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.
A collage of experiences in Jordan as told by TechWomen.
Against the backdrop of Petra, a wonder of the ancient world, forty-five women from eight countries said their goodbyes last week. The TechWomen delegation concluded with stronger bonds and increased cultural understanding between mentors and emerging leaders.
“Exciting,” and “inspired,” were some of the words used by participants to describe the events and opportunities for connectivity during the journey. The delegation participated in a networking conference at Princess Sumaya University for Technology, where Her Royal Highness Princess Sumaya delivered welcoming remarks. The participants also met with N2V, one of the largest internet holding groups in Arabia focused on value creation through building and investing in Arabic consumer web and mobile ventures; INJAZ, an independent non-profit that was founded under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah with the mission to inspire and prepare young Jordanians to become productive members in their society and succeed globally; Amman Tech Tuesday, a monthly event that brings industry experts, local technologists, entrepreneurs and idea generators together in a casual setting to meet and learn from one another; and Oasis 500, a leading early stage and seed investment company, the first of its kind in Jordan and the MENA region.
First official day of volunteer work with the TechWomen for the U.S. Department of State Delegation to Jordanwas incredible. Many of us began Monday morning sleep deprived and jetlagged, however it didn’t take long for the excitement, inspiration, joy and love for the work that we were doing in Jordan to re-energize us. The agenda was packed with a visit to N2V, a technology investment holdings company, followed by visits to different companies, then presentations at Amman Tech Tuesdays (yes, Tech Tuesday happened on a Monday).It turned out to be a day of learning what Entrepreneurship and ICT (Information Communications Technology) mean for the people of Jordan and sharing our knowledge of technology, resources and connections.
Rami Al-Karmi kicked us off with presentations and pitches from local entrepreneurs in Jordan, followed by talking about what N2V does, and allowing us to ask questions. He was such a good sport when he was grilled on how he planned to provide strategy and support for women in technology and even offered to setup an online network where women can contribute and facilitate technical discussions, collaboration and strategy for the advancement of women. Kudos to Rami!
When Evelyn Zoubi applied to the 2012 TechWomen program, she did not believe she would be accepted. As a 25-year-old Jordanian entrepreneur, she faced a myriad of obstacles. Some even laughed at her ideas. But she did not give up.
In 2007, Evelyn was a visionary student at a top Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) university in the Middle East. During her time as a student, she often mulled about the impression she made on people. In her opinion, wardrobe plays a big part in creating lasting imprints on people’s minds. “At the time, I often did not know what to wear and I would take a moment to remember if I had worn something twice in a row with the same person,” said Evelyn. “It was at this time that I began experimenting with digitizing my wardrobe. Most investment panelists underestimated the need women had for clothing related technologies. But to her surprise, the most supportive individuals were the ones that comprehended the concept of digitizing wardrobe the least, her professors. “My professor thought it was a great idea and strongly encouraged me to pursue it,” said Evelyn.
“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. Continue reading →