day was filled with opportunities to learn about the digital environment in Jordan and the greater Arab region. Companies such as Yahoo, HP, Palma, and N2V opened their doors and candidly spoke of the opportunities and challenges before them. We heard pitches from ambitious female technopreneurs eagerly seeking funding to grow their online platforms. While Silicon Valley may be at the center of tech innovation, countries such as Jordan are quickly becoming industry leaders in their own right.

We also connected with teenagers and young women interested in pursuing careers in STEM fields. The delegation members inspired these ladies with personal accounts of courage and sacrifice needed to succeed in their careers. Vibrant and meaningful discussions covered a wide-range of topics such as receiving parental approval, maintaining work-life balance and the intersection of faith and technology.

But it was outside the meetings where the magic really happened. The TechWomen program is a true cultural exchange program, where women from the Middle East and North Africa travel to the United States and women from the United States travel to the region. Here are my key takeaways:

First, both mentors and emerging leaders had the opportunity to make close connections with one another. Because different cohorts of TechWomen participated on the trip, some mentors and emerging leaders had only met virtually. Although everyone was able to learn a great deal about Jordan, the group also became familiar with the customs and cultures of Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Tunisia, the United States and Yemen, simply from dining together, striking up conversation on the bus, and shopping alongside one another. These connections are the building blocks for life-long relationships that contribute to the strength and vitality of the TechWomen network.

Second, the trip was an opportunity for the emerging leaders to take the lead and help mentors explore the region; in essence, it was role-reversal. The emerging leaders translated Arabic into English for the mentors. They explained ingredients in hummus, kibbeh, and other delicious Arab nosh and passed along recipes. They showed the mentors how to dance to the exotic beats flowing in the restaurants each evening. With the mentors thousands of miles from California, the emerging leaders made each and every participant from the U.S. feel right at home. That warmth is something we will all strive to give back when it is our turn to welcome the next cohort of TechWomen to the Bay Area.

Finally, this trip helped mentors improve their mentoring skills. Cultural differences are plentiful and expectations and norms vary greatly. We now have a better sense of what we have in common and what we do not, and we will be more patient and tolerant of that which is different. As we open minds to the world, we promote mutual understanding that ultimately deepens relationships, strengthens the TechWomen network, and allows for partnerships and projects to flourish across the globe. Reflecting on it all, I am incredibly lucky to have a job which has allowed me to connect with such an incredible group of women. And I am confident that these new relationships will grow for years to come.

Photo caption: (From Left) Heather Ramsey, Lexi Curtice, and myself (TechWomen program staff) take a moment to enjoy the sunset at the Farewell Dinner at the Dead Sea in Jordan. Below, please find some additional photos from the trip!

IMG_7778

Riding a camel in front of the Treasury in Petra

P1030557

Visiting the ancient ruins in Jerash

P1030595

Meeting with women and girls in Koura

IMG_7460

Enjoying a Fettoush salad in the Dead Sea

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “The Magic of Cultural Exchange

  1. WOW, this is awesome! I can’t wait to be part of the Techwomen program 2013, it will sure be an humbling experience. Please wish me luck as I await the response from my application.

Comments are Welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s