The first time I became a CEO, I was just 17. Sure, it was for a class project and I was one of only a few people who put their hand up for it, but I believe it’s how I got to where I am now.
So, when I heard about Technovation, I couldn’t wait to sign up as a mentor.
Technovation is a global education programme that challenges girls aged 10 to 18 to identify and solve real-world problems. With the help of two mentors, the girls work in teams to create a mobile app that solves a particular problem in their community. They then have to market it. Along the way, the girls learn about technology, entrepreneurship, research, and – ultimately – how to launch a business.
One great aspect of Technovation is that it’s not just about coding. Even I don’t like coding! The girls learn there are many different roles within IT, such as marketing, finance and account management.
Hearing about Technovation made me remember my own first taste of entrepreneurship at just 17. In my business studies class we had to run our own business for the year. I was appointed CEO for my team’s project, Time Designs, which involved creating personalised clocks. The experience gave me so much insight into all the different aspects of a business: financials, design, production, and working with different people. It was what made me realise how much I love business and collaborating with people.
Technovation was the perfect opportunity to share my skills and experience with other young women. As part of the programme, I helped a team of four girls from St Catherine’s College and Onslow College in Wellington to bring their project to fruition. Think Concepts also came on board as sponsors the team: we helped with funding the team’s trip and with prizes for the regional pitch.
My team, Code Yellow, wanted to encourage healthy, positive thinking in young people because they know how tough life can seem at this age. They devised an app called MindScape, where a user chooses a seed and then ‘grows’ a virtual plant by inputting something they’re grateful for each day. After seven days, the user gets to see the product of their positive input: a flower.
With only 6 weeks to complete the project (the girls didn’t know about the project until the last minute) the experience was ‘go, go, go’ right from the start. But I didn’t regret it for a second. I actually remember thinking, ‘this is so full on, it’s ridiculous – I have no free time!’ But I was loving every minute of it.
Even though the time frame was hectic, our work must have paid off because Code Yellow won the senior division in Auckland and were one of only three teams in New Zealand to make it to the semi-finals! The team also won an AI workshop, which they will attend in August. The girls are hoping to continue developing Mindscape when they enter university. Their long term vision is to make mental health part of the curriculum in New Zealand secondary schools. I feel like a proud mum!
Being a mentor has given me an amazing insight into leading young people. It made me feel so good to give back. I’ve had other people in my life who have done that for me – family, friends, random people I’ve met. For me, it was an opportunity to help somebody else in a way that aligns with my values.
I want to give a special thanks to Theresa Corballis, the NZ Regional Ambasodor for Technovation. Theresa was the one who told me about Technovation in the first place and gave me the opportunity to be involved. She’s now forming an advisory committee for Technovation NZ and I’m proud to have been selected for that. It means I’ll be actively encouraging more people to have a go at mentoring for the programme. I’ll be coaching new mentors for the 2020 Technovation programme. We need two types of mentors: those with technical knowledge who can help with the building of the apps, and those who can help guide the team. Mentors can be teachers, parents – anyone! They learn alongside the girls and help them tackle the project, while also supervising the journey.
I was lucky to get a taste of business at a young age, and a chance to see how all aspects of a business work. But any other girl could go on the same journey I’ve been on. You just have to look at the opportunities around you and have a go.
To learn more about Technovation, check out https://technovationchallenge.org or reach out to me on firstname.lastname@example.org
A special thanks to: Theresa Corballis, Craig Young, Kerry Lee, Tristan Ilich, Madona Bekhit, Julie Baker, Damon Kahi, Saba Tavakoli